I answered the phone to a woman requesting an abortion. Unable to offer the procedure, I instead calmly suggested she consider coming into our problem pregnancy center for a free ultrasound to determine the viability of the fetus. She promptly hung up, and I hung my head, the phone clutched in my hand, ready to weep.
I have been “pro-life” my whole life, as far back as the vaguely remembered days when my mom taught me to crochet so we could make baby blankets to support expectant mothers in difficult situations. Yet it was a summer spent volunteering as a counselor at a pro-life pregnancy center that opened my eyes to the depth, the power and the necessity of the pro-life cause. There is so much more to this topic than what can be said in a brief article, but I would like to offer three of the lessons I learned from my days working as a counselor — things I never truly understood about what it meant to be pro-life until I assumed a role on the front lines of the movement.
It is a matter of life vs. death
It was in the moment when my caller hung up on me that the simple facts washed over me as they had never done before: The woman on the phone has a baby in her womb. She is going to choose for him or her to be killed. I did not have the words to save the child. A person is going to die.
Yes, of course, it’s the pro-life movement, because it’s all about giving babies the opportunity to live. However, while it might sound silly, it wasn’t until I was actively working at a pregnancy center that it registered in my heart that the only real alternative to being pro-life is intentionally willing or choosing the death of another human being.
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We too often think the days of fighting epic battles are over or, at the very least, far removed from our lives. We are not fighting in the ranks of Charlemagne, in the trenches of the First World War or in the mythical Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but the truth is we are even more surrounded by death than if we were confronting those conditions. I don’t say this to depress anyone with abortion statistics but, rather, to bring to the forefront the gravity of the situation. Any attempt to dismiss the pro-life cause as a matter of personal preference, a political platform or a woman’s choice is not rooted in truth. At its core, the issue is life versus death.
The martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 7 comes to mind. While some threw stones, Saul (who would become the great apostle Paul) stood by, consenting to the execution. I may not be the one hurling the rocks or choosing the abortion, but am I willing to tacitly sit by and consent to the killing in the name of choice or non-judgment or any other palatable platitude I choose? Saul was struck blind after the stoning, but I am convinced he was much more blind during the event. In whatever arena we stand, may our eyes be opened to realize the gravity of this issue.
To be pro-life is simply to love
Despite my insistence that we must wake up to the seriousness of the issue we face, the pro-life cause is absolutely not a movement of condemnation, but one of compassion, mercy and hope. Many women participate actively in the pro-life cause because they have been harmed by the effects of having an abortion and want to prevent other women from the same pain and destruction. While I am saddened by the negative encounters some people have had with overly angry or aggressive pro-lifers, I can tell you from my own experience that the overwhelming number of people who actually work in the pro-life cause do so out of the desire to extend life, love and healing to women, men, children and families alike.
In an attempt to strip away the frustrating politicization of this issue, understand that to be pro-life is most simply to choose truth, love, beauty and real health and wellness. The truth is every woman and child is a beautiful creation of God, and they deserve to be received and treated with love and compassion. The truth is pregnancy is not a disease but a sign of a healthy female body. The truth is terminating a pregnancy through abortion does damage to the normal and healthy functioning of a woman’s body, but it comes with an abundance of negative side-effects ranging from potential infertility to increased risk of breast cancer to psychological trauma. The truth is to be pro-life is to walk alongside babies in the womb, expectant parents and women who are still suffering from the pain of previous abortions. To be pro-life is simply to choose love.
The spiritual battle is real
We often hear that we need to pray for the success of the pro-life movement. I once accepted this in a parallel sense to the concept that I ought to pray for the homeless or for those who are ill. What I didn’t realize until working in a pregnancy center was how intense this particular spiritual battle is and how desperately the people working on the front lines of the pro-life cause need our prayers.
This may sound strange, but the atmosphere in the pregnancy center was heavy — heavy with the weight of the real and ongoing battle between good and evil, between God and his angels and the forces of the devil. At a pregnancy center, the spiritual attack is almost palpable. Sometimes it, quite literally, scares volunteers away. To work in the pro-life cause is to willingly and intentionally step in Satan’s way. Anyone who has worked in the pro-life movement can probably tell you stories both of the power of prayer and of the uncannily draining nature of the work. It is necessary to put on the armor of God and to be bolstered by the grace of Scripture and the sacraments in order to keep on working in the field.
A simple story may serve to convey this reality. One day, the plumbing in the bathroom of the pregnancy center broke. The water just kept running, and we couldn’t get it to turn off. In the midst of trying to figure out how to stop the water and calling a plumber, the director decided this was simply a spiritual attack designed to impede our work. She took holy water, went in and blessed the bathroom, and the water promptly stopped flowing. The plumbing was fixed. We gave God praise and carried on with our daily work.
Perhaps I’m less spiritually sensitive than most, but when my plumbing gives out, I don’t typically deduce it to be an attack of evil spirits and then pray them away in the name of Jesus. Yet, as strange as it may sound, given the day-to-day atmosphere of the pregnancy center and the reality of the battle we faced, that moment of plumbing repair wasn’t terribly unprecedented. If Satan couldn’t get us to stop answering the phones, maybe he could distract us with a building issue. On the flip side, if Jesus was going to help us save a life today, why wouldn’t he help fix the plumbing?
So, what can I do?
The good news is the spiritual battle is already won. In the name of Jesus and by the power of his blood, we have victory. But we have to lay claim to that victory. And we have to have faith.
You may wonder: If I’ve never seen the pro-life issue as much more than a political cause or a charitable movement, what can I do? Sure, you can give money or donate baby things or volunteer time, but not everyone has abundant resources, and not everyone is called to counsel or talk with pregnant women. Frankly, it is okay to be uncomfortable with that. But what everyone of us can do is pray, and that is what I am asking of you. If you feel called to assist in another way, that is wonderful. Regardless, please join in prayer.
Those in the thick of the battle, be they volunteers or lawmakers, need people to stand in the gap for them. We need people to stand in the gap for these vulnerable and hurting women. And we need people to stand in the gap for these vulnerable babies. Without prayer behind them, before them and all around them, those championing the cause of life cannot stand, and they will not succeed. Thanks be to God, there is power in our prayers that we cannot even begin to fathom. With our prayers for change in our country, in our hearts and in our homes nothing will be impossible.