In late June of 2017 my wife and I saw a day we never thought we would see. We went in for an ultrasound at the 18 week mark of our second pregnancy. We were excited for another little addition to our family. I was serving a wonderful congregation who cared for me and my family, especially where health care was concerned. Then came the moment I’ll never forget. The woman administering the ultrasound left to get the doctor. There was no longer a heartbeat. The next few days are a bit of a blur but I specifically recall sitting in the office of my wife’s OB weighing the options. When my wife delivered our first son she needed to be induced and, when that didn’t work, delivered our son via a cesarean section. For my wife’s doctor that meant that her options for delivering our now deceased child were limited to the only real viable route, a procedure known as a D & E, a dilation and evacuation. My wife’s OB didn’t perform that procedure but referred us to someone who did. We left the office unsure of what was about to happen, unsure of what rooms we would walk into. It was not the path we would have chosen, and yet, it was the path we were on.
When we met with the doctor who would be performing the D & E I was struck by her callousness. In truth we only had two questions. The first: will we be able to see our child? The doctor scoffed, “no,” she said, “this is a destructive procedure.” The second: can we keep our child remains? Exasperated she said, “ugh, I guess. But that’s more paperwork for me.” We were wrecked by that exchange. Frustration compounded the grief. And yet, the next day my wife delivered Anastasia Claire Borrasso via a D & E. We chose the name Anastasia, from the Greek word for resurrection, because our hope is in the resurrection on the last day, the day we will see our child. We chose the name because of the hope we have that the Word does its thing. We trusted that just as John the Baptist leapt in the womb of his mother upon hearing the word of Mary’s greeting, that our baby heard the Word in utero and that Word accomplished the purpose for which it was sent.
The days that followed were difficult for us both. We had Anastasia cremated and had a funeral for her. Being the kind of theologian that I am, I listened politely to people try to offer some sort of hope and comfort, much of it failing to put our daughter in the care of Jesus and instead suggesting that dead relatives were welcoming her. Well intentioned, but I’m not interested in my dead daughter being cared for by people who haven’t already overcome death. The only thing I can cling to now, as was true then, is that the Lord of the church, the Lord of the resurrection, the one who died and rose again, holds her even now, awaiting the day when all of the sad things will come untrue.
It was a few weeks later that the bill came. We had good healthcare, but we still received a bill for a minimal amount. On the bill in bold letters was the phrase “MISSED ABORTION.” Medically, this is the term for a miscarriage and not an elective procedure to end the life of a child. I don’t think either my wife or I were prepared to see that. Even now, it is hard to fathom that the same procedure used to end life was, in the case of my daughter, used to deliver a deceased child. It also was not the only experience we had that communicated the cold hard medical truth of the situation. In the report we received from the doctor who performed the procedure, our daughter’s weight was listed as the weight of “fetal fragments.”
I understand the jubilation many feel at the overturning of settled precedent in American law. Many did not think they would ever live to see the day. I know that feeling. I also know that sometimes never thinking you’d see the day can mean the inverse emotion. Never thinking you’d see the day can often mean pain and sadness and grief and lament. For my wife and I, the abortion procedure was the only option to deliver our daughter. It was and remains a destructive procedure, not just physically but emotionally too. And yet, we live in a country where that destructive procedure is perceived to be the only viable option.
I don’t begrudge celebrations or laments, I begrudge a world in which the complexity of a medical procedure becomes politicized and radicalized either as the only option or the only option you are not allowed to pursue. I think it is clear that that overturning precedent doesn’t end elective abortions. It would be a mistake to think they will simply end. As ardently as people have worked to overturn a law, I hope that they will now work just as hard to create new laws that provide people with more than one destructive option.
The reality my wife and I live with every day is that in our case, abortion was medical care. It may not have been an elective procedure, but it was the same procedure. That destructive procedure is part of the fabric of our story and the life of our daughter. Sitting in the room with a doctor who treated us cruelly, who likely has performed the procedure many times for various reasons, I lament the option. It should not be. No one should have to sit in that room. No one should see that room as the only way out. For all of its sterility, that room is a messy and difficult place where platitudes and rhetoric offer little to no comfort. It is a place where the decisions made are not so easily divided between right and wrong, good or bad, but between agonizing and heartrending, between sorrowful and tormenting.
In the final analysis, the hope I clung to in the wake of my daughter’s death and delivery in June of 2017 is the same hope I cling to now in June of 2022—hope in the resurrected Lord. He is the only one who can and will, on the last day, remove the destructive and corrosive power of sin and death from the world once and for all. Until then, though, Christians are not promised a life or a world free of suffering. We are called, however, to serve our neighbors in the broken places, whether that broken place is the womb of a mother or the room the mother walks into. We are not called to avoid the room with the callous doctor, we are called to stand alongside those who see that room as the only option. We are not merely called to defend an issue, to stand on moral ground, we are called to love and care for people who see days they never thought they would see. We are called to be the best option for people, the most life giving option. We are not called to be cruel or callous, we are called to comforting and caring, not just when the procedure is there for the miscarriage, but for those who make mistakes, for those who are raped, for those whose life is at risk. Ultimately, we are called to pray the prayer our Lord taught us, the prayer that asks that God’s will and kingdom would come and be done among us also. We are called to be people whose lives have been conformed to the picture of our hope, to Christ himself, and who reflect that hope to people, no matter the room or moment they find themselves in.