“My parents will kill me if I get pregnant.”
This offhand comment is uttered by young women of every socioeconomic class, race, and religion. A girl is usually taught by the time she reaches puberty that an unplanned baby is one of the worst things she can bring upon herself. That kind of pressure from parents, peers, and boyfriends leads many young women who might otherwise be open to life to instead choose abortion. These “role models” might even describe themselves as pro-life, forgetting that the struggle for life begins in one’s own home — whether it involves the burdensome great-grandmother we’d rather just put in the nursing home, or the child conceived with a troublesome ex-boyfriend.
Sadly, many don’t welcome life when it is sprung unexpectedly on them. While they might not promote abortion outright, they nevertheless communicate the message that a life could actually be unwanted. If we are pro-life, we ought to celebrate every life as a gift — even if that life comes from (and into) a less than ideal situation.
When a parent tells a child “you better not get pregnant,” he is saying that there’s something wrong with pregnancy, when he should be saying that there is something wrong with premarital sex. Parents should instill in their children an appreciation for the sacredness of sex and a desire to protect their purity at all costs — and many parents already do this. But why is it that most kids are so much more afraid of having a baby than losing their virtue? We use the risk of pregnancy as the reason to not have premarital sex, when in reality, a pregnancy is perhaps the only good that could come out of it. Unfortunately, even in the most “pro-life” households, we fear the burden of unplanned babies; we’re afraid of the stigma, the responsibility, the fact that a child might disrupt our life plans. But true happiness comes through self-giving. A culture that denies this — even through its unconscious attitudes — is a culture that will destroy the foundation of love upon which it is built.
If we want to end abortion, we’ll need to do more than simply overturn the laws that allow it; we have to change the cultural mindset that has made it an option. And to do that, we must begin at home. If we change our attitude toward unplanned pregnancy, that will transform our actions and language as well. Children pick up on their parents’ opinions. Imagine moving from “you better not get pregnant” to “sex before marriage will hurt you; sex in marriage will make you happy; and a baby is a gift from God, no matter what.”
A girl may be exaggerating when she says her parents will “kill her” if she gets pregnant — but not by much. For many young women, pregnancy would mean severe punishment: the “loss of her future,” often abandonment by family and friends, and a perpetual scarlet letter. We ought to mourn loss of purity and the tragic wound of that loss. That is the worst consequence of illicit sexual activity. Pregnancy, on the other hand, is always a gift. So why do we treat it — even when unplanned — as something less?