"I've done something bad, Jen," my friend whispered over the bustle of the diner, leaning over her dessert plate. "I've really done it now." I leaned in, too, and asked her to speak up. I couldn't hear her; also, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
We'd been close for years, since meeting on a trip with Habitat for Humanity. I'd known her early in her engagement to her husband. When she'd shared her misgivings about the marriage, I'd listened. When she'd forged ahead anyway, I'd flown cross-country for the wedding. Now she told me that she was having an affair. And that wasn't even the most horrible part: she was pregnant with the other man's baby.
I felt not an ounce of judgment. I was still single then, and I hadn't exactly mastered the art of healthy relationships. My first panicked thought was, "How can I help her?" Her husband was still in the dark, and her lover had taken the baby news with a heart-crushing, casual offer to pay to "get rid of it."
Obviously, she'd made a series of bad decisions (as we all do, in one area or another), and they had led her to a final, abhorrent one. With the lover now out of the picture, she had to choose between having a baby that would most certainly destroy her marriage; or terminating the pregnancy and starting fresh with her husband, assuming she could live with the lie or he could forgive her. Neither appealed. She felt alone and ashamed, and even worse, powerless to find future happiness no matter what the outcome.
We stared at each other, both of us horrified. I'd never experienced an actual moral dilemma of this magnitude. How many edgy, indie movies had we watched together, films with a flawed heroine (Hope Davis, say) caught in a wrenchingly tough situation? Now I felt the same clutch of sympathy in my throat, but this time it was real. A life and a marriage hung in the balance. The disastrous consequences were going to happen. As the only person my friend had chosen to tell, I felt an enormous burden of responsibility in how I would respond.
I also knew the logical conclusion to this story. A practical-minded friend would comfort her, and then offer the common-sense reply: Cut your losses, get the abortion, go back to your husband and, never ever do this again. But I'm Christian (Presbyterian, to be exact), and that ancient, biblical story of Christ's love, redemption and continued interest in the world influences the way I interpret what happens around me. I believe that a silent God is at work in the circumstances of everyone's life. God's existence, his message of hope and healing, underpins everything.
I longed profoundly to soothe her anguish. But I also couldn't bring myself to advise the quick-fix solution. It's not that I believe all conceptions are meant to be. Do I think that God wanted my friend to get pregnant with another man's baby? Hardly. But I believe the Christian doctrine that God entered the world in order to fix it. And if you follow his way of doing things, rather than making up your own moral code, he can redeem any situation, even a horrible one like this. I believe his view on matters of life and death is clear: when in doubt, protect life. This rings true for me, in both mind and heart.
I'd already planted my flag of faith, but that night in the diner was the first time that faith was truly tested. Did I trust in God, or didn't I? If I did, how could I go along with a plan to snuff out a life? So I told my friend not to abort the baby. I told her to trust that God stood on the side of life, and that he'd stand by her decision to keep the child. Of her options, it was the much more difficult course. But I told her to just do the next right thing (an Alcoholics Anonymous expression I'd learned from a family member), and trust that a invisible but powerful God would come alongside her and help her figure out the rest. And I pledged my own support.
The next day, we spent our lunch hour in a medical clinic, getting official confirmation on the results of her home pregnancy test. I felt a strange thrill, when the doctor revealed that in fact, there was a fetus growing inside her. The cluster of cells in her womb would become a baby, and then a child, and then a full-grown person. This seemed miraculous. The moment was a tiny foreshadowing of the heart-skipping joy I would feel years later, when I discovered I was pregnant with my own first child. Eventually, when I gave birth to my daughters (now 8 and 6), it confirmed for me the biblical truth that children are a gift from God.
But my friend, in a fog of fear, distress and morning sickness, asked the doctor for a referral to an abortion clinic. The doctor turned cold, broke eye contact, and wrote a name on her prescription pad. I felt a sudden urge to defend her. "You don't know her," I wanted to say. "She made a mistake, but she's one of the most generous, compassionate people I know. You don't know how impossible this situation is!"
The decision to abort isn’t a topic you discuss in polite company. In fact, I usually avoid the discussion altogether. I'm a Democrat, and I know that politically like-minded friends would scratch their heads at my pro-life stance. But the truth is, my concern for the unborn goes right along with my view that society ought to care for all its members—including the poor, the sick, and yes, the children who are still in utero. My pro-choice friends would counter that not everyone believes that life begins at conception, or even that God exists at all. How dare I presume that the decision to abort should be taken away from women who don't consider it wrong, let alone a crime against nature? Point taken.
I say there's a God who calls us to protect life. Someone else says there's no spiritual component involved in scraping away a cluster of cells. Who's right? Both sides can logically agree that no one knows the answer to that question with 100% certainty. My view is this: How can anyone take the drastic measure of aborting a pregnancy without an airtight answer?
My friend went ahead with the abortion. I did not go with her. In a heroic act of forgiveness, her husband stood by her after she confessed. They relocated to another city to start again, and a decade later, they're still married. People get through the most harrowing situations, don't they? The earth is full of human beings with incredible stories of love and survival. To me, this points to the existence of God. And I'm still throwing my lot in with him.