The other day I took a quick trip in to Edmonton to stop at my favourite produce store (H&W Produce), and the ever essential Costco. It was a quick trip in, just the baby and I, and it was a surprisingly enjoyable morning. I stocked up on our essentials, found a few bargains, enjoyed my littlest’s company (and he was being an absolute doll), and even treated myself to a Unicorn Frappuccino. The Frap? Oh ya, I went there. All 5 million calories and 800g of sugar in a grande cup; a massive mess of sparkling, artificially coloured, sour-sweetness. Mmmm.
On the drive home, while enjoying my rare indulgence, I saw a billboard that always unsettles me a little, and sends my mind down inevitable rabbit trails.
However, unlike the Frappuccino rabbit trail, the thoughts inspired by seeing this particular type of billboard are actually worth dwelling on a little. The image I saw was similar to the one below.
Now, when I say this type of billboard advertising upsets me, many of you may mistakenly think I am pro-choice. I absolutely am not. I am pro-life, 100%. However, the woman who makes the heart-breaking, and likely very painful and difficult decision to have an abortion is a human being. Now, maybe I should not have to express that point, but it seems that some well-meaning pro-lifers forget that simple fact. Whether we agree with abortion or not, the fact is the woman who undergoes that procedure, REGARDLESS OF HER REASON, is a person who deserves our compassion. She deserves to be loved and accepted. She is likely in a great deal of emotional pain, and hurtful, condemning images like the one above only drive the proverbial knife deeper into her wounds. Any feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and isolation would only be intensified by the gigantic images before her. I am completely in favour of helping a women in a crisis-pregnancy situation avoid abortion, but I truly doubt these images are preventing any abortion clinic visits. Avid pro-lifer’s may argue that if these billboards stop even one abortion, if they cause even one woman to change her mind, it is worth it. While I admit stopping abortion is an admirable goal, I wonder if the ends justify the means in this case. A life saved is undoubtedly invaluable, but so are the women who are suffering after making that difficult decision. While I hate to belabour a point, the above image does not upset me nearly as much as some of the anti-abortion billboards do, because it does not feel as judgemental as some of the billboards do. The “Mommy let me live!” one for instance really bothers me.
The image I shared almost always sends my thoughts down another path; the path that agrees with the heart of the message. While I feel billboards such as these may do more harm than good in the battle to preserve life (in that the women who have had an abortion may be further wounded emotionally by viewing them), I always end up thinking about our society’s attitude towards animals.
Now, before I hop on my soapbox and offend all my animal-loving friends let me preface the upcoming paragraphs with this: I love animals! I own 2 cats, 2 dogs, and have owned a number of animals throughout my adult life. One of my oldest friends used to lovingly tease me that I owned a zoo! So, when you read what I am about to say, please understand that I am not a person who thinks animals are only here to serve a purpose to humans. Animals can have such distinct and lovely personalities, and all my pets have felt like a part of the family. Well, maybe not the spiny mice, those were more my husband’s pets… Anyway, back to my point! I love animals, I do; but THEY ARE NOT EQUAL TO HUMANS. As much as I love my pets, and will shed many tears when they die, the people I carry in my heart occupy a far bigger space in my heart than my animals do.
So, here we go. As I stated above, in my mind the life of an animal is not equal to the life of a human. Some of you are reading that and thinking, “duh, we don’t eat humans”, while others of you are probably sharpening your pitchforks. The point I would like to make is simply this: as a society it feels like we are so far off-track that we can hardly see the truth anymore. I open my Facebook and I am inundated with images of rescued animals, sad stories of horribly neglected and abused animals being rescued and redeemed back to health. The animal-lover in me rejoices at these lives saved, at the beautiful restoration of God’s creatures. However, a part of me also recoils.
Individuals in our society will donate thousands of dollars to rescue a single animals that has been cruelly mistreated, but it is still completely acceptable to use abortion to end an unwanted pregnancy? Some of these rescued animals are so far gone euthanasia would seem the logical choice. However, kind and compassionate individuals donate time, money, and other resources to save these animals. Contrast this with the response given when a pair of teens or young adults engage in unprotected sex and create life. Many feel that the woman has the right to end a perfectly beautiful, viable life, because it is her body that life is residing in. I fully recognize the struggles of pregnancy, I have been there three times myself, but truly if everything goes well a beautiful baby will emerge in 9 months without much intervention. Currently, if a family is hoping to adopt they can expect to wait about three years. This is up from an average of 18 months in 2008. While some of this change comes from young parents choosing to raise unexpected babies, part of the increased wait time is due to increased abortions. If you think I am just assuming or proposing plausible theories, check out this article from the Edmonton Journal http://edmontonjournal.com/news/insight/alberta-adoption-numbers-plunge .
Understand I am not judging those who choose to abort, I have no right to judge. I have not walked a single step in the shoes of a woman feeling she has no other option, or that she may even be in danger if she proceeds with her pregnancy. I have not been given the tragic news that my baby most likely has a medical condition that will make normal life impossible. I have not had to lay awake in bed at night wondering what is best, and make a decision I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I cannot pretend to know what these women go through. My heart breaks when I contemplate the turmoil these women must be in at that time.
I can however wonder why we as a society are so willing to help an animal be brought back from the brink of death but are unwilling to walk with these women in these dark times and offer support. Is it so wrong to provide funding, time, and assistance to women contemplating abortion so that perhaps more would feel continuing their pregnancy is possible? We will work to save a dog but not a baby? We will invest in an animal but not a woman who feels alone and out of options? I am sorry, but I do not understand. On one hand we have couples struggling with infertility, on the other hand we have babies being terminated. Similarly, on one hand we try to not euthanize unwanted perfectly healthy animals, but aborting healthy fetuses is acceptable. Pardon me if I am a little confused. Does life only matter when it is convenient, or are we simply going to argue unnecessarily over when life begins as a way to justify our societal disregard for fetal life? How can people who feel joy and anticipation when they see a positive pregnancy test, who know and celebrate that life has been created; argue that a fetus another woman chooses to abort is not a life if it is not yet viable outside the womb? I simply do not understand. Are morals and the value of life are variable depending on what is convenient and palatable?
Maybe being an adoptive mama biases me towards adoption, but then again, what is wrong with that? Sorry folks, this post is about to get a little long, and perhaps tick a few people off.
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, there are over 30,000 adoptable children in Canada today, and about 60,000 (or more) in out-of-home care. In the town of Barrhead my in-laws are one of the only, or perhaps the only, certified foster parents. There may be families providing respite or kinship care, but there are very few registered foster-homes. I see kind and compassionate individuals providing foster care and volunteer hours to care for unwanted pets and I wonder why we do not see more compassion for children in care. Before any of you can say it, yes I know kids in care cannot have their images shared on social media. However, I have seen the attitudes in regards to foster-children and adoption first-hand. I have heard well-meaning comments that suggest there is something saint-like about adopting or fostering, as if it is something very few people could endure. While recognizing the struggles that can accompany fostering or adopting is beneficial, acting as though it is something that requires nearly super-human capabilities is not.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not trying to suggest fostering or adopting is for everyone. I completely realize that not everyone is graced for, or called to, caring for a child not born to them. However, when I see the compassion, dedication, and love poured out on adoptable animals I feel so torn. I absolutely love the heart of these individuals and families; I love their willingness to sacrifice time and money. I see the heart-break they often experience in opening their homes to abandoned animals. I see it all and it warms my heart, but it also breaks my heart a little.
There is a stigma attached to fostering or adopting children in care that I despise. Children who have been neglected or abused, or both, are carrying scars on their hearts. These children have been brought low, and as a result they often have difficult to manage behaviours, particularly when they first enter care. These children need compassion. They need time, patience, and love. They need families and individuals willing to set aside their own comfort and agendas to nurture them back to wholeness. This is at times a heart-breaking and thankless job. However, I want to repeat, those of us who have journeyed down this road are not saints. We have simply turned a compassionate eye towards a child or children who have been hurt, to no fault of their own. We recognize that some of their struggles may nearly break us. We know they may be forever changed by the horrors they have endured. We choose to look past the dirt on the surface to try and find the gold within. We know that we will be forever changed by these little people, and we pray they will be changed by use as well.
Those of you who foster animals, you have the same compassionate heart as those who foster children. Your caring and sacrifice is so precious. I do not despise the work you do, we do have a responsibility to care for all of creation. I do not begrudge your choice to help animals, but I do pray there will be an increase in our society’s willingness to help children. I will even take this one step further than hoping and praying; if anyone reading this has ever considered fostering or adopting, consider this a call-out. If you have fostering or adopting in the back of your heart or mind, what is stopping you? I know I have a call on my life to stand for those with no voice, those who have been forgotten and feel unwanted. I will say it again, just to be clear, I know that is not the call on everyone’s life. But it bears asking:
Is it the call on your life?
As a society we pour resources out to rescue and rehabilitate animals; to perform expensive surgeries with donated dollars, and I cannot help but wonder, where is the investment in these children? With one side of our societal “mouth” we donate money to animals, and with the other side we complain about governmental support for families and the foster system. Where is our compassion and understanding for the broken families? We all moan and lament when we see a toddler’s life ended tragically soon. We are so grieved by the horror we see on the news at times, we all ask “how,” but what are we willing to do about it? We, as a society, plaster cute puppies and kitties all over Facebook and Instagram, hoping to help these animals find a furever home. Well, here I am on my soapbox, imploring you to remember 30,000 children desperate for the security of a forever home. So, here is the point I am wanting to drive home; our society is full of compassion, but too much of it is being misdirected. Animals matter, absolutely, but not nearly as much as these children matter. The lives of animals already on earth are not as important as the potential human lives being ended.
For anyone waiting on adopting a baby who may not have considered an older child, or for anyone who already wonders if there is a call on their life to foster or adopt an older child I’m just going to leave this here… http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/adoption.html http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/foster-kinship-care/14908.html
If the call is on your heart, will you answer?