How to talk to your pro-life friend about her pregnancy*

Pro-choice people often believe that they can relate in an unburdened and non-judgemental manner to anyone who is or was pregnant, because they truly support that person regardless of her circumstances or choices surrounding her pregnancy. For this reason, pro-choice people often believe their pro-life friends have no reason to feel in any way awkward or coy around them when they are or were pregnant. However, a pro-life person, who sees the rights and humanity of her baby as being absolute and objective, may feel slightly differently about it. Here are some tips that pro-choice people might like to bear in mind when their pro-life friends tell them that they are pregnant, or have had a miscarriage.

Recognise that you have different views on her “baby”

This is the biggest and most important distinction. No matter what you think, as far as your friend is concerned, she and you see her baby differently. It’s so important that you recognise and respect this, rather than protesting that actually you view your friend’s baby just as she does, because you are taking your lead from her. 

How does your friend know you and she view her baby differently? Well, because she knows you. She knows you’re a good person. Consequently, she knows you would never ever support killing a child who had already been born. She knows that if she came to you in such dire straits that she was planning on killing her toddler, that you would do everything you possibly could to help her in her struggles, but that you would never support her choice to kill her child. This is how your friend knows you and she have different views on her baby. As far as your friend is concerned, her baby’s life deserves protection, with no distinction as to whether or not it is born. The fact that you make the distinction means you view her baby differently.

This is especially difficult for a pro-life person who has miscarried. She knows you’re so sorry that she experienced miscarriage – but you’re not half as sorry as she is. It’s very hard to find a good analogy here but it’s almost as if your house burned down with your little sister and your dog trapped inside and you’re surrounded by people telling you how sorry they are that you lost your house and dog. The thing is, they really are sorry for that – but they’re not sorry you lost your sister because, for some reason, they don’t think you had a sister to lose in the first place.

Your friend may fully understand that you do value her baby, very highly, but she can’t get away from the fact that the value you place on her baby is conditional (specifically, it’s conditional on her placing value on her baby). In contrast, she values her baby, and indeed all unborn babies, unconditionally. The distinction might mean nothing to a pro-choice person, but it’s everything to a pro-life person. Recognise and respect that distinction.

Don’t assume she understands your support is absolute

Pro-life people and pro-choice people may move in different circles, or at least have a different selection of friends. Your friend may know some stories you don’t. Your friend may have met or heard of women who were pressured into having an abortion by her partner, her family or her doctor. You may find it hard to believe that these people exist, and write it off as “anti-choice lies”, but even if that’s so (it’s not!), your friend believes the “lies”. It may be part of what made her pro-life in the first place. 

Maybe your friend has genuine concerns about whether her doctor can truly be impartial towards her during her pregnancy. This may be especially so if she is young, in full-time education, or has children already who are very young or have a disability. The judgement from doctors and other healthcare professionals in these situations can be real and palpable. Maybe your friend’s pregnancy was unplanned and she’s too embarrassed to admit that to you. Maybe she panicked and considered abortion when she found out she was pregnant. Maybe she even considered asking you to help her through the abortion process. Maybe her heart now turns cold at the thought of how very close she came to asking you to guide her through what would have been the worst mistake of her life, and she can’t stop thinking about the fact that you would have done so, without question. It can be very hard for someone in these circumstances to set all those thoughts and feelings aside and trust in your unconditional commitment and support. If you suspect this may be true of your friend, don’t hold that against her. Give her some space.

Watch your language

Much of the language around pregnancy is undeniably pro-choice. The phrase “mother/parent-to-be” is absolutely standard, while the phrase “expectant mother” is far less common. There are t-shirts, baby-gros and memes aplenty stating “I’m going to be a big brother/sister!” and none that say “I am a new big brother/sister”. People refer to their future son, future daughter, future nephew or niece. This language is very strange to a pro-life person, and can be upsetting. Again, for someone who miscarried, this is especially difficult. If you were a mother-to-be, and then miscarried, were you ever actually a mother-to-be? Are you now a mother-to-be-that-was, or a mother-to-be-that-won’t-be? And who or what exactly are you to the thing you miscarried, if not his or her mother? Rethink some of the language you use around your friend, whether she is or was pregnant.

Let her take the lead

Being pro-life in a pro-choice society is tough, and being pro-life and pregnant can bring its own set of complications.  None of the points above may apply to you and your particular friend. Perhaps your friend disagrees with all the points I have made here, which is quite possible. Let your friend take the lead. Let her talk about her pregnancy as much or as little as she likes. Don’t second-guess everything she does or doesn’t say about her pregnancy. Don’t filter everything she says and does through the fact that she is pregnant, or worse, through her anti-choice lens. Whether she acts exactly as you would have expected her to, or the complete opposite, let her do her thing.

*This article is written with a pro-choice person talking to their pro-life friend who was or is pregnant in mind, but much of this article applies to talking to a pro-life person about their partner’s pregnancy, or to a pro-life relative or friend of a pregnant woman.

Muireann

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