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Opinion >  Column

Sue Lani Madsen: Taking action on abortion

A 2019 Notre Dame study based on personal interviews instead of limited choice surveys found most Americans don’t talk much about abortion, and they hate being labeled. Lack of information and a fear of being dragged into the political mud keep them quiet. Meanwhile, gloomy reporting on a possible decision overturning Roe v. Wade has stirred up visions of a Taliban-like future if the Supreme Court decides it’s an issue that must once again be left to each state to sort out. Barricades have been erected around the Supreme Court building in anticipation of an angry “pro-choice” mob attempting to storm the doors when the decision is announced. Five of the justices have been threatened by protesting crowds on their front lawns.

The uproar made last Saturday’s Celebration of Mothers sponsored by Covenant Homes and Resources (www.covenanthomesandresources.org) a welcome respite from a news cycle stoking fear and division. Covenant Homes is a new nonprofit focusing on offering pregnant women more choices. Executive Director Karen Fournier says the renovation of the first home is just around the corner from the local Planned Parenthood clinic and will welcome pregnant women of any age for “two hours, two days or two years.” For women leaving difficult situations involving domestic abuse, homelessness or addiction, Fournier says “the longer the moms can stay the healthier they get. It takes four months for them to feel safe and open up on what’s really happening.”

Fournier has past experience in the nonprofit world as the founder of Hearth Homes, now operating in the Spokane Valley as NAOMI supportive housing for single mothers and their children (www.naomicommunity.org).

After stepping back to focus on seeing her own two kids through high school activities, Fournier is back with a new vision.

“My whole life has been preparing me for this,” said Fournier, herself a formerly homeless single mom with coexisting addiction and relationship issues. “We’re not political, we’re just giving women another option, to have a safe place. Many women are not in a safe place and that’s why they’re seeking abortion.”

American attitudes about abortion are not binary. As the Notre Dame study concludes, “labels are often polarizing, oversimplifying, and inaccurate for how everyday Americans actually think and feel about abortion.” Binary labels fail to capture “the ways that Americans offer disclaimers and caveats, contradict themselves, hedge their responses, change their minds, and think things through in real time.” There’s a complex spectrum of beliefs between a man with a bullhorn outside a Planned Parenthood clinic preaching sin and the domestic terrorist who recently threw Molotov cocktails through the window of a Madison, Wisconsin, pro-life organization on Mother’s Day.

Recognition that women always have and always will face choices affecting their babies was a common thread among the Notre Dame study participants. In that sense, all Americans are pro-choice, we just draw boundaries around the choice at different stages or for different reasons. Less than a tenth of abortions are related to the extreme situations of rape, incest or problems with the health of mother or baby. Pregnant women need real alternatives if they are to have real choices.

Fournier has a national vision for Covenant Homes and Resources as one of those real alternatives, with three programs. The first to launch is safe housing for pregnant women. In addition to the Spokane house, Fournier is in talks with five other locations around the country to support groups active at abortion clinics but who need a place to send women who choose life. “Our focus is on saving a life and creating generational change, not on stopping abortion,” said Fournier.

The second initiative supporting homeless youth will be starting outside of Washington. “We want to be able to intervene when the problems start at age 12,” said Fournier. “I found Washington’s system makes starting a faith-based program difficult.”

Children raised in chaos may appear to be managing well, but adolescence often tips them into drugs and other negative coping behaviors. Fournier is currently looking for a site in Idaho.

Third is a low-income home ownership program similar to Habitat for Humanity but focused on restoring houses rather than new construction. Her successful side business flipping houses is another facet of her life preparation. “God showed me places in Spokane 20 years ago that are still boarded up,” said Fournier. “We want to be about restoring lives and properties now and for future generations.”

Just imagine the additional lives that could be transformed if all the energy going into passing around stereotyped memes, swallowing fear-mongering news and joining angry protests went instead to supporting pregnant women with real choices. The silent majority of Americans need to climb out of their labeled boxes and start real conversations.

Contact Sue Lani Madsen at rulingpen@gmail.com

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