I recently had an encounter with a Planned Parenthood employee. I was in New York, walking up Lexington Avenue to meet a friend for a Saturday afternoon coffee. A kind-looking young man holding a clipboard and wearing a pink Planned Parenthood t-shirt approached me and asked me if I’d like to support women’s reproductive rights.
I was six months pregnant at the time. I was wearing fitted maternity clothes, and there was no way he hadn’t noticed.
My immediate reaction was shock. How dare this man ask me about supporting abortion when he can plainly see I’m carrying a child? Did he think I might want an abortion? How much must he hate pregnancy to single me out this way?
But as I looked at him I noticed again how young he appeared, how sincere his smile seemed, and how utterly oblivious to my violent reaction he was. I swallowed my emotions and smiled back at him, and managed to simply say, “No thank you.”
Planned Parenthood has been the center of a whirlwind of debate and heated emotions ever since the Center for Medical Progress released its undercover video footage of a conversation with Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, exposing some highly questionable medical practices and a shockingly calloused treatment of fetal dismemberment. In the midst of all the noise about illegal activity, over-edited videos, and made-to-order abortions, we may find ourselves emotionally burdened and at a loss for how to respond.
It’s not the possibility of illegal medical practice that makes the video so shocking – it’s the nonchalant tone with which Dr. Nucatola discusses crushing baby body parts over her fancy business luncheon. How could she be so calloused?
I can’t help but imagine that poor Dr. Nucatola is just as oblivious as the young man I met on the street. Her tone will naturally be offensive and disgusting to anyone who is persuaded that the unborn are human lives with dignity. But Planned Parenthood doesn’t share that view – and we didn’t need an undercover video to tell us that. What we learned last week doesn’t make the work of performing abortions any more or less wrong – nothing can add to the evil of taking the lives of the helpless. What it did was give us a vivid picture of what it means to be lost.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Magician‘s Nephew, four humans are present to witness as Aslan sings Narnia into existence. Polly, Diggory, and the Cabby hear the beautiful creation music and are in delighted awe of it. Diggory’s Uncle Andrew, however, is terrified. While they hear song, Uncle Andrew only hears the vicious roaring of a lion. He is a lost man, and his ears are stopped to the glory. As Lewis reminds us, “what you see and what you hear depends a good deal on where you are standing.”
The same is true of our world as we face the moral crisis abortion presents us. It can be hard to fathom how anyone might be so unfeeling towards the death and dismemberment of defenseless humans. But like Uncle Andrew, and like the young man I met on the street, it is clear that Planned Parenthood sees and hears something completely different from those in the light. Our response to Dr. Nucatola – and to all whose lives have been affected by abortion – should be one of compassion that moves us to active love.
“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams,” wrote Dostoevsky. “Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labour and fortitude.”
Dream love is satisfied with angry Facebook rants and takes pride in our own self-righteousness. Active love seeks the physical and spiritual welfare of the women Planned Parenthood services, and yes, even that of the Planned Parenthood employees. Active love also condemns evil where it finds it, because there is no dichotomy between a condemnation of evil and a compassion for the lost.
This is what Save the Storks is all about. We recognize that there are many individuals out there who may not have the benefit of the view from where we’re standing – who may not know they have options, or may simply be deaf to the beauty of Christ’s creation song ringing in the lives of the unborn.
Our hearts, being broken by what we saw this past week, ought first and foremost to pour out in compassion for the lost. Then let us put our hands to the long labour and fortitude of love in action. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)