A woman’s decision

October 12, 2015
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Planned Parenthood in Highland Park, St. Paul, Minnesota. Some rights reserved by Fibonacci Blue.

My wife, Sue, and I have supported Planned Parent­hood for years. Its work is critically important. Planned Parenthood provides family planning consultation and birth control, and 500,000 breast exams and 400,000 pelvic exams per year. More than 5 million women, men, and adolescents turn to Planned Parenthood for help every year. For many, it’s the only affordable source of sexual and reproductive health services.

Much of Planned Parenthood’s work stems from its original purpose: preventing unwanted pregnancies. Something like 80 percent of clients receive birth control services, and approxi­mately 516,000 unwanted pregnancies are prevented annually, which means that Planned Parenthood prevents a lot of abortions. Three percent of Planned Parenthood’s work involves providing abortions.

Raw statistics became lived reality for me when my spouse served as a volunteer “accompanier.” Sue’s job was to be with a client before, during, and after the abortion procedure, as a caring presence. Each one came with a unique, urgent set of circumstances.

One client was an East Asian graduate student. If continued to term, her pregnancy would have meant the termination of her academic program, a return to her country in shame, and the end of her dream of a career in biochemistry.

Each woman, said Sue, made the decision to terminate her pregnancy only after a long and serious struggle. “No one I met did this casually.” Many women expressed feelings of guilt, self-loathing, and the sense that God could never love them again. Sue assured them that God is gracious and that God continued to love them.

I believe that the decision of whether or not to have an abortion is one that the woman, in conversation with her spouse, partner, physician, and spiritual adviser, should be free to make herself. I base that belief on the responsibility given to human beings by God in the story of creation, and don’t think it’s a matter for elected officials or judges to decide.

Abortion is a litmus test for a portion of the electorate and a hot-button issue politically. Planned Parenthood and its financial future are under attack. Positions are drawn so sharply that civil conversation is virtually impossible, and disintegrates into name calling, personal accusation, and insult. I lament that the heat generated by abortion opponents has in the past expressed itself in violence. Sadly, public discourse about the issue has not improved much.

One thing is sure: the good and needed work that this organization does must continue. Planned Parenthood and the critical services it provides should not fall victim to ideological warfare in Congress.


Woman's Choice

Many thanks ... the struggle against ignorance and misogyny has to continue ... it's not going away any time soon ...

Letter from Deborah Edwards

I am astonished at how common it is for Christian people who normally argue in favor of protecting the vulnerable and strengthening the social fabric to argue in favor of the privatization of the decision to abort (“A woman’s decision,” Oct. 28). An unwanted pregnancy is a situation that is both remarkably preventable and utterly redeemable by God, so why should the Christian community focus on the moment of crisis and offer up violence as a legitimate response?

If the East Asian graduate student described in John Buchanan’s column were to decide that the best way out of her situation was suicide, I think the best Christian response would not be to accompany her as a “caring presence” at the euthanasia suite of the local medical clinic. Who would freely choose a path that is clouded by “guilt, self-loathing, and the sense that God could never love them again”? Abortion is the failure of love, creativity, and generosity on the part of individuals and of the society as a whole. There must be a better way forward than death.

Deborah Edwards
Baton Rouge, La.

Letter from Dave Fronk

Buchanan’s support of Planned Parenthood embraces an ap­proach to abortion that is compassionate and nonjudgmental. This is laudatory. The example cited, though, does not appear to involve rape or risk to the mother’s life. Rather, it involves the perceived shame of an unintended pregnancy and the loss of a career dream.

As we prayerfully reflect on difficult situations such as these, I am reminded of the differences between our eyes and God’s eyes. Where we see shame, endings, and no escape, God sees no shame, possibilities, and redemption. Regardless of our choices, God is always gracious and loving, and that love makes all things possible.

Dave Fronk
Fredericksburg, Va.

Letter from Adrian de Lange

I often hear the complaint that “pro-lifers” care about a life only for its first nine months—once a child is born, they no longer seem interested. That is certainly a horrible reduction of what it means to be in favor of human life and human flourishing. However, I was disappointed to see the Century making the same mistaken reductionism, simply in reverse.

The callout in the powerful editorial “Unmoved” reads: “Opposi­tion to the death penalty is often spurred more by practical considerations than theological ones.” This is rightly decried as evil. However, in the same issue editor John Buchanan makes the case for Planned Parenthood and “preventing unwanted pregnancies” exclusively on practical grounds, without any theological consideration. The problem is that Buchanan’s examples aren’t of prevented pregnancies, but rather of terminated ones. In essence, he offers a call for the death of impractical unborn babies.

Of course, God still loves those women who have abortions as he loves all of us. But I still call on the Century to be consistently in favor of all human life and all human flourishing: inmates, mothers, and unborn babies. After all, God’s love for us is not practical. It’s not cheap. And it wasn’t easy for him. He gave his life for us, rather than taking ours.

Adrian de Lange
Grand Junction, Colo.