Friday, October 18, 2019

Adolescent and Abortion: Speaking on a controversial topic to young, curious minds

If there was one topic I could say I was nervous of speaking about, it would be abortion.  With the political climate surrounding it, the issues of rights, it could be a hot button for many people.  It wasn't necessarily a fear of being bombarded and attacked for my pro-life views, but rather the fear of speaking in a way that made others feel belittled for their own views and situations.

Being an adolescent nowadays is so different from even 20 years ago.  Back then, there wasn't information overload.  There was no, "I'll just Google it."  It took more effort than a push of a button to gain knowledge and learn facts.  That is not the case anymore.  The issue is that not only are the facts more readily available, but so, too, are distorted views and opinions.  What is more, the media has an easier reach into the minds of these young people.  Four to five words of a phrase on a photograph of the alleged speaker is not giving the context of the subject matter, nor the circumstances surrounding the issue.  It becomes a list of idioms with no context passed on to millions of people with a single click.  It gives such a keyhole point of view of a larger picture hidden behind the walls, but no one wants to open that door, walk into the room and look at it the way it's supposed to be seen.

I was asked by one of my former theology teachers to speak to the 9th-12th grade students at my Alma mater.  The week leading up to it was a stressful one.  There was some apprehension by some in the department regarding how the students would react to the presentation as some had previously experienced talks on the subject that was less than appealing and some talks to be rather offensive. Opinions were voiced, and perhaps some protestation as to why they are being forced to listen.

Knowing that the key was my medical background, I put as much evidence-based medical and scientific facts into the presentation as I could, while tying in Church teachings and scripture. The key in anything nowadays is empowerment.  The thing I kept enforcing was choices.  The example was heroin, how even though it is illegal, there are those who continue to do it anyway and are addicted to it.  Whether a thing is legal or not, we all still have a choice to make when we are faced with the situation.  This is why, from the beginning, I opened each talk acknowledging that this is a tough subject, to set their political opinions aside for a minute and be mindful and respectful of one another.

They were given examples of how their decisions could affect them in the future, providing personal testimonies, not just from stories people in my own life, but stories in other resources and ministries.  I showed them examples of pro-life advocates whose lives could have been ended by abortions.  Still, I needed them to understand this is a moral dilemma, one that faces me, someone who is pro-life, having to care for those who have made or are considering making the decision of abortion and treat them with dignity in my field.  Although the Church is steadfast in their stance on the sacredness of life from the moment of conception, that both Saint John Paul II (sec. 58, para. 4) and Pope Francis (sec. 12, para. 1) have acknowledged the emotional and psychological weight of this decision, as well as the need for forgiveness.

As I knew there would be, a few challenged me.  But their challenges helped strengthen my points as I realized what I needed to further explain or restate in a way that could speak to the audience better.  In the end, they were grateful.  They were grateful for the information.  Girls especially responded well, with a few thanking me.  What it made me realize was they just want to know.  They want facts, not have someone hammering them with opinions.  And those who did challenge me, I tried to listen as best I could, acknowledged them for their own views, but presented a different perspective with facts.  Gone are the days of "because I said so."  Young people will challenge rules and ask "why".  And unless it makes sense to them, they're not going to care.  They need to be able to relate to what is being told to them, making it relevant in their lives.  They need hard evidence and logical explanations.  They also need to see their own value and to feel valued.

The very last thing I emphasized was how Jesus was the example of how much God valued humanity by sending his only begotten son in the form of an innocent child, growing in the womb of a woman from conception to birth, and to grow into a man.  Then to sacrifice himself for the sake of our sins out of love for us, God shows how much he truly valued the humans he created.  In the end, the experience, though daunting in the beginning, strengthened my belief, my faith, and most of all my faith in the future generations.