The multi-faith council at the college where I am a campus minister recently held a student-led discussion about abortion. In small groups, and then in a large group, we had the opportunity to respectfully voice our opinions and perspectives on the issue.
Through that discussion and my ponderings afterward, I had the opportunity to reflect about the reasons for my pro-life convictions. While I could approach this issue from a philosophical, theological or legal viewpoint, and each of those would have some value, I prefer to view the issue here from the perspective of the heart.
We all made it. Each and every one of us alive today was not aborted. Whoever you are, whatever your stance on abortion, your mother chose to give you life. No exceptions.
I don’t know the circumstances of your conception. I don’t know what the relationship between your parents was like. I don’t know whether your life began as a planned or unplanned pregnancy, as an easy or a difficult journey in the womb, but I do know that you are here. I know that you exist, and that you’re alive because your mother chose to carry you to birth, just as I’m here because my mother chose to give me life.
And without any hesitation whatsoever, I can say that that it is good that you are here.
Having passed through all the stages of development myself, from conception through embryo, fetus, infancy until today, and experiencing the gift of my life, I cannot fathom telling anyone else that their life is dispensable.
I cannot imagine declaring that you and I made it, and kudos for us, but that it doesn’t matter whether the next boy or girl makes it, or that their life can be decided on a whim or even on the basis of trying circumstances. To hold such an attitude would feel to me like the ultimate form of existential arrogance — being the recipient of this completely gratuitous gift of life that I neither asked for nor merited, and yet denying this same gift to another.
If I am to say that abortion is a legitimate option for a pregnancy, then I am saying that all lives, past, present and future, are dispensable. I am saying that they can be kept or discarded. Because if a person has the right to eliminate a life in the womb today that will become the child, the youth and the adult of tomorrow, then each of our parents by principle also had that right to eliminate us when we were in the womb.
If I am to treat life in the womb today as dispensable, then our lives in our mothers’ wombs also were dispensable. To hold an integrated stance in support of abortion, I would need to be able to say to each person, “Your mother should have had the choice to abort you. Your life doesn’t have an inherent value that demands respect. Your life was and is an option — to keep or to discard. You just happened to end up on the winning side of that option.”
Which of our friends, which members of our family, which of us should have been aborted? Because we were the life in the womb of yesterday. We were the pregnancies — easy and difficult, planned and unplanned, expected and surprise — of yesterday, when our parents contemplated how they were going to respond to the news of our conception.
In each of our cases, they chose to give us life, and I’m glad that they did. I’m glad they chose our lives and the lives of our family and friends. I value everyone’s lives. It is good that we are here, and it is good that the lives in wombs today will be here to join us tomorrow.
(I share these thoughts with the utmost respect for those whom this issue affects personally, and the clear conviction of the need to offer practical and emotional support to those in challenging situations. For me, the response ought to be “both-and,” not “either-or.”)
Josh Houde is director of Adult Faith Formation, Corpus Christi Parish, Waterville.