If Only She Knew

How do young people today decide where to stand on the issue of legal abortion? The issue has taken on such heated arguments politically, religiously, and personally that it is hard to listen, read, or speak about where lines should be drawn, or when laws should permit or forbid the act of separating a pregnant woman from the unborn child she carries in her body. That is what abortion literally means, and the physical act required to remove the unborn child from the mother has profound consequences.

One of the reasons I think people have a hard time thinking and speaking about abortion is that is an unpleasant subject and that those people to whom we are speaking have such a variety of opinions, often hard held opinions, due to their political views or personal experience.

Considering the over 50 million abortions that have been performed in America since abortion-on-demand was made legal in the United States on January 22, 1973, it stands to reason that few families have escaped the trauma of deciding what to do when faced with an unintended pregnancy within their family. What families decide to do, I believe, becomes the basis for their family members’ hard held stance on the abortion issue thereafter. They preach it, they defend it, and they counsel others to do the same as they did.

I know that’s what I do. My family faced the challenge of unintended pregnancies that met the typical formula for unquestioned abortion: high school and college aged pregnancies. The future plans and careers of my children were suddenly at stake, balanced against the lives of very small, as yet undetected, unborn babies.

I was fortunate to have studied and thought deeply about abortion before I was presented with the circumstances that sought my advice and support one way or another. In one case, the couple married, only to have the child miscarried shortly afterward. In a second case, I quit my job and cared for the sweet baby while the mom finished high school and started college. In the third case, the child was raised in our home while her mom finished college. And our family celebrates the courage of another mom who carried her child to term and gave him up for adoption, a child we now number among our grandchildren.

Nothing makes these situations “easy”, but studying the issue and knowing where I stood before I personally faced the situation gave me an anchor in the storm. I did not seek the counsel of friends to help my child make a decision. I found that keeping silent as long as possible allowed us as a family to adjust to the new reality and face the comments and questions of well-meaning friends with a united front. The arrangements we needed to make to support the mom and her baby quickly took precedent over whatever criticism we might hear.

Recently I spoke to a woman that I had invited to come to a pro-life fund raising dinner. She said she came because she wanted to keep other young woman from doing what she had done. She was pregnant at age 17 and was afraid to tell her parents. Her boyfriend’s mother took her to a clinic to have an abortion. When her parents found out what had happened, they were heartbroken. If only she knew then what she knows now, she said. If only she knew.

And so, yes, my personal experience does inform and charge my stand for children, born and unborn, with certainty. And I know that other families have faced similar situations under different circumstances. But, more than anything, the sight of those special grandchildren, living, breathing, beautiful children, gives me joy … and causes me to recoil at the thought of what they would have suffered at the hands of an abortionist.

This issue is real. It is important to read about and pray about. To think about and speak about. It will not go away.

Here are a few books that made a difference to me in forming my opinion on legal abortion: Aborting America and The Hand of God by Dr. Bernard Nathanson; Abortion: The Silent Holocaust by John Powell. S. J.; Abortion and Slavery, History Repeats, by Dr. John Wilke; and penetrating articles in The Human Life Review: https://www.humanlifereview.com.

About Trish Lindsay

Trish grew up in Tucson, AZ. She is a sixth generation Swedenborgian, with her roots in the Convention Church in Tennessee. Her New Church worship experience began attending Sunday services in the homes of members in Tucson before a small church building was acquired (the façade looked like the Alamo) and the first resident minister arrived in 1958, Rev. Douglas Taylor. In 1962 she entered the Academy Girls' School (ANC) and completed two years at the Academy College (ANCC) before returning to Tucson where she completed her B.A. at the U of A and married Al Lindsay in 1968. Trish taught Child Development in the Pittsburgh Public Schools while Al completed his law degree at Pitt Law School. Al and Trish live in Sarver, PA and attend The Sower's Chapel. They have six children and eighteen grandchildren.

14 thoughts on “If Only She Knew

  1. It would be so great if your experience also included some of the valid reasons for ending a pregnancy. I am pro-choice. Which means, I think it is terribly important that women/couples/families be able to choose. Be allowed to choose. Have the tools to choose. Sometimes there are medical reasons that can make abortion a reasonable, if hard, choice that a thoughtful person can make, and if the woman is thoughtful then the decision is made with pain and grieving. I do not believe in casual abortions.

    I believe that while a fetus has a form of life, that real human life begins with the first breath.

    Hopefully as time goes on people who see the world differently as you and I do Trish, will increasingly come together, in support of others in crisis. I applaud what you have done to support your children. My own desire is only to support what are some of the toughest choices couples or families or individual women make, choices that will leave their mark in difficulty or bitterness sometimes either way.

    1. I don’t know what medical reason justifies taking the life of an unborn child, other than an actual threat to the life of the mother. The fact that a child can be removed from the mother’s body and destroyed, does not make it simply a personal choice, although it has come to be thought of that way. The baby’s life is still a unique life, and I think that if an abortion is acknowledged as a loss of a life, a sense of grief follows an abortion that does not follow other medical procedures.

  2. I think this is a very astute observation, Trish– it is really helpful to have thought through how we should respond to a crisis before we are in it (and battling with the emotional trauma that goes with these sort of temptations and trials). For me, what sources a woman uses to form her judgment are key– I believe Right or Wrong is determined by the Lord and we can only know what He says if we are looking at His Words on the subject. Not cultural correctness. Not scientific or psychiatric evidence. Certainly not our own wants. Right or Wrong is a Go-To-Our-Savior issue.

    In the NC we have precious new information surrounding children in the womb, we know (a) from the moment of conception we are dealing with a being with an eternal soul(AC 3570), and (b) it is consciousness that begins at the first breath(DW 11). That is strikingly different information than the rest of the world has.

    These are the sorts of Truths I pray become the backbone of the NC debate surrounding abortion.

    1. Yes, Eden. I definitely thought New Church people would be the first to defend the unborn child as a child of God, fulfilling His purpose of Creation: a Heaven from the human race. Just to know that the highest angels are with pregnant women and their babies in the womb, and that they must witness their deliberate destruction, causes me pain. All I can think of is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    2. These are ideas and concepts I have struggled with at various points in my life as they have come up. I feel so many different aspects of individual’s experiences and pain around both sides of the issue. So I’ll start by saying I don’t have one solid, firm opinion.

      I went to go and read AC 3570 and I see the section where it states that. It’s interesting to me as I haven’t heard people reference that passage much. I haven’t been collecting passages and so have no way of citing the information, but aren’t there many New church people who believe that life begins at the first breath? I think at least among certain people those are the teachings that have been accepted and while not used as a defense of abortion, still I have often heard that to be the interpretation. I know I struggled with that as the accepted teaching when I had a miscarriage and couldn’t quite sort out how to hold what that meant for that baby.

      This is absolutely a big and important, and personal and painful topic! Thanks for your article, Trish!

      1. Hi Abby.

        Yes, the traditional perspective in the GC is that “Life begins at the first breath” and it is based largely off of Divine Wisdom 11 (an unpublished work). The actual passage explains that the first breath is the beginning of conscious life–an important distinction to me–but like most traditional stances, the details get muddled over time and I suspect few people know why that stance is GC tradition or where it came from.

        Here is some of the actual passage:

        “The one receptacle is to be the Will of the future human being, the other to be his Understanding, yet there is nothing whatever of his Will and Understanding present during formation. Will and Understanding do not commence with man prior to the opening of the lungs, which only takes place after birth…There is life in the embryo before birth, but the embryo is not conscious of it . . . . The life from which the embryo in the womb lives is not its life, but the Lord’s alone, Who alone is life. (DW 11:2,6)

        So the question remains, does the Lord want us destroying the unborn child? Is it right?

        1. When I first awakened to what was happening in our country after the legalization of abortion on demand in 1973, I did seek counsel and insight from other New Church people, ministers and members alike. Julie Pendleton was the most fervent in her support of the unborn, and her research in the Writings (below) formed the basis of my spiritual platform on which to stand. I submitted this research to the Theta Alpha Journal in November 1985, when they had decided not to print further discussion on the topic of abortion for “several issues”, so the research I presented was rejected.
          I am gratified that this New Church women’s dialogue is more open in its accepted range of subjects affecting women within the church and out.
          We have the teachings. We need the teachers.
          Julie’s research:
          DIVINE PROVIDENCE:
          “The Lord binds himself to man in the mother’s womb from his first conception, and forms him … All the work of preparation for Himself, the Lord does in the womb … Therefore the Lord is called ‘Creator, Former and Maker from the womb.’” (DW 74)

          “… if a man clearly saw the Divine providence he would intrude himself into the order and tenor of its course, and would pervert and destroy it. … When he is unable to order the external without destroying it by luxury and intemperance, what would he do if he had also the ordering of the internals, which are infinite? This is why the internals, lest man’s will should in some way enter into them and get control of them, are wholly exempt from his volition, except the muscles, which constitute the covering; … if man were to have the ordering of the eye … of the ear … of the tongue … of the skin … of the heart … of the organs of generation in propagating, of the interiors of the womb in perfecting the embryo, and so on, would he not in numberless ways pervert and destroy in them the order of the course of the Divine providence?” (DP 180)

          HATRED OF INNOCENCE:
          “For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire … He sits in the lurking places of the villages; In the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.”
          (Ps 10)

          “It is given to me to know by much experience that the evil spirits especially hold infants in hatred; for often when I saw infants, they desired to harm them in various ways, yea, to kill them … in a word, they hate whatever is infantile, by reason that infants are innocences; thus they greatly pursue and hold in hatred the innocent. The reason is, because they hold in hatred the Lord, who alone is Innocence.” (SD 2284)

          Swedenborg witnessed men, who on earth had been within the church, wanting to kill infants and treat little children in the most shocking manner. “I remarked that during their bodily life such things do not appear with these men, but it was answered that such are their interiors, and that if the civil laws did not hinder, and also other external bonds … they would rush insanely in the same way against all who are innocent.” (AC 2126)

          “While man is in the womb, he is in a state of innocence.” (DW 74)

          DIVINE CARE:
          “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10)

          “Angels of the inmost Heaven are present with infants in the womb, and through them the Lord takes care that the infants are nourished and perfected; thus they have charge over those who are gestating in the womb.” (AC 5052)

          1. For me, these numbers about hatred of the innocent are not directed at the women who have had abortions due to their various circumstances, but to the spheres coming from Hell that press to influence those decisions by thinking and feeling that there is no other way.
            It is important for us to “know the enemy.”

          2. Thanks for this collection of quotes, they provide some really wonderful insights.

            I feel like it is HUGELY important to emphasize your point here about the fact that the hatred of innocence is not directed at the women but at the spheres. I think Hell sneaks and works it’s way into our selfish desires and thoughts, and those become cultural norms. And those accepted societal behaviors can have real evil and selfish desires built into them by the clever Hells. But then those norms creep into behaviors and beliefs of people who have only ever known these as accepted norms and find themselves in incredibly complex situations. And while, as Jenn mentioned in her comment, while I can see that these ideas are selfish in a deep, spiritual actuality, I think the reality for many women in these situations is not selfish.

            Holding the weight for the siblings, family, and community around ourselves is something we do both consciously and unconsciously. When dealing with a pregnancy with medical complications, where it is certain that the baby will live in pain or discomfort, or for a very short period, a mother holding the weight of that impact on her whole world (including her unborn baby) could very unselfishly choose to bear that grief herself and save those around her from having to bear it. I believe there are women in that type of situation. Who see themselves as trying to bypass the pain and suffering of others. I am not certain where I stand on abortion in those situations, but I feel very strongly that women who have made that type of decision deserve love and support, and no further shame or guilt. Not that I think that’s what you are suggesting, just that I think it’s an important part of the conversation to say out loud.

            One of the things that I love from these passages is also that all of these babies still go to heaven. That even without experiencing life on earth outside of their mother’s womb they are still going to be alive in heaven. It feels like a wonderful safeguard against the various influences of Hell on us imperfect humans – the Lord will still make it right.

  3. Thank you, Abby. We also have the small remains of a miscarried grandchild buried in our yard, with a mosaic marker above the gravesite. Love is what matters. All we know is that we have love for that child and his or her intended purpose on Earth or in Heaven. Even if the “first breath” defined a person, which I don’t believe is true, why would anyone deny that person a chance at life? When that life is taken by miscarriage, you know it was loved by angels, by you and by God. That is what matters.
    Did you know that the book, “I’ll Love You Forever” was written by the father of a miscarried child to reflect the parents’ loss and love? … “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

    1. Abby, we rightfully feel great compassion for women and families who face such terrible choices, often made more traumatic by the offer of abortion as a remedy. A mother I know has a child that was diagnosed with spina bifida in utero. She said every doctor she saw offered abortion as a remedy. Instead, she had the staff ready to transport her baby to to surgery as soon as the child was born for corrective surgery. It was good to have the warning. It was also good that she was clear that she wanted her child to live, regardless of the handicap that was predicted.
      These tragic choices are not the cases that we march to prevent from happening. And these cases are very rare, in comparison to the number that are “convenience” abortions. Here are the statistics:
      “Why Women Choose Abortion” as cited for Reproductive Choice and Health from the Allan Guttmacher Institute.
      (Abortion rate: ~1,000,000 / year)
      21% Inadequate finances to raise a child (210,000/yr)
      21% Not ready for responsibility (210,000/yr)
      16% Woman’s life would be changed too much (160,000/yr)
      12% Problems with relationships, unmarried (120,000/yr)
      11% Too young, not mature enough (110,000/yr)
      8% Children are grown, woman has all children she wants (80,000/yr)
      3% Unborn child has health problems (30,000/yr)
      3% Woman has health problems (30,000/yr)
      1% Pregnancy caused by rape, incest (10,000/yr)
      4% Other (40,000/yr)

      When we march, we are marching to prevent 90% of the abortions each year that are justified as convenience abortions. The debate is misdirected when it centers only on the most difficult circumstances. We understand the struggle and grief cause by all abortions, and pro-life centers provide comfort and understanding to women who have suffered an abortion, for whatever reason. As stated in signs carried in the March for Life: “In every abortion there are two victims: one dead, one wounded”.

  4. Wow. This is all really insightful — thanks for broaching this subject, Trish, and for your reflections as well, commenters. I didn’t really have a stance, although definitely leaned toward pro-life, however I hadn’t done the research: thank you so much for sharing Julie’s (and your own) research, Trish. I guess, as much as it hurts to admit it, any choice to terminate a pregnancy is selfish, at its core. -Thank you for those passages about the hells who want to harm innocence: I can vividly imagine those spirits whispering in the ears of prospective parents who are debating the issue.

    And golly, your last point about “I’ll love you forever” — you really hit the mark, there. (I wish that fact were more well-known; goodness knows the story itself is.) Thanks for this opportunity for reflection. <3

    1. Thank you for your response, Jenn. I am sorry that the details of a child’s life in the womb are not taught more deliberately and scientifically today. However, we actually have a candidate for governor in Pennsylvania who stated, “I am Pro-Life, and I know that the first 9 months of every person’s life is spent in his or her mother’s womb.” It was so refreshing to hear a candidate for public office say that, that I gasped. Such a statement should fall more into the “it is evident” category than as a surprise to hear!

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