Brit + Co Community Voices: Do the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Movements Really Empower Women?
This article is part of our B+C Community Voices project. All of these stories come from our readers in response to our request for op-eds from different viewpoints. This one comes from Ali Smith, a Dallas-based mom and blogger. She works for YoungLives, a ministry of Young Life that places mentors into the lives of teenagers who find themselves pregnant.
A large number of women who choose to end the life of an unborn baby actually do so because they feel as if they have no choice. Whether it is a middle-class white woman who feels shame for a pregnancy out of wedlock or a minority teenager who is told her and her child will amount to nothing if she brings this child into the world.
I’ve had personal friends in these and many other similar circumstances. Specifically in my work with YoungLives, Young Life’s ministry to teenage mothers, I have seen numerous young women visit clinics where they are belittled and pressured into considering abortion. Hearing their stories of their encounters with the health industry and others in their community is heartbreaking. Making a choice when you feel as though you have no other choice does not look like women have rights or choice to me.
Here is where I see both the pro-choice and pro-life movements failing. We are so busy arguing about the principle that the majority of us aren’t actually doing something for these women.
What if we worked together to really empower these women to have a choice? What if we worked together to show them the beautiful future they and their children can have? I can imagine a day in this country when every woman would feel that she had all the love, support and resources necessary to bring her child into the world.
One of my friends who shares a different view than me shared this thought earlier today:
“When, in reality, the VAST majority of us, pro-choice, pro-life, whatever, I really think are on the same side of things when it comes to the ‘end’ we are striving for. We just disagree, sometimes deeply, on the ‘means.’ I want a world in which abortions don’t exist because there is no need for them because we do so well at supporting both young men and women before, during and after pregnancy. I think most people do.”
For the sake of discussion, let’s say that we do all want every human to feel supported and loved before, during and after pregnancy in such a way that they would feel empowered to choose adoption or personally raising their child. What does it take to really love and care for women, specifically those who may currently feel as though they have no choice?
We would all rather think and speak instead of act. It is far more costly to act. Acting gets your heart tied to the issue, not just your brain. Acting gets your hands dirty in the messy work of redemption. Acting means you will know the real life stories of people, not just what-if scenarios.
We are all called to care for the women and men making these difficult decisions. A lot of this work can be done together. If you are pro-choice, it can be to ensure that all women really have complete freedom to make any choice when they are in this situation. Many, many, pro-choice people have told me that being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion. While I personally still have difficulty with this statement, it does lead me to conclude that you really do want women to feel empowered to make whichever choice she wants to make. This means that all choices should look easily plausible. If you are pro-life, it can be to ensure that the woman has all the resources and tools she needs to continue with pregnancy and adoption or parenting.
Alright, so here’s our call to love these women and men. To get off Facebook and comments and speeches and marches and actually get to know people. There are a million ways to do this, and when you think through the possibilities, you may become overwhelmed and simply do nothing. But I challenge all of us to do something. It doesn’t have to be everything, but it needs to be something.
1. Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center. Equip the women with the tools they need. Have a conversation with them about their life and what they currently need to succeed.
2. Mentor a teenager who finds herself pregnant. We walk with girls from pregnancy to parenting. We cheer them on. We talk about the value they and their children have. It’s beautiful and redeeming and brings together families from all different walks of life.
3. Decide your family should adopt. Communicate to a birth mother that her child is loved, wanted and will be provided for by you. While engaging in an open adoption, love that birth mother. Thank her for her courage and bravery. Thank her for giving your family something for which you have longed. One of the most beautiful things I have seen in recent years has been the way an adoptive family has loved a birth mother. Show a woman that adoption is a great option. Want to partner with an organization that communicates how adoption is a brave choice on all sides? Brave Love.
4. Find a group that educates youth against violence, specifically sexual violence. Volunteer with them to teach the next generation about how to treat others with love and respect.
This list is just a start. You people are smarter than me and bigger lovers of others. You are passionate and driven and relentless. You are people that can make a big impact on this world with your life. Don’t simply use your words and your thoughts, use your hands and your heart.
Together let’s really be about women. Loving women. Equipping women. Empowering women.