I should start by apologizing to teen readers if this post seems aimed more at your parents. Actually, if you have friends, if you have siblings, if you aspire to mother or fatherhood one day, then even if I am addressing parents, this is something you can help with too.
Easter is strongly associated with eggs and new life, largely because spring coincides, in the northern hemisphere, with this Christian season of resurrection. At Easter time, even secular people celebrate the idea of new life, and Christians are supposed to welcome new life year-round.
So why do so many Christian teenagers get abortions?
Because, actually, they do. Every year, huge numbers of Christian teenagers secretly get abortions or encourage a girlfriend to get one. And not just those who, though well-catechized and from religious homes, are not very personally committed–teens who are deeply committed to their faith get them too. And even worse than when secular teens go for an abortion, these teens know that what they are doing is terrible, even if they have temporarily buried that knowledge.
But they do it anyway. Why?
Shame or fear. Or both.
There’s an all-too-common belief that if a child is exposed to as little as possible about sex—and, heaven forbid, nothing at all about crisis pregnancy—that this will enable them to remain pure.
The truth is, even the best-intentioned teen (or adult!) can end up in a situation where a bad judgment leads to a bad mistake which leads to a bad fall. If a teen has only heard their parents tell them that they should remain chaste until marriage, they will almost certainly be too ashamed—or even too afraid of parental punishment—to admit what has happened. If, three months later, they realize there’s a baby, the fear of their parents’ disappointment, the fear of perhaps even being cast out of the house, may drive them to have an abortion or to encourage a girlfriend toward one.
After all, they are surrounded by voices, from the media, from friends, maybe even from well-meaning family members, saying that the baby is just cells and the abortion will put everything back the way it was. No need for the parents to ever know. So the baby is killed, and the parents never know. Never know why their happy teenager is no more. Never know why the problems begin.
So how can parents save their grandchildren ahead of time and protect their children from this seductive-destructive path? By accepting that encouraging purity, vital though it is, isn’t enough. Teens need to know that if they go to their parents and say, “Mom, Dad, I’ve made a terrible mistake, something happened last night,” their parents will be there for them with sympathy and support, not anger and punishment. Teens need to know that a baby would be welcomed in the family. And, no, that’s not easy to get across while encouraging purity at the same time.
That’s why formation specifically about crisis pregnancy is so important. Teens need to know that their parents value that grandchild so much, no matter the circumstances of its conception, that they would never dream of killing it just to avoid some—albeit very painful—disappointment. It’s a tricky balance.
As usual, entertainment can play a key role in such formation. Books and movies about crisis pregnancies and life issues can form teens and provide excellent opportunities for discussions—or mere remarks—that make it clear to a teen that an unexpected baby is a far better choice than a secret abortion.
At the end of the day, accidents happen (and, alas, sometimes worse things than accidents). Teaching teens that their family is open to life—that they’re prepared to live what they teach—is every bit as important as formation about purity.
Remember: an abortion will do far more harm to a teen’s life—and soul—than a baby ever will.
Check out this blog post for some Catholic Teen Books titles relating to this issue.