My friend doesn’t know that I know she had an abortion 41 years ago. She doesn’t need to know I know. In fact she needs to believe that I don’t know, because she thinks if I and others knew about it, the other things we know about her, that she is a kind, loving, precious Christian person, a wonderful mother and grandmother, devoted wife and model citizen – would be disregarded. That one piece of knowledge would taint every good other thing she is about.

Truth is, lots of water rolls under a bridge in 40 plus years. We do things we may regret and go on or we don’t do things because we are so afraid and overwhelmed, we just can’t believe there is an alternative. And we go on.

So my friend doesn’t know that I know, so she can’t know that that day months and months ago, when we were sitting beside each other in bible study and the lady across the room made those condemning statements, I prayed (again) for peace for my friend.

This is the thing about being my age (63), living in a city where I came to college 45 years ago and lived in a large women’s dorm. There were “girls” whose friends took on the task of driving them to New Mexico for the weekend for unexplained reasons, and who came back and no one ever mentioned that trip or its purpose again.

And those girls are women now. Some of their daughters have been in places in their lives and caught in the dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy. The issue is hardly a new one, but we forget one generation to the next.

I used to tell my Sunday school students, that had things been done according to the strict laws of the time, Mary would have been stoned at the city’s outer wall because she was having a baby and she wasn’t married to Joseph. So no, it’s not a new discussion, nor apparently, are government sanctions.

In my friend’s case, she was about to be a college freshman, dating a guy she was ill-suited for, whom she realized too late was using her for – well – you can figure it out.

The discussions and decisions about these kinds of things never change. Hate to say it, but haters are going to hate; people are going to judge; and desperate decisions are going to be made. Talkers are going to talk, but listeners probably aren’t going to listen. One side doesn’t listen to the other.

I usually avoid political discussions like this, for all the reasons listed above. I’m more liberal than my conservative friends think I am; more conservative than my liberal friends think I am. But the other day, when my middle son called me during his afternoon commute to tell me – at nearly 30 – he’s seeing signs of adulthood. He was listening to NPR – a telltale indication by his own thinking.

So, he wanted to talk about things. John Boehner’s resignation, this, that, Planned Parenthood funding (or lack of). He asked me (Me?) about things. “Abortion is such a miniscule part of what Planned Parenthood is about, I’m just afraid they’re not thinking this out,” he said.

We went there. Yes. We did. Talking about things I usually refuse to talk about. Now I can’t let it go.

I think we use two too pretty phrases to describe our stance on a very sad and ugly issue, I told him. People who say they’re pro-choice aren’t in the moment of making a choice, so they can call it a freedom. The people in the so-called moment of making the choice have waited too long to make an easy choice. So they’re making a desperate decision they feel that’s been forced on them.

People who say they’re pro-life are really more pro-birth. Bringing a baby into the world isn’t the hardest part. In fact that part is relatively easy. But feeding the child, providing clothing and shelter, nurturing and educating the child, loving the child and supporting it, committing more than 20 years to raising it and another 20-plus to fretting over it, that’s the pro-life part we should all be in support of.

This is what I believe. That we are here by the grace of God and some of us, by the grace of God, are not there. And whether it’s here or there, we should try – try – to be a little more understanding and compassionate toward one another. Judge not, less we be judged.

Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at