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Ending Abortion Through Crisis Intervention

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The name of your first developmental stage as a human being was termed “zygote.” With twenty-three chromosomes from your father and twenty-three chromosomes from your mother, you became a unique member of the human family; never before conceived and never to be repeated (Wile, Coad and Dunstall). A little further down the developmental road, by the end of the third week, your tiny heart began to beat. Blood vessels and blood cells provided your embryonic body with oxygen and nutrients from your mother, working together with the placenta.  At four weeks, the double heart chambers were visible, aortic arch and major veins completed (Lowdermilk and Perry). Over the next thirty-six weeks, your eyes developed color, your tiny fingers and toes began to develop, your brain divided into three parts, and you began making facial expressions, all in preparation for the exciting day you would be born. But a tragedy exists that may stop you from completing your fetal development. 

In 1973, the court case Roe v. Wade made it legal to abort you under certain conditions. Roe v. Wade’s companion case Doe v. Bolton took it a step further, legalizing abortion in any case involving emotional, economic, psychological, familial, or physical factors a woman might name for pursuing abortion (Doe V. Bolton). Since the legalization of abortion, more than 59,246,800 abortions have been performed in the United States (Right to Life of Michigan). What is an abortion, you ask? There are several kinds: suction curettage, D&E, medical abortion, saline abortion, and D&X (WebMd). Two of the most common types are suction curettage and medical abortion. Suction curettage is accomplished by dilating the cervix and inserting a suction curette into the womb, which will dismember the unborn child one body part at a time. The fetus' body will be sucked into a suction canister, which will later be sorted through to ensure no parts were left inside the mother's womb. A medical abortion starts by taking medication by mouth: Mifepristone and Misoprostol. Mifepristone stops the uterus from receiving progesterone--a vital hormone for sustaining pregnancy--which will cause the endometrium (uterine lining) to dissolve. This leads to the starvation and eventual death of the fetus. Next Misoprostol will be taken to induce uterine contractions, ultimately expelling the dead unborn child out of the uterus through the birth canal (Mayo Clinic).

Research shows the earliest neurons in the cortical brain are established at six weeks. By twenty weeks, the connections between the spinal cord and thalamus are mostly complete, and the fetus is capable of experiencing pain (Lozier Institute). Yet abortions are performed in the state of Michigan through viability (Guttmacher Institute), which can loosely be translated to be twenty-two to twenty-four weeks gestation. Recently, Spectrum Health successfully graduated their youngest born survivor from their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, born at twenty-two weeks and four days gestation (Spectrum Health Healthbeat). This data causes us to ask a question: is it ethical to intentionally end the lives of those who are viable and feel pain in the womb? At what point do we declare an embryo or fetus to be a human being who will be protected? Only after gestation is accomplished and birth has taken place?
One nursing textbook describes small, new life in the womb this way: “The embryo is unmistakably human” (Lowdermilk and Perry). Throughout history, there have been unforgettable events that shook our world, as leaders and citizens of various countries declared certain people groups to be either “not yet” or “not at all” human. This includes the events of World War II when Jews were slaughtered because of their ethnicity and early American history when African Americans were considered to be “less evolved” due to their skin pigmentation that could thus be kept as slaves. In our modern day, we see a death toll greater than any war, plague, or genocide: abortion. How many of our modern casualties have produced sixty million dead victims? This is our current reality, not only in the whole of the United States, but also close to home in Grand Rapids, where every week approximately 40-60 unborn lives are violently taken. This adds up to over two-thousand abortions in our city every year. What is our response as a city and nation? To ignore those headed down to death. Our country has largely responded in silence to those who face the death sentence in the name of circumstantial, medical and personal difficulty. 
In the court case of Doe V. Bolton, this quote can be found: “The Georgia statute is at war with the clear message of these cases—that a woman is free to make the basic decision whether to bear an unwanted child. Elaborate argument is hardly necessary to demonstrate that childbirth may deprive a woman of her preferred lifestyle and force upon her a radically different and undesired future. For example, rejected applicants under the Georgia statute are required to endure the discomforts of pregnancy; to incur the pain, higher mortality rate, and after-affects of childbirth; to abandon educational plans; to sustain loss of income; to forgo the satisfactions of careers; to tax further mental and physical health in providing child care; and, in some cases, to bear the lifelong stigma of unwed motherhood, a badge which may haunt, if not deter, later legitimate family relationships” (Doe V. Bolton). This quote in a substantial court case also reflects many of the modern justifications for abortion—but beyond that—it speaks to what have become social pressures on women to choose abortion over adoption or raising their child. The pro-choice organization, Guttmacher Institute, conducted a structured survey in 2004 that was completed by 1,209 abortion patients to study the reasons US women choose abortion. Their data concluded the top reasons women choose abortion are: the circumstantial change a new baby brings (74%), financial strain (73%), relationship problems or a fear of single motherhood (48%), not wanting any additional children (40%), not feeling prepared to have a child (33%), health of the fetus (13%), health of the mother (12%), parents wanted the mother to have an abortion (6%), victim of rape (1%), and became pregnant from incest (0.5%) (Guttmacher Institute). 



Local sidewalk advocate Mary Waalkes Verwys describes an interaction with an abortion-bound couple who faced the second most common reason for choosing abortion. “’How are things going in there with your girlfriend?’ I timidly began. ‘We have so many wonderful places that could help you both. Are you really sure about your decision to abort today?’ With fear in my heart, I walked closer to the young man who eyed me cautiously. As he continued to slowly draw on his cigarette, I could get a better look at him. He was a nice-looking guy, probably in his early twenties, with dark hair […] He actually seemed to want to talk with me…always a good sign. We began talking about general things, where they lived, his job, and his relationship with his girlfriend. But soon we went deeper as he assured me that contrary to what it looked like both he and his girlfriend wanted this baby. That revelation surprised me a bit at first but I believed every word he said. He seemed eager to let me know that he really loved kids. Financial strain was the only reason they had come to the clinic to abort their baby today” (Mary Waalkes Verwys, emphasis added). Mary’s account and the data recorded by The Guttmacher Institute are not rare instances. Despite the cultural narrative stating that abortion is mainly legal for cases of health of the mother and fetus and for situations of rape or incest, the data suggests that these reasons make only a small percentage of US abortions. Women who experience crisis pregnancies face many circumstances that may cause her peer group, parents, significant other, or herself to believe that abortion is the most responsible decision—or maybe her only choice. This attitude continues to be cultivated by a culture that looks down on single motherhood, stereotypes what each life season must look like (high school, college, and so on), and dares to state that unborn children should be sacrificed at the altar of hardship, personal trouble, or circumstantial imperfection. 
Sidewalk advocacy meets a woman right in the midst of her brokenness. On what could be the hardest, darkest day of her life, an abortion-bound woman is approached with love. Inside our local surgical abortion clinic, a woman can pay to have her child and pregnancy taken away, but just outside those doors, there are often caring counselors who share hope with these women that no matter the trial, there is help, love, and practical support for her and her child. Telling women that they must kill their child so they may fit society’s stereotypes is profoundly unempowering. Women ought to be most advocated for and championed when they face a crisis pregnancy. Instead, they often feel plagued with rejection, shame and judgement. Women in crisis do not need abortion, they need true crisis intervention. 
Reaching out to an individual who is moments away from an abortion appointment includes offering counseling, emotional support and connection to many practical forms of help (Sidewalk Advocates for Life). These local forms of help include: financial assistance, ultrasounds, STI testing, groceries, baby clothes, parenting classes, single mom support groups, single dad support groups, job and career support, post-abortion counseling, adoption information, GED classes, housing, and more (Alpha Women’s Center and Family Life Center). Often when I ask a woman why she is having an abortion, she tells me about a temporary life circumstance that can often be alleviated with help. Abortion tells women that death must be the answer to the trials she and her unborn child would face; offering life-affirming options equips women to enter into a season of unknowns with proper prenatal care, mentoring, and truly having her needs met. 
Affirming choices of life not only supports those who choose life, but also those who are post-abortive. Women who have had an abortion (or multiple) are told by the pro-choice crowd that there’s nothing to be grieved. Why would it be traumatic to have a standard procedure that millions of others have experienced too? Alicia shares her testimony through Silent No More Awareness: “I thought if I had the abortion I would save my boys and myself. I thought if I did what the father of the child asked [to have an abortion] he would love me, that it was my only way, that he would be with me, and that we would grow through it. But that did not happen. We broke up a while after that […] I had no counseling before [the abortion], no video, no ultrasound. And all ‘education’ was vague and scientific, presenting the baby as a non-living thing, not even qualified for life” (Silent No More). Alicia further expounded to describe feelings of self-loathing, emotional pain, feeling like she was in bondage and secrecy after her abortion. Those who are pro-life affirm the reality that post-abortive women have lost something valuable: a wonderful child. We grieve with them and help them find healing, while the pro-choice counterpart refuses to recognize their loss as legitimate. 
Sidewalk advocacy has the capacity to end abortion by eliminating the demand for abortion. When women in crisis have their needs met, they are set free from a feeling that all they can do is abort. These women do not only need a one-time counseling session, though. It is through building long-term relationships, creating a supportive community around her, and connecting her to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center that will give her the needed tools to thrive not only in pregnancy and new motherhood, but through her whole life. 
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Works Cited
Wile, Dr. Jay L. and Marilyn M. Shannon, M.A. The Human Body Fearfully and Wonderfully Made! Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 2001, pp. 504-508
Coad, Jane with Melvyn Dunstall. Anatomy and Physiology for Midwives, 3rd EditionElsevier Ltd, 2012, pp. 115-130
Lowdermilk, Deitra Leonard and Shannon E. Perry. Maternity and Women’s Health Care, 9th Edition. Mosby Elsevier, 2007, pp. 313-318, 328-330, 318
Doe V. Bolton. Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School, <https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/410/179>
National 2018 Abortion Statistics.Right to Life of Michigan, 2018. <https://rtl.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/AbortionsSinceRoeFlyer.pdf> Viewed June 3, 2019
Johnson MD, Dr. Traci C. “What are the types of abortion procedures?” WebMd. March 30, 2019. <https://www.webmd.com/women/abortion-procedures#1> Viewed June 3, 2019.
“Medical Abortion.” Mayo Clinic, July 7, 2018. <https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/medical-abortion/about/pac-20394687> Viewed June 3, 2019
“Fact Sheet: Science of Fetal Pain.” Charlotte Lozier Institute, December 17, 2018. <https://lozierinstitute.org/fact-sheet-science-of-fetal-pain/> Viewed June 3, 2019.
 “An Overview of Abortion Laws.” Guttmacher Institute, May 1, 2019. <https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws> Viewed June 3, 2019
Thomas, Sue. “Miracle Markle is ‘Our Hero.’” Spectrum Health Healthbeat, June 25, 2018. <https://healthbeat.spectrumhealth.org/miracle-markle-is-our-hero-nicu-22-weeks-1-pound-survivor/> Viewed June 3, 2019
“Reasons US Women Have Abortions.” Guttmacher Institute, September 1, 2005. <https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/2005/reasons-us-women-have-abortions-quantitative-and-qualitative-perspectives> Viewed June 6, 2019.
Verwys, Mary Waalkes. Wednesday Mourning, second printing. Roberts Publishing Company, 2004, p.9
“Vision and Mission.” Sidewalk Advocates for Life. <https://sidewalkadvocates.org/about/vision-mission/> Viewed June 6, 2019.
“Services.” Alpha Women’s Center of Grand Rapids, 2019. <https://www.alphagrandrapids.org/services/> Viewed June 6, 2019. 
“About Us.” Family Life Center of West Michigan <http://www.familylifecenterhome.org/About-Us> Viewed June 6, 2019 
“It’s His Story.” Silent No More Awareness. <http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/testimonies/testimony.aspx?ID=3667> Viewed June 6, 2019.

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