Sanctity of Human Life: Hard Choices

I opened the paper chart, saw the positive pregnancy test, gritted my teeth, and breathed a silent prayer as I opened the door to exam room 2. I was immediately aware of the suffocating atmosphere in the room, where my patient, a lovely blonde with striking blue eyes, was perched on the table. A high school cheerleader, church youth leader, and academic leader in her school, she had already been accepted at several colleges with multiple scholarships.

She sat nervously, looking more like the 5-year-old girl who used to sit there in her patent leather shoes, bobby socks and ponytail, waiting for her dreaded immunization. Her mother sat rigidly in a chair between the door and the lavatory, not saying a word, staring at the floor. With difficulty, I reported, “Your pregnancy test is positive.”

She and I wept together as her mother sat beside her, stone-faced, offering no solace. Slowly, I began to encourage her by saying, “You know, this changes dramatically the direction of your life, but it doesn’t ruin your life, because God is a sovereign God who will give you grace. You will be a good mother. You will raise this child to be a God-fearing child of the King.”

When I finished, her mother, who’d had all she could take, exploded. She declared emphatically, “She is not going to have this child! Tomorrow we are going to the abortion clinic, where she will abort this child.”

The daughter began to weep.

“Mama, you can’t do that!” I pleaded. “It would violate all of your deepest personal convictions.”

Without another word, the mother stormed out of the exam room. I looked at this precious young girl and said, “You need to go home with your mama, but appeal to your daddy, because he is a good man.” I knew the family well. Her father was a deacon, and her mother taught Sunday school.

What happened in that room that day? How could this Bible teacher suddenly jettison her convictions and sacrifice her own grandchild on the altar of her daughter’s academic pursuits? What happened that day is what happens to many of us when we are caught in difficult social dilemmas. We allow our circumstances to dictate our theology rather than allowing our theology to dictate our response to difficult circumstances. We become victims of situational ethics. This mother was cut adrift in a sea of moral relativism. She lost her biblical mooring. The circumstances of her life so overwhelmed her that she was willing to agree to legally sanctioned child murder in order to avoid public humiliation and to allow her daughter to pursue her academic goals.

When this episode happened in the late 1980s, abortions were peaking in South Carolina, with 14,133 abortions in six clinics in 1988, according to DHEC statistics. In 2015, as a consequence of pro-life legislation, the emergence of 20-plus crisis pregnancy centers, and years of heartfelt praying on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, the number of abortions occurring within South Carolina was 5,778 at three abortion clinics. In 2011, the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported 1.06 million legally induced abortions in the U.S., down from a peak of 1.5 million.

Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of abortion services in America, providing 323,999 abortions in 2014, with 43 percent of its budget coming from “payments from Medicaid managed care plans,” per their own annual report. That’s taxpayers’ money. That’s you and me. However, their image has been seriously tarnished lately, and we keep praying government funding for that organization will be eliminated.

Although abortions have declined, the use of drugs, often called “human pesticides,” to induce abortions, has increased to 22.6 percent of all abortions since the FDA approved RU-­486 in 2000. Even though the number of abortion clinics has declined, the number of providers of these drugs has increased, counting doctors and other “health clinics.” As late as June 28, 2016, the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent by refusing to hear an appeal from pro-life pharmacists in Washington State who challenged a state law forcing them to dispense these drugs against their conscience rather than referring clients to other pharmacies.

Despite all this, there are things we can do:

• Keep praying that God will end abortion in America. God’s ear is not so dull that He cannot hear.

• Keep lobbying. Our politicians don’t see the light until they feel the heat.

• Keep supporting your local crisis pregnancy center. They are on the front lines every day.

• Promote adoption and foster care. God adopted us into His family. Why shouldn’t we do the same for those most vulnerable?

• Give to a pro-life organization. Put your money where your mouth is!

I am happy to report that the young woman’s story I related earlier did not end that day in my exam room. Years later, she returned to the exact same room with her 17-year-old son for his sports physical. It happened to be his birthday. He was 6-foot-2, big and strapping, even at his age. He was all knees and elbows with a big lantern jaw. I could tell he would be one of those men who would have to shave twice a day.

His mama did not go to medical school, nor did her academic dreams come true. However, I could tell she was extremely proud of her son. After I examined him, she came back into the room, looked at me with tears in her eyes, and asked, “Dr. Jackson, do you remember … ” whereupon we both began to weep. I immediately recalled the titanic spiritual battle that took place in that room for the life of her now-teenage son.

“Dr. Jackson, thank you,” she said. “Thank you for helping me stand up to my mama, and thank you for helping me do what was right. All of my dreams did not come true, but my dream of being a mama one day — that did come true. I am so proud of my boy! And I’ll tell you one other thing: His grandmother loves him to death!”

— Robert Jackson is a family practice physician in Spartanburg. In 2013, he was presented the E.A. McDowell Award by the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee of the South Carolina Baptist Convention for his advocacy of pregnancy care centers. He cofounded Carolina Pregnancy Center and served as board chairman for 13 years. Jackson was presented the Order of the Palmetto in 1997.