April 9, 2019 | Viable Options
In American culture, the political climate surrounding unintended pregnancy has largely drawn our focus away from the woman facing a pregnancy decision, and instead centers around the choice that she faces. The result is that we often tend to place value on a woman simply based upon the decision that she can make – rather than for who she is.
But even in the moment of decision, there is far more to a woman than her immediate circumstance of unintended pregnancy. She carries with her a unique set of experiences, beliefs, fears, desires, and hopes for the future. To focus solely on the decision, without taking the time to process what is most important to her is to diminish her intrinsic value as an individual.
Fixating only on the decision while disregarding the complexity of a woman’s situation, needs, desires, and feelings serves only to further isolate her and to compound the confusion of the moment.
But what are her relational needs in this moment?
The May 1, 2018 study by global health service company, Cigna, revealed that 46% of adults in America report sometimes or always feeling alone, and that 43% of adults feel they are isolated from others. In addition, the study found that Generation Z (born after 1998) is the loneliest generation of all, followed closely by the Millennial Generation (born after 1981).
Douglas Nemecek, M.D., chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Cigna observed that, “these results clearly point to the benefits meaningful in-person connections can have on loneliness…”
What manner of support are these millennial women receiving when they walk through an unintended pregnancy? And what manner of support can we expect for the swiftly coming-of-age Generation Z?
In a culture where many of those most likely to face an unintended pregnancy already feel they have no one to turn to, the politically divisive nature of a pregnancy decision only causes further harm and compounds the feelings of isolation.
The conversation of unintended pregnancy must be reclaimed from a political stage, and the responsibility for women’s care returned to communities, families, and professional, non-political agencies.
The Third Choice approach is built on three pillars: being non-political, non-manipulative, and relational.
Firstly, The Third Choice is non-political. This means that it does not fall within the binary conversation as it exists today. Terms like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” carry with them decades of political history and tension. The Third Choice acts as a non-political intermediary – never attempting to dismiss or dismantle the political conversation as irrelevant or unimportant, but recognizing that for the individual facing a pregnancy decision, politics is not the answer.
As a non-political approach, The Third Choice is also non-manipulative, as it does not operate from public or private agenda, but is focused on meeting tangible needs. The natural outworking of politics is frequently manipulation, whether subtle or overt. To prevent this, The Third Choice looks at each person through the lens of relationship, rather than a desired outcome, and makes room for the thoughts, fears, and emotions of those facing an unintended pregnancy.
As a relational approach, The Third Choice focuses on the individual, looking for creative and holistic solutions for their needs, and allowing them to process their decision in an environment where they will not be manipulated toward a specific outcome. It seeks to value and care for each person on the basis of their intrinsic worth, and not merely for the decision they can make.
This approach can be applied and implemented by anyone. It does not require an institution or organization, but is specifically designed to equip individual members of communities across the nation to become the answer to the needs of those walking through an unintended pregnancy.
While our society will continue to examine this issue politically and morally on some level, it is time for us to recognize that real, lasting change for an individual happens in the context of relationship. This means that the answer for those facing a pregnancy decision lies not in nonprofits, institutions, or legislation, but in communities.
To pursue a society where pregnancy is no longer politicized, where education and information are no longer agenda driven, and where politics will cease to influence personal choice, we must model a relational approach to unintended pregnancy.
The Third Choice requires discomfort. It disrupts the status quo – pushing past our neat political packaging and forcing us to put first the needs of others. It requires that we stop using divisive language and refrain from absolutist terminology, and it forces us to set aside our moral and political arguments in order to listen to and understand another’s thoughts, fears, and emotions. It challenges us emotionally, intellectually, physically, and for some, even spiritually.
It requires that communities come together, and that each person takes ownership in creating and sustaining a culture where the needs of those facing unintended pregnancies are fully met outside the realm of politics.
Hope can be returned to the conversation of unintended pregnancy when those facing a pregnancy decision are provided with holistic solutions by those best positioned and equipped to meet their needs – their families, friends, and neighbors.
This approach does not seek to invalidate or dismiss any person’s convictions and views from the conversation. But it aims to empower people from every background and belief to engage in real, genuine relationship with their friends and neighbors, and to recognize that there are many factors that play a role in a pregnancy decision which cannot be addressed by moral or ideological argument alone.
It is communities that change communities. And that’s where The Third Choice will take us – a culture of hope permeating every corner of our nation through women and men everywhere becoming the answers to the needs of others and being compassionately present in the lives of those facing a pregnancy decision.