This post first appeared on FIVE
A word of advice: If you're invited to dinner, it's probably a bad idea to bring up abortion during the main course. Especially if the family is Mormon. But for some reason, I thought it was the right time and place to air my left-leaning views about the topic which almost a decade later, I understand is only something a rude, self righteous teenager would do. I could see the husband's face getting red. A very mild mannered man, he was finishing medical school at Johns Hopkins University. He said, "I have been in the room during abortions and there is a darkness there." He went onto explain that from the time he was young, his parents had taken in single, expectant mothers through the birth of their children and cared for the young women until after their children were adopted and/or after they had a more secure place in the world to care for their children.
The other night, I attended an event held by Women in Government, an organization that brings women of all political stripes together to discuss issues without the partisan rancor. I met Pat Spearman. She is a veteran, an ordained minister, a former police officer and the first lesbian ever to serve in the Nevada State Senate. I happened to sit next to her when she got a text message. It was from a 12 year old boy who was in the middle of basket ball practice. She explained that when his mother was expecting, she was on the brink of poverty. It was a choice between providing for the children she had or the financial ruin that the pregnancy and expenses of another child would bring. Senator Spearman had an idea. She told the woman that money should not be a deciding factor of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Ms. Spearman promised to help provide financially and emotionally for the child, which she has done for a dozen years.
Jesus sounded like the dictionary definition of an unwanted pregnancy. Despite his Father's divinity, he was the bastard child of a fourteen year old, single, minority woman in the 1st century. Talk about a nightmare. Single, pregnant women were frequently stoned to death, violently ending life and the potential for it. If Mary's cousin Elizabeth wouldn't have swooped in, giving Mary food, shelter and emotional support during and after the pregnancy, who knows if the Christian world would exist, let alone have known Jesus as their Lord and Savior?
Abortion is not a new phenomenon. It's as old as history. The missing link in the abortion debate isn't political: it's human. A study of women who receive abortions by the Guttmacher Institute suggests that almost three quarters of women do not feel financially able to care for a/nother child. Almost 50 percent of respondents were afraid of the implications of single motherhood. 20 percent felt pressure from a sexual partner or parent to end a pregnancy. Pregnancy carries enormous professional stigma and many women are fired or never rehired after taking maternity leave. Many women facing abortion don't see a choice. They see abortion as their only real option. They don't see the possibility of a real life for their children; so why would they bring them into the world?
It speaks volumes about the Mormon family that they continued making the lives of young women and children possible and that we are still friends. It speaks volumes about the Senator that twelve years later, she plays an active role in the young man's life that she helped save. They have different beliefs about whether or not or when abortion should be legal,* but they are doing more to address the issue of abortion than any lobbyist in Washington, any court ruling or any tirade on Facebook.
If we're pro-choice, we need to make sure women know they have options beyond professional and social stigma, unemployment and poverty; That we'll rally around if they give their baby another loving home through adoption or bring a child up themselves, despite any medical challenges that baby may face. If women or men decide to leave the workforce to care for children, we should be ready and willing to hire them when they return to employment outside of the home. If we're pro-life, we need to try and provide children a life worth living once they exit the womb, with education, housing, health care and nurturing relationships. We need to advocate for maternity and paternity leave and work to have family friendly workplaces.
Antiabortion legislation certainly didn't save baby Jesus. It was a friend who was willing to step in and pick up the extra slack.Who was there to love and support Mary. Elizabeth didn't tell Mary what to do. She let her come and stay until Mary and Joseph figured how to deal with this unexpected, extremely inconvenient miracle.
So between the dinner parties and cookies of the Christmas season, take a moment to think about the Elizabeth's in the world. Whether they're a Mormon family in Salt Lake or a lesbian legislator in Nevada, they're bringing peace to the discomforted and miracles to even the worst dinner guests.
*While elective abortion is considered a serious sin, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not have a political position on abortion regarding its legality. For more information, visit mormon.org