It was 1987
It was 1987 and I was a junior in high school. It was the era of big hair, cola wars, and gas for $ 0.99 a gallon (not kidding). I had a part-time job at a fast-food chain, Hardees. FTR, best biscuits anywhere. Also, our children’s meals came with mini Pound Puppies. Google it.
It was Christmas time and our manager decided we needed to do some team building. I don’t know how old he was…maybe 30. And we were teenagers. Apparently, he viewed us as corporate executives or perhaps he was binge-reading Zig Ziglar at the time. So he took us bowling. The bowling alley was next door to our store. I guess it eliminated the need for permission slips. But, then again, it was 1987. I’m not sure we even had permission slips in those days.
During the party, one of our fellow employees locked herself in the bathroom. My manager asked me to check on her and see if she was alright. I still remember him asking me to do this and wondered why me. There were other female employees. Some were even moms who presumably would be better at this than a scrawny 17-year-old.
My friend, Mary*, was on the floor of one of the stalls. I think she may have vomited and she clearly had been drinking. Mary was only a year older than me, but she lived a tough life. She never shared details, but somehow I knew her home life was angry, chaotic, and miserable. Today, I recognize the signs of abuse in her, but what did I know then? We were kids trying to make it to graduation.
I crouched down next to Mary. We did not attend the same high school, but I knew she was probably one of the “cool girls”. She was thin and blonde and beautiful, and she scared the crap out of me. But, sitting on that floor, Mary seemed hopeless.
“I had an abortion today”, Mary told me.
And then she started to cry. The rest of our conversation was minimal. Mostly we sat there as she tried to pull herself together. Then, Mary wiped her tears, got up from the bathroom floor, and went bowling. We never talked about it again.
I have thought about Mary so many times over the years. Did she marry her boyfriend? Does she have a career or children or both? Did she find healing from whatever scars childhood trauma left on her soul?
We both left Hardees soon after that encounter in the bathroom. I saw her a couple of years later when I was working at a bank. Mary and her boyfriend came through my drive-thru lane. I waved and smiled saying hello through the speaker. She gave a half-smile, waved, and turned away. Then they drove off.
So many people think abortion is the problem. Some will read this post and point to Mary’s obvious signs of depression as a response to her abortion. But abortion is not the problem. It is a symptom. The problem is hopelessness. My friend was hopeless and desperate. And desperate people do desperate things. As a minister, I have seen hopelessness play out in people’s lives in many ways. Desperate people do desperate things which include, but are not limited to:
- have an abortion
- give a child up for adoption
- have a baby to save a marriage
- abuse drugs and alcohol
- rob a bank
- lie, cheat, steal, manipulate
- kidnap their own child
- attempt suicide
- commit suicide
Some will read this post and accuse me of being “pro-abortion”. Some won’t be that kind in their accusations. Let me be clear, I want to see all babied saved and safe. But which is worse: aborting a 12-week old fetus or shaking a 12-week old infant to death? Yeah, I can’t answer it either. But this I do know: screaming at a person who has lost all hope and calling them a murderer doesn’t solve anything. But, offering her hope will.
My sister was a single mom for several years. Her ex-husband rarely paid child support. And then only when Friend-of-the-Court bothered to garnish his wages. She qualified for childcare vouchers. But every time she would get a raise, they would cut her voucher amount. Often the raise didn’t even cover the amount she lost in the voucher. My sister found herself in the never-ending cycle that many single parents experience.
We cannot call ourselves pro-life and ignore or shame the woman standing before us. We cannot call ourselves pro-life and defund the very programs that do offer alternatives. Programs like childcare vouchers, prenatal care, birth control, job training, GED tutoring, food and formula supplement programs, etc. We cannot call ourselves pro-life and let the rapists go free while making the young girls (who are victims) give birth to those children. We cannot call ourselves pro-life and put politicians in office who, although labeled as pro-life, cut funding to all the programs that advocate for women and alternatives to abortion.
If you truly want to end abortion, then take care of the women who find themselves in hopeless and helpless situations. If you need some ideas to get you started, then here’s a short list:
- collect diapers and gas cards for a local pregnancy center
- volunteer at a pregnancy center
- if you’re feeling super Jesus-like, then volunteer at Planned Parenthood (think “Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors”)
- volunteer to do GED tutoring at your local high school or community college
- volunteer at your local upper-elementary school because it actually starts here
- vote for politicians who actually support alternative programs to abortion. Statistics show that these are the things that actually reduce abortion rates, not screaming and ranting and “praying” (yes, I’m all about praying, but you know what I mean)
- start a scholarship program at your church for underprivileged youth to attend community college or vocational school. If you don’t have any under-privileged youth in your church, then ask your congregation. Someone knows a few. Think outside your four walls. We’re working to break a cycle here.
- brainstorm with some friends about other ideas, but remember to get input from women who have “been there”
Christians have historically been some of the most creative problem solvers. Let’s put our creativity to work because, right now, we are not being hope-givers. We are being hope-stealers. Friends, the Gospel without hope is not the Gospel! Be hope to the world!