The Quality of My Life

Most of the people who know me also know that I am an advocate for life. Some even know the personal reasons I have for having such convictions, but something that I do not talk about often is the “quality of life” argument often used to defend abortion.

Having heard arguments that say it is better for a child not to be born rather than endure a hard life that most of us would not even want, I have to say they fall short. The main problem with this argument is that it equalizes difficult and bad. Yes, growing up in poverty is difficult, growing up in an abusive home is difficult, and being homeless is difficult. Life is full of difficulties, and they can even be extreme, but the human existence is resilient and a child being exposed to difficulties, and even cruelties, in life does not warrant the termination of their life to spare them. Difficulties are not ideal, but that is life, and how can we logically deny someone’s existence before they even have a chance to overcome difficulty and be one of the many success stories of which so many of us are in awe?

I do not have a grandiose success story by secular standards. In fact, most of the time I try to think of ways to improve my life in many aspects. I have a labor job, belong to a small church, drive an older car, and lease a basement apartment. I have worked hard to have even these things. I share this with you because I was born after 1973 and I had a birth defect (Spina Bifida). The doctors discovered this and, in light of my older brother also being born with a birth defect, offered to refer my mother to an abortionist. My mother was a staunch pro-lifer and, of course, refused to have an abortion. It is the next part of my life, however, that people seem to cringe about — my life outside of my mother’s womb.

I was born in 1979 to two very broke parents who had very little in the way of provision for two children, much less a third. Still, my mother had three children, and all of us had a birth defect of some kind, yet she gave us a chance to live even when she knew life for us would be difficult and cruel.

I remember moving a lot even before I was three-years-old. I remember lots of arguing and fighting between my parents. The first time I remember my father hitting me, I was five-years-old.  My mother, however, said I was about 18 months the first time he hit me. At five, I remember three hits, but was unconscious for any subsequent hits to my face that followed. My older brother received the same beatings that I did. Unfortunately, these actions happened at a time when family violence laws were not as protective as they are now. My mother involved DFACS to help her get out of the abusive situation, but was only warned that we would be taken from her if she let it happen again.

Finally, she found an organization that allowed us to leave and go to a battered women and children’s shelter. It was difficult to live with so many other families and not be able to leave for fear of the “safe home” being exposed. In the end, the secrecy didn’t matter.  My father manipulated his counselors and returned home after we left the shelter, and after my mother had been assured he would not return home.

The next years of my life were spent living in fear of my father. Even when my mother filed for divorce, my father abducted my brothers and me. We spent the next month living in homeless shelters while my father planned to go “underground” with my brothers and me if my mother wouldn’t return to him in marriage.

Life hasn’t been ideal for me or my brothers, and many today would argue that the right thing for my mother to have done was spare us a life of hardship by never bringing us into the world. There have been times in life that I wished I would have been dealt a better hand, but I was not. That is just how it is, and what I do with it is the important thing. But I would have never been able to fight for my life in the way I have if my mother had not given me the opportunity to persevere through a life of difficulty and hardship. Life is hard, but life is worth it. Birth defects, abuse, homelessness, and even suffering great losses in life have not swayed my resolve to be a proactive, compassionate man that is so thankful to have the life that God gave me and a mother who was faithful to see it to fruition.

What is my quality of life like now? I work hard and my body doesn’t like it, I am faced with family problems that never seem to end, and I live with a heartache that may be with me the rest of my life. But one thing I do know is that I have my life, and I am glad to be in this world to share hope, grace, peace, and forgiveness, because it is those very things that have strengthened me to endure and cherish everything I have. I am pro-life because we all deserve the chance to live better than what our secular society says we can.

All Life is Sacred,

Phillip Richardson