Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
I knew a young woman in college. When I saw her around campus she was always smiling and funny. She tended to stay on the outskirts of crowds but when approached she was fun. When I’d see her at parties she was often drunk. Not just tipsy. Drunk.
We weren’t tight but knew each other well enough that if we saw each other at a party we’d typically meet at the keg at some point, make some sarcastic comments, and move on. But that pretty much sums up most of my interactions throughout my youth. I dropped my punch line and moved on. The moment I speak I’m looking to exit the stage. I moved on.
One night I was making my way out of a party in some dorm and I saw her sitting on the curb. It was actually something of a miracle I saw her at all because she was a little thing huddled between two cars and out of the lamplights. I figured she was getting sick from drinking too much. I figured I’d make a funny comment and move on. I approached her and I was ready with some snarky comment but then I noticed she was crying.
She looked up and tried to make a joke but I interrupted her by asking, “hey, what’s wrong?”
She sat silent for a minute staring down. Finally, without looking away from the ground she told me she was pregnant.
Oh, I said. I honestly had no idea what to say so we sat there in silence for a few minutes. Finally, I sat down.
I finally asked who the Dad was and she said that she wasn’t going to tell me and that she wasn’t going to tell him either because she hardly knew him anyway. Then she added matter of factly, “I think I’m going to get an abortion.” Then she added, “I have to.”
I knew this moment was huge. This was my chance. You see, I was pro-life. I had been pro-life even when I was an atheist. I had looked at the logic of it and was convinced that the embryo could be none other than a human being. Since then, I’d returned to the Catholic faith but my pro-life-ness (?) still rested on logical grounds. Truth be told, I used to love getting into arguments about abortion because I thought I’d always win. I thought to myself that it was a miracle I'd seen her at all and between the abortion clinic and her stood...ME!!!
So what I did was clever, I thought. I asked her if she believed in abortion in the ninth month of pregnancy, you know, right up to the moment of birth. She said no. Then I walked her down the logical path, asking if she believed in abortion at eight months. She again said no. How about seven and a half months, how about seven, six…
You know how it goes. I told her that science proved that life begins at conception and that there’s no magical moment in the second, third, fourth, fifth or ninth month that suddenly transforms a blob of tissue into a human being. My logical prowess was in full effect. And in the end I believed I’d proved that there was a baby. Mission accomplished. Drop mic.
So after I was done proving that abortion destroys a tiny human being I sat there for a while more with her in silence. Eventually she said she was going to go back to her dorm. So I got up and walked away. She said, “See you later.” I went back to my room proud.
I moved on.
A week later I heard from a mutual friend that she’d aborted her child. I wondered to myself how she could do such a thing in the face of all my brilliant logic? That’s honestly what I thought.
I’d see her around campus after that but she wasn’t the same. She never came to parties. And I rarely saw her smile. I tried talking to her once when I saw her in the library, not about anything in particular, just small talk but she politely responded and moved on.
I’m thinking about that girl today because I heard Dr. Helen Alvare speak today at the Vita Institute at the Center for Culture and Ethics at the University of Notre Dame. And, if you know anything about Helen Alvare of George Mason University School of Law you know it was an amazing speech. But she said something about pro-lifers which brought me back to that night.
“If you’re not first and foremost a person who loves other people, people aren’t going to be interested in what you’re saying,” she said. “By correcting lies with logic and words you can’t win.”
It hit me. There was a girl sitting on a curb who needed love and I gave her logic. She needed hope or a hug and I gave her a dissertation. She needed support. She needed a miracle and I…moved on. And what makes it worse was I was proud of myself when I walked away.
I’m thinking about her now as I’m sitting about thirty yards from the Grotto on the university’s campus. I’m thinking that science and logic can do its part in the debate about life but faith and love are the absolutely crucial components to convince people that life is sacred. Women must know that we, as Christians, will not move on.
Science can prove that inside the womb is a human life but only faith can lead them to understand that every life is a miracle. I believe women must be told that God not only loves the wonderful creation inside their womb but that God loves them. And we can’t just tell them God loves them. We must show them God’s love. There’s a difference.
I don’t know if there’s anything I could’ve done that night to save that child and to help that young girl not lose her smile. But I know what I did wasn’t effective, wasn’t right. There was a young woman desperate for love and support and I presented her with a scientific argument. I moved on and a child died.
I’m not saying that science and politics don’t have their place in the fight for life. But I believe that love and faith are the only things that can really save women and the unborn. The issue of life is not at its heart a scientific or political one; if the heart of it isn’t love then it is nothing.