A false compassion

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Martin Luther King

Tragic love

A woman sits in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. She is waiting for her turn to go into an operating theatre where she will be put to sleep and her pregnancy will be terminated. She feels love and tenderness towards what she identifies as the child within her. Her partner is not supporting her, her family never have supported her and will not do so now, and she feels she has no other choice, for the good of the child and the good of all concerned. She believes she is acting compassionately.

A misguided service

The problem with abortion is that so many good people support it and facilitate it. Doctors, some of them practising members of religious faiths, condone and even perform abortions because of what they see as the plight of women with an unplanned pregnancy. Thinking people, of religious faiths or none, say that it is of course a difficult question but that women should be allowed to make the choice in difficult circumstances. Women choose abortion because of concern for existing children, or because they feel they do not have what a child needs or because they do not want to give birth to a fatherless child.

In almost all cases, the doctors who perform abortions and the people involved in providing abortion do not get to see the women 5, 10 or even 30 years later to find out how the abortion actually affected them. In the absence of such testimonies, they can continue on in the belief that what they are doing is a service to women. Perhaps they also tell themselves that the evidence of the damage abortion does to women is just propaganda put out by the pro-life lobby.

A superficial compassion

All of this, of course, turns on the idea that abortion involves just the removal of “a potential baby”, that it makes the woman unpregnant again, just as she was before, and that it involves little or no damage to the woman. It is such a superficial compassion. It is like someone agreeing to shoot you because you are depressed – without investigating deeper, seeing the real causes of your pain and helping provide real solutions to it. Abortion gets rid of all our need to face hard questions, assume responsibility, untangle complex situations. The problem is not the baby. Creative human minds are able to come up with solutions to an unplanned pregnancy other than violently ending it.

An enduring grief

What we are seeking urgently to convey through this website is that abortion is not, and never can be, a simple equation to not being pregnant in a difficult situation. It may indeed be true that, theoretically, it would be better in particular circumstances not to be pregnant and have a baby. But because of the way women are wired, by nature and quite beyond their control, they have a deep instinct to nurture and protect their children and to attach to their babies. This means that, even if a woman feels that it is rationally the best thing to do not to have a baby, her body and mind attach to the baby that she knows is there. For the rest of her life she will in some part of her mind and heart wonder who that person would have been. Like an orphan in reverse, she can never know her own child. A fetus is not, and never can be, just anonymous cells, like an appendix or a tumour. Not to understand these factors and not to implement them in any policy and practice on abortion is truly a lack of compassion and wisdom.

Abortion as abandonment

Something in us shuts down when we condone, perform or have an abortion. It is a lack of faith and trust in life, in the unborn child and all that that represents of innocence and purity. We believe that looking at just one side of the equation – the woman – without regarding the whole is more like abandonment than compassion. Women and their babies cannot be pitted against each other as though they had competing interests. It does not work like that. Some women are certain that abortion is what they want and nothing will dissuade them; for others, they and their child would be eternally grateful for a compassion that sees wider, deeper and with more total humanity.

This is, we believe, a true compassion, a generous compassion, that supports all of life, to the benefit of all.