The Litmus Test
By Kristen Leach
Occasionally when I’m looking through my Facebook feed, I will come across professionally produced videos where groups of children are asked their thoughts on a certain topic. The juvenile interviewees weigh in on a variety of current issues, ranging from unfamiliar foods to gay marriage to religion to friendship and acceptance. We consider the opinions of children a kind of litmus test to remind us of an untainted, pure, and honest perspective that has not yet been marred by the realities of life. Their candid responses challenge our callousness or our acceptance of the status quo, a lesser alternative to the optimistic, idealistic world that children envision.
If we believe children have the ability to remind us of forgotten truths or help us understand an issue for what it really is, then we ought to consider what children think about abortion.
I will never forget the night I learned what the word ‘abortion’ meant. One cold, dark night in the late 1990s, the abortion topic must have been in the news or brought up during church, but the meaning was unfamiliar to me. I was sitting at the kitchen table, 8 or 9 years old, and I asked my mom what abortion meant. She probably felt a rush of dread and sadness to have to explain this cruel act to her naïve daughter. She sat next to me at the table, and though I can’t remember her exact words, she told me that an abortion is when a mom decides she doesn’t want the baby she’s carrying and the baby is killed in a procedure. Immediately, I started crying, so upset by the thought that a mother could choose to kill the baby growing inside of her for whatever reason she deems necessary. As a young girl, I remember feeling hurt, so sad and scared. I had only ever known a very loving, maternal mother, and it scared me to think about the babies who might not have a mom like mine and might be aborted. I honestly cannot think about that moment without a pang of sadness in my chest even today. Looking past my tears out the kitchen window into the black night, my worldview was dimmed, and I lost a little bit of my childhood innocence that night as I realized a new darkness in the world.
Someone reading this might say that my mom didn’t tell me about how abortion really ‘helps’ women who maybe can’t take care of the baby or who aren’t in a good stage in life for a baby. I am confident that the ancillary commentary would have done nothing to mitigate the sting of pain I felt thinking about a baby dying by her mother’s hand. If children are taught that killing another person is wrong, then what kind of justification can there be to make killing an innocent baby right?
Perhaps this is the litmus test we need right now as we debate across the aisle about the sanctity of life or a women’s right to choose.