“To save the life of the mother.” It’s one of the conundrums that advocates of elective abortion use to justify a woman’s decision to compromise the health or end the life of her unborn child in favor of protecting her own. But while ethicists and advocates may discuss and debate the relative morality of these decisions, most of us look in awe when a mother puts her own life on the line, in order to protect her unborn child.

The stories are often tragic and complex. For some, it may be the fatal decision to decline chemotherapy to address an aggressive form of cancer. But for some, like Darlene Pawlik, the prospect of an abortion was angrily presented as the only safe alternative to her own (likely violent) death at the hands of a small time organized crime boss, the father of her child. Ms. Pawlik’s story reads like the script of an excruciating, modern, R-rated Dickens novel. She herself was conceived during a brutal rape and sexually abused as a young child. By 14 years old, she was dabbling in drugs and alcohol and sold into prostitution. Before she reached legal adulthood, Ms. Pawlik found herself sold hundreds of times, bought by local businessmen, a city councilman, and a candidate for sheriff in her small city.

Purchased as a “house pet” by a local crime boss, Ms. Pawlik found herself pregnant and given an ultimatum—face an abortion or he’d kill her. After a vivid dream about the impending abortion, Ms. Pawlik fought—quietly and tenaciously—to leave her captor and keep her child. With the help of a social worker, Ms. Pawlik faked an abortion so she could leave the lifestyle. She reached a new home and began a new, restored life and eventually became a nurse, business owner, married mother of 5 children, and pro-life advocate.

Ms. Pawlik’s story is instructive. In this season of advent—of penitence, longing, and of hope—what is your calling?

-Will you educate yourself on the dangers and prevalence of human trafficking? Will you consider redirecting or enhancing your vocation to protect vulnerable individuals like Ms. Pawlik?

-Will you support the local ministries of your church, pregnancy care centers, or other nonprofits in your area?

-Will you take the time to steer your well-intended friends away from organizations that profess to help, but push vulnerable individuals towards more abortion and greater sexual license, brokenness, and pain?

-If you, or someone you know, struggle with addiction to pornography, will take your struggle seriously? Will you acknowledge the links between pornography and human trafficking and fight for healing and restoration and listen to the voices of those who have survived?

-Will you notice the young woman with a frightened look in her eyes, cowed by a much older man, hovering in her vicinity? Will you take the time to learn the signs of a trafficked individual, and the trafficker? If you see something, will you say something?

Will you pause not only to save the life of the child, but the life of the mother?

First published at FRCblog.com