No. Even though I know that in the majority of the time a violent act is put in the place of the “…”, the answer will still be “no.” That sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? My mental “no,” however, comes out as a verbal answer that I tailor to my specific situation and for a specific person. My verbal answer has a bit of a formula to it. My response is a combination of reflection with whom I am speaking, a smattering of courage to speak the truth, a sizeable helping of prayer and all the compassion I can muster. But I did not always take this approach when confronted in this way.
This question used to frustrate me, because I could not understand how the person asking the question could fail to recognize that this baby is a life, regardless of how or why the child came to be. If I’m honest with myself, and with you, I would have to admit that, in my mind, I saw this question and the mind-set that came with it as the enemy when it came to pro-life discussions. Then, out of the blue, I was reminded of a counselor at a camp I worked at, and I began to understand a little more about why people would ask the “But what about” question.
Years ago, I was working at a camp and I had noticed that one of the high school girls was always walking hunched over. I kept wondering if she was hurt. The other adults had noticed it as well, and discussed what we should do. Finally, one of the adults, a licensed counselor said, “I think she is pregnant,” and asked the girl if she could speak with her. They sat on a porch, out of earshot of everyone else, and asked her if she was OK. The girl replied “yes,” and would not offer to say anything else. After a little while, the counselor looked at the girl and said, “How far along are you?” The girl replied, “Five months and my parents don’t know yet.” The counselor took compassion upon the girl and talked her through her fears about sharing this news with her parents. The counselor was able to be with the girl as she called her parents, and be a voice of compassion when the parents came to pick up their daughter. It was through compassion that this counselor was able to bring the girl and her parents together in a meaningful, non-confrontational way.
Remembering this story reminded me that, through compassion, we have common ground. The people asking the “But what about” question and I both have compassion for the pregnant mother, and, through that, I found that I had compassion for the person who I once saw as an “enemy.” When we find common ground, we have something to build upon. I will always believe that abortion kills a living child, and hurts the mother at the same time, but I can meet people where they are and journey with them to the light of the truth because my compassion must extend to everyone, not just to those who agree with me.
By Chris Rogers, Director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry