[This open letter is a guest post from my co-pastor, Carrie Badertscher. She writes this explanation about the circumstances of the letter:
Over the last eight years I have had the privilege of hearing countless life stories from individuals I meet. Their stories are filled with struggle, but also great bravery in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. These stories and their bravery have changed my life and the way I see the world. Oftentimes I’m at a loss on how to alleviate the pain or make the struggle go away. I often find myself walking with them on their journey, but not dealing with the systemic reason for why they are suffering.
Three weeks ago I sat at a table and heard a story that compelled me to try to do something, to try to change a system. Not knowing exactly what to do, I went home from that conversation and wrote a letter. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do believe we can do better. I have distributed this letter to as many organizations I could think of and now I leave it here, hoping that perhaps my experience may bring about some sort of change on behalf of my dear friend.]
Dear Planned Parenthood protestors:
A few weeks ago, around a small round table in a dimly lit room, my dear friend Sandy (not her real name) bravely shared with me a story so drenched in pain that I can still feel the heaviness reverberate in my chest as I sit and reflect on it. I won’t soon forget the look in her eyes as they pooled with tears or the shake in her hands and lips as she spoke.
In late April, a pregnancy test confirmed Sandy’s feared suspicion that she was, in fact, pregnant. As a single mom of a toddler already, she was overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible idea of being able to care for another baby on her own. After she announced the pregnancy to the baby’s father, he made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with raising the child. With a small support system and the inability to financially provide for her family while pregnant and during the months after the birth of the baby, she felt as if she had but one choice: to end the pregnancy via abortion. So, after much internal turmoil, an ultrasound was conducted and an appointment was scheduled for an abortion to be performed.
Sandy arrived at the Planned Parenthood clinic at her scheduled time, joining a waiting room full of other women there for the same purpose. But as she approached the clinic, Sandy was first met by you. She described your shouts at her as loud and angry. Words like “baby killer” and “the wrath of God” filled the quiet space of the morning. From inside the clinic, she could here the muffled sounds of your yelling in the waiting room and on into the operating room. For several hours, she lay on a table enduring physical and psychological pain, all the while hearing your continued shouts from outside—shouts from those of you who made it known that you had come in the name of the Lord.With steadied words Sandy recounted to me the details of that day. She spoke of the intense pain she felt in her soul as life left her body, of the deep physical pain she endured during the procedure, and of the feelings of shame and guilt that continuously rushed over her as she recapitulated her decision to end the pregnancy. With every word she spoke, the pain and grief intensified. This day forever changed her life.
It was clear to me in this sacred space and in these holy moments that Sandy did not need more shame heaped on her shoulders. Her heart needed mending. The trauma of ending a life and living beyond was much to bear in itself; she did not need yet another individual speaking the words “baby killer” over her fragile heart. Together we sat in the ashes of the pain, we recognized the trauma, and we talked of the possibility of a restored heart in the future. The pain ran deep and would take time to heal.
To each of you who protested the clinic that day, I understand your passion. I, too, am pro-life from conception to the grave. I desire life for all and am deeply saddened by the loss of life, regardless of age or reason of death. But I implore you, on behalf of my friend and countless others who have walked this path, please find another way. We cannot represent an omnibenevolent God as a God who does not bend his ear to the brokenhearted, regardless of the cause of the broken heart. We must not be willing to berate the soul of a mother in hopes of saving a child. Their lives are of equal worth.
Instead, what if we were to ask the hard questions, to seek understanding and provide support? What if, instead of placing our own assumptions on the back of the mother walking the long sidewalk up to the clinic, we took the time to ask the why behind her decision? What if, instead of screaming judgment and condemnation, we gave a mother a safe space to process the felt barriers of raising her child? What if, instead of yelling about the wrath of God, we volunteered to show God’s goodness by providing support for a mother and baby after delivery—making abortion not the only option?
As your sister in the Lord and partner in your pro-life cause, I implore you that there must be another way, another method of delivery, and another message to share. The life of the mother you encounter is of great worth, just as is the baby she carries in her womb. Being pro-life means pursuing wholeness and peace for both the mother and child. Let us not yell so loudly in judgment that the love of Christ no longer compels us to seek the shalom of our sisters.
The words of my dear friend have forever changed my heart. Because of her, I commit to supporting rather than judging, that a mother may have the opportunity to raise her child. I commit to listening rather than yelling, that a mother may feel safe to share her deepest fears and barriers. I commit to tending to the heart and seek the peace of my sister so she knows she’s not alone. Will you join me?
Yours in Christ,