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Crisis pregnancy options not always clear

SEATTLE, Wash. (The Catholic Northwest Progress) - Those in the pro-life movement refer to it as “tunnel vision.”

A woman in an unwanted pregnancy is so pressured toward abortion by her family, boyfriend, peers and health care advisor that the life-giving alternatives of parenting or adoption are not even on her radar.

That’s the nature of the crisis – “to have tunnel vision, to not be able to see your options,” said Valerie Jacobs, who works in post-abortion ministry.

“Over and over again I hear women believe in their mind that having an abortion turns back the clock and makes them ‘unpregnant,’” she said, “as if the pregnancy never occurred.”

Tunnel vision

In her work as program coordinator for Project Rachel – a Catholic Community Services program for those experiencing the spiritual and emotional effects of abortion – Jacobs said she rarely encounters women who have wrestled with the adoption option during their short-lived pregnancies. Instead, their stories revolve around the fears and anxieties of their partner or family members who pressure them to go ahead with the abortion, wipe the slate clean and get on with their lives.

“There’s just this tunnel vision that comes from everywhere,” said Mary Emanuel, co-regional coordinator for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, through which women speak publicly about their abortion experience. “It’s like: abortion, abortion, abortion.

“These women will say (later) it was my choice, I folded, I’m responsible – part of the healing is taking responsibility for your own role,” Emanuel said, “but as an advocate for so many women who’ve been through abortion, I really sympathize with the amount of coercion that goes on in the abortion decision.”

Pro-life activists say persuading women in crisis pregnancies to consider life is an uphill battle when faced with influences brought by the culture, the media and abortion advocates such as Planned Parenthood.

They say there’s the stigma of being single and pregnant, and a culture where the abortion industry designs the legislation and sex education curriculum related to abortion.

“There’s so much coercion that goes on,” said Emanuel. “Some of it’s subtle; some of it’s not so subtle.”

School children are “already told that abortion is safer than childbirth,” she said.

Emanuel remembers that in the months before she gave birth it was common to test for defects such as Down syndrome.

“If one of those tests is a little bit off, they rush you into an ultra-sound. And then it’s, ‘You gotta hurry up and make that decision,’ because they don’t want your pregnancy to go too long if you want to abort.”

Tear-soaked consent form

She said the pressure is partly due to doctors’ fear of lawsuits.

Emanuel said she remembers one young pregnant woman whose doctor – now the head of the women’s health department for a major health care provider – convinced her to abort her baby because it would alleviate her situation with a sick husband and economic problems.

The expectant mother “cried so much she soaked the consent form” with her tears, Emanuel said. Rather than sending her home to pull herself together, they gave her a new consent form to sign, she said.

Mary Ann Kuharski, whose Minneapolis-based Prolife Across AMERICA sponsors billboards promoting carrying the baby to term, said there’s a stigma attached today to relinquishing the baby to adoption that goes: “How could you give up your own flesh and blood?”

So instead, they choose to kill it, rationalizing in part that it will free them from worrying about their baby’s welfare the rest of their lives.

Kuharski, who has several adopted children and who herself was adopted, says the media skews the adoption picture with emotional stories about adoptees searching for and finding their birth parents – when in fact the majority of them “are not the least bit interested in who our (birth) parents were.”

The adoption option is not high on the list for a woman in a crisis pregnancy, Kuharski said.
“When you’re in a crisis, you feel like your back is against the wall, and you listen to the people who are closest to you,” she said. “We can have a woman (caller) talked out of an abortion and she knows it’s wrong, she knows it’s killing…she knows a baby has a beating heart…and two hours later she’ll call back and say, ‘I have to have this abortion. My parents said they won’t pay for the rest of my college. Or my husband says he’ll leave me. Or my boyfriend says he absolutely will reject me.’”

Pro-life advocates say organizations that promote abortion such as Planned Parenthood also play a major role in the decision process.

“Planned Parenthood doesn’t talk much about adoptions,” said Nancy Johnson, who with Emanuel is co-regional coordinator for Silent No More. “There’s no money in it for them, their money comes from abortions.”

Johnson had an abortion in 1972. She said her situation with her domineering, hard-drinking husband – whom she soon divorced – led her to it. She felt another child would “lock me deeper into this bad marriage.”

Today, she realizes she should have turned control over to God instead of Planned Parenthood.

Notorious Liars

“I had really made a major blunder by not trusting him and …by depending on what Planned Parenthood had told me, because as we now know, they’re notorious liars, because Satan is the father of lies, and that evil is involved in that industry.”

Pro-life advocates say the answers lie in being more pro-active in promoting the adoption option.

For one thing, adoption agencies need to better “promote the good product they have,” Kuharski said. She notes that the adoption language has changed. The popular mentality at one time was that you “give up or give away” your baby. Today the adoption process involves an “adoption plan,” where “you’re giving the child a future.”

Kathy McEntee, founder and president of the Washington State March for Life and a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Tacoma, said Catholic newspapers and others should carry more stories and advertisements promoting adoption. People also need to hear about the risks of cancer and psychological damages surrounding abortion, she said.

Jacobs, of Project Rachel, seconds the notion of carrying more positive stories on adoption in the media. And she’d like to see more films such as the award-winning “Bella,” which puts adoption in a positive light.

Love, not judgment

“I think what women need is this positive model of adoption to counteract that (mindset) of ‘giving up your child,’” she said. “It needs to become a part of the collective consciousness.”

Groups such as Tacoma Stands Up For Life, which prays and provides sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics, put their money where their mouth is by raising funds to help mothers and children – sometimes for years after the birth. They’ve paid for rents, utilities, automobiles, TVs, whatever it takes to get them to choose life, said spokesman Bud Niebergall, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. “We’ve saved about 60 babies in the last 23 years,” he said.

Emanuel and Kuharski said parents need to promote adoption at home with their children so they’ll come to view it in a positive vein.

“I had someone say to me the other day: ‘My 15-year-old neighbor is pregnant – isn’t that terrible,’” Emanuel said. “Children pick up on these cues…So if we were talking in a more generous way about women who were in a tough situation, they may come to us when they’re in trouble knowing that we would love them and help them and we wouldn’t judge and condemn them.”

Said Kuharski: “The best teaching tool you have is at the kitchen table. Plant the seed. Announce to your children your openness to adoption, that adoption is a beautiful thing.”


This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of The Catholic Northwest Progress (, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Seattle, Wash.



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