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As I sail down Los Angeles's Crenshaw Avenue, I admire the trees that line the road, beautiful trees the likes of which I have never seen. They are perfectly shaped, with silvery-white trunks and graceful limbs full of leaves, bursting with fertility. The trees offer a contrast of radiant, exuberant femininity to the setting of my destination, where a gathering of women will sift through memories of abortions past. It is but one group among many that I am privileged to meet, part of a project commissioned by the National Women's Coalition for Life to understand better the problems that cause women to choose abortion.
From research that has gone before us, I have certain expectations. I assume that these women will cite reasons such as "I couldn't care for a child and keep my job" or "I don't have the material resources to raise a baby."
I will be surprised by what I hear.
LISTENING IN LOS ANGELES
The pregnancy-care center fills several rooms on the first floor of a small building. It resembles most of the other two thousand centers scattered across the country: warm wallpaper, sofas, and cheery posters grace a reception room, which leads to a large meeting area, then an intimate counseling room or two. Racks are stuffed with pamphlets and books for loan, and storage rooms are filled with maternity and baby supplies. These centers usually operate on a shoestring—sometimes the director draws a small salary, sometimes not—and offer everything to clients free.
Five women are gathered in the counseling room. In some ways, they are atypical of the postabortion population: all are now firmly and actively pro-life. Two of them even do abortion grief counseling. These are not women whose wounds are raw, nor whose attitudes toward abortion are ambivalent.
When I ask them to recall the situations surrounding their abortions, Jill offers that her home life was relatively positive and thinks that many aborting women come from normal families and from Christian backgrounds.