Giving Women What They Deserve

This week's UPI column

So There I was...

young, poor and pregnant. This was ancient times and there were no in-home-pregnancy tests. You had to go see somebody. I didn’t have my own doctor, or any insurance, so that left me to the free clinics and people who had agendas. I found my way to Planned Parenthood. I was a little nervous. They were kind. They were respectful. They gave me a test – I was pregnant. I was also days away from starting graduate school and I was waiting tables full time at a pizza joint to pay for school. It was about the worst possible timing. I was not happy.

The doctor (nurse practitioners were unheard of in those days) could see my unhappiness. He sat with me for a few minutes. He listened to me. He made no judgments or suggestions. When my words and tears had run out, he asked me if I wanted to know about my options. I told him that my option was to be a mother, because aborting a healthy fetus did not fit into my faith, values or ethics. He smiled, and he said, “I think you will make a fine mother” and he told me where to get free pre-natal care, and about a program for free food for pregnant women, and where the free counselors worked. I was very grateful for his listening, concern, and advice. It helped.

Five years later I had another unplanned pregnancy. Ironically I was getting ready to put the previous baby into kindergarten and re-start my education. Still, there were no at-home tests. I was still pretty poor. I was between health insurance plans. This time, due to hours and transportation issues I went to a “crisis pregnancy center” near my home.

There was no doctor; instead, nice Christian ladies staffed the center. They were happy to help me. They gave me a test. I was pregnant. I wasn’t very happy this time either. The lady asked if my pregnancy was planned, I said no. She got really nervous. She started spilling statistics. She made some presumptions. I thanked her and tried to leave. She got more nervous. She tried to set up a video. I declined her offer, thanked her again, and got up to go. She actually blocked my way to the door and said “I’m not supposed to let you leave without showing you “Silent Scream.” I escaped. She yelled after me –“Please don’t kill your baby!” I didn’t, of course, and I also never got near these people again or the churches that supported them.

Eventually I did restart my education, earn a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at an evangelical Christian seminary, and raise two daughters. In my fifteen years as a pastor and counselor, I have walked many women through many difficult decisions including unplanned pregnancies, serious birth defects, and grief over pregnancies lost and ended. I have learned that the decision about whether, and when, to become a mother is never black and white, and it is not one that women make frivolously.

This I believe. Every woman deserves a quiet, calm, unanxious, unbiased listener. Every woman deserves to know all her choices and every woman deserves to make her own choice free of coercion. She deserves to have her decision respected. She deserves to have her basic needs met, and this includes, safe housing, adequate nutrition, affordable health care including contraception. We can afford this for every mother and every child. For me, this is a faith-based position.

Last week, Mr. Warren Buffett pledged nearly forty billion dollars to help women and children around the world. Unbelievably, he is catching flak for this because of the possibility that about 1% of it will go to Planned Parenthood. I bet that Mr. Buffett is not too concerned about the flak – he seems like a self-validating sort of guy. So he probably won’t be that impressed with my gratitude; but thanks Mr. B. I, like you, trust Melinda Gates – I also think she’s smart. I think that the majority of the money should go to the third world – they need it more than we do. But I’m glad that a little bit will go to Planned Parenthood. They were there for me when I needed them. They did a good job. They listened to me, and respected my faith-based values better than the Christians did. I would send my daughters to them. Because of you, they will probably be there for my grand-daughters.

Thanks, Friend. I have a daughter who owes her life to the sensible and sensitive people at Planned Parenthood who listened behind the tears.
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