Last night Jay and I went to a dinner benefit for the Antelope Valley Pregnancy Counseling Center. I expected a nice evening out. I expected to greet people we know from our parish. I expected to feel good about supporting an organization that helps women (girls, often) decide to keep their babies rather than abort them. What I didn't expect was to be so moved by the keynote speaker, Gianna Jessen.
Gianna's mother attempted to abort her at 7 months. Gianna miraculously survived 18 hours of essentially being burned alive in a concentrated saline solution and was born alive, to everyone's surprise, weighing only 2lbs. Had the abortionist been on duty the morning she was born, he would have strangled her. At the time, this would have been perfectly legal since she was considered to be nothing more than the product of a botched abortion.
Gianna has cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation in the womb, but she considers this a gift, as it allows her to rely more completely on Jesus. She walks with a severe limp but runs marathons, so determined is she. She sings beautifully and has dedicated her life to telling her story so that others may not be so poorly treated.
It is difficult to explain how moved I was by her story, as I felt my new daughter kicking inside me. Once, long ago, I bought into the pro-choice culture. I believed in clumps of tissue, products of conception, and a woman's "right" to do whatever she wanted with her own body. It was only after I became pregnant myself for the first time, with Joey, that I understood that it wasn't my body at all--my baby's body was his own. We were just sharing the same space temporarily, and he relied on me completely to keep him safe. His rights were equal to mine, for, from the moment he was conceived, he was a person.
My change in opinion on abortion changed well prior to my conversion to Catholicism, so I certainly don't believe one has to be Catholic--or even religious at all--to be pro-life. One simply has to think clearly about what an abortion really is. Our culture has so clouded this issue that we tend to think that personal freedoms are more important than life itself. But at its base level, this attitude is nothing more than selfishness. It is saying that my life is more important than yours. This is a very dangerous mindset. Yes, babies are sometimes very inconvenient. But they are real people, real lives in the making. I truly believe that anyone who has an abortion or supports the idea of an abortion does so only because they really don't understand what it is they are doing. Because if they understood, they could never do it, any more than they could kill a person who was sitting too close to them on the subway.
Thanks, in part, to Gianna's testimony, there is now a law protecting babies born alive, even during attempted abortions. We have a long way to go still and many muddy issues to resolve, but it's a start. I am not naive. I know that abortions will still take place, even if they are illegal. But we are a people who believe legal and moral mean the same thing. Perhaps outlawing something is the first tiny step in slowly changing our society's view about something that has silently creeped and completely seeped into our collective justification system.
Ending life is wrong, objectively. I don't judge people who don't share this opinion, as many people I love dearly do not, as once I did not. But I am not ashamed to say that I hope and pray that this "tolerance" that has changed in meaning from "loving those who think differently from you" to "everything is equal and OK" ends and soon.
If everyone could hear Gianna speak, abortion would be a very rare thing.