Part 6 (The Role of the Church) in a 7-part series on the issue of abortion by veteran lecturer, teacher and academic Dr Johann McFarlane.
Fostering understanding for women with unwanted pregnancies
Overcrowded houses in poor communities will certainly cause a rise in “forced” and unwanted pregnancies, which other communities will not understand. If schools will now, in order to promote specific values, refuse to allow pregnant girls to attend, they will exacerbate the poor girls’ crises, ans unwittingly, “force” these girls into abortions1.
The children’s grants provided by the government will, however, help to sustain such girls. The challenge facing the Church in the middleclass community, is to keep abreast of all the above types of misunderstandings and their concomitant mistakes contributing to the pregnant girls’ dilemma. Maybe the Church can ask a sensitive woman to open an “abortion desk” which provides counselling and other services such as advice for pregnant women and girls. She may then invite similar-minded women to join a group and become a “task team”.
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In order to foster understanding, the Church could consider organising a conference on abortion, inviting speakers from all sections of the community, allowing various testimonies about own experiences of unwanted pregnancies, social workers and medical staff and to encourage discussions in smaller groups. One item on the programme could be organising the girls together in small groups playing a “What if?” game with each in turn answering the question: What if I found out that I were pregnant? Where would I go for advice? Similarly, the boys would answer the “What if?: questions like: “My girlfriend told me that she was pregnant. Would I try to persuade her to have an abortion? Should I ask her to marry me?”
Primadonna Ngosa’s testimony in terms Serena’ Dyksen’s story about what a woman going for an abortion needs most (see Part 4, par. 4.7)
Serena Dyksen: ”When all of us had finished speaking I asked my friend what had stood out for her from all the speeches. She responded, ‘Each woman just needed one person.’ She was right. Women who go to abortion clinics are scared, and they are looking for help. Sometimes all it takes is just one person to reach out. walk alongside her, and help her to choose life for her child.
PRimadonna2: (“How I was able to be just that one person for a teen-age girl in her crisis”)
“A few years ago whilst serving as a missionary at the Leadership Experience,(LXP, Jeffreys Bay) I was also volunteering at the Healthy Mom & Baby clinic in (Victory Church in Jeffreys Bay. Through a partnership between both organizations, we met weekly with a group of teenage moms facing situations of crisis pregnancy and helped them throughout their pregnancy on the road to motherhood. One day, I was called to sit down and chat with a young lady who turned up at the clinic after one of our teen-mom sessions. As I listened to this school girl’s story, I sensed confusion, desperation, fear, and loneliness. She had no support or means to bring this baby into the world. The man responsible for her pregnancy was a much older taxi driver. He had ordered her to ‘get rid of it’. She was heading a child-led home and had dropped out of school when she found out she was pregnant. Her life was clearly in a state of chaos and despair. At the end of the 2 hours of listening attentively to her story, I suddenly got the idea of ‘what if she was given the right to choose life?’. What if she was shown that what she wanted to terminate was actually a living human being already growing intricately inside her? So I quickly asked the midwife in charge at the clinic that day if she could give her a scan. From our talk, I figured she was at least 10 weeks pregnant and there was definitely a heartbeat. As the ultrasound came on and the midwife gently talked her through the scan I could see tears rolling down her face when she heard that heartbeat for the very first time. I held her hand the entire time and she gripped it firmly. At the end of the scan, I asked her what choice she was going to make now after having all the right information about the consequences of doing an abortion or choosing to give her baby the right to live. There is no denying the truth. She confidently left the clinic that day choosing life. She was booked for her antenatal check-ups and I had the front row privileged seat of helping to offer support to her throughout her pregnancy and beyond. I have experienced abortion in so many aspects. And although I cannot call myself an expert on this subject, my experiences are personal and real. Over the years, I’ve become increasingly aware of the atrocity of selling an idea that doesn’t in fact give the whole truth. An idea that is presented as a quick fix to a complex situation that often results in haunting long term psychological, emotional and even medical complexities. One of the biggest issues is that men are often given the scapegoat to escape taking their part in being responsible citizens when they either pressure or indirectly foster abortion to become ‘the option’. Today, I live by the conviction that someone needs to speak for the unborn life. The life that begins at conception. Someone also needs to be present to give support to those who face difficult circumstances around unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. What I witnessed in the story above was a community that was willing as well as available to offer real and practical support in a time of crisis for someone who felt convinced that the only way out was death. In actual fact, this young lady’s beautiful story taught me that when we are willing to walk alongside women and men in these desperate situations to give them love and truth, we empower them to choose life.”
Jess and Eugene Marais are a couple belonging to the Oxygen Life Church in Walmer, Port Elizabeth (Phone: 041 581 8637). They, with the whole church backing them, started a babies’ home, consisting of two houses, with the name “Isithembiso” (Bringing hope). Their vision statement is: “Rescuing babies, creating families.” The babies are identified by social workers who do all the paper and legal work. The babies are admitted aged between 0-2 years. 80% of them end up in families, through adoption or foster care — some by church members, or their biological families. The rest are housed in the children’s home. Eugene tells me that they cannot really play a role in the families, because that is the social workers’ terrain. “But”, he says, “We are doing everything we can to promote the concept, beauty and atmosphere of the family in our houses, because we believe that is God’s plan for them. And in the majority of cases, we have the privilege to work together with brilliant social workers, who also appreciate a family.”
In this way, they assist mothers over a 2-year period, getting used to the idea of, and to prepare them for the “burden” of an extra child, and, in doing so, they prevent the mother, from impulsively going for an abortion. Telephone numbers for advice are (not for the admission of babies): Eugene: 074 500 8134 and Jess 084 696 5864. The number for a Heart for Alternatives Crisis Pregnancy Centre is: 071 997 0147.
Timion (Phone: 042 293 4296) (Jeffreys Bay), is a Christian organisation founded by a Swiss missionary, Daniel Meyer, a professional prosthetist, about 12 years ago in a garage. They manufacture cheaper (from wood and foam rubber instead of from aluminium and foam rubber) prostheses and accessories such as chairs and frames and support mothers of cerebral palsied children. They go further to visit cerebral palsied children in their homes with the mothers attending, showing both the kids and their mothers how to use the protheses and the additional chairs and frames they make to support the kids. They do their exercises so that the mothers understand these and can continue to encourage and help the kids at home. In addition, they invite the mothers and kids to camps in order to give the mothers a break and to continue with the exercises under the guidance of the physiotherapists employed by them. In this way Timion supports and encourages mothers who did not take the easy way out, especially with a physically handicapped child! There is also another side to this endeavour and compassionate work: The physiotherapists also do hippotherapy, a form of equine-assisted therapy, that is gaining ground as an effective way to increase the physical and emotional health of children with cerebral palsy (CP)3. It has the potential to help the child develop physical strength and endurance and increase balance on a farm with horses put at their disposal by the owner for free. Observing the love of these therapists keeping the child up straight on the back of the horse as they walk alongside and the joy of the kids when they manage to do some or other feat such as pointing at something they saw, are both sights that draw one’s attention to what makes life worthwhile
In both cases above the plea of Stott (18:407) for the role of the Church, with respect to abortion is that “we shall want to create a social climate in which positive alternatives to abortion are widely promoted and recognized”. These three examples are obviously not enough, but they at least show us a way!
In both these examples, I hear the abortionists and those with the typical industrial age mindset saying: “How ridiculous! What a waste! All of these ‘unproductive activities’ would not have been required had all these kids been aborted. These passionate physiotherapists could have much easier (and happier lives doing something else, leading to something useful! – These CP cases will never be able to live ordinary lives, becoming part of the community.
Stott (18:406) quotes Jean Rostan, the French biologist, who wrote: “For my part I believe there is no life so degraded, debased, deteriorated or impoverished that it does not deserve respect and is not worth defending with zeal and conviction . . .I have the weakness to believe that it is an honour for our society to desire the expensive luxury of sustaining life for its useless, incompetent and incurably ill members. I would almost measure society’s degree of civilisation by the amount of effort and vigilance it imposes on itself out of pure respect for life.”
Stott (18:405) also quotes ‘Alison Davis “a happy spina bifida adult”, [a defect of the spine in which part of the spinal cord is exposed through a gap in the backbone. It often causes paralysis of the lower limbs, and sometimes learning difficulties — according to the Oxford Dictionary] speaking at a rally for those opposed to abortion, saying: “I can think of few concepts more terrifying… than saying that certain people are better off dead, and may therefore be killed for their own good.” ‘A doctor hearing her saying that she was glad to be alive, observed that she also said that “no one can judge their own quality of life, and that other people might well consider a life like mine miserable!” and also insisted, on the contrary, that: “Most disabled people are quite contented with the quality of their lives!” “After all,” Stott continues: “it is love, which gives quality to life and makes it worth living, and it is we — their neighbours — who can choose whether to give love to disabled people or to withhold it. The quality of their life is in our hands”.
1Personal Communication with Esther McFarlane 15 March 2020
2Primadonna Ngosa, written
3Retrieved form website https://katherinepsychologist.co.za/services/equine-assisted-psychotherapy-learning/ on 7 May 2020.