Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1529: It’s easy to take strong positions when others bear the burden

  I answered the phone with a big, “Hey!”  

  “How are you?” he said.

  “I just called to see how you are doing.” I could tell by the rhythm of his voice that it was much more than concern for me.  I inquired about his well-being. I thought that I was prepared for anything.

  Let me say up front that I will not mention the young man’s name. He lives hundreds of miles from Alabama. I really want to protect his identity. However, I need to share this discussion because it touches on so many issues.

  After we talked for a while, he said; “Can I ask for your advice?”

  “Sure,” I said. “Ask me anything you want.”

  He spoke quickly. “This girl is pregnant. She wants to get an abortion. I don’t want her to get an abortion, but she really wants to do it.” I was not expecting this so I tried to respond as best I could.

  I said, “Are you going to get married?”

  “No,” he said. “I just don’t want the baby’s death on my hands.”  

  “Are you paying for the abortion?” I asked.

  “No,” he said.

  “Has she asked you to pay for it?”  

  “No, it’s just wrong!” he said.

  I thought for a moment as I gathered myself. “How many weeks is she?” I asked.

  “Eight,” he said.

  I responded.  “All life is precious, but the abortion would be legal since it’s in the first trimester. Shouldn’t this be her decision?”

  He said, “I just don’t want her to do it. It is just wrong to kill my baby.” He was very insistent, his voice rising. In my mind, I backed away. I thought some more. I did not want to argue about whether or not an eight-week fetus is a baby.

  I decided to use another approach. “Can you take care of the woman?” I asked.

  He said, “No.” There was a short silence. Then he said, “I know where you are going with this.” I went silent, waiting for him to continue, but he didn’t.

  Then I asked, “Are you able to take care of the baby?” He was silent for a long moment. His “no” was barely audible. “I shouldn’t have called you for advice,” he said. “I should have known you would ask me all these questions.”

  I said, “I am just trying to get to the bottom of the situation, but if you don’t want to talk about it, I will not force you.”  He went silent again.

  I said, “You are wishing that you had not called me at all, aren’t you?”

  He said, “Yes. I wish I had not called. But since I called, I may as well tell you the whole thing.”

  “Go ahead,” I said.

  He hesitated.

  “You don’t have to,” I said. Silence prevailed for a long moment.

  “There is another girl,” he said and stopped.

  “Is she pregnant, too?” I asked.

  “Yes,” he said reluctantly.

  “Does she want to have an abortion?” I asked.

  “Yes,” was his reply.

  “How many months is she?” I queried.

  “A little less than eight weeks,” was the response. “I just don’t know what to do. They are so wrong!”

  “Can you take care of her?” I asked. “Can you take care of the baby?”

  “No,” he said, “I can barely take care of myself. I knew that I should not have called you!”

  I said, “Since you know how strongly you feel about abortion and you are not able to take care of the children or the children’s mothers, why didn’t you protect the women and yourself?”

  “I don’t know,” he said. “I just don’t know.  But these girls are wrong!” He spoke of girls. I spoke of women. In the back of my mind I began thinking that he was trying to manipulate me into to paying for the abortions. However, he did not ask me to help.  I would not have anyway.

  I was trying not to be too judgmental. But I felt strongly that I had to see that lessons were learned.

  “You feel so strongly that it is wrong to have an abortion. Yet, you don’t feel it’s wrong to help bring children into this world that you cannot take care of. Both these women are going to bear the burden of carrying a child for nine long months. Each will bear the burden of taking care of the child for many years. On the other hand, if they get abortions, they will bear that psychological burden as well. Yet, you want to make the decision. Isn’t that wrong? You could have prevented all these wrongs with a little care!”  He did not respond.

  I thought, “This could be any young male, Black or White.” I also thought about how so many express such strong feelings against abortion but do not feel strongly about helping to take care of children brought into the world. I also said to myself, “It is so easy for us to take strong positions when others bear the burden of our positions.”

EPILOGUE – Everyone has an opinion. Some express their opinions more often than others. Some voice their opinions in stronger ways than others. I try not to express my opinions too often or too strongly unless I am asked. (Sketches is an exception). I try to leave room to hear others no matter their status in life.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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