A Crib for Her Baby

By Audra Nakas

May 9, 2014

“Hey, whatcha doin’?”

I clutched my rosary a little tighter.

“Um… I’m just praying for everyone inside,” I replied, nodding toward the Planned Parenthood building. I was participating in 40 Days for Life, and every Friday afternoon I prayed in front of the abortion facility. On this particular autumn day, a woman and her friend were standing on the sidewalk outside, talking boisterously. I felt a little intimidated when they approached me and asked what I was up to, because before then I’d never sidewalk-counseled anybody. I will never forget the conversation that followed.

The woman explained that she was considering an abortion because she was worried about being able to provide for another daughter. From what the woman continued to tell me, it was clear that her entire life, she’d been surrounded by poverty and the suffering that often accompanies it in the form of violence, drugs, and a broken family. Now she felt that she had no other choice but to have an abortion—she teared up as she told me, to my alarm, “I just have to give my baby back to God.”

I had previously heard of the connection between abortion and poverty. A pregnancy help center director once related a story about a woman who had an abortion because she didn’t have a crib for her baby. In its February 2014 fact sheet on “Induced Abortion in the United States,” the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization historically associated with Planned Parenthood, indicates that forty-two percent of women who obtain abortions have incomes below the federal poverty level (in 2014, $11,670/year) and an additional twenty-seven percent have incomes up to twice the official poverty level (under $24,000). Seventy-three percent of women cite the inability to afford a child as a reason for their decision.

Yet I had never encountered this desperation face-to-face. This woman believed in God and understood that she was carrying a baby. But even with that knowledge and the desire to have her child, she didn’t think there was any realistic option besides abortion. I realized that day that in the battle to save lives and souls, philosophizing about personhood and the right to life isn’t enough; it doesn’t give a scared mother a crib for her baby.

Of course, the life-saving charity work that pregnancy help centers provide is crucial. We also have a responsibility to help prevent and alleviate the poverty that leads to this kind of situation in the first place. As the wisdom of Catholic social teaching demonstrates, if we want to establish a true culture of life, our work to promote the dignity of human life must include every aspect of social justice, especially concern for the poor.

Although I may never know what the woman ultimately decided, I felt hopeful; with a new cheerfulness, she and her friend thanked me for my prayers and left with the phone number I gave them for a pregnancy help center. I prayed that this woman found the compassion and material support she needed to escape the clutches of poverty and give her unborn child life.

Guest columnist, Audra Nakas, is a rising senior at The Catholic University of America and a former intern for the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development.