Today, I read something which demonstrates a fundamental failure within the pro-life movement. I read a FaceBook status by Abby Johnson stating that she had been told of a woman who was in the throes of an unexpected pregnancy who was ‘praying to miscarry.’ Abby proclaims,
“This is not normal. Does it happen? Do women sometimes have these fleeting thoughts? Yes. But these are unnatural thoughts that enter our mind because of the abortion culture we are living in. Life becomes cheap…so mothers (prolife mothers) wish for death of their children.
I understand traumatic pregnancies. I understand traumatic births. I get it. But it’s still not okay. And it makes for lasting guilt.”
Does she understand traumatic pregnancies and traumatic births? Not by these, her own words. But she also does not appear to understand original sin, and that is far more disturbing.
I have no idea who the woman is that Abby is using as a rhetorical device. Who in turn will be used as a rhetorical device to smash back at Abby. She is a real person with a real crisis pregnancy with real suffering, and I have no desire to pile on to her. She sounds like she needs a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on, and I can’t offer her that because I don’t know her. But I can offer myself as a rhetorical device in her place. Because I understand her. Oh God, do I understand her.
I have luteal phase insufficiency. It has caused six miscarriages. I am entirely incapable of carrying a baby to term unless I have progesterone support for the first trimester. And if I cannot convince, coerce, or bully a doctor into prescribing me progesterone, my baby will die. My babies have, in fact, died, because I could not do so.
I cannot now, or ever again, look at the two lines on a pregnancy test without hearing the little voice in my head say, “you don’t even need an abortion. If you just ignore it, it will go away.”
Theologically, this is what we call temptation. Everyone experiences temptation. CHRIST experienced temptation. It is not a sin. These words did not enter my mind because of the abortion culture. They entered my mind because I am a human being. I get tempted. And I have concupiscence, which makes temptation so damned tempting.
Because pregnancy is miserable. Many women get ten weeks in and say ‘what the hell was I thinking?’ When you have a traumatic pregnancy or delivery, the effect is trauma, and it’s a normal human response to want to avoid more of it. To avoid the painful biweekly injections of progesterone into my buttocks. To avoid walking down the hallways at work, pausing to vomit into a convenient trashcan and then going about my day, knowing I will repeat this painful and humiliating act another twenty times. To avoid the heartburn and nausea so intense that I only narrowly escape hospitalization. To avoid having to make the risk-judgement between taking drugs that increase my risk for dementia, but allow me to keep food and liquid down in the moment. To avoid the indignation of the anesthesiologist who thinks he did a perfect spinal and it’s all your fault that you can still feel the needle poking your belly. To avoid being strapped down, cold and naked, cruciform.
To avoid the cross.
No one wants the cross. CHRIST did not want the cross. But he picked it up and carried it anyway, out of love for the world. And no pregnant woman, who, in the midst of her suffering, does likewise deserves to have her suffering used as rhetorical club to bludgeon and shame women for the negative emotions they experience in their pregnancy.
“But she’s praying for her baby to die,” one might say.
Perhaps. It’s incredibly difficult to transform that storm of emotions into anything coherent. But, instead of taking matters into her own hands, she is praying. She is handing it all over to God, and God can handle it. God can take it and transform it. This is what the cross does, transforms death into life.
Ironically, Abby’s very own argument is one that is rooted in abortion’s effect on society. One of the most pernicious and damaging effects of abortion is that women are no longer allowed to have negative or ambivalent emotions about pregnancy, because these days pregnancy is voluntary. If it’s really that bad, women should just get an abortion and anyway stop talking about how miserable it is. The pro-life corollary to this is that women need to be joyful 24-7 about their pregnancies, even the unexpected ones. Bad thoughts, even when you don’t act on them, even when you turn them over to God, aren’t just evidence that you’re human, they’re because of the abortion-culture. There is no room for fear, or ambivalence, or suffering in the pro-life movement.
And if there is no room for fear and ambivalence and suffering, there is no room for the women in crisis they want to serve.