I have a fierce desire to protect women’s rights and to promote their well being. Because of that, I didn’t immediately jump on the pro-life bandwagon. It sounded like a good, spiritual thing to protect the unborn, but I was worried about the woman’s, yes, right to choose.
But I wanted to do volunteer work. I was a pastor’s wife who worked for a Christian organization, and I felt I needed to rub elbows with those outside of Christian circles. My life was so isolated and insulated from those outside the church, I wanted to branch out so my life could have some impact in the world at large. The opportunity that fell into my lap was a pregnancy center.
So I went through the peer counselor training and began to meet with women who came into the center for help. What I learned there astounded me. I’m sure that some women choose to have an abortion all on their own, but that’s not what I saw when I was there. Mostly I saw women who wanted to be excited about their pregnancy but were not allowed to be by boyfriends, parents, the church, and society in general.
My very first client was a Chinese woman who came in with her boyfriend. She was 12 weeks pregnant and he insisted she have an abortion. She wept uncontrollably the whole time she was in my office—but far from home and family, she had no support system to help her. She wanted desperately to keep her baby, but her boyfriend wouldn’t hear of it. And she came from a country that frowned on having more than one child, so she knew she had no choice at all.
Another woman that came to see me wanted to have a baby, but her mother absolutely refused to hear of it. Even though the woman was legally an adult, she did not have the courage to go against her mother’s wishes and embarrass her in front of their church, so she chose to abort rather than face her mother’s wrath. She came to see me several years later with deep regret and bitterness toward her mother, which is still unresolved today. She resented the fact that she felt her mother gave her no choice.
A third couple were college students who were facing an unexpected pregnancy. They wanted to be happy about it but had grown up poor and wanted desperately to change the trajectory of their lives. They couldn’t imagine how they could finish school and have a baby too, and they knew they didn’t want their child to grow up poor. I tried to reason with them that they could finish school and that by the time the child had any conscious memories, they would no longer be poor, but they were so frightened of poverty they couldn’t take the risk. They felt they had no choice.
A woman on a basketball scholarship came to talk to me. She was pregnant but would lose her scholarship if she admitted it. Her only thought was to cover it up so that no one would ever know. She felt she had no choice.
I’m sure there are woman who get abortions with never a glance back and feel it had no emotional impact on them at all. But from my experience at the pregnancy center, there are more that feel great regret because it wasn’t a choice at all—just a way out for a boyfriend who was too selfish to take responsibility for a child, for a parent that didn’t want their daughter (or son) to veer from the path laid out for them, from a church’s condemnation, or from a society’s rejection. The thing I heard over and over again was, “I have no choice…”