Last week I shared some revealing information from a study that focused on the perceptions of women going through a crisis pregnancy. An article published by First Things magazine summarized this study. Let’s review.
- When faced with a crisis pregnancy, many women see abortion as the lesser of three evils. The first evil is the loss of self. Many young women might imagine themselves being mothers later in their lives, but they view an early unplanned pregnancy as a death of self. Many young women do not find their identity in motherhood. Bringing a child into the world means the loss of their own life. They view choosing abortion as a choice for survival.
- Abortion is considered an evil by many women. “The scores of women involved in the study (none of whom were pro-life activists and all of whom called themselves “pro-choice”) agreed that abortion is killing.”
- While many of us know adoption to be a beautiful and courageous option, it is rarely perceived as such by a woman in a crisis pregnancy. Adoption, for many women, is seen as a double death. Not only would the woman have to carry the pregnancy to term as a mother, a death of self, but then be a “bad mother” because there is a sense of death by abandoning her child. Many perceive adoption as the worst of the three evils.
I would encourage anyone who claims to be pro-life not to judge women who have these views. It is simply not helpful. Listening, understanding, and empathizing are the keys to effectively communicating a pro-life message. If we want to share, we also have to listen.
Empathizing with women going through a crisis pregnancy should provoke us to reconsider our pro-life rhetoric and slogans; otherwise, much of our pro-life message falls on deaf ears and only makes things worse.
Consider the common pro-life slogan, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” The First Things article that I mentioned above points out that, “While this may be an effective phrase among pro-lifers, the effect upon a young woman in crisis would probably be to 1) provoke anger at the messenger (pro-lifers), 2) confirm her sense that pro-lifers ignore her life and situation, and 3) drive her further into denial and despair.”
I know some in the pews would prefer that my brother priests and I give more strongly worded and more frequent anti-abortion homilies. When I preach, I have to consider who is sitting in those pews. Consider this:
- 1 in 4 women by age 45 will have had an abortion (https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states)
- 4 in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended a pregnancy (https://www.care-net.org/ churches-blog/new-survey-women-gosilently-from-church-to-abortion-clinic)
- And finally, 24% of women who get abortions are Catholic (https://www. guttmacher.org/report/characteristics- us-abortion-patients-2014)
It was Jesus’ gaze of mercy, care, and concern that changed the hearts of those he encountered. As the Body of Christ on earth, it will serve us well if we share that same gaze of mercy, care, and concern to those whom we encounter. If we want to remember the unborn, we have to care for the mother first, understand her situation, and then choose our words carefully.
Fr. Jeff Lorig, Pastor
Check out Part One of this Article- Abortion and Empathy