As I was watching one of my favourite science-fiction shows recently, I was thrilled to see a pro-life theme threaded throughout the plot. Afterward, I eagerly took to the Internet to see how regular folk were handling seeing one of their beloved characters choose life.
Much to my surprise, however, it seemed the Internet didn't agree that the episode was pro-life themed because, if it were, that would mean that choosing life is good and that not choosing life is therefore bad. Clearly this thought was too much for the Internet to bear, but I hope my ideas will find more fertile soil in the Prairie Messenger readership.
I don't want to ruin the show for anyone, so suffice it to say that the main character (let's call him Mr. Who) left his friend (let's call her Miss Companion) alone to decide whether or not to kill another creature to ensure the safety of the human race. Miss Companion is a main character too, so of course she does the noble thing and allows the creature to live. The creature turns out to be friendly after all, which sparks a new era of enlightenment for humankind. Hooray for human compassion!
But then things get really interesting. In the final scenes of the show, Miss Companion confronts her friend Mr. Who and angrily tells him that it was cruel of him to leave her with such a gut-wrenching choice. He claims that he felt it was her decision to make and that he didn't want to interfere, but she angrily describes feeling terrified, alone, abandoned and demeaned.
Looking at this list of emotions, I think they are the same emotions that every pregnant woman who is left to exercise her choice must feel. Too often in our culture, a woman will be abandoned to make the most heartbreaking choice imaginable, while those with entrenched pro-choice attitudes pat themselves on the back because they did not interfere with her freedom. But, as the women who share their stories on websites like Silent No More have testified, choosing an abortion is anything but freeing.
This isn't to say that the pro-life movement has been perfect in its treatment of women. We have been accused of the opposite trespass: encouraging a woman to have her child and abandoning her once the baby is born. Such reactions to pregnant mothers are equally isolating and hurtful because they send the message that a mother must carry the responsibility of raising a child entirely on her own.
Thankfully this view is not dominant in the pro-life movement, but we must always be aware of the danger of slipping into a mindset that minimizes the challenges faced by pregnant women.
One of my favourite quotes comes from Feminists for Life's former vice-president of communications, Frederica Mathewes-Green. She writies: “(A woman) wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” This vivid image reveals the desperation that women who choose abortion must feel. This is not an image of freedom, but rather an image of desperation. These women are desperately looking for someone to spring the trap.
So what can we do for these women? How can we spring the trap? Or better yet, how can we give them the tools they need to spring the trap themselves?
Although I have never been in a position where I felt I had to choose between my future and my child, I have been in situations where I felt the isolation that a difficult choice can bring. In these moments I have been graced with good family and friends, something that I think those of us with strong support networks too often take for granted. The people I turned to for support did not coerce or condemn me. Instead they helped me to discover the insights, resources and strength I needed to make good decisions.
For some women, the support they need will be as simple as having someone listen to them describe their fears for the future and assure them they will have the strength to face their challenges. For others, it will mean practical support, skills training or assistance finding a stable environment in which to raise their child. Many of these supports are generously offered through crisis pregnancy centres, but that does not mean that the rest of us can sit back and relax!
Returning to Mr. Who and Miss Companion's situation, I think we can get a clearer idea of what made Miss Companion angry. She didn't want Mr. Who to step in and make the decision for her; she needed him to stand by her side.
This is true in all our relationships. A supportive friend is not someone who abandons us to make decisions on our own or who tries to control us. Rather a supportive friend is one who ensures that we can see the good, life-giving path before us and encourages us to start walking down it.
Deutscher holds an MA in Public Ethics from St. Paul University in Ottawa. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.