Dear Young Person I’ve Watched Grow Up,
I want to tell you today about a thing that happened before you were born.
Way back when I was your age, I was pretty much anti-abortion. Many of my friends, like you, were pro-choice. Sometimes we’d debate, because teens and college students like to discuss important issues and take a stand. One time early in college, a friend asked me to drop her off downtown for an appointment, which was a normal thing to do since not everyone had a car on campus. On the way she was asking me questions about what I thought about getting pregnant in college. I didn’t think anything of it, because kids at school always talked about that stuff. Later she told me that she was asking those questions because she was afraid she was pregnant, and the appointment was at a crisis pregnancy center to get a free pregnancy test (it was negative).
Several times throughout my college years, though, one of my friends did get pregnant. No one talked about being pregnant on campus, though, and you didn’t see pregnant students. Motherhood and college just didn’t go together. It was a big school, so if you dropped out and disappeared people mostly would not even notice. But the friends who didn’t drop out did something else: They kept the pregnancy quiet until after they’d had the abortion.
So that’s the world I grew up in, a world where it was unthinkable to be young and pregnant and still able to get an education. I think that’s a horrible world. I think a young woman shouldn’t have to make that kind of choice.
I guess it’s still the world we live in though, and that’s why I want to tell you about what happened back then: Your older brother or sister was one of those aborted children.
Why? Because the idea of having a baby and finishing college seemed impossible. The idea of being a young parent with a little kid to care for at a time when the economy was bad was overwhelming. The idea of being like that one couple we knew who did have a baby just wasn’t okay, because that couple didn’t end up doing the things that we were all hoping to do.
I think that’s probably why you’re pro-choice: You know that there are times when the thought of having a baby is just too much. Maybe the baby was conceived in rape; maybe the parents have no money and no support; maybe there are health issues to consider. You don’t want to put someone through all that. Maybe you have a friend whose parents threatened to disown her if she didn’t have the abortion.
The trouble is that it isn’t the idea of a baby that is killed with abortion. It’s an actual person. In this case: Your brother or sister was alive, and now he or she is dead.Your parents really love you. You are the best thing that ever happened to them, and it shows. They love watching you grow up, and doing things with you, and seeing the amazing young adult you are becoming.
Unfortunately, this year on your birthday, when your parents are gathered around with the cake, and the relatives are calling or sending cards, there’s an empty spot at the table. Your brother or sister should be there with you, singing off key and being silly and guessing what your wish is.
Life is punctuated by big events: Weddings, graduations, the birth of the first grandchild. You should be experiencing those big events as they happen to your older brother or sister.
Life is punctuated by little events: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, fireworks on the 4th of July, and getting up early to see the presents under the tree Christmas morning. Your brother or sister should have been there, daring you, annoying you, conspiring with you.
Life with siblings isn’t easy. Sometimes in anger we’ll say to a brother or sister, “I wish you’d never been born!”
Well, that happened to you. You got that wish. Your brother or sister was never born.
Your parents regret it. They grieve it, mostly privately.
And that’s why I’d like you to reconsider your support for abortion.
We can’t change the past. We can’t cause that boy or girl who has the same smile as you, or the same eyes, or the same laugh, to suddenly appear in your selfies, photo-bombing your prom pictures and making weird faces. There’s nothing we can do to give you a childhood — and an adulthood– with your brother or sister.
But we can save someone else that emptiness. Instead of making a girl who is scared and alone feel like she has no choice but to abort, we can give her a real choice. We can help her through hard things, so that twenty, thirty years later she doesn’t have to apologize to the younger sibling about why one child got to live, but the other one had to die.
In light of the death of your brother or sister, I respectfully ask you to reconsider your position on abortion.
The Friend of Your Parents Who Wishes She Could Have Done More