31 for 41: What You Will Be

Dear Donovan,

There was once a wise man who visited a school as a guest speaker.  During this man’s presentation, a high school student kept talking, making jokes, and generally being disrespectful.  After the presentation, the school administrator apologized for the unruly student’s behavior, and offered to bring the teenage boy to the speaker so that he may apologize.

“No, there is no need to do that,” said the wise man.  “He is not what he will be.”

The wise man was willing to look past the young boy’s antics and see his potential.  I think this is one of the greatest ways that we can love our children… to always view them through the lens of what they can be if given the sufficient time and conditions for growth.

This view is part of how I view the value of a human life.  I believe that each life is a creation of God, and therefore has intrinsic value.  I also believe that each life is valuable because of what it can be in the future.

Donovan, I need you to know that this view is my basis for believing that an unborn life is indeed a life, and should be protected.  I try to maintain consistency in my logic.  If my guiding principle, out of love, is to preserve life, then that principle should apply to an unborn baby, both for what it is and for what it will be.

I want you to know that my thoughts on the issue of forced abortion are not uninformed, careless, or thoughtless.  I began researching abortion as a teenager.  Throughout my life, I have listened openly and carefully to both pro-choice and pro-life arguments.  I have searched through and read medical findings.  I have dear friends who have had abortions, and I would never want to hurt them with my words.  My heart breaks when I think of all the women, who right now as I write, feel like they are in an impossible situation and are considering abortion.

When I was in college, I began to entertain more of the thinking of “I know abortion is not right for me, but what right do I have to tell another woman she cannot have one?”  You see, I DID NOT want to be one of those hateful, self-righteous, hypocritical people that some picture when they think of pro-life people.  Whatever I decided, I wanted it to be based in love and God’s word.

And while I am sharing this honest question I had, let me say that it is ALWAYS okay to ask honest questions.  In so many ways, we as adults have failed you and your peers in that you may be afraid to ask questions because you know that as soon as you ask them, you will be shamed, criticized, or attacked.  If you ever needed evidence of how an honest, truth-seeking, unassuming question can be met with hot-blooded verbal assaults and immediate assumptions about your character, it is being provided for you and your peers today, all over social media, by adults.

To move forward, let me tell you about the next part of my journey in wrestling with this issue of abortion.  During the summer before my senior year of college, I shadowed and assisted a surgeon in the Dominican Republic.  One day, I walked into an empty room, searching for something the surgeon needed, an everyday activity in an area where medical resources were severely lacking.

I stopped when I saw it.  It was a tiny baby.  It had ten fingers and ten toes.  It was beautiful and perfect.  It was no longer alive.  I do not know how or why its life had ended.  What I do know is that God spoke to me in that moment, as I looked at that tiny baby against the contrast of a white bed sheet.

It was clear to me:  That was a life.  Instantly, my response was, “God forgive me for ever thinking it is okay to purposefully end a life like this one.”

Do I have all of the anwers about what to do when a mom’s life is in danger?  No, I do not.  Do I have my own conviction about forced abortions that have absolutely nothing to do with the preservation of life?  Yes, I certainly do.

I will not travel too far down this path in this written letter, but I will tell you this, my son:  You need to do your own research.  There are extremists on both sides of this argument who will try to hand you half-truths laced with guilt and fear while sitting atop their high horses.  Since you will not be responsible for their actions, but for your own, it is important that you not exchange your own investigation for their cheap, self-serving sales packages.

One of my personal investigations in the past was about the possiblity of a link between abortion and breast cancer.  We have long known that carrying a child to full term reduces a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer.  As early as the 18th century, there were studies about how nuns had much higher mortality rates from breast cancer than their contemporaries.  Breast cancer was even once referred to as “Nun’s Disease.”

Along the way, more and more research prompted from this knowledge indicated that spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) before 32 weeks are associated with a higher rate of breast cancer.  Documentary filmmaker Punam Kumar Gill Hush discovered this body of knowledge while doing her own research for her film Hush.  It was important information to her, as she had lost a son shortly before reaching 32 weeks in her pregnancy.  If her risk of breast cancer was increased, she wanted to know!

I appreciate Punam Kumar Gill’s honest question so much.  As a self-labeled pro-choice feminist, she asked the question that I will paraphrase:  “If we have so much evidence that miscarriage before 32 weeks increases a woman’s chance of breast cancer, is it not also possible that a forced abortion before 32 weeks increases a woman’s chance of breast cancer?”  (end paraphrase)  I had seen evidence of this link in my research in the past, but my most recent searches of the websites of organizations like the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Health are either silent on this matter, or claim that there is no link.

Here is Punam Kumar Gill’s own response to her extremely professional and thorough search:

“What I found most sickening, though, is that the media and health organizatons have spent their energies closing the case and vilifying those who advocate in favor of instead of investigating any and all reasons why breast cancer rates among young women have increased, and women are dying.  If women have the right to abortion, they should also have the right to know.”

And there it is, Donovan.  There are many who immediately accuse me of wanting to control women, or at least of being complicit in a system that does seek to control women, if I say I am pro-life.  I ask you, “Which is a more controlling behavior, limiting the amount of information a woman has before she makes a decision that can affect her reproductive, physical, and mental health for the rest of her life, OR working to ensure that she has FULL, unbiased information before she makes such a monumental decision?”

In the words of Punam Kumar Gill, again:

“It is true, the long term risks associated with abortion are generally promoted by those who want abortion gone.  But this does not make the information untrue.  Those who completely deny any long term risks have artfully shut down the conversation because they fear if they concede the procedure has adverse effects, abortion will be banned.”

Because I DO care about women, I think they deserve the full truth.  As you make your own decision on this matter, I hope you will watch documentaries such as Hush.  It brings up some very legitimate questions in my mind:

-We know that the National Health Institute delayed its support of an enormous data set about the link between cancer and tobacco use, related to connections between its funding and senators of southern states where tobacco production was an important part of the economy.  Do these same conflicts of interests around funding, research methods and findings, and release of information to the public exist today around the issue of abortion?  Is solid, reproducible data that could help save lives being passively hidden or even intentionally silenced because of money and politics?

-Why does the United States have one of the highest pre-term birth rates in entire world?

-When warnings about pre-term labor and low birth weight were placed on cigarette packages, the data set to link those health outcomes to tobacco use was far less than the data set we have now about the link between induced abortion and risk of later pre-term births.  So why aren’t we alerting women about this link?

-Is there a link between China’s decades of government-sponsored population control and sex selective abortion and the alarming rate of increase of breast cancer in that country?

-Why are some people who say they care about women trying so hard to silence women who have had abortions?  Could it be because “Women who have had abortions tend to be the loudest voices in terms of trying to educate the public about the potential harms.” (Dr. Priscilla K. Coleman)?

Let me give you an example of the damage that might have already been done because of some people’s efforts to hide data that casts abortion in a negative light.  When a woman experiences a pre-term birth, it puts her in a category of being at risk for a subsequent pre-term birth.  With all of our medical advances, there are treatments available to reduce the chance of a second pre-term birth.  If the medical community refuses to admit a link between abortion and a higher risk of pre-term birth in a later pregnancy, then women are not screened for this risk factor.

Of course, we cannot assume an outcome for all situations.  But we can ask ourselves if many women could have avoided a pre-term birth experience by knowing of their risk after abortion and then seeking medical interventions as a result of possessing that knowledge.  To be fair, we can also ask ourselves how to help women feel more comfortable telling a doctor about their past abortion so that we can better support their current pregnancy.

I want babies to live.  I want teenage girls to live.  I want women to live.  I cannot understand why it is acceptable to suppress reproducible data that warns of risk factors to women for obtaining an abortion.

You can be a man who loves women by using your male voice to declare that women should have full information.  Many women do not even know that the estrogen-progestin hormonal contraceptive they put into their bodies each day is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen.  You do not have to make the giant, unreasonable leap to “women should not have access to birth control pills” to still speak up for women and say that they should be informed of this fact!

Asking honest questions and doing your own research does not make you a conspiracy theorist, a heartless chauvinist, or a sheep.  It makes you a wise man who can be neither bought nor hoodwinked.

You will encounter many women who have had abortions, but you will probably rarely know that about them.  For this reason, when you interact with others on this subject, always be gentle.  So many women and men have deep wounds from experiences of losing a child or multiple children from abortion and/or miscarriage.  They need love, not judgment.

It is possible to love each individual, regardless of their choices, while maintaining your belief that the preservation of life is the moral choice.  You can show a consistency in your belief system by seeking to understand the factors that frequently bring women to a position of despair over a pregnancy, and by working to address those factors.  Too many people give lip service to a woman’s right to choose, but take little interest in supporting women so that they have a reduced risk of reaching the point of considering an abortion.

I hope that you and the twins will see in me a consistency of beliefs.  When I say that I do not want women to choose abortion, you should also hear me vocally denounce sexual assault, partner violence, lack of access to medical care, and other factors that negatively affect women and often lead them to a point of seeking an abortion.  You should see me trying to be the best teacher I can be to help young women maximize their potential.  You should hear me sounding an alarm that we need more resources and help for women on both the preventative side, before an abortion might occur, and also on the supportive side, after a woman has had an abortion.  There must be both a declaration of truth and a demonstration of grace.

I very well could have been aborted, but your grandma chose to have me at age sixteen.  I could have avoided the situation of being a single mother by aborting you.  When both you and I were a mass of cells in the womb, we were no less a creation of God than a one-year-old child or an 800-year-old Redwood Tree.   We had more value than the tree, though, because we were created in the spiritual image of God.  That gave us value even before our fingers were fully formed.  We also had value, though, because of what we could become… humans who seek to use their gifts to glorify their Creator and love their neighbors.

This has not been a fun letter to write.  Right now, I want to cry over all of the hurt and loss and lost potential surrounding this issue.  While people argue over this issue from their comfortable positions, there are women and girls who are hurting.  I want those women and girls to know that they and their unborn babies are valuable and loved, and can have beautiful lives.  I want them all to get the support they deserve, simply because they exist.  I believe in the potential of a human, at each stage of his or her life.  I try to always choose life, in whatever form that takes.  I hope you will do the same.  

Finally, you have to know that I always wanted you and I always will.  Life with you has been, and will continue to be, a beautiful journey of seeing all that you become.

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.  G. K. Chesterton

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  Psalm 139:13-14

Love is kind. (from 1 Corinthians 13:4)


I love you forever,

Your mama

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