Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I had a conversation with my kids the other day.  We talked about the Gosnell case, as we try to talk about several current events.  I tried to spare them of the gruesome details and give just the short version.  They had so many questions, though.  They wanted to know what abortion was.  I explained that some mommies don't want to grow a baby just then.  I explained, and pointed out how much work babies were.  I said that when most women have an abortion, the baby is still forming all of the organs, and not all the parts of the body work outside the mother just yet.  I talked about how hard being pregnant was sometimes.  I did not want to glorify anything.

My kids understood how hard it was.  They've seen me go through it a few times.  They understood the work, as we live it day in and day out as a family.  However, the reality of what an abortion is...they thought I was making that up.  They could not believe that anyone would do such a thing.  They have an easier time believing in the tooth fairy.  When I told them I was serious, they sat in horror.

I did not show them pictures.  I was determined not to villainize my opposing side of view or seek to give them nightmares.  But I want to teach my children how to form ideas.  I want them armed with facts.  I also told them about my experience with a crisis pregnancy center.  I told them what some of the woman were like, and the challenges they faced.  I talked about how some were forced into abortions by loved ones.  I talked about the ones who faced depression, or were unable to ever have children because of an abortion procedure they had years earlier.  I told them some women have abortions, and never feel bad about it.

When they asked the big, "why" I was determined to not to say, "because they want to kill babies."  I was determined not to say, "Well, Planned Parenthood was founded by a woman who was a Nazi sympathizer and who wanted to limit the population of black people, so she started an abortion clinic that would serve black neighborhoods and prevent as many new black babies from being born as possible.  She believed only rich, white families should reproduce."  I know that was how it started, but I believe that many people who work there today do not have those intensions, so felt it would mislead them.

I said with as much compassion as I could, "They do it because they want to help woman.  You see, some women feel trapped by a pregnancy.  Some women want to focus on their jobs, not kids.  Some women feel they already have enough kids, and more kids would spread the time and money around the family too thin.  Many of them are just scared.  Some of them are very sick.  Sometimes they know that a baby will not be very smart, or will live his whole life in a wheelchair."  I talked about some people at our church who are in wheelchairs, and cannot speak or hold their bodies straight.  I said some people think it would be better if they were never born at all, because that's a hard life.  I told them that many people wanted abortion to be legal to stop "back alley abortions" which were going on long before abortion was legalized.

Later my daughter asked me when we were alone what a "back alley abortion" was, and as gently as I could, I told her.  She cried, and I held her and cried alongside her as her innocence faded.  I wish I could prevent them from knowing the truth forever.  I wish I could keep them innocent forever, and shelter them from the world.  I can't.  I can only pray, "Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours." I want them to learn how to think, and I want them to learn how to approach complex situations with compassion.

My kids thought long and hard about it, Mr. President.  They were trying hard to see a world where there were easy answers.  After some thought, my son said, "I know they are scared, but that is no excuse to get rid of a baby trying to grow." My daughter said, "We must work to stop this from happening to babies not yet born, and we must work to help these women so that their baby no longer feels like a burden."

They were not talking about the government, or passing laws, or by other paying other people to do the work.  They meant themselves.  They wanted to personally help these woman.  They had compassion on those working for women, but felt they were terribly in error for thinking that abortions are a good way to help them.  They felt that when the mother had no strength to fight for, and protect her baby's life, that someone ought to help her fight for the little babies.

I even played the devil's advocate.  I told them some of these babies didn't even look like babies yet.  That didn't matter to them.  They were horrified.  I told them that science does say that a baby feels pain inside the womb. However, maybe when it is not yet born, it's not really a baby.  Maybe it's just an almost-baby.  They laughed at the ridiculousness of that idea.  They have felt their little brother and sisters wiggle around inside my womb.  They would poke my belly, and he or she would poke back.  The very idea was illogical to them that a baby wasn't a baby until it was born.  I told them that sometimes the babies were so small, they could not even be seen or felt.  David quoted one of their favorite authors, Dr. Seuss, "A person's a person no matter how small."

Mr. President, we are at opposing sides.  I did not vote for you, but I heard you many times talk about how we needed to come together.  Like it or not, you are my leader, and I try.  I hold your office in high esteem, and I am called to pray for whoever holds that office.  I try to raise my children to at least see the other side and seek to understand it.  I believe in education, not indoctrination.  Always seek to walk in another's shoes.  I don't believe that you need to agree with someone's point of view to have compassion for that person.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when I heard your speech recently at a Planned Parenthood event.  You did not seek to see our side.  I know you don't want to work with our side, but I had hoped that at least you would try to see it.  In the speech, you could have said "I'm grateful it wasn't in a Planned Parenthood clinic where Gosnell worked.  Your clinics are sterile and safe.  He broke several laws put in place for the safety of women, and I hope he is punished to the full extent of the law."  That's what I was honestly expecting from you.  Acknowledging the horror while holding to your pro-choice stance and still worshipping Planned Parenthood.

Instead, you called out states that would put any restrictions on abortion clinics.  Apparently, the laws Gosnell broke were ones you didn't think should have been there in the first place.  Those laws were restrictions on abortions to protect women, and you said in this speech that those types of laws were bad.  I ask you, Mr. President, do you believe this Gosnell situation was good for women?

That was your statement we've been waiting for.  Then you flippantly threw around God's name, and asked him to bless the work of abortion.

You said people sought to restrict women and take away their choices.

Mr. President, I don't believe you understand.  I don't believe you want to understand, or seek to understand.

If you sat down with any worker from a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, and listened with an open heart, I'm sure you'd hear something different.  You would hear the stories where they counseled a teenager who was pressured into sex, and then pressured into an abortion.

You would hear stories of incest, and then abortion to cover it up in a very tidy way for the perpetrator.

You would hear horrors, and meet the people working hard to stop those horrors.

I'm afraid you are not telling your children the other side of the story.  I'm afraid you are telling them that those who claim to be pro-life are that way because they hate women; that they want to oppress women.  They want to limit women.  They want to bring women back to the 1950s.  That is simply not true.  I know because I'm unapologetically pro-life and I don't believe any of those things.

Mr. President, I don't hate women.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a woman.  I want to see every woman reach her whole potential.  I have 3 daughters, and I want to have all of them to be able to have fulfilling lives.

I'll be honest, Mr. President.  I'm angry.  I'm angry that when you see the Gosnell case, the only thing you see wrong was those laws restricting his doctoring power were there in the first place.  I'm angry that you don't seek to understand the other side.  I'm angry seeing the most helpless in our nation discarded and ignored.  I'm so, so sick of the excuses, because you know what?  If you were for women, you'd try to protect them from this horror.  Instead you turn your head and call it an option.  You seek to paint a picture that is entirely incorrect of the pro-life movement.  You talk in your speech how so many states are seeking to limit abortion any way they can.

Do you ever stop to ask why?  If so many people are raising their voices over the bodies of dead or scarred women, and dead babies, will you hear?

I understand we view the world differently.  I understand you think a child burdens a woman, and that he/she breaks a woman down.  I think a child is the greatest gift a woman could receive, and giving birth is one of woman's greatest powers. That doesn't sound very politically correct, though.  I know the world is more complex than that.  I understand we are fundamentally different.

I have to be honest, Mr. President.  When I saw your speech to Planned Parenthood, I did not see a man standing up for women.  I saw a president with no intention of uniting, just dividing.  I saw you standing up for a company making a profit off of women pushed to desperation, and attacking the millions of voters across the country seeking to protect women at a most vulnerable time.

41 comments:

Ruthanna said...

Well said. I have followed your blog for a while and never commented, but today, I can't not comment. It really is heartbreaking.

Kayla said...

Amen and amen. I really couldn't have said it better. We have tried to have those same honest and open conversations with our children. We have explained that we think most of the people working at these facilities really think they are helping and forget that it really is a baby in there. They don't get it. They can't understand it. Me either. I am not sure how we stand up as a voice to be heard. We have gone to many pro-life marches and the news covers the pro-choice (much smaller) rally. We are praying....just praying....and talking about it with our kids and I know they are talking about it with other kids too. That change seems like it is too slow though, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

"They do it because they want to help wom(e)n."

Can we tweak that sentence? "They say they do it because they want to help women."

As I've been trying to be more specific in addressing deception in public conversation, I've realized (to my great dismay) the extent to which reluctance to see people get angry has impacted our ability to say what is so. Working on it. Sharon

Anonymous said...

I think everyone should look at the movie, it's on Youtube called 180 Degrees, then there might be a big change in people's minds what abortion really is.

Ekelund Fam said...

Thank you Gretchen. This was well thought out and presented. We must not be silent for those that cannot defend themselves. I am standing beside you and your family in prayer.

Sarah H said...

Gretchen, thank you for posting this. When you wrote that your kids could not believe that some one could do such a thing I totally understood because I cant wrap my mind around it either. While I was pregnant with Jacob I had to have an ultrasound every week. It was amazing to see the changes in his development every week. Many times during the ultrasound I thought about how anyone could think that this was not a baby. I just cant understand that whole idea of thought.

Katharine said...

I'll be the dissenting voice. I believe that access to safe abortions has made a huge difference I the health of women in my country (Canada), and in many others. However what I want to say is this: thank you for speaking your truth to your children and the world. Our voices all together will make us stronger and more compassionate as a people, as a whole. Only by hearing each other can we truly know our whole.

Mom said...

I also want to join in to say thanks for addressing this issue. I think the solution doesn't lie with changing the laws, but changing the hearts of the people. If it's legal to have an abortion, but the people have been convinced that abortion is killing of life and there are other socially acceptable alternatives, the abortion rate will go down and hopefully abortion clinics will go out of business. Heart change is the key.

priest's wife said...

are you going to send this letter to Pres Obama? Maybe with some pictures of your sweet kids

Anonymous said...

I do not agree with abortion. It is not for me and I will not argue or persuade you otherwise. Do you know the flip side though? Did you know that this also would make in vitro fertilization illegal as well? I understand you have five children, can you stop and imagine what it would be like to not be able to have children of your own? To see you wonderful other half's DNA smashed up with your own to create a wonderful little being? Because of tubal defects should I not get that chance? Should be automatically thrown in the 'your only choice is adoption' category? That isn't fair to my family. Mitt Romney backed making IVF illegal. Never mind that he had Grandchild as a direct result.

Rachael said...

That's a pretty heavy discussion to be having with young children. There's no way I'd be discussing the Gosnell trial with my kids. I don't even like thinking about it myself! Was there something about it that made you chose it over other events? I'd talk about the factory collapse in Bangladesh if I had to chose something grisly. I just really felt for your poor daughter, who now knows what a "back alley abortion" is.

Gretchen R said...

Rachael, I know what you mean. It was not a fun conversation, and I try not to have them often. The nature of our home and our school is that we discuss many events as a family, and we each try to work out what we think about it. I try my best to answer all questions as they come in the most age appropriate way I can. I don't ever want them to feel any question is off limits for us. This has been so helpful with my daughter, as I really hope to keep our lines of communication and trust open.

Knut and I were discussing it, and the kids started asking questions. It's usually what happens when we are having a conversation without a lot of details. I tried giving the shortest, plainest answers I could, but Silje especially won't stop asking until she fully understands. Many of the current events we discuss come from normal conversation, and not any carefully laid out plan.

Our plan as parents isn't to drop a bombshell of a subject on our kids at any time, whether sex or politics or some tragedy. We try to answer all their questions as they arise, in the most age appropriate way I can. With my oldest, I'm still flying blind. Everything I do with her is new and uncertain for me. I still question whether or not it was right for me to do, and I probably always will. She is an old soul, and understands much deeper things than most people do.

That's a really long response. These issues are so messy, there is no denying that.

CJ Olson said...

Thank you for sharing this letter! It's a hard letter to read but it's a very important conversation to have with our children. There are times when kids notice that you are upset and they want to understand what is going on and why you are hurt. I think those type conversations are the ones when you are able to share your heart and beliefs with your children. Praying for your family.

Gretchen R said...

Well, I deleted one comment because it broke my comments ruling. I have no problem with people leaving comments that disagree, as long as it is done respectfully, and thoughtfully. We are all real people on the other side of that computer, and at least on my blog, we will treat each other as human beings. I do not allow annoymous comments that is the equivalent of throwing an egg at a house and running. I like to keep my corner of the internet clean.

Aimee said...

I think discussing something like tha trial is a personal choice, until my daughter is the age of your oldest I cannot know what I would do. I think your approach was raw and honest and open.

On the subject of abortion, I think it's about choice, balanced choice. No one, I mean NO one has the right to push any woman to abort a child if she wants to keep it, but the flips side is that no one has the right to make a woman feel guilty for being honest about the fact she doesn't want or cannot cope with a child. It is a personal issue that shuld be approached in a 'walk in her shoes' way.
And while adoption is a option, it's a path frught with problems. There are hundreds of thousands of children in a care system that's just not designed for the capacity and many have miserable and trauma filled childhoods.

The trial raises issues, but is not a anti/pro abortion issue. Its about making sure that doctors and healthcare professionals are stringently and correctly regulated.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

@Aimee

"but the flips side is that no one has the right to make a woman feel guilty for being honest about the fact she doesn't want or cannot cope with a child."

Quite likely her own conscience will make her feel guilty for murdering her baby.

There will be plenty of folks who will happily help her to suppress her own conscience that she has committed murderous sin, and has murdered an innocent defenseless baby in her own womb.

Hannah said...

Thank you for your sincere words, Gretchen. Understanding abortion for what it is - not a "choice" but the death of a child is almost beyond my comprehension as well. Seeing the horrors of the Holocaust, the Trojans leaving their children to die in fields, even when they threw all male babies into the Nile in Egypt, I cannot deny that humans are capable of this unbelievable act. It is so hard to know how to discuss this with my children. I preserve their innocence for now, but they will have to know eventually. I pray they will know to cast that unbelievable burden on their faith in a just God.
I fully agree with you that our President is not even attempting to bring both sides together. He voted against the Born Alive Act!! I try to respect him as I am called to do, but it is becoming harder and harder to even pretend to respect a monster.
Keep speaking for truth.

Foster Parent said...

with all due respect to your opinion and your voice, those babies aborted in Canada were never given the chance to have an opinion or a voice.... only the silent agony as they were murdered in the name of another's health.

Teresa R. Simpson said...

@Aimee
Rarely is a newborn adoption "fraught with problems." There are so many people who desperately want to adopt a baby but sadly, there just aren't enough babies to go around. Babies of every background, ethnicity, and disability are adopted faster than you can imagine. Unlike older kids, newborns do not get stuck in the system.

The overcrowded foster system is filled with older children and teenagers. Unfortunately, these kids are harder to place--generally because people fear the baggage that they come with.

In short, yes, there are problems with the foster care system in America. But those issues have nothing to do with putting a newborn up for adoption.

Deb up North said...

@Katharine

I believe telling THE truth is not a matter of personal choice.

Unlike their parents, children are humble and honest enough to name hypocrisy for what it is. Gretchen, you did an admirable job communicating with your children in a way that expressed compassion for the distressed and vulnerable moms (bless those dear moms!) yet your little ones understood the position of the vulnerable child.

In Canada, a few millimetres make the difference between life and death. Even Canadian kids would 'get' this! (May all parents communicate lovingly, openly and honestly with their children, according to their ability to understand.)

Dale Lempa said...

Thanks for writing this letter and sharing it here. I recommend you send it to your local newspapers for their op-ed sections. Also, Live Action is doing some great work to expose the hypocrisy and inhumanity of the abortion industry: http://www.liveaction.org/inhuman/

reformedontheweb said...

Amen. If you do not mind, I would like to reblog.

Jenn in CA said...

If a woman is not ready for a child, she has no business having sex. Plain and simple. Murdering the innocent result of a sexual union is not the answer. Exercise self control. Believe it or not, it is possible.

Lynn Morrissey said...

As a woman who has had an abortion, many years ago, in my early twenties, I can tell you that I greatly appreciate this post. You have spoken in love and truth. You have showed both empathy towards women who find themselves in a place they never thought they would and respect for the Leader of our nation. There is so much deception afloat, and I can tell you, way back then, there was one sense in which I honestly did not know what I was doing. I was scared to death and was told lies and even directed by my pastor to see his friend who ran this clinic. That said, somewhere deep inside, I had to know that I would have a baby, or why else would I have walked through the clinic doors? Like you, I honestly think that there are doctors and workers who think that they are helping women. And unfortunately, women like me are afraid to come forward after their abortions and tell them that not only were they NOT helped, but (without Christ) they will live with the guilt and horror of what they cooperated with for the rest of their lives, and that they will be haunted by the baby whom they will never know. I might add that many women don't even know how deep their pain is (or that they have any) till numerous years later. That was my case. I had deadened my emotions through alcohol. But abortionists and those who help them do not hear this. And they are deceieved. And I think that the President is too. He has demonstrated his concern over children killed recently in mass murder. He needs help in making the connection that beautiful children (hundreds and thousands of them) are killed every day in his country. Thank you for helping him to make this connection. I pray that you will get this letter to him! Thank you for speaking truth to your children as well. Thank you for not condemning women like me (and I can tell you that many Christians do). But the fact is that our children are with Jesus and that if we come, repentantly to Him, our horrendous sin is covered with His blood. I came to Him in great grief and sorrow over my sin, and asked His to help me to turn away from ever doing anything like this again. I was tempted to when I became pregant quite unexpectedly at forty. Once again, I was scared to death. But the Lord was with me at every turn, and now my beautiful twenty-year-old daughter is a testimony to God's forgiveness and grace. I write about this in my book Love Letters to God: Deeper Intimacy through Written Prayer in the chapter called "Oceans of Mercy, Oceans of Love." This is not a book plug as usual. I never knew I would mention my book today. But I beg your indulgence for that and do so here, in the hopes that if any woman is contemplating abortion or any woman who has had one and can't forgive herself, will read it and find comfort and healing. Thank you for a heartrending, honest, and timely post. Thank you for speaking truth in love!
In His love,
Lynn Morrissey

Betsy Markman said...

I so admire the way you handled this discussion with your children! I confess, I have not been as wise with my own.

David T. in Fayetteville, GA said...

There are a number of grammar and spelling mistakes, but I certainly wish this president had the courage to read the letter.

Anonymous said...

Your beliefs are your beliefs only. If you feel abortion is wrong, don't have one. But in this country, we have the freedom to choose. Being pro-choice isn't being pro-death. It's understanding that everyone is on a different journey and they need to have the ability to make their own choices that are right for them. If you want to force your religious beliefs on everyone, I recommend moving to Afghanistan where that behavior is not only acceptable but encouraged.

Brian Ramsey said...

@Anonymous

Anonymous,

Certainly we all have our own beliefs. I have mine, you have yours. But, if you believed a segment of society were being murdered, would you not push for your beliefs to be translated into law prohibiting those murders? That's where pro-lifers are coming from on a national level.

Gretchen R said...

Anonymous, I normally delete negative comments where someone does not use their name to claim their words and do not add to the discussion. Remaining anonymous feels cowardly, and I would like to host a place where people feel safe to share their thoughts without fear. I however think, you have brought up a very good point. You are used to arguing for choice, so you assume that my arguments are religious. I am religious, but you will notice in my post I do not quote Scripture, or promote my religion.

What happened at Dr. Gosnell's clinic does not just disgust Christians. I'm sure you'll find Jews, Muslims, athiests, agnostics, Unitarians, what have you, all disgusted with the idea of killing babies and killing women. This is NOT a religious issue. This is a human issue. I know Christians speak up about it the most, to which I am proud. That does not make it a Christian issue.

Joshua Perkins said...

While I agree with almost everything written here, I must make one small correction.

Margaret Sanger was certainly a racist eugenicist, but she opposed abortion, as did Planned Parenthood itself until sometime in the 1950s.

Anonymous said...

@Gretchen R

Gretchen, our families sound similar. We too aim not to answer more than is being asked.

We have found the following from Corrie ten Boom's _The Hiding Place_ to be very helpful in dealing with heavy subjects:

"Answering child's questions:

(From a ten year old child) “Father, what is sexsin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. “It's too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.” And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. For now I was content to leave them in my father's keeping."

We have revised it to asking our children to "go lift the van", as that is more part of their life than luggage. After the "it's too heavy!!", we emphasize that they can trust us to tell them what they need to know when they are ready for the heavy lifting.

I agree with your sentiments, and share your (righteous) anger over the injustice in our land.

Mark Waller said...

I appreciate your civil tone in this blog post, but the following quote is simply misleading and not true.

When they asked the big "why" I was determined to not to say "because they want to kill babies." I was determined not to say "Well, Planned Parenthood was founded by a woman who was a Nazi sympathizer and who wanted to limit the population of black people, so she started an abortion clinic that would serve black neighborhoods and prevent as many new black babies being born as possible. She believed only rich, white families should reproduce." I know that was how it started, but I believe that many people who work there today do not have those intensions, so felt it would mislead them.

A simple read of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger's Wikipedia page speaas to her work toward social justice, including work that was praised by Martin Luther King, Jr. To suggest that the true mission of Planned Parenthood is "to kill babies" is borderline slanderous.

Gretchen R said...

Well, we'l have to agree to disagree with the whole Planned Parenthood founder. One of my sources was "Grand Ilusions: the Legacy of Planned Parenthood" which was given the Gold Medallion Book Award, is older than wikipedia, and was raved about by the LA Times by saying "Planned Parenthood has enjoyed one of the longest free rides in political history. Now, George Grant, in the tradition of solid investigative reporting, punches their ticket, exposing the organization's agenda as anything but the the benign, responsible movement it has portrayed itself to be."

So given that source, it is said "Her alternative to charity was "to eliminate the stocks" that she felt were most detrimental "to the future of the race and the world." To that end, Planned Parenthood has always targeted minorities, the unwanted, and the disadvantaged for family limitation, contraception, abortion, and sterilization. "More children from the fit, less from the unfit," Sanger pined, "that is the chief issue of birth control."... ... "Planned Parenthood is not, by any stretch of the imagination, and advocate of the poor. It is instead a great oppressor and exploiter of the poor." On historical records, Planned Parenthood has lobbied for "compulsory abortion for out-of-wedlock pregnancies," federal entitlement "payments to encourage abortion," "compulsory sterilization for those who have already two children," and "tax penalties" for existing large families. China made so many of their policies directly from Planned Parenthood's recommendations.

I'm not making this up. I'm not saying that's what they are now, because I don't know enough about their current policies, but their policies of the past are very, very well documented.

I just wanted to say I didn't make that up. I also want to say, I"m not here to say what Planned Parenthood did or did not say, I'm here to talk about the here and now, and what are we going to do about it.

Round Ball Rev said...

Thank you. Well siad. Teary eyed and speechless.

hmschlmomof4 said...

@Anonymous
It has nothing to do with 'forcing religious beliefs' and everything to do with respecting the life of another person. Being pro-choice means that you think it is okay for a woman to choose to kill her own child. That sounds pretty pro-death to me. Are you able to explain how it isn't?

Grant Alcorn said...

May I reproduce this letter for my parish members to read? Excellent. I want to also link it to the church web site.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous

There are a few other instances that should be corrected ... I want to share this, but the grammar mistakes make it seem less poignant.

1. I told them what some of the wom(e)n were like, and the challenges they faced.

2. They do it because they want to help wom(e)n.

3. They wanted to personally help these wom(e)n.

Chris Bodnovits said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Bodnovits said...

As the health of women is important to you, I thought you'd appreciate this information.

Once you get to the page, click on "Women's Health"

http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#Parental

Lisa Joy said...

Gretchen, you are an inspiration to me! God bless you for your courage and grace, both in your discussions with your beautiful children and in your writing. These words need to be heard! Standing with you in prayer, dear friend!

Brian Ramsey said...

@Chris Bodnovits

Chris, what a helpful page for facts. Good link. All of the stats and information are helpful. If you click on the section called "Live Births", it is particularly compelling to me.