By Cherie Washburn, Esq. AMISTAD CONTRIBUTOR
Precious. Proud. Amazing. These are words most people would expect to hear when someone is talking about children. Most people choose to have children in hopes of creating a healthy family. However not all parents feel this way about their children. In fact, not all parents see themselves as an integral part of a child’s life.
I work as a prosecuting attorney and have handled cases where parents abuse their children, give their children away and choose to terminate pregnancies. This is an issue that occurs in every county in every state. Typically there are two scenarios in which children are abused, neglected or where a mother will choose terminating a pregnancy as a method of birth control. In the first scenario, the mother is the victim of abuse herself. This type of mother either continues the pattern of abuse with her own children or chooses to terminate pregnancy to avoid dealing with the problem of having a child. For many mothers who themselves are victims of abuse, the mind set is that children are a problem to be dealt with and based on their personal experience, problems are handled through the use of violence.
It may be difficult for people who have not suffered abuse to understand this pattern. It is important to remember that for many of these woman abuse and violence are all they have known and so for them to be abusive themselves is a natural progression. I have noticed that many woman consumed by this cycle of violence have two critical things absent in their lives. They have no faith and they have no support system.
The second scenario is where the mother is an addict. Addicts often lead promiscuous lifestyles in order to support their addiction. This behavior often leads to pregnancy. These women are not thinking about a child or the life and growth of another human being inside them. In many cases the addiction takes priority and they choose to continue to use illegal substances. I have had several women tell me they chose to have abortions because they were afraid the drugs they used during pregnancy would make them have a retarded or deformed child and they just couldn’t deal with that. Other women have told me they chose to have abortions because the person who got them pregnant said if they had the baby, they would have to find another place to live.
My first reaction to stories like these was anger. I was angry at how callous these women were with abortions or how easy it was for them to justify abusing their children. I wanted to see them all in jail. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that these women were lost. The answer was not to lock them away but to try and reach them.
The common theme to these two scenarios is that these women do not understand the gravity of their actions. They themselves have not been valued as human beings and so they do not understand how to place value on another human being, especially one that has not been born. It is heartbreaking to listen to the stories these women tell about multiple abortions, and abandoning children. It is equally heartbreaking that for those who want to break the cycle there is no comprehensive program for help. Currently there are resources for money, healthcare and temporary housing. These are great solutions for the short term but these women have a long term problem. They need information, support and faith. They need to be restored in God. They need education in scripture as well as vocation. They need a healthy soul as well as a healthy body.
It is unpopular to suggest a person can only be truly healed if they follow a godly path, but this is the truth. It is easy to give money and shelter to temporarily relieve the immediate problem. It is far more difficult and demanding to offer long term faith-based education and commit to walking with them in Christ until they surround themselves with believers.
Cherie Washburn is an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Appomattox County, Virginia