Pro-life movement? We need to talk.
As a passionate member of the cause, I have noticed a tendency to focus on only one-half of the pregnancy equation. This by itself is not much different than our opponents’ propensity to do the same.
While we must never weaken our message, we also should not cast aside the mothers who find themselves with unplanned pregnancies. Too often they are frightened and alone. How they arrived at that moment is not the main issue. What matters most is meeting them where they are, positive pregnancy test and all, and encouraging them to choose life over death.
It is impossible to achieve this goal if we shun women and parade their fear and shame. But that’s exactly what one Christian school in Maryland is choosing to do.
Maddi Runkles is a senior at Heritage Academy, a Christian high school outside of Washington, D.C. Ms. Runkles is active in her school, excels in her studies, and is also taking college courses while finishing up her diploma. She is a practicing Christian. In January of this year, she found out she was pregnant.
Her classmates are scheduled to walk at graduation on June 2nd. Because she is expecting a child, the school is not allowing her to participate.
Maddi did consider abortion. After all, she was mere months away from graduating and attending college. Having a child would be hard – not impossible, but certainly challenging.
But Maddi’s parents were very supportive of her, and she chose life for her baby.
Maddi comes from a Christian family and attends a strong Christian church where she has felt nothing but love and support since finding out she was pregnant.
Maddi was stripped of her leadership positions in the Student Council and Key Club. But the bigger punishment for Maddi is that she will not be allowed to walk in graduation with her classmates on June 2nd.
Her principal, Dave Hobbs, was going to inform the entire school that Maddi had broken the rules, but Maddi didn’t want the information to go through a secondhand source. So instead, she voluntarily got up in front of the entire high school and tearfully told them what she did and that she was pregnant.
“I stood there in tears while my dad read half of my prepared statement until I could compose myself and read the rest on my own, admitting my mistake but also saying that I chose life for my child,” said Maddi Runkles, 18.
Ultimately, it was decided that Maddi would be allowed to finish her classes at school, but as punishment she would not be able to participate in her graduation ceremony in June.
It is more than apparent that unexpected pregnancy, even further into adulthood, carries with it a heavy load. For the teenager who find themself in the same situation, with their whole life ahead of them, pregnancy is seemingly unbearable. Carefully-plotted plans, and educational and career goals, all but vanish. Fear of what family, friends, and fellow classmates will think is foremost in their mind.
These are the individuals targeted by Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider. PP takes more than 323,999 unborn lives per year, according to their own annual report. Each precious, but extinguished, life carried with it unique possibility. The hundreds of thousands of women who become accomplices in the deaths of their children possess similar individualism.
Planned Parenthood, and other abortion providers, care about neither.
Because of these truths, it is unfortunate that Maddi’s school would make such a public example of her. Maddi understands her pregnancy is less than ideal. Everyone else does, too. However, this does not mean the baby boy growing inside of her is anything less than a gift. The administrators at her high school, clearly embarrassed by a pregnant teenager with a swollen belly, can’t bear to have her noticed for her accomplishments on graduation day. The shame in this situation is on them entirely.
It is one thing to deal with the pregnancy privately. Instead, the school’s refusal to involve Maddi in graduation sends this very public message: “Choosing life should be frowned upon.”
The school has an extraordinary opportunity to promote wholeness through adversity by treating Ms. Runkles as they would any other student. This does not negate the serious nature of the situation, but reinforces that life can – and does – continue for women and their unplanned, unexpected children.
Maddi recently shared her story at an SFLA rally in Washington, D.C. where she joined with others in asking Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
“…it’s gonna be really hard to accomplish all my goals and all my dreams, but I get to have a little guy following right next to me, and we get to do it together. When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared the embarrassment that I would face. I’ve been told by pro-life people that I still can’t do it, that I have made a mistake. I believe in Planned Parenthood I’m a perfect target for a girl that would come to their clinic and ask for an abortion. They wouldn’t support me, they wouldn’t help me. They would tell me I need to get rid of the baby because it’s ruin my life and I can’t accomplish anything, but that can’t be further from the truth.”
We have a major problem when pro-lifers sound the same as those who promote abortion, and tell unprepared pregnant women: “You can’t do it!”
They can’t because it’s difficult? They can’t because it will be/is an embarrassment to the religious among us? They can’t because they don’t have a significant other, husband or not, who is supporting them?
Shame on those whose pro-life views don’t extend past the inhabitants in the womb.
Pregnancy isn’t just about the life and wholeness of the baby. A woman who turns away from abortion and chooses life is one of the most powerful advocates the pro-life movement can have. Thank goodness for groups like Embrace Grace, which provides “emotional, practical and spiritual support for single, young women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy”, and Pregnant on Campus, a pregnancy and parenting resource for college students. Both groups insist that while the journey of unexpected pregnancy at a young age is difficult, it is also worth it.
In The New York Times article, Maddi explains this very real problem within the pro-life movement.
“Some pro-life people are against the killing of unborn babies, but they won’t speak out in support of the girl who chooses to keep her baby,” she said. “Honestly, that makes me feel like maybe the abortion would have been better. Then they would have just forgiven me, rather than deal with this visible consequence.
Thankfully, Maddi is choosing life for herself and her unborn son. It’s unfortunate that others won’t celebrate her decision because it contradicts their standards of decorum.
Women, young and old, should be encouraged to choose life. They should be educated on the readily available, non-abortive birth control options. When unexpected, unplanned pregnancies occur (and they will), these women should be supported, loved, and shown grace.
Excluding one part of the pregnancy equation is what pro-aborts do. As pro-lifers, we should embrace and celebrate both.