Pretty Stones and Dead Babies

There's an abortion clinic in Pittsburgh that defies all the stereotypes. The walls are lined with pink paper hearts containing heartfelt messages from parents to their aborted children. Family members are encouraged to write in a journal in the waiting room. And at the end of every pre-abortion counseling session, the patient is given a pretty, colorful stone to take with her. What does a pretty, colorful stone have to do with abortion? The answer proves to be as bizarre as the question. This novel approach to abortion is the trademark of a group of abortion clinics called the November Gang. A story in the September Glamour magazine explains that at these clinics, "intensive counseling is offered to patients . . . Despite being staunchly pro-choice, counselors venture more willingly into areas like grief and regret than at most abortion clinics." They talk with the women about religious and psychological issues and let the women talk about their feelings toward their unborn babies. Though the story doesn't say so, I wouldn't be surprised if the members of the November Gang are simply copying the counseling-centered approach pioneered by pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. But what the abortion clinic counselors are counseling is very different. The Glamour article reports, "One of the questions November Gang clinics sometimes ask patients is, Can you see abortion as a 'loving act' toward your children and yourself?" Faced with that query, "a lot of them are totally taken aback," says clinic director Debi Jackson. "Then they actually think about it, and they're like, 'Yeah, that's what I'm doing. I do love this child, but I can't [have] it right now.'" If a woman asks if God will forgive her, a counselor will turn the question back to her: "'Do you think there are any things that God considers completely unforgivable?'" What these abortion counselors are doing is coaching patients to twist their own words, emotions, and moral understanding so that they can feel justified doing something that they're clearly acknowledging is wrong. In language full of sentiment, these women are gently encouraged to put their own short-term needs first, and not to think about what's best both for their babies and themselves in the long run. The pink hearts signed "Mommy"; the informal baptism ceremonies that some women hold after their abortions; the stones that the women are told to "imbue . . . with whatever meaning they choose" -- all these things meant to heal and comfort are rendered duplicitous by the brutal act taking place. All the pink paper hearts in the world don't change the fact that abortion is taking a life with the mother's permission. Pro-life advocates and counselors have been using the language of help and healing for a long time now and with great results. We need to keep doing that, but we also need to point out that language can be deadly when it is not used in service of the truth. Women do need to know that comfort and forgiveness are always available through Christ, if repentance is sincere. But they also need to understand that a child's life for a pretty, colorful stone is a very bad deal. For further reading: Daryl Chen, "Are You Ready to Really Understand Abortion?" Glamour, September 2003. Herman Goodden, "Sanitizing the snuffing of a nascent human life," London Free Press, 8 September 2003. Eric Czarnik, "Abortion's Hell's Angels?The South End, 16 September 2003. "Abortion Workers Use New Marketing Techniques to Quell Women's Regrets," Culture and Cosmos, Vol. 1, No. 6, Culture of Life Foundation, 9 September 2003. Dave Andrusko of National Right to Life wrote three columns, "Dealing with Guilty Consciences," on the November Gang, September 10September 11, and September 15. Brent Bozell, "Sex and the 'glamour' girl,", 27 August 2003., "Abortionists Try Trauma Counseling to Boost Services," EWTN, 20 August 2003. Jill Stanek testified before Congress of practices at Christ Hospital similar to that of the November Gang for babies born alive and left to die. (On August 5, 2002, President Bush signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act into law to criminalize "live-birth abortions.") Johannes L. Jacobse, "Women are Abortion's Second Victims," BreakPoint Online, 22 January 2003. "Smiling from the Womb," Sky News, 12 September 2003. Scott Klusendorf, Pro-Life 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Case Persuasively (Stand to Reason Press, 2002).


Chuck Colson



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