March 14, 2005


There is a new photograph on my refrigerator. It's a photo of C.J., a baby born two weeks ago to a teenage girl who lives up the street. The mother has attended a few of our youth group events, and I've had her in some of the classes I've taught at the high school.

I stopped by last week to visit, eight days after C.J. was born. He is one of the cutest babies I've seen in a long time. It was enough to make me almost want another baby in my own family. Almost. I wanted to hold him, but he seemed to be having a rough day, so I ddin't ask. However, for just a moment, I did get to hold his hand. I was amazed at how, in just a few short years since my youngest son was born, I had almost forgotten how small and precious a baby's hands can be, and what a miracle new life is.

C.J. was upset and tired, and his mom was trying to figure out how to console him. Knowing that I had two young boys at home, she asked my advice, and I gave it to her. I was pleased that she asked for help. As a teenage mom, she's going to need a lot of help and advice in the years to come.

When I first found out that she was pregnant, I briefly wondered if she would choose to have an abortion. I have mixed feelings about abortion. My wife was adopted just before abortion was legalized in this country; her biological mother is still unknown to her, and she sometimes wonders what choice her biological mother would have made had abortion been legal. On the other hand, the politicization of the issue and the hypocrisy of so many in the pro-life movement makes me sick; it makes me reluctant to identify myself as "pro-life."

Yesterday in church, one of our ladies stood up to make an announcement. She had lost her husband a few years ago, and though her grief was great, she has since been able to reclaim some of her own identity which she let slip away in the years she took care of him, in the time between her husband's stroke and his passing. She stood up and announced that a friend of hers had convinced her to become involved in an organization called A Woman's Friend, which helps women deal with pregnancies, especially unwanted or unexpected pregnancies. It's a Christian organization (I think), and their emphasis is on finding alternatives to abortion. She also announced that the organization is having a fundraiser next month called the Walk for Life, and asked if anyone would be interested in participating.

She and I had talked about this two weeks ago, and I knew she was going to make the announcement. In fact, I encouraged her. I was pleased to see her getting involved in something after her husband's death, and I know that she also does not like the politics that surrounds the issue of abortion.

This morning on NPR, there was a story about how the two main political parties are crafting their platforms regarding the issue of abortion. The Democrats are trying to reach out to pro-life voters, even embracing two "anti-abortion" candidates in next year's congressional election. The Republican party, meanwhile, has backed away from talking about "pro-life" legislation, and instead, wants to "change hearts" and create a "culture of life."

I've also read that, worldwide, the countries that have the lowest rates of abortion are Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal and covered by national health insurance. According to an article in the Christian Century, "those countries each year report about seven abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. By contrast, in countries such as Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, where abortion is restricted by law, the abortion rate is about 50 per 1,000 women. Those figures are more than twice that of the U.S., where the rate is about 22."

The reason for this is that Belgian and Dutch women are well educated about contraceptives and have access to them. They can also rely on generous government provisions for health care, child care, and parental leave, which means raising a child is a more sustainable prospect.

I once heard someone say that if people who are pro-life were serious about reducing the number of abortions in this country, they'd put down their picket signs and go volunteer at a daycare center. If we really wanted to create a "culture of life," we would support family planning programs and services, find ways to provide health care for all, and educate people about sex and contraception. Many pro-lifers are against these ideas. They say that they're pro-life, and then they turn their backs on mothers and young children.

The girl up the street made the choice to have her baby. I have seen him, I have held his tiny hand, and he is beautiful. C.J. and his mom face many challenges in the years ahead, and it appears that they will receive little help from the government. They have the support and prayers of family and friends, but that may not be enough. The struggle to provide life for that baby is not yet over. It has only begun.

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