By Jonathon Van Maren
Editor’s note. This was reposted a year ago in NRL News Today. It is very much worth re-reading.
Pro-life apologists have spent an enormous amount of time dealing with precisely the issue the Shannon Dingle accuses the pro-life movement of ignoring entirely.
On October 11, USA Today published a hard-hitting editorial titled “I was in the pro-life movement. But then, widowed with 6 kids, I prepared for an abortion.” The piece was clearly intended to be both a rebuke to the pro-life movement as well as evidence that pro-lifers are primarily motivated by ignorance of real-world situations, and timed to sync up with the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, in which Roe v. Wade would predictably take center-stage.
The column, written by Shannon Dingle, is heartbreaking to read. On vacation with their six children last summer, her husband was killed in a freak accident at the beach after a wave knocked him over and broke his neck. Widowed with a young family, Dingle was grief-stricken and overwhelmed. And then she discovered that she was pregnant, with chronic health conditions that would complicate things further.
Her response was immediate: “I knew I couldn’t have this baby. I didn’t know how to be a single mom of six, so a seventh child was unthinkable, if I even survived the pregnancy. And my kids couldn’t lose another parent.”
Dingle’s point in this is not that there are incredibly difficult circumstances facing pregnant women, and that there are scenarios in which a pro-life ethic means treating women even though the treatment could threaten the life or health of her pre-born child. Rather, the point of her column is that pro-lifers are allegedly unaware of these circumstances. Her evidence for this, it turns out, is that she had apparently been involved in pro-life events without actually thinking about the implications of the pro-life worldview or considering real-world situations.
“I had been a pro-life speaker for events sponsored by Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,” she wrote. “By mid-2016 my views had begun to change, yet three years later, some of that rhetoric rose within me. I worried, what if people offering us help would rescind those offers if they found out what I was considering? I wondered, would my living children hate me because I chose us over the pregnancy of another child?”
In short: “This is how you think when you’ve been groomed by the pro-life movement to see pregnancy in black and white with no room for gray … I’m not pro-life anymore, not in the political sense. I firmly believe that decisions regarding pregnancy should be between a patient and doctor, not predetermined impersonally by a mostly male governing body. My body shouldn’t be up for public debate.”
I’m not sure which pro-life movement Dingle was involved with, but her ignorance regarding the pro-life position should not be taken as an accurate representation of what pro-life apologists have to say on the matter.
The organization I work for, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, lays out ethical responses to dangerous pregnancies on our website and we regularly discuss these situations with people we speak to on the streets. Pro-life apologists like Randy Alcorn, Stephanie Gray, Scott Klusendorf, Robert P. George, and numerous others have spent an enormous amount of time dealing with precisely the issue Dingle accuses the pro-life movement of ignoring entirely.
If Dingle was “groomed” by the pro-life movement to believe that there are no difficult circumstances, or that people would hate her if she made the wrong choice, or that people would abandon a widow for doing something she disagreed with, then I feel genuinely sorry for her. That is not the pro-life movement I know, and if she had reached out to almost any group that I know of, she would have received the advice and the help that she sought. That advice would have been informed by ethics — and real-world situations.
Dingle then writes that she lost the child through miscarriage, and ends her column with a declaration that any pro-life activist could have written: “Caricatures make for good propaganda but terrible policy. People, real people, become pregnant. And those people each carry their own stories, nuanced and unique. Propaganda is easy. Twitter insults from anonymous accounts are too. But people, real people, have real stories, like mine. My story is heartbreaking. Telling it is tender. But I need you to understand that real people like me are living real stories.”
Dingle’s story is both tragic and heartbreaking. But I wish she understood that in the real pro-life movement—not the one she caricatured in her column–-pro-life activists are speaking with tens of thousands of real people every single day. We are hearing their real stories. They tell us those stories. And we are there to help in any circumstance.
Perhaps it came as a shock to Dingle that there were soul-crushing circumstances that could push someone into considering abortion even when they shuddered at the thought. It would not have come as a shock to any of the frontline pro-life activists that I know.
We’ve heard all of these stories before. Those stories are the reason we keep on doing this work.
This appeared at LifeSiteNews.