I’ve always been vehemently pro-life. I argued with classmates in my 10th grade civics class about abortion, I read about the science of fetal development, I spoke out on social media, and I eagerly followed the news of pro-life ministries and advocacy organizations. I started putting more money (and time) where my mouth was in recent years, volunteering to help with the pro-life ministry at my parish and donating to our local pregnancy center. I even learned about the pro-life perspective on contraception and began to understand the beauty of natural family planning and fertility awareness.
I thought I was empathetic toward the women who chose abortion, and to an extent, I was. I saw the tragedy of the desperation that could drive a woman to end the life of her child, and I realized that ignorance abounds about when life begins and about the dignity of that life. I believed that women who sought abortion were victims of a culture that does not value life or provide adequate support to pregnant women.
But when I became pregnant myself, I saw that I had a lot of room to grow. Early in my pregnancy, I became even more vehemently pro-life, but I also became more empathetic toward women who have had abortions—and more convicted that we need to do more to support women experiencing unplanned or otherwise difficult pregnancies.
Pregnancy is challenging in the best of circumstances. I felt exhausted and nauseated for the first 10 weeks or so of my pregnancy, a time period during which a woman typically does not have an ultrasound and cannot feel her baby move—in other words, a time when it can be difficult to connect with the growing child in her womb. Without faith, science, or the support of family members or friends, a woman who feels sick and afraid could easily choose abortion. My husband and my faith carried me through my first trimester. I’m not sure how I would have managed without them—and my pregnancy was planned and much desired.
Sickness and fear are not cause for abortion, but they are cause for better support. We need more people providing compassionate care to pregnant women considering abortion. We need more people sharing the alternatives to abortion—and then following up with help in pursuing those alternatives. We need more financial help for women who can’t afford prenatal health care, not to mention the costs of raising a child (did you know diapers aren’t covered by public safety net programs?). We need to better understand the reasons behind abortion in order to make sure abortion doesn’t happen. In a culture that tells many women, “You can’t do this,” we need to prove to them that they can.