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Abortion is an issue I don’t like to talk about.
This is weird for me. I like talking about everything. My family, my friends, or anyone who has spent time with can attest to the fact that I relish discussing any and every issue imaginable.
But abortion, at least the discussion of it in the U.S., has always made me really uncomfortable.
When I was in college, I found myself practically apologizing for my position.
“Yeah, I’m pro-life, but not Pro-Life.”
Trying to explain you value life while also trying to distance yourself from a discussion based so much in blame, hate, vilification and even outright violence is awkward.
I never knew there was another way to discuss it. That is, until I came to Mission to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian people are still struggling to recover from years of harsh Soviet rule. For decades, there were actually more abortions than there were births.
As a result, the prevailing cultural view here is one of acceptance; abortion is the natural thing to do in the event of an unexpected pregnancy. Unpleasant maybe, but not at all unusual.
Given that, I expected the rhetoric of an anti-abortion movement in Ukraine to be even more extreme than in the U.S. I expected them to shout even louder that abortion was wrong and that society needed to put a stop to it.
But here in a quiet, nondescript office in downtown Zhytomyr, Mission to Ukraine is not offering condemnation, they’re offering help.
Feed my Lambs
I spoke with Marina, a crisis pregnancy counselor about the reasons women in Ukraine get abortions. Without hesitation she replied,
“The most common reason is material, financial”
Many women are without a husband. Others are married but already have children to feed. Still others are simply struggling to feed themselves and can’t imagine how they could care for a child.
These women aren’t ending their pregnancies because they want to. They’re ending them because they expect their newborn will starve.
End a pregnancy or watch your new child starve. This was not the abortion “debate” I was used to.
Where the Debate Ends
Nadia lives in a small, unimproved house with no running water and no gas. Her only income is a small government stipend to help feed and clothe her children.
She found out she was pregnant when she went to MTU for free testing. Nadia had no husband, and she and her two children were barely scraping by. Already without water or heat, and little food to spare, she saw no other option than to terminate her pregnancy.
That is, until she spoke with MTU.
In counseling, Mission to Ukraine told Nadia something she had never heard before: that her baby was alive. They told her she didn’t have to get an abortion.
There is another option.
There is hope.
Mission to Ukraine offered to give humanitarian support: food, medicine, and clothing for the first 18 months of this new baby’s life.
These 18 months are crucial. After 18 months, children in Ukraine can be entered into public day care. This helps take care of children during the day so the mothers can go to work. Many unborn children are lost because of this eighteen-month gap – a year and a half with no one to help.
For Nadia, another child seemed impossible. But after speaking with MTU, everything changed. She decided to keep the baby.
She now has a healthy, happy child. And that child has food, warm clothes, and the support of a loving community.
It still isn’t easy. At a weekly bible study I listened to Nadia speak about her struggles to resist alcohol when all her friends and family drank. She recently lost power to her house – leaving her cold and in the dark.
She also faces struggles common to all mothers, a child misbehaving in school. The rising costs of food and clothes and books for her kids. The worries about how they will grow up, what they will think of her.
But when I asked her why she keeps coming back each week, why she never misses a meeting at MTU, she told me that after speaking with women here she leaves with a new feeling, a new hope.
“I feel light, excited, like I almost can fly”
Love Your Enemies
Nadia’s baby is only one of many stories of lifesaving here. In fact, in the 15 years of its existence, MTU has helped rescue over 800 children.
And they’ve done it all without slogans or banners, without protests for legislation or picketing clinics.
Yes, there are systems that need to be changed and standards that need to be destroyed, but I’ve been able to witness the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom. The way hate is being overcome by love, blame is being overcome by forgiveness, and battles are being won by the peacemakers.
I came across one example that stunned me. An abortion doctor in Zhytomyr is beginning to question his work. He has even referred some of his patients to MTU counselors – hoping these patients will change their minds.
Why has this happened? Partially because he has seen the love of MTU counselors for these women. But most of all, because they have treated him with respect and love as well.
Showing love to abortion doctors. That’s something I’d never heard of before.
A New Movement
Mission to Ukraine is combating abortion with compassion, not judgment, with help, not hindrance, and most of all with love for every mother no matter who they are or why they’re pregnant.
As a result children, and their mothers, are being saved.
I’d always heard arguments based in rules and law. I thought the only way to save children was to hold back mothers, to restrict or punish.
But here I am seeing action based in love and freedom. Material help, meaningful community, spiritual guidance and place where everyone can find love and forgiveness. And it’s working.
This kind of movement I can support.
This kind of movement reminds me of Christ.
This kind of movement has the power to transform and save.
I’m not afraid to talk about abortion anymore. Because now I don’t see it as an “issue” waiting for the right Law. I see it as a tragedy waiting for the right Love.
And Love is one thing I’m not afraid to talk about.
- MTU’s program is looking to expand beyond Zyhtomyr, one of their biggest needs is a vehicle to do so. Consider donating to help support their program as well as this specific need.
- Even in developed countries, poverty remains the number one reason for abortion. If you feel moved to combat this tragedy in your community consider volunteering for programs or supporting legislation that benefits the poor, the uneducated, and the unemployed.
- For more details on the connection between poverty and abortion, read this fascinating article.
About the Author: Brad Miller is a year-long fellow with WND. A student of Psychology, Biology, and Theatre, he's worked as an actor, teacher, balloon artist and last-minute fill-in guy for any number of projects. He loves camping and tinkering with broken and discarded things. Brad's passion in life is to unleash the potential in others.