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Dawn Stacey M.Ed, LMHC

My Story... Abortion is Not So Black and White

By January 6, 2014

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At the beginning of each year, I often find myself in some serious thought. Although I would love to, I realize that I, alone, will not effect all the change so desperately needed in politics and laws to help protect women, their reproductive rights, and their right to choice. This is a tricky area for me. I think that when it comes to the topic of abortion, people are so quick to "offer" their opinion. I also know, from personal experience, that an opinion is really just ashes in the dust when compared to having been actually faced with the decision to terminate a pregnancy.

To make a long story short, a few years ago, during pregnancy, my baby (at 21 weeks) was diagnosed with a severe congenital heart disorder. Without a series of immediate heart operations after he was born, he would definitely not survive. The overall mortality rate for the first operation was 46% - 46 out of every 100 babies did not survive this first operation. Then, what about quality of life issues? Me, being very pro-choice (NOT pro-abortion), for the first time, wished that I did not have the ability to make this choice. WHOA - right! I didn't want to be the one responsible to choose if his life should continue or not. But after thinking, I realized that this is just one of many difficult choices parents are faced to make all the time. After doing research, learning more, and finding the greatest medical team, I decided to continue with the pregnancy. But it was only AFTER I had all this information, that I first truly understood the importance of the opportunity to have CHOICES. Lucky for us, my son was born and received the best of care. He did not become one of the mortality statistics and is now almost 4 and thriving. HOWEVER, my case is one of the luckier ones, one of the rarer ones, not the typical outcome.

What it did teach me, more than ever, is that abortion is not a black or white issue. There are sooo many shades of gray. It is a decision made from pain, love, heartache, education, hope and prayer that the choice made was the right one. As we begin 2013, I think it is time for us all to change our thinking about abortion. Instead of being so quick to judge or choose a side, let's try to show empathy, understanding, and choose the position to stand by women, supporting them as they are facing a truly unimaginable decision. Abortion decisions are not made easily, and they are always racked with emotion. It's time to keep it real -- to remember that these aren't just statistics, and it is much bigger than pro-choice vs. pro-life rallies. These are REAL women with REAL stories. If we put ourselves into the lives of these women, women who are searching their souls and calling on every last bit of reserve they have just to breathe as they are forced to make a termination decision, we offer compassion, not judgment. We offer community, not opinion. We take this grand notion, ABORTION, and we make it personal. When you have a scared and young woman, with no support system, who used birth control (that failed), and just found out her baby is not developing properly - she needs our kindness not our judgment. She needs help, not protesters lining the streets. Abortion is a personal and private issue -- it is time for the spectacle of protesting too STOP. Truly, who really cares if your beliefs are any more correct than mine? There is a much bigger issue at play - the scared woman faced with this heart-wrenching decision, one that could affect the rest of her life. She doesn't care what side of the fence you are on. She doesn't care whose protests are larger and louder, she just needs compassion and support as she makes what could arguably be one of the biggest decisions of her life... a decision that MUST be right for HER - Not you, or him, or any member on Capital Hill.

Having experienced both sides of the scenario - as a person who has a definite stance and as a woman who was faced with the very real possibility of seeking an abortion due to my son's severe medical issues, this issue is very personal to me. I am lucky to have a great support system around me - who cried with me, laughed with me, and ultimately supported whatever decision I chose to make. I want women everywhere to feel that they can make the best choice for them without fear of scrutiny or shame. I IMPLORE each of you to make 2014 the year of understanding, empathy, and open-mindedness... send the message, and let's effect change!

One of my readers posted the following to my question: What Has the Roe vs. Wade Decision Meant to Your Life? Her answer so poignantly reminds us all about the dangers of black/white thinking, and how there are actually REAL people who go through experiences that we so easily form judgments about. After reading her story, hopefully you, too, will begin to see the dangers of being tunnel-minded in your thinking about abortion. Between my story and this one, perhaps you may be at least willing to entertain the notion of being less dogmatic and more understanding and accepting.

As per Elokwently,

"I used to be 100% anti-abortion. Then a friend's choice changed my mind. 7 mos pregnant with the son she always wanted, she was getting sicker & sicker. Her MD did an amnio & ultrasound & found baby had Trisomy 21- one of the worst birth defects possible. The fetus' spine, kidneys & heart were on the OUTside. Worst, it had NO brain: just a brainstem & was poisoning her as it grew. The doc told her baby had zero chance of surviving birth, and it would either poison her, kill her, or do permanent damage if she didn't end the pregnancy. I prayed hard over this & realized abortion isn't a black & white issue. I brought her flowers & sat & cried with her after. That I, someone so anti-abortion had come to comfort without judging her meant more than she could say. I read in the Bible killing a fetus isn't murder punishable by death: G-d Himself told Moses to set the price for killing a fetus at 40 shekels payable to the father. Now I understand it isn't my business. It's between the mother & God alone."

I beg of you to just spend a few minutes to let this blog "sink in" - think about it. Maybe even EMAIL A COPY OF IT to a friend or post it to Facebook or Twitter. It's a new year, it's time for change. If each of us does our part, sends the message to friends, they do their part and so on, WE can TRULY make a difference in this ridiculous pro-choice/pro-life battle. Let's face it, the battle really isn't between who can shout the loudest or hold up the more disturbing sign, the battle is happening all over the country in women's doctor's offices, homes, apartments, college dorms - when real women, who are being faced with a real, hard decision are trying to choose what will be in the best interest of themselves, their unborn baby, their existing family and countless other variables. Chants, ideology, politics and protests will not help these women - these women need our support, our tenderness, our emotional generosity, and our kindness. THAT'S HOW YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE in a time that calls for stepping outside of your bubble (rather than standing on your soapbox) and extending a helping hand to a woman who is feeling confused, scared, sad and alone. Just imagine the difference you could make if you just slightly shift gears. I want to hear your progress on this! Leave a comment below sharing how you will help be part of the solution rather than an antagonist of the problem.

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Photo Courtesy of Keith Brofsky/Getty Images

January 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm
(1) Jenna says:

You are right. It is about the woman. It is about CHOICE!

A song that aptly describes what a painful and heart wrenching decision this is is the Ben Folds song ‘Brick’ (if anyone is interested).

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