The Daily Mail ran an article on Tuesday by Frances Hardy about one night stands and abortion. The article contained an interview with a young “middle class” girl who found she was pregnant after a one night stand with a “nice, middle class boy.” She says:
‘I did a test in the loo at work, and when I realised I was pregnant I was so horrified I felt sick. The next day, I went to a family planning clinic. They confirmed I was 14 weeks gone — I think I’d been in denial for a long time that it could be happening — and I told them straight away I wanted an abortion.
‘I had no money, I was about to start university and my parents — Mum is a teacher and Dad runs his own IT business from our home in Devon — are traditional and would have been deeply shocked and disgusted by my behaviour.
‘For two days after the termination I lay in bed, shocked and exhausted — it was horrendous. I told Mum I had a very heavy period.
‘Then I went back to my job and, three months later, started university. I coped by blanking it out. And, although I still believe I did the right thing, I’m paranoid about getting pregnant again and haven’t had a successful relationship since the abortion.’ Ashleigh’s experience is not remotely uncommon.
The article is riddled with more stories of this sort of guilt and shame. Why do we keep hearing the old mantra “it’s the woman’s choice” when talking about abortion as if the woman who is pregnant is making a simple choice between the life of her unborn child and making a better life for herself? There is no real choice for the woman. In this case the choice presented was between a change in direction in life, either to pursue a university degree and a future career or be a full time mother. But the lack of real choice is in this: The first choice results in guilt, shame and ruined relationships the second choice results in guilt, shame and ruined relationships. The former is secret guilt and shame and the latter a very public guilt and shame. The former ruins potential relationships, not least with the not yet born child but also with future boyfriends or husbands. The latter ruins real relationships, not least with “traditional” parents. Abortion is the choice to keep sin secret. What kind of choice is that?
I’m glad that this sort of story gets into the press, but Frances Hardy does not provide a solution, all she offers is for girls to think about the consequences of unplanned pregnancy. Consequentialist ethics are preventative for some but telling someone that sex is bad for them after the event is like telling a child who has been burned in a fire not to play with matches. It doesn’t heal the wound.
A vast reduction in sexual promiscuity would reduce the number of “choices” and Hardy clearly aims for this in her article, and we should teach our kids to abstain, but sex before marriage is inevitable for some. People sin. The solution is the gospel. Jesus tells us that not having sex outside marriage is good, it’s God’s law. But he also says “Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is near (Mark 1:15). Repent: admit what happened was wrong and tell God about it and believe: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the worst. Promiscuity, sex outside marriage, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, lies, deceit, guilt and shame are not beyond the reach of the love, mercy, forgiveness and justice of God which we find only at the cross. There Jesus frees us to make a fresh start, even from our greatest of sins.