“Blessed is the fruit of your wounds”: Abortion and the Risk of Accompaniment

“Blessed is the fruit of your wounds”: Abortion and the Risk of Accompaniment January 22, 2019

This week marks the anniversary of “Roe v. Wade,” the historic supreme court case that made abortion legal in the US. Many people observe the anniversary by attending the March for Life in DC or engaging in other forms of “pro-life” activism. As much as all those gestures have value, I instead am spending this time reflecting on my relationship with one of my closest friends.

A few months ago, my friend was impregnated by a man with whom she was very much in love. This man, who already had a child from a previous relationship, expressed to my friend that he was not in a position to raise the new baby with her.

Knowing that our government offers few resources to single women in crisis pregnancies other than abortion, I along with some of my other friends offered to help her raise the child and to support her financially. But my friend, for various reasons, decided to have an abortion anyway.

My friend’s decision forced me to reflect on the reality that many pregnant women face in our society. It’s amazing that a society that claims to be so progressive…so much in favor of supporting the rights of women, expects next to nothing from men when it comes to pregnancy and childrearing. While many advances have indeed been made in favor of women’s equality, from the right to vote to equal pay, little has been done to empower the pregnant woman.

If the mother is single, she is usually faced with two options: either give up the gift of motherhood by terminating the pregnancy, or carry to term and give up a financially comfortable life. The latter of these options is hard to sustain in a society like ours that places excessive esteem on personal wealth and success.

The pregnant woman, with her financial, medical, and emotional needs, is often treated as if she and her child are leeches on the body of the secular capitalist system, sucking out all the resources which could be used for making other people more wealthy and comfortable than they already are.

Though I could rant against social injustices for several more paragraphs…I discovered through these past few months since my friend’s abortion that pointing out the sinfulness of society or individual people is of negligible value in the long run. At the end of the day, I had to face the question of what my friend needed most during this difficult moment in her life. As much as I was disheartened by her decision, I had a strong desire to be present to her.

What my friend communicated to me was that at the root of all of her actions, both her most commendable and questionable ones, is an infinitely deep need to love others and be loved by them. While sometimes she expresses it in ways that are harmful to herself or to others, she has come to see over time that Christ’s gaze toward her is based not on the “correctness” of her choices, but on that profound need that is so deeply ingrained in her being.

I’ve had to learn how to listen to my friend without interjecting or correcting her when I think I know what’s best for her (I’m still learning, as I’m sure she will tell you). I’ve had to learn to stand by her, in the moments when she was most in pain…when I often didn’t know what to say or what the “right answer” was. Above all, I’ve had to learn how to allow myself to learn.

My friend’s vast need for love is perhaps her most striking attribute. While some may look at her neediness like it’s a gaping wound or an unattractive blemish, I’ve come to see that it’s a beautiful flower, a shining piece of gold, which has sparked in me the desire to love in a new and gratuitous way.

What I cherish most about her is that she shows me how to let myself be vulnerable, how to allow myself to expose my wounds–both to my friends and to God–rather than to try to mask them with my ego and false nonchalance.

When it comes to the legal status of abortion, it has become clear to me that not everyone is going to see eye to eye. At this point, what would be even more promising than making abortion illegal would be to see the government offer more resources to women in this situation, whether it be by offering free access to medical services, or finding ways to enable women to finish their college career or maintain their jobs while offering them affordable child care services.

But above all, what I think is needed—more so than government support or a vague notion of “social progress”—is people who are willing to take the risk of accompanying each other.

We need people who won’t run away or hide as soon as the other person reveals their neediness. We need people who are willing to take the risk of making themselves vulnerable by staying by the other person’s side…entering into true solidarity with them, no matter the inconvenience of their circumstances or how much you might disagree with their choices.

More than anything, we need people who will look into the wounds of the other—without trying to eliminate or fix them—and tell them “you are beautiful as you are…you are beautiful because you exist.”

 

So this year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I challenge you to take the risk of radical accompaniment, of embracing the people around you for who they really are, wounds and all, and of letting yourself be embraced in the same way.

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  • Charles Morgan

    It is sad that your friend elected to have an abortion and I, for one, wish abortion were illegal. Otherwise, however, I disagree with the author’s entire position. Society (government, charitable organizations, etc.) greatly support women who choose to bear children and who, for one reason or another, do not marry or are not in a supportive relationship. I won’t go into the details of what support is available as that information is readily available elsewhere. What I object to most strenuously is the author’s assertion that “society…expects next to nothing from men when it comes to pregnancy and childrearing.” The “pregnant woman,” far from being powerless, is in a most powerful position. She can alone determine whether to carry the child to term or to have an abortion. The father has no say whatsoever from a legal standpoint. Similarly, the mother of a child can compel the actual or even putative father to support the child financially until the age of 18 even while trying assiduously, and often successfully, to prevent the father from having a meaningful relationship with his child. Study the facts on “parental alienation syndrome.”

    I appreciate the author’s good intentions, but the ignorance and naivete on display in this post make it ridiculous and not worthy of consideration.

  • Michelle McClintock

    You forgot the third option – adoption. Some kids are lucky to land with good people like I did, though some aren’t so lucky. They (the kids) need support too, which they don’t always get.

  • Why didn’t your friend choose to give the child up in adoption? What the heck? Murder is better? Disgraceful.

  • Illithid

    Thank you for this thoughtful article and for your loving response to your friend.

  • Ame

    There are resources, but the problem is access. While Planned Parenthood gets federal funding for Big Abortion and then funnels some of that money to lobbying for pro-abortion Democrats, crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life free clinics mostly rely on local contributions and grants. So the possibilities of a pro-life centered approach to care of women and children have yet to be fully materialised, but much progress is being made in some cities, in some cases that even even some abortion clinics refer to some pro-life clinics for prenatal care.

    Yes, we need a revolution in women’s care in this country, from birth to puberty to maternity to postpartum to menopause and to death. It is appalling that 60% of maternal death could be prevented but hospitals just won’t take women’s health seriously enough to implement best evidence based practices. It’s ridiculous how the government can’t figure out ways to make parental leave happen as an investment towards future working adults.

    But I do wish to point out to the author of the blog that the treatment of maternity as lost production is not solely a capitalistic problem. It’s a priority problem. The democratic socialist countries that tend to offer better maternity and parental leave benefits also tend to expect men and women to get back to work as soon as it is over, the idea being that they have to make up the lost lost productivity to the state. I read stories of European women expressing their sorrow and frustration that they are judged as leeches to society and shamed back into working despite their reasons to choose to stay at home.

    Also the author is also coming in with some expectations of the nature of work and equality that tend to come from a certain class and racial milleau. I recommend reading “Rethinking the nature of work” by bell hooks (sic). For many marginalized and women of color, the freedom to care for one’s own children at home is the marker of equality.