Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Pro-Life Journey

I've been reading a lot on blogs about the horrific situation in the UK with regards to abortion. When I was very very young - I can't quite work out what year it took place - I went with my parents on some kind of pro-life demonstration, a big march in London. I was taught abortion was wrong, but I didn't know what it was about. I grew up knowing that the Church told us it was wrong, but I don't remember ever really being taught what it was all about. Once, when I was at art school, there was a discussion about it in the tea room, at break time. I distinctly remember knowing that I knew abortion was wrong - because I had always been told so, but I didn't want to admit it. My mum worked in the Life office at the time, and I had some vague idea that that involved helping women who wanted to keep their babies. I must've told one of my friends about this, and during the "big discussion" I felt mortified that my friend revealed all about my mum's work! Why did I feel like that? Perhaps because I still didn't KNOW what abortion was all about. When did I find out about it? well, it was years later, when the Good Lord whisked me off, against all my inclinations, to stay with a Catholic community in the USA. They felt called to undertake Pro-Life work, and one day I found myself in a "picket" carrying a placard with the most horrific image of an aborted baby on it, but worse still, I was obliged to view a similar gory image being held by the person in front of me, as we walked and prayed silently around the doctor's office. NOW I knew what abortion was all about, (and felt heartily ashamed for having avoided it for so many years). I also realised, by the reactions of the people passing by, that folks in the US were not indifferent to this topic - they either backed you all the way, or they hated you all the way. The community didn't just "picket"the offices of doctors who performed abortions and tried to keep that side of their career hidden, they also prayed the rosary outside abortion mills; and they provided practical help to mothers in distress, a bit like the Sisters of the Gospel of Life do in Glasgow. They promised to help the woman get a job, or a home, or medical insurance - whatever she needed, and they kept their promises enabling the baby to be born.
Back home again, I knew I couldn't remain indifferent to this issue. I tried volunteering with the Life organisation, and started training to be a counseller, but I couldn't agree to leave my Catholic faith out of my work, I knew I wouldn't be able to let a woman walk away thinking it was ok if she went ahead with her abortion (as one counseller had told me she'd done). "Just make sure you come back for post abortion counselling" - seemed nonsensical to me. And by then, I knew all about the abortifacient effects of contraception too, so I couldn't remain neutral on that one either.
Then I met the man of my life (or rather, of my earthly life). He was madly pro life too. We tried to get people in this country to be moved by the American pro life literature that we had, but we found that any unpleasant imagery turns people off, doesn't stir the good old British conscience. So we did the most pro life thing a young married couple can do, and had a baby. I insisted that I would not be seen by a single doctor who performed abortions. My GP (whom I had chosen because he was a practising Catholic, and was meant to be pro life) was rather surprised by my insistence, but said he wished more women had taken this stance in 1967 - 30 years before. However, because I was considered rather elderly to be having a first child (in my mid 30's!), I was supposed to be under the "care" of a consultant at the hospital. I knew there was a consultant who wouldn't perform abortions in a neighbouring town, but not a one could be found in my local hospital. I insisted, and in the end a compromise was reached. I could be under the care of a registrar who wouldn't do abortions - she was Muslim, so she was allowed to get away without doing abortions. Funnily enough, she didn't really understand why I was so adamant, she sympathised with her fellow doctors who had to do them - it reminded me of that doublespeak "I don't agree with abortion, but I'm not against those who are for it".
So we had our baby - and once we'd got into a routine, we wanted to carry on a more spiritual battle against abortion. So we started to pray outside abortion hospitals. We have always done this on our own, since there were never any organised prayer events wherever we lived. Except for a time, in Bristol, when my husband was in the SPUC group, and more people came along to pray outside the Marie Stopes clinic. Our little lad has always been with us, and has grown up knowing abortion is wrong. He doesn't know the gory details, yet. He will have to be informed when he's old enough - I don't want him to be indifferent to this matter.
Now we pray, on a Sunday, on our way to Mass, outside the PAS building in a nearby town. It is not a job I like doing, I feel self-conscious, but it's just a small sacrifice to make.


Alexa <*}}}>< said...

A very good post, E.! I used to be pretty active when I lived in the states too - but since I've been in Canada, I've found too many excuses not to be - except for the October Life Chain, that's about all I do - and the rosary each night - you've made me think...


ukok said...

It's really a shame that we aren't more active about Pro Life issues in England. I had a fascinating conversation once with Nuala Scarisbrook (Life) and feel very strongly about pro-life issues. What I find a little disconcerting is when Pro-Life organisations such as Spuc and Life, pester for donations on the merest whiff of interest.

I appreciate that they need financial support, but it can be so offputting to have requests for money from them each month.

MaggieClitheroe said...

I understand how you feel ukok. There are some aspects of the work of these bigger organisations, that I'm not sure about. I don't think this Government of ours can be moved by political campaigning, or lobbying, but I do think that getting the pro-life message into schools is important. It's also important to have a HUGE spiritual campaign, but how we go about that is up to our leaders I should think. It's no good to have an annual Life Mass, or a talk in Church on white flower appeal day, it needs constant storming heaven, and Catholics, yes even the honest to goodness every Sunday Mass goers, need to REALLY understand what abortion is. If they did, then they would be praying outside the clinics and hospitals on a large scale, or praying the Rosary and petitioning Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament regularly. We must keep hoping that the Church in this country will take a REAL stand soon because the blood of these innocents is crying out to heaven for vengeance.

ukok said...

I agree with you that the blood of the innocents is indeed crying out to heaven! More needs to be done, and I'm as guilty of 'not doing' as anyone. I have so much growing to do!

FloridaWife said...

It is so interesting to read from your perspective what the pro-life movemnent is like in the U.K. I had no idea about the indifference that exists. That was quite an education. Thank you.

And thank you for your comment on my blog and your prayers. God bless.