That’s the title of a recent article in the Washington Post by Caroline Kitchener, and it’s generating intense responses from both pro-life and pro-choice supporters.
Kitchener’s portrayal of a teen who wanted to end her pregnancy but ended up with twins because of the Texas Heartbeat Act epitomizes the state of the abortion debate in this country.
The story is about Brooke Alexander, an eighteen-year-old from Corpus Christi, who found out she was pregnant two days before the heartbeat law went into effect. The law bans abortions if a heartbeat can be detected—usually around five weeks—and has made most abortions in the state illegal. Because of the proximity to the commencement of the law, Brooke couldn’t get an appointment before the law went into effect. The first place that could fit her in was the Pregnancy Center of Coastal Bend.
When she first arrived at the crisis pregnancy center, Brooke was asked to fill out an information form that included the question “If you are pregnant, what are your intentions?” Based on their response, the women are then designated as likely to carry, abortion vulnerable, or abortion minded. Brooke’s answer placed her in the latter category, a first for the center under the new regulations.
As Kitchener describes, when the ultrasound technician began the sonogram, “Brooke willed the screen to show a fetus without a heartbeat. The technician gasped. It was twins. And they were 12 weeks along.”
Brooke’s initial response was akin to an out-of-body experience as she contemplated what it would take to make it to a state that would allow her to still get an abortion. Yet, as she described to Kitchener, “she couldn’t stop staring at the pulsing yellow line on the ultrasound screen. She wondered: If her babies had heartbeats, as these women said they did, was aborting them murder?”
A pro-choice mother who kept her babies
She decided to keep them, though the remainder of her pregnancy was far from easy.
Morning sickness and the exhaustion of being pregnant eventually forced her to drop out of her real estate classes and quit her job. Her mom, who had initially been excited about the babies upon seeing the ultrasound, kicked her out at one point, forcing her to move in with her boyfriend, Billy, at his father’s house. That’s where they still live.
She and Billy have since gotten married. He joined the Air Force to help provide for their family, and they’re currently waiting for his basic training to end to see where he’s deployed.
Until then, her days are centered around the babies. It gives her plenty of time to reflect on the life she has and the life she could have had.
She remains conflicted.
She still believes that women should have the right to choose, but she also knows that her babies might not be alive if abortion had been a realistic option for her.
As she told Kitchener, “Who’s to say what I would have done if the law wasn’t in effect? I don’t want to think about it.” She went on to describe how “I can’t just really be free. I guess that really sums it up. That’s a big thing that I really miss.” But, while looking at her baby girls, she ultimately concluded that “It’s really scary thinking that I wouldn’t have them.”
A Rorschach test on abortion in the US
Since it was first published, Kitchener’s story about Brooke, Billy, and their twin girls has functioned as something of a Rorschach test for our culture on the issue of abortion.
The overall tone of the article portrays a young woman whose life has become immeasurably more difficult as a result of the law that did not grant her easy access to an abortion. As such, Lila Rose, founder of pro-life advocacy group Live Action, speaks for many from a more conservative, pro-life point of view when she panned it as “shameful,” adding that Brooke “trusted you and you wrote a cruel, condescending piece about her.”
Conversely, pro-choice advocates like Jill Filipovic see the story as “sad and infuriating, and such a perfect illustration of how girls and women are used, manipulated, and discarded, their futures and dreams snuffed out, by the ‘pro-life’ movement that claims to love babies so much.” Filipovic focuses so much on the struggles that Brooke and Billy have endured that she appears to disregard the fact that the couple loves their children and finds it “scary” to think about life without them.
In both cases, the nuance of Kitchener’s portrayal often goes overlooked, and that same mistake plagues the larger conversation about abortion as well.
What’s missing in the abortion debate
Pregnancy is hard, and taking care of babies is often even more taxing. Those difficulties do not justify the killing of innocent children in the womb or outweigh the sense of joy and purpose that comes from being a parent, but they shouldn’t be overlooked or minimized either.
It’s common even for parents who never considered abortion to have moments where they miss the freedom of the life they had before. When that pregnancy was unexpected and unwanted, it’s understandable for those feelings of loss to be even more acute.
Again, that reality does not justify abortion, but it should make it easier to have empathy for those like Brooke facing the prospect of a vastly different future than what they imagined and planned. That empathy is what’s missing far too often from the debate around abortion.
Our heavenly Father created, loves, and values both the mother and the child. If we defend the mother’s rights against the child’s, or vice-versa, without remembering their imago Dei, we’ve made a grievous mistake.
So the next time you discuss the subject of abortion, be sure your words recognize the God-given worth of everyone involved. And if you’re looking for practical ways to fight for life, remember that the best way to care for a child is often to care for his or her parents.
How can God use you to that end today?
For more, see “What does the Bible say about abortion?“