Monday, March 3, 2008

Making the Right Choice

It was a normal high school lunch break in sunny Southern California. In the flag pole area by the administration building, the popular guys and girls were hanging out with each other. Over by the arts building was the more withdrawn group of students, usually dressed in black T-shirts of various rock or heavy metal bands. And towards the history building was the hang out for Asian American students. I had just come out of a school club meeting, and on my way to the restroom. I was a senior, my last year of high school.

As I made my way between the crowds of people, I bumped into Jenny, a Vietnamese friend in the 11th grade. She was crying.

“Hey, what’s up? Why are you crying?” I asked.

She hugged me tightly, then said, “I need someone to talk to?”

“Yeah, what’s the matter? You can talk to me. Do you want to go somewhere?” I tried my best to sound sympathetic and supportive.

“Can we go in the back of the science building?”

“Ok, let’s go,” I said forgetting that I needed to go to the bathroom.

As Jenny and I found a quiet place away from the crowd and sat down on the grass, I asked again, “Tell me what’s going on with you. It must be something serious because I’ve never seen you like this.”

“Tony, it’s serious. Promise me that you wouldn’t tell anybody,” Jenny said in between sobs.

“Of course, just tell me, maybe I can help,” I reassured her.

“Tony, I think…I think I’m pregnant,” Jenny told me at last.

“What? Are you positive? How do you know?” I was no longer so sure about what I could do to help.

“I’m not definite. I’m a few days late with my period.”

“But that doesn’t mean you’re pregnant, does it?” I wasn’t so much of an expert myself in terms of female biological issues. And in fact, Jenny didn’t know all that much either.

“I don’t really know, but I’m just so scared right now. I don’t know what to do.”

“When did this happen?”

“Just last week. My parents were away. David came over after school, and he convinced me into doing it. It was our first time,” Jenny told me how it came about.

Lunch break was now over, but Jenny was in no mood to go to fifth period. So, we both asked our teachers to let us go home early because of an emergency. Jenny and I found our way to a health center in the city. It was the only place we knew where pregnancy testing took place, even though we also knew that it was a place where abortion procedures were done. A staff member talked to us, but told us that it was still a little too early to check whether Jenny was pregnant or not, and to wait for a few more days.

The following days were very stressful for us, especially for Jenny who would have a heavy price to pay if she were really pregnant. We could not concentrate on our studies. All we could do was get on the phone to talk to each other about what to do if what we feared came true. We were both Catholic, and we knew that abortion was forbidden by the church. But if Jenny were to have the baby, what would happen to her future? As teenagers, the way to solve this issue seemed like something that neither of us had the ability to think of for ourselves. But we were also afraid to ask our parents because we didn’t think they would understand us. We were desperate.
Fortunately for Jenny, all the worries and anxieties were finally put to rest, when a few days later, she happily came to tell me that she was not pregnant after all. She finally had her period.

I was relieved that the decision of whether to abort or not abort a baby never had to be made by Jenny. However, as a teenager, I am not sure how I would have advised my friend at that time.
Now, as an adult, and as a priest, when thinking back on this event, I often wonder what I would have said then if our fears came true. Would I have given Jenny the right advice such as finding adults to help us sort out the issue? To think about the innocent baby that had no role in the fact that it was conceived? To try her best to handle the consequences of her action? Or to think about how she would feel if she did really kill a life?

I am not sure that I could have helped my friend to do these things because as a teenager, I was probably not mature enough to think of the right things to do. Perhaps the lack of maturity and wisdom that Jenny and I had could have led to the action that is being done by millions and millions of young people all over the world every year, and that’s resorting to abortion to solve the problem of unwanted pregnancy. From poor countries to rich countries, from big cities to small towns, teenagers are finding their ways to hospitals and clinics to have abortions done in order to put an end to their troubles. At least that’s what they think.

Troubles don’t end with abortions. Putting aside the fact that you’re killing a life; putting aside the fact that many of the abortion procedures are dangerous to your health; and putting aside the fact that you’re running away from your responsibility by getting rid of something sacred, the act of abortion will haunt you because you know in your heart and soul that you’re doing something really really immoral.

Recently, a young man came to me for confession. He said that he and his girlfriend had aborted their baby two years ago because at that time, they were not married and not ready to have a baby.

“Is this the first time you confess about this?” I asked.

“No father, I’ve already confessed this sin several times before,” he replied.

“When you confessed during those times, what did the priest tell you?”

“Father told me that I can be forgiven if I am truly sorry for what I have done. But for some reason, I still don’t feel like I am forgiven. My girlfriend and I always think about what we did, and it’s always on our mind. Even though it’s been two years, we still cannot forget about it. That’s why I wanted to confess again.”

The experience of this young man and his girlfriend is a very common experience with people who have aborted their babies. God made all of us to be good people. And because we are good people, if we do something terribly wrong, our conscience tells us right away. That is why there are so many people who struggle constantly in their heart because of the mistake they did in having an abortion. Having a baby unplanned can be very difficult and the price is definitely high, but perhaps nothing is as high as the feeling of guilt and pain that we carry within ourselves for having violated God’s law forbidding us to take away a helpless, innocent human life, especially when that human life is a part of our own flesh and blood.

It is true that God can forgive anything, even the gravest sin. God can forgive when we are truly sorry for what we have done, and we promise and do our best to repent for the sin that we have committed. But sometimes, it is easier for God to forgive us than for us to forgive ourselves. That’s why many people who have committed abortion face such grave emotional and spiritual troubles in their lives.

Dear friends, life is a series of decisions that we have to make everyday and every minute. We started to make decisions since we were just a few years old. Some decisions are a piece of cake; we can make them in a split second without giving a second thought. But not all decisions are this easy. Some have great implications for our life. As we live in this modern age, the issue of unplanned pregnancy is no longer something unfamiliar to us. Either we ourselves have encountered it, or someone we know like a friend or family member has had to face this experience.

Whatever we do, I believe that we cannot go wrong when we make the decision for life instead of against life; make the decision for accepting the responsibility instead of running away from responsibility; and most importantly, make the decision for abstinence so that we don’t have to make the choice of abortion in the first place!

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