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Living the humanity of life and choice


As a man, it is incumbent upon me to speak with humility when discussing abortion. It is women and those in the womb who shoulder the heaviest consequences.

Nevertheless I, too, have a history with abortion. It has left a mark on my life in ways I have never widely shared.

A sleepless night

When I was still a teenager I found myself in a relationship that resulted in a pregnancy. My partner was adamant — she wanted to have her baby. How could I argue? It was her choice, I believed. And on some level I wanted to have the baby as well.

But I was also scared, more scared than I had ever been of anything. I remember lying awake in my bed that night thinking. My heart raced and my sweat was cold. I was a mediocre student whose performance never lived up to his potential. I had never had a job. How could I, with a partner little more prepared than I was, raise a child?

I imagined the disappointment of my parents, my grandparents. Would they think I had thrown my future away? I considered everything I didn’t know about raising children, and the scariness of what I did know: long, sleepless nights, the full and unending dedication to the wellbeing of someone other than myself.

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I didn’t sleep at all.

And yet, as the sun rose, I knew one thing for certain: we would love this child. So would our families. In this love was an opportunity for me to grow. And as the morning light streamed in through my window, I told myself that I was ready even if I wasn’t ready. I would embrace the craft of being a father.

The phone rang.

I answered it quickly. My girlfriend spoke, her voice small and sullen.

“I talked to my mom,” she said. “I’m not going to have the baby. We’re going to get it taken care of.”

“Oh,” I responded. “Do you – do you want me to go with you?”

“No,” she said. “It’s fine.”

She hung up. I breathed a sigh of relief… and uncertainty.

What might have been

In the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I have discovered feelings in myself that I scarcely remembered were there. They have been the cause of profound reflection.

My experience with abortion has not led to the moral certainty others possess on this issue.

In the years since, I believe I have come closer to being the man that that teenage boy dreamed he might be. I have traveled America, found fulfillment in deeply meaningful work, and have raised three children with the woman of my dreams. And though I haven’t seen my then-girlfriend in years, I know that she came to raise a beautiful family as well.

These things may never have been if she had gone with her first mind. The counsel of her mother may have saved us from a life in which we never realized the dreams that would one day come true. In this, our story is a hopeful argument for choice.

Yet it may also have been that the vow I made to myself to stand by my child would have made me a better person… and sooner. My girlfriend and I could have had a family of our own, and maybe we would have brought out the best in each other. That child would have been the center of a universe of love.

Instead, the dashed dreams of what could be were replaced by mournful thoughts of what might have been. In this, our story is a tearful tale in favor of life.

Of one thing I am certain: I cannot hate my fellow Americans who have dedicated their lives to either side of this issue. I am asking you not to as well.

A deep humanity, divided

Healing is still possible.

We can reach beyond our divisions to create a society in which children brought into the world by parents who are not ready will nevertheless be cared for. We can grow into a nation where we love with compassion those among us who make choices that we disagree with, but who may still bear wounds from which they must heal.

Let us become a country where we do not stigmatize each other for our deeply held convictions. Let us be a nation in which we reason together, seeking to persuade from a place of kindness and goodwill.

There is deep humanity on each side of this divide.

Raise your voice for what you believe is true. But remember that this is true as well.

It is this remembrance that we stand for at Braver Angels. It is this conviction that we carry with us into this Independence Day and every patriotic holiday thereafter.

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4 thoughts on “Living the humanity of life and choice”

  1. What a thoughtful piece. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think this is a complicated issue that goes far beyond the typical talking points and you have addressed them beautifully. All the best.

  2. I read these. I seek out differing points of view on issues with intention to listen to, to read, to open up to about new-to-me information as well as to the insight of others’ experiences. Yet I very privately weep and usually wretch at the pain and suffering from the shallowness of p.o.vs of experiences many which I too experienced although have very different beliefs about as a result. I must be closed in some way. I don’t fear, that has not been my practice for as long as I remember even as a young child.
    I am aware that I hurt deeply for nature, for life on this planet for people even those I disagree with, for the suffering. It doesn’t feel righteous or exceptional. I have no need to convince others not like-minded as far as I understand my heart or my thinking. I simply feel sad about an experiment gone wrong called ‘life’.

  3. Barbara Watts

    I want to thank John Wood, Jr. for being brave enough to reveal his personal story about an abortion. As a woman I have rarely heard the man’s perspective so that in itself was helpful. But in addition he articulated so well the dilemma that all (man or woman) face. It is important for the activists on either view (pro-life or pro-abortion) to understand there is a terrible middle ground faced by the majority of those who must decide whether or not to have an abortion. I believe it is important for them to understand this and allow the moderates to have their views heard. I do not think that is happening and it is creating a divide that is preventing politicians from creating good policy. Again my heartfelt thanks to John Wood Jr.

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