Jenny is a college-aged woman. She's ready to look for a job that will allow her to save up some money so that she and her boyfriend can marry and start a family. She looks forward to being a stay-at-home mom at that point. She's a Catholic, and she lives in a small town. Her sister just had a baby, and her close friend became pregnant as well and placed the child for adoption. She's a very stable, good-head-on-her-shoulders kind of woman. This pregnancy is early, unplanned, but not necessarily unwanted.
She makes comments like "I don't want to be ridiculed like my friend was," "Pregnancies outside of marriage are bad, and I'm ashamed everyone will know," and about abortion: "I've been told to believe it as a murder, but it's the easiest way out." In responding to her, I let her know how hypocritical it is for the church (Catholic or Protestant) to teach that abortion is murder and then shun women who decide not to have one. I think she understood that point, but that doesn't make what she has to deal with any easier.
I found an article that touches on this. The article, called "The Catholic Abortion Paradox" deals more specifically with the fact that Catholic women are more likely to have abortions than Protestant women and, in fact, do so at a rate equal to the general population.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health data, non-Hispanic Catholic women of childbearing age are 29% more likely than their Protestant counterparts to have abortions. The rate is even higher--33%--if Hispanics are factored in. Another way of looking at it: while Protestant women make up about 54% of the population, they account for only 37% of the abortions. Catholic women make up 31% of the population and account for 31% of the abortions.That's a pretty eye-opening statistic.
The one explanation for which there is at least some anecdotal evidence is that Catholic women appear to experience more feelings of guilt around sex, and more shame about pregnancy outside of marriage.That was certainly the case with the woman I was working with. All of her concerns had to do with what those in her church would think. While this study might be about Catholics and abortion, I believe that the same problem lies within the Protestant church too. It's a shame that we are teaching those in our church to care more about not disappointing other church members rather than caring more about their souls, isn't it?
There are crisis pregnancy centers in almost every sizeable [sic] town, where women can get help throughout the pregnancy and in the adoption process. But relatively few women make that choice. Perhaps it is because they are not aware of the services. Perhaps it's because when they first find out about an unplanned pregnancy, their initial impulse is to erase it entirely with an abortion.I think it's the latter. Abortion makes it so easy (in a difficult way) to erase the situation. Women then often realize that it creates an entirely different situation - one that is not as easy to erase. If I had a dime for every time a woman told me she's planning for an abortion not 2 days after her positive pregnancy test, I'd be rich. I encourage my clients to wait at least a couple of weeks before doing anything. It takes time for things to sink in, for thoughts to be thought through, and for answers to be found out.
Worried about disappointing her mother and making her father angry, she turned to her boyfriend’s mother, who in turn helped her find the abortion clinic. "I feel bad about it because it is a life, and the one thing I was scared of coming here today was that my mother would be outside carrying one of those signs, you know--'Abortion kills babies.'"This problem has been blogged about before, and it definitely does exist. Parents who are actively involved in pro-life activism make pretty unapproachable subjects when it comes to pregnancy. It's a delicate balance that I hope and pray that I will have with my daughter as she gets older. I don't want her to turn to her boyfriend's mother.
The one point I find confusing throughout the article is that they seem to blame the increased abortion rate on reduced access to contraception. I don't doubt this is true, but I think we need to delve a little deeper than the surface. The problem lies in the fact that our children aren't believing what we tell them about sex before marriage, abortion, and self-respect.
Kearney recalls counseling a 17-year-old who was pregnant for a second time. The young woman told her that in her first pregnancy, she went to a priest who told her abortion was an unacceptable sin and that she should carry the child to term. She did, but a few months later during Mass the priest "went off on a tirade about teen pregnancy," Kearney says. The young woman "felt this deep sense of betrayal," she adds, and decided to terminate her second pregnancy.So, what can we do about this message? I don't have the answers, and I'm hoping that we can all share to come up with answers that will work as we assist our friends, family members, and especially our kids. It's clear to me that we need to develop our foundation before an unplanned pregnancy occurs. Teach our kids that sex before marriage is wrong, but an abortion doesn't make it right again. Teach them that they don't need to have an abortion to avoid embarrassment within the church. The main focus should be to show them how helping pregnant women remain pregnant makes you feel good and does the work of Christ. That way, should she become pregnant, she'll know you won't ostracize her or judge her. Preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words. Teach them that children are a blessing that can be brought out of a bad decision, but abortion is a bad decision brought out of another bad decision. (Two wrongs don't make a right to the extreme in this case.) What are some other ways that we can share this message with our kids?
It's a delicate balance, especially with our kids. In my church, when given the opportunity to put fliers with the phone number to the local pregnancy center inside the bathrooms in our student building, they replied, "Maybe we can arrange it for the main bathroom where the "other" kids go, but we don't need those in the bathrooms where our kids go." Suuure you don't. Ignorance can be bliss - but only for awhile.