Gimme Shelter, Based on a True Pro-life Story

gimme-shelterOne of the stupidest things I ever said was to two street urchins in Dublin, Ireland. My friend Margie and I were college students headed back to our bed and breakfast after a night on the town. The two bedraggled boys of around 8 or 9 years of age had asked us for candy.

“Go home!” I scolded, “You should not be out so late at night.”  Margie dug into her purse and split the candy she had found between them.  I thought it was terrible for young children to be out on the streets alone so late and asking for candy no less.  I look back at that moment and ask myself, how I could have been so dense? What sort of home did I imagine they had? I had not considered that.

So it is sometimes for those of us who pray outside abortion clinics and slap bumper stickers on our cars such as: “It is a tragedy that one should die so that you can live as you want.”  Those are powerful words and so true, yet the tragedy of abortion is far deeper. For some it is about selfishness, but for others it is about violence, dysfunction, coercion, and pressure. If we only look at a person and think of what they should be doing in a perfect world, we miss the imperfect world they might live in.

This weekend, January 24, the movie Gimme Shelter will open in theaters. It is based on the true story portrayed by Agnes “Apple” Baily, a pregnant, homeless teenager.  Her mother was also once a pregnant teenager but is an abusive, crazy, drug addict.  Apple, desperate and alone, runs away from her mother and tracks down the father she never knew.  When she shows up at his opulent estate, police come to arrest her, assuming she is an intruder.  Her Wall Street father, his wife, and two children look upon Apple as if she is from another planet—so crude and unkempt.  When they learn of the pregnancy, both her father and his wife insist that Apple must have an abortion.

Apple has nowhere to turn.  She is uneducated and poor and has never known the security of a loving home. With nothing but the clothes on her back, Apple runs away and eventually gets directed to a suburban shelter for unwed mothers.  In the sisterhood of teens from similar backgrounds and mothered by a kind and loving woman, Apple experiences security and love for the first time in her life.  It makes all the difference.

I have worked in the fields of social work, ran a group home for teenage boys, and was a foster mother to a teenage girl. Being a do-gooder is only pretty from a distance. The people that most need help are often the hardest to help. They can repel us and push us away.  It’s easy to look at them and blame them for their dysfunction.  As a writer, I’ve interviewed women who were pressured and threatened to have abortions they didn’t want. Rather than going to an abortion facility for selfish reasons, one teen was told by her parents that she was selfish for wanting to have her baby.

Apple, fights to keep her baby against overwhelming odds. On one side is her crazy mother who actually wants the baby for a bigger welfare check and on the other, her wealthy father insists an abortion is the only logical choice.  Actress Vanessa Hudgens does a superb job portraying Apple as a seriously troubled teen; unlikable and unkempt. She is a hero even though she does not look the part.

In order to be pro-life to the core, our passion for the unborn must extend to their mothers and conditions surrounding abortions.  Some post-abortive women grieve not for their choice, but for the choices others forced upon them.  And some pregnant women that we pray will not abort — such as Apple’s own mother — don’t have a clue what it takes to be a good mother.

Gimme Shelter is a view into the kind of gritty circumstances where pregnant girls often feel they have no options. It has the power to expand our understanding and compassion when we pray and work against abortion.

Watch the trailer: Gimme Shelter

Rated PG

Patti Maguire Armstrong, is the mother of 10, and has a B.A. in social work and M.A. in public administration. Her newest book is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven. Others include Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the Amazing Grace Series. Follow her at @PattiArmstrong and read her blog at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com.