What makes some women consider abortion and others not consider it at all? How do you respond when a young woman says she would rather abort her baby than consider adoption?
Harmony Ierley, photo available at www.hh76.com/photocd
Honestly, that has always been my biggest challenge. Either on the hotline or in person, these questions get me every time. Volunteers at our recent in-service pondered these same questions. Answers like finances, goals, family and/or boyfriend pressures, lack of a support system, and convenience were some of the reasons given for why women consider abortion. What it boils down to is this: Abortion-minded women are self-centered, while adoption-minded women are child-centered.
So how can our clients view the same situation so differently? What makes one person so selfish and another so giving? Is it genes?
The simple answer is that it has a lot to do with the state of our hearts. Each of us is shaped by the events in our own lives. Good, bad, ugly, or other, these past events color the way we see present and future events. This perspective, or lens, would be like going into a fun house and looking in one of the warped mirrors, or like trying on somebody else's eyeglasses that are not the correct prescription. In a sense, we all have our own pair of funny eyeglasses. The culmination of our personal experiences colors the way we view the world. This is the first part of what shapes our individual reality.
The second part of our reality is our underlying value system. Our values are at the core of who we are. They shape our attitude and ultimately our actions. When we are young, we adopt our family's value system. As we get older, we begin to decide what is important to us. Our actions bear witness to what we hold deep in our hearts. While we may not always live what we profess, we always live out what we believe. A young woman who values purity is going to have a very different relationship with men than a woman who values popularity. These priorities are going to shape the way the two women talk to men, the way they behave around men, and the way they wear their clothes.
So our reality is made up of our own life experiences together with our values. Out of this combination comes our behavior. Our behavior usually consists of outward actions that others can see, but remember that behavior starts on the inside with our filters and values.
What does all of this have to do with counseling a pregnant young woman? When we counsel a client, we want her to choose life for her unborn child. We want her to stop smoking. We want her to make a pledge for purity. We want her to consider adoption. We want her to change her behavior. But as we have already learned, behavior starts way down deep inside that young woman. So instead of merely trying to change her behavior, we need to start educating our client about her values.
We cannot change the abuse or heartache our clients may have experienced in life, but we can help them see it all in a new light. When we share Jesus, our clients have the opportunity of having their whole life changed. We know as Christians that the Word of God is a powerful sword that both cuts us to the quick and heals us at the same time. Why don't we want this for our clients?
I realize that every center is not evangelistic in nature. But if we truly want to see change in the lives of our clients, teaching them about Jesus is the only way to go. The Bible is the ultimate authority on good choices and right living. Someday each of us will stand before God's throne and account for our actions. While our clients may not yet be Christians, they too will have to stand and account for the precious life God gave them. What will their answer be? Until they become Christians, I believe God has charged us with the responsibility of looking out for that little life. One way we can do that is by teaching the mother a new set of values.
Many well-meaning counselors are quick to reassure clients with the truthful information that there are dozens of healthy, financially stable adoptive parents who are ready and willing to adopt their child. That is great information, except it is not our client's job to complete those families. Instead, try focusing on the client's needs and wishes. Listen to her. Find out what her long-term goals are, what her hopes and dreams are. Then when you have the opportunity, encourage her with your knowledge. Have a conversation with her around adoption. Don't lecture her or preach to her. Tell her the truth—that adoption is a parenting decision. By focusing on her, you are giving her what no one else can: control.
INSTEAD OF MERELY
TRYING TO CHANGE
WE NEED TO START
While the goal of the pregnancy resource center is not to pressure a young woman into adoption, it is definitely one of the options. So take a moment and explore your own attitudes about adoption. What comes to your mind when you hear that someone was adopted or made an adoption plan for their child? What do you truly think of adoption as a choice to an unintended pregnancy? The answers to these questions are based on your own individual experiences combined with your values, just like our clients. Whatever you think, whatever you feel, you are not wrong. These questions have no right or wrong answers. The important thing is that you recognize your own feelings and attitudes and how that relates to the work you do.
After you recognize your own biases, educate yourself on the truths of adoption. The staff members at your center are an excellent place to start. Talk with them about what you believe to be true and what is actually true about adoption. Let them help you if you have some biases that need to be overcome. We all agree that adoption is a viable option to an unexpected pregnancy, but how we communicate that depends on what our personal views are. That's why it is so important to know where we stand and educate ourselves.
Finally, be willing to learn and grow in your knowledge of adoption. Ask questions of your staff and other volunteers. If you don't know the answer to a client's question, tell her; then find out where you can get that information. Get your client's feedback on your adoption discussion. Ask her if the conversation was helpful. Find out what you could change to make it a more useful tool in the future. If we are all willing to learn and grow and share our knowledge, we can make a difference in spreading the truth about adoption.
Terri Gake has been actively involved at Advice & Aid Pregnancy Center in Shawnee, Kansas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.