My junior year in college, I was a dorm resident assistant. This meant I got a break on room and board, and was responsible for the girls who lived on my floor. I tried to develop relationships, help the girls with whatever they needed, plan events, and just generally be available for anything and everything that could pop up. Our doors were usually open, and I loved when girls would burst into my room to tell me something or just to hang out.
One day, I heard a couple girls quietly talking in their room. The door was half open, so I lightly knocked and said “Hi!” They immediately stopped talking and stared at me, so I apologized for interrupting and left, feeling bad for intruding.
A few hours later, I learned one of the girls was pregnant and seriously considering abortion. My head started spinning. I knew women had abortions all the time, and was also aware that I probably knew someone who had had an abortion. But for the first time, I came face to face with this reality.
I prayed hard, and that evening, went to the girls room. “Can we talk about it?” I asked her. She was willing. And for the next couple of hours, I listened.
I listened as she told me she wasn’t even serious about this guy. That her parents would be devastated and make her keep the child. That they would force her to quit school, and school was her dream. I listened as she told me her fears. That she had no money, that she had no support, that she wasn’t ready. And I got it. She had all of the reasons to abort. All of them.
She cried and told me she felt so stuck. So vulnerable. So alone.
And I hugged her. I told her, “I’m here and I care about your dreams. About your future, your hopes, the way your family views you. That is all important and hard stuff.” And we cried together. I asked her not to make a decision for a few days. To let it simmer, and to let the two of us have a few more conversations.
A couple of days later, we had another conversation. This time, I felt I needed to tell her my story. The story of how my birth mother was in a similar situation with no support and every reason to terminate the pregnancy. About how she chose to take those 9 months to live in a home for women who were pregnant and needed help. I told her how she put me up for adoption, and I ended up with the most amazing childhood and family. More amazing than I could have asked for. I told her I was adopted and that it was not ever something I struggled with, but something I rejoiced in.
I left that conversation feeling like I had said too much. Like maybe I was too honest, too forward in telling my story. I felt she had stiffened and maybe not wanted to hear the things I had to say. So, I went to my room, and again I prayed. And waited for her to respond in some way. I left her alone, feeling maybe I had been a bit smothering.
Close to a week later, we met again. She told me that she was not having an abortion. I was shocked as I listened to her reasons. She had been determined to have an abortion until I told her my story of adoption. She had gone back to her room and wrestled with it all until she decided to carry the baby to full term and put her up for adoption.
All the plans were soon set into place. She had somewhere to live until the baby was born, and she found an attorney who helped match the baby with a family. And it all went as planned. I came back from spring break and she had given birth and given the baby to the chosen family. Her own family had no idea this was happening, and they may never know. She went back to classes and on with life as it was before. We checked in with her, loved on her and stayed close and available.
I really feel that now, more than ever, we must fight to make women in situations like this feel safe. After talking with a volunteer for a local pregnancy resource center, here are a few tangible ways to make a woman feel loved, heard, and safe when she is in this sometimes hard situation.
1. Listening and Understanding
If a woman is in the situation of finding herself pregnant and considering abortion, she has a lot to think about. People have most likely pressured her on both sides, or maybe you’re the first person she has told. Either way, what she needs in this moment is someone looking her in the eye, keeping silent and listening. Listen to her feelings, her thoughts, her emotions, and her motives. Ask her about her struggles, what life would look like for her either way.
Hug her and tell her you’re here for her no matter what.
Be the person she can process with, the one who truly cares, tries to really understand where she’s coming from, and wants to listen.
“I had a call recently where a woman told me that she wasn’t ready to make a decision one way or another but that she just needed to talk it out, so in that moment I was a set of understanding ears for her. Trying to force her into anything wasn’t my goal. I wanted her to feel heard, valued and not alone.” -Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center
Compassion: “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”
Take time to feel compassion for her, put yourself in her place, realize that she is going through a tough time and struggling with this decision. She may feel like she has no choice but abortion, she may feel stuck or alone, she may feel hurt or abandoned. Let yourself feel compassion for her, let her know you hurt with her.
Being honest is equally important. If this woman is coming to you for your help and asking what you think, be honest. Be gentle and kind and tell her what abortion looks like, how the baby is growing inside her. Give her resources and be willing to be one of those resources for her.
4. Love her well and see more than just her baby
When this woman leaves, she should feel heard, understood, cared for and loved.
“We were taught in training that if a woman left the center and had decided to have an abortion she needed to still leave feeling like we loved her well, and cared about her no matter what her choice. Basically, no woman should leave feeling that we just see her baby and not her, as well” -Volunteer at pregnancy resource center
5. Following up
No matter the choice, be sure to help her understand there are resources and help.
Whether it is counseling or abortion recovery classes. Or if she decides to have the baby, bring her meals and visit. Either choice is a huge life change, and leaving someone that has confided in you to navigate this on her own is hard. Being the hands and feet of Christ can change her life, her outlook, and lighten her load.
In the midst of my situation in college, I heard a sermon that I’ll never forget about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The speaker talked about “getting dirty” in people’s lives and how, in order to really love people, we need to be willing to get involved. Caring for people in a deep, sincere and meaningful way may mean sacrifice. Sacrificing our comfort to reach out and help someone, sacrificing our time and money to be a resource, and doing everything we can to help someone feel loved, cared for and secure.
Look around. Pay attention. People need love.