A week or so ago, a Nebraska farmer, Kurt Kaser, amputated his own leg with a pocketknife after his leg was caught in some farm machinery. With his leg stuck in an auger, he was being drawn into the apparatus which would mean certain death. No one was around. His cell phone was out of reach. Mr. Kaser realized his only hope for survival was to cut off his leg. (You can read his story here.)
No one in their right mind, under normal circumstances, would cut off a limb with a pocket knife. One would only resort to such measures if it was life or death. Extreme circumstances caused him to do the unthinkable.
As the abortion debate has heated up in recent days, Mr. Kaser’s dilemma seems eerily similar to what many women face with an unwanted pregnancy. The notion of ending a pregnancy goes against every maternal instinct we humans have. Yet extreme circumstances cause many women to do the unthinkable. (Tara Beth Leech’s article from a few years ago helped me understand this issue better).
I don’t believe that most women (at least not the ones I’ve talked to) choose to have an abortion like one chooses hair color or an item from the menu at Applebee’s. The decision is more like Mr. Kaser’s: amputate or die. When faced with an unwanted pregnancy, often women, like Mr. Kaser, feel trapped, alone and afraid. It might seem at that moment to bring a child into her dysfunctional world would only cause more grief, hopelessness and despair. Extreme circumstances lead to the unthinkable.
As a male, pro-life pastor, I understand some people view those three descriptors as disqualifiers from having any meaningful input into the abortion debate. It’s true, I can’t imagine being trapped like Mr. Kaser where my only option was to amputate my leg with a pocketknife. Just as I do not pretend to know the horrific trap that many women feel when trying to navigate the decision of having a child while their world is caving in all around them. My contribution to the abortion discussion is not more pontificating, but is the work of a pastor. I want to following Jesus lead in John 1:14. I want to be full of grace and truth. I want to help build a hope-filled and loving Christian community that comes alongside women and their babies. It’s advocating and working for a better story for women who feel trapped in their pregnancy.
Surveys show that the church is not the first-place women turn to when in the midst of an unwanted pregnancy. For some it’s the last place. That’s part of our problem. But what if we could change that story? What if we aren’t seen as dishing out condemnations for their present circumstances, but seen as a Jesus-reflecting, helpful place that leads women and children toward a better future? What if churches offered real concern, love and resources to women who feel stuck in an uncertain future? What if women came to our churches because we offered the most empathy and support?
The work of the church and the pro-life movement cannot stop caring at the baby’s birth, but must continue to provide a loving and nurturing community for moms and babies (and for everyone else, for that matter) throughout their lifetime. Let’s work for everyone’s well-being both in the present tense and in the future. Let’s fight for better present circumstances of women who feel their only option is an abortion and fight for a better life for moms and their babies in the days ahead. Maybe if the church demonstrates that both women and their unborn children are created in the image of God and their well-being matters to God, then women wouldn’t view abortion as their only option. Let’s be pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-both.