“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you." -Jeremiah 1:5
I remember vividly when this line from scripture really stood out to me for the first time, and it’s been a go-to for me ever since. Whenever I experience any difficult situation, I am reminded of how precious my life is simply because He created me. To be able to appreciate the gravity of life, oftentimes we have to experience it at some of its worst moments--we have to embrace suffering sometimes as part of the larger picture to really appreciate true happiness.
I have considered myself staunchly prolife for as long as I can remember. I still recall the night that my immediate family and I had a deep discussion about abortion and what that meant. I was no older than maybe 13 or 14, but before I even really understood the meaning of conception, I knew within my core that life was really valuable. When I was fifteen, a good family friend suggested I start praying the Rosary every day and offer it up for “an end to abortion; for the unborn and innocent children.” And to this day, I still include that prayer as part of my Rosary.
I have never been pregnant, and I cannot fathom what a woman experiences when she sees a positive pregnancy test. For any woman, single or married, I can imagine that that specific moment is flooded with a range of emotions; but specifically, for any woman who is not “ready” nor “prepared” for the newfound gift of life within her, my heart longs to comfort her. How terrified she must be at the reality in which she has found herself.
I think all of us can imagine a time in our lives in which we experienced intense pain or fear; a period of our life in which we knew we were completely powerless over what was occurring, and oftentimes, death seemed like the best option. Yet, in embracing the reality that extreme sadness and suffering is part of our journey sometimes, we are free to truly live, and we know that we are going to be okay even in the midst of what seems like despair. Indeed, hope is a balm for any wound, even the deepest cuts of all. Often, we have to make the hard choices, the decisions that are the most scary yet have the biggest reward.
So often, women experience fear, shame, and anger when they become pregnant. They feel alone, they have no support, and they cannot see how anything good can come out of their situation. Rationalization occurs, and before long, they find themselves in an abortion clinic. It can be easy for someone to assert that the preborn baby's life is simply "just a bunch of cells" when faced with the daunting task of becoming a parent. As humans, we can rationalize anything if we try. Yet, it’s common knowledge that once most women see an ultrasound, they decide against the abortion.
I was recently talking to a good friend of mine and really appreciated what he had to say regarding this issue surrounding life: it’s our culture’s responsibility to take care of all forms of life, from conception through natural death. If our culture embraced this duty--to care for its citizens--abortion wouldn't be a reality. Specifically, if our society embraced the importance of adoption in its fullness and how much of a benefit it is to others, there is a win-win for everyone. Ultimately, if we truly empowered our women in a way that promotes their courage rather than stripping them of their dignity, we would encounter them and walk with them, rather than shame them into thinking they have no option but death.
Life is a precious gift, and just like anything in creation, it has a starting point and an ending point. We develop, we change, we grow; but our progress does not mean that one stage is far superior than any other. Think of the flowers in the ground—each must start as a seed. But if we uproot the seed and destroy it, we won’t have a flower. It’s why pregnant moms are so careful with what they consume throughout those nine precious months—they know that what they take in will ultimately affect their baby. As a society, we point fingers at moms that smoke or drink excessively while pregnant; it’s instinctual for us to feel that way, especially as women. Yet, when we find out we are pregnant and don’t want the baby, we destroy his or her life, and then we justify.
I know so many wonderful women who struggle with infertility, who long for a child. I have many friends who want to adopt a baby or be a foster parent one day. It’s our job as a society to take care of our own—our babies, both preborn and postbirth, our children, our students, our employees, our friends, our veterans, our homeless, our prisoners, our elderly, and our dying. No justification or rationalization can strip any individual of its dignity and worth as a child of God, and I long for the day when our society feels the same.
To any woman who is currently pregnant and scared, my heart is with you. I admire you for your courage and appreciate your strength. There are so many resources available to you, and the support you need is always there. You are not alone, and you have no need to fear the outcome. Truly, how beautiful it is to hope against hope when all seems lost. The greatest and most courageous decision you can make is to care for that life within you, to carry him or her to term, and to ultimately decide if you or another person is best suited to care for that beautiful soul.
"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.'”
Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct professor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography)