Thursday, January 26, 2012

A different kind of thought for this Thursday

I'm taking a break from my story, "We weren't always Byzantine Catholic," because I want to talk about something that came up in the news the other day. It's also relevant because "March for Life" rallies/demonstrations? have been going on recently. Before I begin, please note: I'm not a political scholar. I took two courses in college, because I thought I wanted to be a political science major. Also, this is not an endorsement of any political candidate.

Rick Santorum spoke with Piers Morgan last week about his pro-life stance, including when a woman is pregnant because of rape or incest. Santorum's comments are getting a lot of flack, especially his reply to Morgan asking what he would say to his own daughters, had they been raped and found themselves pregnant.  I understand why: while they might see children as a wonderful thing and even be parents themselves, it is difficult for most people to accept that something good can come out of a horrible situation, and that the hand of God was involved in this most heinous of acts. I have trouble comprehending this at times myself. How can a loving, benevolent God let things like this happen?

Growing up, I pretty much always thought I was pro-choice. While I might not personally choose to have an abortion, what right did I have telling someone else what they should do? Later, I changed my views, I was then pro-life except in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother's life was threatened.

I later dropped the "if the mother's life was threatened," since most of the time, the interventions that would be made to save the mother would not involve actual abortion of the child. Sadly, while the treatments might result in the child's death, that was not the goal; these treatments would cause death indirectly and not intentionally. (I might be mistaken on this, I am also not a doctor!)

So then we have rape and incest. Both are horrible, disgusting events that I have not personally experienced. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like have either happen, beyond your control and then find out you are pregnant as a result.

Then something happened to me, I was personally touched by rape. One Christmas Eve, C's grandmother told us a story that I will never forget. It might have not come up had I not asked a specific question, but the truth came out. She told us that when she was 16, Russian soldiers invaded her town in Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia, this was shortly after World War II) and she was raped by one of them.

She later found out she was pregnant.

With C's mother.

All of this came out from me asking when she came to this country and how old she was. She told me that she was 20 and needed to get here before she was 21, to claim her US citizenship. (Since her father had received his and she was born after that, she had legal rights to be a US citizen as well.) Having known that C's mother was a little girl when she came to the US, I asked, "How old were you when you had Maggie?" While I'd always known that his grandmother was a young mother and that C's mom had the same last name as her maternal grandparents, I never thought it was rape. I had thought maybe she was a teenager who got carried away and the guy wouldn't marry her or that he died in the war or by the hands of the Russians. How "romantic" were my ideas. In the back of my mind, knowing what I know about Eastern European history (I took more courses on that in college than polisci!) and what C had told me about the Russians being worse than the Nazis, I always thought that there might be a worse truth.

And there was.

There were no abortions, she told us, as we sat at her kitchen table after the Vigil Divine Liturgy in shock. Months later, in late September, she gave birth to a baby girl, Magdelene.

I don't know much else--I was too embarrassed, too sad, too shocked to ask her anything else. I don't know if she wanted to kill herself. I don't know if she hated her baby when her little girl was born or if it was hard to grow to love someone who was conceived out of a need to control a weak minority population. What I do know is that she did her best to raise Maggie. I believe she had a supportive family--while her mother had died when she was nine, she had a stepmother to whom she was very close, and a few sisters. Her father had moved back and forth between the US and Slovakia, but was in frequent contact. When the time was right, she and little Maggie, all by themselves, boarded a plane to the US to join her father and stepmother and to have a better life. She worked hard to provide for her daughter, working at a "buckle shop" (factory), while leaving her with her stepmother, who helped raise her. Later, she met her first husband, who raised Maggie as his own.

While I never met C's mom, I have grown quite close to his grandmother. She's more of a grandmother to me than mine had ever been. I know she loved her daughter, regardless of how she was conceived. I bet that looking back over her "career" as a mother, she would be so pleased that she chose to have her baby. And so am I.

If Maggie wasn't born, I wouldn't have a husband.

Needless to say, how can I now be supportive of a woman who was raped and wants to have an abortion? Would I be a hypocrite to say, "yes, I respect your choice" even though that baby could be someone important some day? Or even "just" someone's mom? I'm sure it was much easier in rural 1940s Slovakia to "get on with it" than it would be for a woman in a city in 2012. Would it be easy for me to go through? No. Even leaving out the rape part, I cannot imagine having to tell my coworkers "yes, I'm pregnant and I might be giving up the baby for adoption." People would wonder...

I didn't write this to sway you one way or the other, or to start a debate about abortion, or to make you feel badly for my husband and his family. I only wrote this to show that the political truly is the personal and how a story can change your life and your views.

Honestly, I am still torn about incest, especially because of genetic problems. I know that these are children of God. I know it's wrong to take an innocent life. There is a small part of me that's very...creeped out by the act itself. And I know that it's hypocritical because rape is just as horrible as incest. So, if you choose to comment, please don't hate on me. There is too much of that in the world.


  1. what a story! and blessings on her for raising her child- it must have been really hard at times

    about abortion to 'save the woman's life'- a doctor might want to do an early c-section or induction which would result in the baby's death- but to rip apart the child, etc, etc- it doesn't have a therapeutic effect

    1. I can ONLY imagine. I don't ask, partly because of her age and she's an "elder" but partly because I don't want to know.

      OK, that's what I meant...where it's "we want to take the baby" even if the baby is too young for viability outside the womb. Not the other kind of procedure.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is obviously a very tough situation, and while I could never judge someone who was raped for having an abortion, I still think that it is wrong because that child still should be able to live, and may have a very important role to play.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Absolutely it's a tough situation. I wouldn't judge anyone--and don't. I know a woman who's had more than one, and that was her choice. Do I wish she didn't? Of course. But until I walk in her shoes, I will never know what was going through her mind.

  3. I'm pro-choice, no matter the circumstances. I'm a survivor of both childhood molestation and a sexual assualt in college so I'm sympathetic to women who have survived those things and worse. It sounds like C's grandmother had a wonderful support system in her family...not everyone does.

    P.S. Rick Santorum's wife had an abortion in 1997 so his opinions on the subject don't hold a lot of sway with me.

    1. Thanks, also, for your comment. I can totally understand where you're coming from; I hope my story/opinion didn't make you feel as if you had to explain yourself or needed to be defensive. Again, I don't judge. This is a fine example of a different way that the personal is the political.

      I often wonder if C's grandmother got the support she did because there was no choice. Apparently it was a VERY rural area, and they had very little money, so I'm sure travel to a city where an abortion might have been arranged would have been nearly impossible. If she had a choice in the matter, would the family have stood by her? Who knows? (and yes, I fully realize that not everyone has a supportive family, regardless of the issue)

      About Karen Santorum: I did some research the other night (days before he went on Piers Morgan) because I was curious, and I'm really not sure what to make of what I found. Some might see what she had done as an abortion, some might see it as an induction of a very premature baby. There's also some back and forth on whether or not she asked for drugs to stop labor. I don't know, no one does unless they were there that day. I think everyone did what they thought was best in a bad situation. If she didn't deliver him, they both would have died, and what doctor wants that on their record? Granted, a miscarriage is medically considered a "spontaneous abortion" so perhaps that's where people get the "OMG she had an abortion but her husband is SOOO pro-life!!!" Again, I don't know. Regardless, they lost their son

  4. Certainly a tough situation for the Santorums, but I brought it up not because I think what they did was wrong (I don't think it was wrong) but because Mr. Santorum has said he would like it to be illegal for other women to have that same procedure and I can't be silent on that hypocrisy.

    I guess my larger point is that in discussions of abortion people (and I'm not singling you out here, but rather referring to people in general) treat it as very black and white when in any actual real life situation when this issue comes up, there seems to be a very large gray area. There is always a reason; there is always a backstory. I think as a society we need to support women who decide to carry their fetuses and support women who don't because I think it's a tough road either way.

    1. Thanks for your comment back! Yeah, I don't think what they did was wrong either, and I would have done the same, given my options and the facts behind them. I have a big issue with people being hypocritical, which is why I (usually) don't speak out politically here or in public. In fact, I liked what Bill Clinton said way back in the day re: abortion--safe, legal, BUT RARE. I don't think women should use it as a form of birth control; I understand that for some women, they really feel as if it's their only choice. I wish they didn't, especially since I know many people with serious fertility issues who have been trying a long time to adopt.

      You're absolutely right--people DO tend to get very black and white. That wasn't my intent by sharing the story, although I can see how it might have appeared that way. The point of my story was really to show how something might have not happened if something else had occurred. I often write my posts on the fly, without going back and reading them and thinking them over...

      And yes x 100 that it's a tough choice either way--regardless of your situation.


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