You Gotta Get Rid of That!
A number of weeks back I received one of the worst and most disturbing telephone calls I have ever received over my entire legal career. The woman who called me did so regarding her daughter, a teenager, who just revealed that she was five months pregnant.
The woman who called me was frantic and, quite honestly, I do not blame her. A teenager revealing she is pregnant to her mother is clearly, and without question, one of the most stressful, scary, and, quite honestly, dreaded moments in the life of any parent. Although I cannot relate to it personally, not having gone through it myself, I absolutely understand why this mother would be frantic, exacerbated, fearful, worried, searching for solutions, and so on, in order to deal with the birth of a child to, essentially, another child unable to care for a baby. Now in her 40s or so, this woman had no reasonable expectation to care for a baby again! Of course, as one may expect, the teenage girl who is pregnant simply does not understand or appreciate the gravity of the situation in which she finds herself, which makes the woman’s situation all the more frustrating and difficult as she really does not have the cooperation from her daughter that she needs.
I mention the above as a caveat in order to make it clear that I understand why someone in this woman’s position would be in the stressful state she was in when she called. I am sympathetic to it. What made the call so disturbing for me was not any of the above. What made it disturbing was that the woman did not call me to discuss legal solutions as to how she can help her daughter take care of this baby and to try to get the baby’s father involved, at least financially, to do the same. No, she called me for advice to help her “get rid of that!” Yes, you read that right. After I got the story from her she concluded by saying “and you gotta help me get rid of that baby!” At first, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I was hoping she meant, using crass language, giving up the baby for adoption. Unfortunately, no, that was not the case. What she meant, in clear, crass, and completely honest terms, was that she wanted her daughter to kill her baby through abortion.
This telephone call was disturbing to me, on one level, because someone was soliciting assistance in securing an abortion, yet that was not what had the lasting effect on me. What truly disturbed me about this call was how the woman talked about this baby. She consistently referred to the baby as “it” and “that” through the conversation; as if it were just a piece of property or object like any other object. She also talked about the baby as if it were a piece of trash or refuse. Phrases like “get rid of it” or “she’s [her daughter] stuck with it” or “I’m not gonna keep it” or “I don’t want it” littered the call. I was especially cut to the core when she kept repeating the refrain that she has to find a way to “get rid of it.” As a father of two little boys this phrase cut deeper than it would have before I was a parent. How can someone talk about a little baby – a defenseless and innocent baby – as if s/he were just a piece of trash to be thrown into a garbage bin? I understand someone’s frantic emotional state but this crosses a line. It was a disgusting display; a disgrace.
I wish I had a better response for her, ethically and morally speaking, though I felt constrained by my position as an employee of a law firm not to tell her how I really felt but rather stick to legal advice. I wanted to tell her how sick I felt when she spoke about a child as if it were just something disposable. I wanted to dissuade her from thinking the way she did. I said none of those things. When I hung up I felt like I let that little baby down – potentially complicit in his/her murder – and that I was a coward for not standing up for this baby whom she wanted so badly to kill, and allowing what I felt were the pressures from what is expected of me at “my job” to take priority. To be perfectly transparent, I went confession about this telephone call and how I handled it. I am still not sure I did the right thing.
Strangely enough, despite my human frailty, God came through. Although I am opposed to abortion and current abortion law, God found a way to make it work for me, and this baby, for his/her good. The caller wanted to file something in court to force her daughter to get an abortion. Her logic was this: if a parent can compel a child to get medical treatment (say a surgery), how is an abortion any different? Well, ultimately, the “right to choose” resides with the pregnant person who, in this case, is the teenage girl. A parent cannot force a pregnant child to abort. Although a pregnant child needs to get an adult’s involvement when choosing to abort (whether it is a parent or a judge), no one can legally force her to get an abortion against her will. Thankfully this teenage girl refused to give in to the pressures of her own mother to abort her child. Also, as it turned out, the girl may have been too far into her pregnancy to legally have an abortion in time anyway. So, all I could muster was to inform the caller that she cannot force her daughter to get an abortion and, besides, even if she could, she was likely too far along in her pregnancy anyway. Thankfully, and ironically, the law accomplished what I could not, both personally and professionally.
Finally, what this call revealed to me was that my fears about legalized abortion are not unfounded. The value, much less the sanctity, of human life has been so debased that someone can call me on the telephone – without embarrassment or sheepishness or any hesitation – to freely and openly ask me to assist in her effort to discard an “it” as if it were rubbish. While the abortion movement may have stopped tens of millions of births, it has not stopped at least one: the abortion movement has given birth to the diminution of human life to the point now where it is nothing more than a mere commodity – or, indeed, a burden – which someone can keep, “get rid of,” or whatever else in between. Human life debased to the same level as anything else.
In my mind’s eye, I see that same woman who called me doing some spring cleaning and rummaging through boxes in her attic or basement. She comes across some item or artifact or heirloom in the box. A person helping her clean takes it out of the box and pitches it carelessly into a trash can with the other stuff they are clearing out, which causes the woman to shout “Hey! Don’t throw that out! That’s my grandmothers broach [or whatever]!” – giving greater value to this thing than the human life currently within her daughter. Viewing human life as just another commodity – which the abortion movement has played an enormous role in developing – to be traded, used, kept, given away, and ultimately disposed of has vast consequences beyond the scope of this blog post, but I am sure they are not difficult to imagine. Relative to the call I received, such a view led to a woman trying to force her own daughter to dispose of her unborn child – without thought or conscience or concern – just as one would of any other unwanted commodity.
This telephone call still runs through my head from time-to-time as it disturbed me so much. I pray that this little baby will be loved – despite the efforts to kill him/her by his/her own grandmother – and will grow up to be a loving person who loves God and learns how God brought a good (his/her life) out from an evil (current abortion law). I hope God has mercy on the caller and grace upon the teenager who made the right – and difficult – decision. I pray I can be a bolder and more effective advocate if I ever encounter a situation like this again.