“High on Life” is one way I could introduce myself! My name is Louise and my nickname is Roxy. I’m 28 and was born and bred in Glasgow. I’m a black belt in Karate and once won second place in the Junior Scottish Championships. I have a silver medal for gymnastics, I’ve jumped out of a plane over the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, I know the phonetic alphabet and I have a slight obsession with camper vans. Oh…. and I’m pro-life.
Ok, ok, who all recoiled in horror? I’m certain that so many people take a jump back in unison when they hear the words ‘pro-life’ that it must show up on a Richter scale somewhere!
All the above mentioned are cool points of conversation – perhaps until the pro-life thing comes up. Some folk tend to react with anger or they start throwing the woman’s rights chat at you. What I’ve found is that people tend to have an emotional reaction and their main concern is with ‘choice’ and with ‘freedom’ and they tend to have the wrong idea of what being pro-life is all about. Abortion is presented above all today as a ‘woman’s issue’, a question of ‘choice’. If I achieve anything in the pro-life world, I want to allow people to see what it means to truly be pro-life. Pro-lifers don’t want to intimidate women, they’re not against women’s liberation and they’re certainly not going to condemn anyone. They’re pro-life because they have a deep love for life, they know that life is good and it is beautiful. They are compassionate folk who care not only for the life of the baby, but the life of the mother too – and in fact, all those concerned as to not recognise this wouldn’t be pro-life, only pro-birth. All they want to do is help. They get very bad press where they’re portrayed as monsters. This has to stop. This just has to stop.
At the moment I work for both SPUC Scotland (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) and for ARCH (Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline). I also do a lot of volunteer work for the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative and have done so for many years. Among the many things I do, there is a happy mix of pro-life activism, crisis pregnancy work and abortion recovery care – all giving me the opportunity to see things from quite a few different angles.
So, what’s my story? How did I get involved? Well, let’s start at the very beginning. In the words of Fraulin Maria, it’s “a very good place to start”.
It was about 5 years ago when I innocently pitched up to help at a fete taking place at the hall where the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative do their work. I piped up and said if they ever needed a hand with anything then to give me a shout – Oh and that they did! I’d heard of them before and had a sort of vague idea of what they were all about through hearing talks at school and at a youth group I used to go to but I never really knew them, nor had I ever really thought about pro-life issues at any deep level. I remember, after hearing a talk, I kept thinking, I should really offer to help them… but I don’t really know what they’d need my help with … what could I possibly offer? Thinking back on that now I almost gut myself laughing at the thought of them being hard pushed to find me something to do! ….. as I was to find out soon enough!
I started volunteering on a regular basis and most of the time I would sort out the donations that people handed in, like baby clothes or toys – toys is still my favourite because you just can’t beat that feeling of accomplishment when you put together a kid’s jigsaw! And that hall is good for a wee scoot round in a go-kart from time to time. Honestly, I’m productive on occasion! I would help clean and put together cots and prams or help out in their wee charity shop and for the past few years I have run their social media presence and helped out at their monthly Pro-Life Mass. I also help to organise the sound and visuals for their annual St Margaret of Scotland ladies lunches. I really love being involved, I love knowing that I have a small part to play in the greater work that goes on there. I had always sort of been pro-life, but through volunteering at the Initiative I began to gain more knowledge about pro-life issues and I became more involved in the pro-life movement. I started to attend pro-life events like the SPUC Youth Conference and I started to learn how to debate pro-life issues effectively.
I also began to challenge friends who weren’t such fans of the whole pro-life idea. You’re not going to be able to convert people who are pro-choice overnight, that’s not going to happen. But it’s great to have a real strength and conviction in what you’re talking about because, at the end of the day, what you’re doing is you’re making them think. I’ve no interest in dictating to people what they should think, I just want them to actually think about these issues. In short, I’ve obviously developed a great passion for pro-life work through being involved with the Initiative and I’m grateful that, through being involved, I’m able to help in small ways towards promoting a culture of life.
So that’s where my pro-life story started. What are the strategies for the future?
The big word that is normally tossed around and fussed over when talking about these issues is ‘choice’. Everyone loves a bit of choice in their lives. Everyone likes to know they have options and that they are in control of those options. This, in fact, is the pro-choice take on the issue – a woman should have the right to choose; she should have a choice. I agree, she should have a choice. She should have a better choice.
Say a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy. She panics. She thinks, ‘I can’t have this baby because… I’m in an unstable relationship; my housing situation isn’t ideal; I have severe money problems…’ – many different scenarios may result in a crisis for her. Invariably, however, the problem here is not the baby, but the problems surrounding the baby. Society says abortion is the solution. But let’s think about this. How does that help her? She’s been handed two options, two very unhelpful options: either go ahead and have the baby in the current crisis you’re in and be miserable, unsupported and have a lot of strain put on you; or have an abortion and ‘everything will be OK’. The baby is gone, but the problem remains. This is hardly a good ‘choice’. A woman in a crisis pregnancy can feel totally trapped; she’s traumatised and very susceptible to people’s reactions round about her. She dare not allow herself to think too deeply about the baby inside her or feel her instincts. She can’t afford to: what if her partner leaves her? What if she loses her job? What if her debt leaves her destitute? And so all her fears are confirmed and she ‘chooses’ not to have the baby. Why? Often for someone else’s reasons and for reasons that have nothing at all to do with the baby. That’s not a choice. It’s not worthy of civilised society.
We can lay out a better array of options to give a real choice. Let’s take the initial crisis away and let her feel supported. Let her see that there are simple ways to support her practically and emotionally. The question for us is, how do we do this? The answer is, in very simple ways. We respond positively to the news of a pregnancy, always. Even when the circumstances aren’t great. We also stop and ask her, for once, the great question, ‘How do you feel about this?’ Nobody asks that! And so we open up a line of communication between her head and her heart. We take whatever the crisis is and we focus on this, we try to make the circumstances better in small practical ways. We know ourselves that when we are in a crisis and panicking we can’t think straight and everything is a disaster so we’re not able to think out the practical stuff. To have someone beside you and help makes a massive difference. Know the contact details of your closest crisis pregnancy centre, even carry a bunch of their cards around in your purse or wallet. They can help with clothing, cots, prams, toiletries etc. They can lay out a list of things they can help with. And once she feels more calm, more secure, more supported, her head might be in a clearer place where she thinks, ‘OK, maybe I can do this!’ The life inside her is a gift and if the mother is happy, secure and at peace, then the baby will be just fine because, in fact, no-one is more pro-life than a mother.
Another word used frequently is ‘freedom’. Of course, we all want freedom, it’s a no-brainer. And we should have freedom. But the way it is used when talking about abortion is, I think, a very skewed picture. It comes down again to a woman’s ‘freedom to choose’. But to me this is not freeing women, to me it’s the opposite. We are being chained up here!
I’ve written about this before, but at last year’s SPUC Youth Conference I heard an amazing talk by Obianuju Ekeocha who linked the slavery of black people to the slavery of abortion today. This talk really made me think about how society has completely made ‘freedom’ spin in a crazy direction. Terrible things used to happen to slaves and, just like abortion, this was legal. Most people today agree that slavery was a terrible, unthinkable persecution. This just confirms to me that just because something is legal, it does not make it right. Eventually freedom from slavery was won, and our society then fought for a further freedom, ‘women’s freedom’, which introduced abortion to allow women to make their own choices about pregnancy. We are, however, just back where we started. These babies are not free, these women are not free and society would have you believe that this is totally acceptable, just as slavery was once totally acceptable. This talk reminded me of a particular song by Scottish musician Eric Bogle called ‘Singing the Spirit Home’, written about a black prisoner in South Africa who was to be executed. The chorus in particular could be linked to abortion:
‘Chains, chains, chains – how many souls have died in freedom’s name?
To some it is a way of life, to others just a word,
To some it is a snow white dove, to some a bloody sword.
Until the last chain falls
Freedom will make slaves of us all.’
The last line is very profound. The freedom of abortion is most definitely making slaves of many, many people. In the immediate aftermath of an abortion, a woman might feel relief; others cry uncontrollably. As time wears on the react in different ways. However, post abortion trauma is a real thing. It can (though not always) develop immediately, it can develop a month down the line, a year….40 years – it could develop any time.
There’s a whole army of folk out there – mainly women, but men too – who are so riddled with sorrow, grief, pain and regret that they genuinely believe themselves to be beyond the limits of mercy, beyond help. They are a silent army; they live and move among us; they sit very close to us but because of an impenetrable wall of silence, they are also light years apart from us. The woman who has experienced abortion so wraps herself in silence that she is stuck in a fortress. She’s silent because, no matter how many people were involved in the decision to abort, it was she, and she alone, who gave her signed consent. This was her doing and, as far as she’s concerned, the pain or the numbness she feels are no more than she deserves. She’s silent because the baby she knows she was carrying is no longer around to feel or think anything. What right has she then, to look for healing and mercy? She is silent because she is terrified that the people she loves will reject her and not love her anymore. She grieves the death of her child and no-one comes up to her to console or offer condolences.
So what can we do?
If she tells you, cry with her. Offer her hope. And there is hope. This is a wound that can be healed. We’re not here to condemn, we’re here to recognise the pain she’s feeling and understand that and to be with her through that. Know the details of post abortion recovery organisations like ARCH and maybe lead her towards Rachel’s Vineyard – a post abortion recovery retreat for both men and women.
In the past, I’ve had people say to me, ‘You’re only pro-life cause you’re Catholic’. Well, one part of that statement is true, I am indeed Catholic. I’m not pro-life because I’m Catholic though. Catholicism hasn’t dictated to me that I must be pro-life and just accept it and not actually engage my brain and think about the issue. I’m pro-life because I’ve thought about this. I believe that life begins at conception and I’ve not plucked that idea out of some fluffy cloud – Google it and you’ll get the same answer. Politics aside, the sciences of embryology and genetics are clear that human life begins at conception. I’m pro-life because I want people to know that there are people who are there to help, I want them to be informed about crisis pregnancy centres so that they can talk properly to someone before they make one of the most difficult, irreversible decisions of their lives and I want them to feel supported because often, deep down, people want to keep their babies but just feel like they have no better option and no support. Well, they do have support and they do have a better option, and I just wish that the mainstream media would allow this message to get through. I’m pro-life because I feel deeply that post-abortion recovery work is sorely needed in our society. There are a lot of people out there who are hurt and damaged by abortion and they need our support too. In one survey of abortive mothers, 83% said that if even one person among their family or friends had offered support for choosing life they would not have gone through with the abortion. 83% is a high percentage. Granted this is just one survey but it gives an idea of how many people wouldn’t have had an abortion if they felt a little more support or their circumstances were a little better. You don’t have long to make the decision but you’ve got the rest of your life to regret it.
What I will say, though, is that being pro-life has allowed me to become a better Catholic. It’s taught me compassion. It’s taught me how to love better. It’s taught me not only how to carry my own cross better but it’s taught me that, in the pro-life movement, we’re not only bearing our own cross, we are reaching out and offering to help carry the cross of others too. It’s not easy – but it’s something that I’m prepared to do as I believe with all my heart that society deserves better than abortion. We’re made for more than this.
Part of my job with SPUC is working with young people and encouraging them to be actively involved in pro-life work. I know so many amazing, young pro-life warriors who are eager to get the message out and are so courageous in doing so and I admire them greatly. For many others, their hearts and minds are pro-life but they might feel that they’re not formed enough to tackle the difficult conversations. I get that, it’s tough sometimes. But it’s also the most rewarding work you could ever do. Nothing beats the feeling when someone tells you a story of how they were going to abort their baby then got help from the pro-life movement and they’re standing there with the kid or showing you pictures telling you how grateful they are and what a blessing the child has been. Or when you’re helping someone through a post-abortion experience and you can genuinely see the weight lifted from them and again, they’re so grateful for you being there. This is why we are pro-life and there is no greater honour. Next month I will be taking a group of young people to the SPUC Youth Conference which takes place from 11th – 13th March at the High Leigh Conference Centre, just North of London. I encourage any young person who wants to learn more about pro-life issues and become more confident in their knowledge to come with us. You can book on the SPUC website or I will be running a coach from Scotland, so please do get in touch with me if you’re interested.
In August we will be running our Project Truth Roadshow. Young people from all over the UK gather to spend a week travelling around Scotland’s towns and cities, to bring the pro-life message to the public with real joy: because life is beautiful. The roadshow focuses on the development of the child in the womb up to 10 week’s gestation, because this is when most abortions take place in Scotland. The leaflets we give out simply contain the development facts of the baby in the first 10 weeks of their life in the womb (facts that many people will not know). Because 10 weeks from conception the baby already has: a heartbeat; arms and legs; fingers and toes; all of their bodily organs; eyes; a nose; ears and a smile. What an amazing week it is and what an amazing experience. Get in touch, get involved, because there’s no life like pro-life.
Louise can be emailed on email@example.com