Sometimes when I tell stories, people ask me if they are true. And I say to them, “Yes, they are true stories, and yes, they really did happen.” Usually, the one who has asked the question will smile and nod, and I will smile and nod back.
It’s always nice to write a story that brings warmth and encouragement to another. But sometimes . . . sometimes, stories must be told that are not warm and encouraging. Sometimes, stories must be told that are tragic and awful. The words used for such stories are hard words; sharp words that paint black pictures. I will tell you this story without the compromise of apology . . . because I am sad.
The line at the cleaners seemed stalled as my wife and I waited our turn. My wife noticed the mother of a former student of hers come in with an armful of clothes. They smiled and greeted one another, and while I held our place in line, my wife walked to the back and talked with the woman. “And how is Nancy?” I heard my wife ask. Nancy (not her real name) had been her student a few years before, in the seventh grade.
“Oh, she’s okay now, I guess. The last three months have been difficult, though.” The mother fidgeted with the weight of the clothes in her arms, as she lowered her voice and motioned Randee to come closer. “We found out that Nancy was . . . you know,” her voice dropped to a whisper, . . . pregnant.” The woman leaned in toward my wife, and I watched as the two now talked quietly.
When you’ve been married for a long time, you learn to read the face of your mate. You don’t read her face like you read a newspaper in the morning while you drink your coffee. It’s a different kind of reading; not words, but reading just the same.
And as I stood in line at the cleaners, I read my wife’s face, and I knew she was listening to a sad story. Randee’s facial expression changed as the conversation continued in the cleaners that day. When we got in the car, she told the story she had heard.
Nancy had been a troubled child from the beginning, it seemed. Even in Randee’s seventh grade class, she was rebellious and difficult. But Randee enjoyed teaching her, and Nancy seemed to be making some progress, both academically and behaviorally. Her mother said that when she entered the ninth grade, she became much more difficult to handle. Nancy became sexually active in the ninth grade. Her parents warned her, and scolded her. They tried grounding her and restricting her freedom. Nothing seemed to work.
Nancy was determined. She had run away twice in the last two-and-a-half years. Both times when she came back home, she told her parents she was old enough to make her own decisions.
She was old enough to have a baby, too. And three months ago, she sat down at the kitchen table with her mom and dad and told them she was pregnant. The parents feared all along that such a thing would happen. But Nancy assured them that she was responsible about her life-style and would take “precautions” to avoid such “complications” as pregnancy.
But Nancy was not responsible. She was promiscuous, and rebellious and seventeen . . . and pregnant.
Nancy’s parents knew there were alternatives to a seventeen-year-old giving birth. They knew that if they didn’t want their baby to give birth to a baby, there was a choice in the matter. So, they took her to a clinic, and sat and talked to a “counselor” about options. They signed some papers, made an appointment, and said they’d be back in a few days.
Last Tuesday morning, Nancy’s parents drove her across town to that same clinic, an abortion clinic. They watched as Nancy was greeted by a friendly receptionist who took her into the back of the clinic. And as that mother and father sat in a waiting room sipping black coffee, reading old copies of Reader’s Digest, not thirty feet away behind a closed door in another room, their daughter—their baby—climbed up on a table, spread her seventeen-year-old legs and allowed a masked doctor to suck a baby out of her womb. When the procedure was completed, the doctor came out to talk with the parents.
“Everything went well, Nancy’s doing just fine. We’ll leave her in the recovery area for a little while, and then you can take her home,” said the young doctor with the mask now pulled below his chin. The mother expressed her concern for her daughter and choked back emotion at the thought of aborting her first grandchild.
The doctor knew just what to say. With a pat on her hand, he assured her they made the right decision. “The fetus was deformed, and if the pregnancy had been allowed to go full-term, the baby would have been born with serious problems. It’s better this way,” said the doctor, as he stood and prepared to raise his mask for another appointment, with another pregnant woman . . . and another baby.
I am sad today because there is much pain in this story: the pain of a seventeen-year-old rebellious child whose choices resulted in an unwanted pregnancy; the pain of tearful parents who watched their daughter making those bad choices, and then were faced with difficult choices of their own. My heart is heavy for that daughter and that mom and that dad. I grieve for them. I do.
But most of all, I cry for that baby. I do not weep for “the product of conception.” I weep for that child—that first grandchild—the “deformed one” that a nameless, faceless, doctor said had no right to be born—and no choice but to die.
I cry for the baby whose name is known only to God—the baby who was made in the image of God—the one they left in a bucket in the back of that clinic. I know. Babies die every day, and that is sad. Thousands of nameless babes are aborted every day. And that is tragic. But I don’t know those babies. I do know one baby, who died last week, last Tuesday. . . . and I cry because I am sad.
For a voice of wailing is heard . . . “How we are plundered!
We are greatly ashamed . . . “
For death has come through our windows,
Has entered our palaces,
To kill off the children—no longer to be outside!
And the young men—no longer on the streets!