Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here (Jeremiah 31:8).
In considering this magnificent passage, where the Lord speaks of the return of his people from exile, I want to make one simple observation–that the pregnant and those in labor were to return to the land along with the blind and the lame.
The association is interesting. Why does the Lord speak of the pregnant woman alongside the blind and the lame? What do they all have in common? There is a picture pushed in pro-abortion circles of independent and empowered women making informed choices concerning abortion, certainly without need of help, particularly from men. (Never mind that these empowered women include the 13-year-old they insist should be able to procure an abortion without the knowledge of her parents.)
The notion of the empowered woman is central to their position-that there is no one who can better understand a woman’s needs than she and to suggest otherwise is to demean her. This notion, of course, overlooks one important matter. Pregnant women are vulnerable.
I remember the jumble of emotional highs and lows that characterized my wife during the early stages of her pregnancies. And the pervasive feeling of sickness and tiredness that, in her case, didn’t lift until the end of the fourth month. I don’t assume that all women are just like my wife, but I do know that such is common. If there was ever a time when my wife wasn’t empowered to make wise decisions independently (sometimes planning a meal was a trial), it was in those months, a time when she leaned on me in a peculiar way.
God designed pregnancy for marriage and pregnant mothers for husbands. Women in pregnancy are vulnerable. This is not a comment on their competency or ability or anything like that. It is part of the character of pregnancy for many, if not most, women. And why should it not be that way? In a short nine months a mother will carry, nurture, and sustain, and finally bring forth a human baby in all his wonderful complexity. To call it hard work is to sound trite–the baby draws on all his mother’s resources as he grows.
A mother is vulnerable, precisely because she gives of her strength. And for those with an unexpected or unwanted child, often without the support of the father or anyone else, the vulnerability is even greater, for she goes it alone in a way she was never meant to. Where is the power? Where are the choices? Fredrica Mathews-Green’s graphic picture says it starkly: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
The blind, the lame, and…the pregnant woman. In other words, the vulnerable.
In recognizing the vulnerability of a pregnant mother, we do well to recognize two things. First, we live in a world that gladly, even sometimes aggressively, takes advantage of that vulnerability. It is a great temptation to hear that “the problem” can be easily fixed, that abortion is morally respectable decision that strong women make because they-and they only-have the ability to make the best decisions concerning themselves.
What vulnerable women need are real choices–not easy outs that are never finally easy–that help her make her life work as it is, rather than as she may wish it was.
Secondly, acknowledging that pregnant mothers are vulnerable does not demean women. The vulnerability is no shame. God does his most magnificent work within the womb of a pregnant woman. No wonder she is in need. She gives her strength. Her vulnerability simply testifies to the magnificent work that she, and only she, can do.
This post was first published as part of our Life Lectionary series, featuring passages and teachings that affirm and celebrate life.