Like many teenagers, Jen Geenen (pictured centre here) found herself pregnant from a high school relationship that had gone too far. Sensing a growing distance between herself and her boyfriend, she faced a difficult choice. Should the teenager drop out of high school and raise the baby as a single mother or should she seek an abortion?
“Last year, I placed the baby for adoption,” Jen shares with The Interim. “The experience of adoption was so good for me that I could not see anyone making another choice.”
In fact, the high school student felt compelled to share her positive choice with other students at St. Mary’s College. The Catholic high school, located in the heart of Sault Ste. Marie, is the largest in the northern Ontario community.
The idea came during a discussion on abortion in her religion class. “I had not known the realities of abortion before this class,” Jen admits. “So I got the idea of doing a presentation on my experience with adoption and how it could relate to abortion.”
Yet, Jen felt nervous about going public with her story. “I asked Rita (Murphy) to help me, because I knew she was active in the right-to-life movement and shared my views on abortion,” Jen states. Rita is one of Jen’s classmates and the daughter of pro-life activist Bill Murphy. Together, the two teens developed a presentation for other high school students.
“I was not sure how it would go,” Rita admits. “I started the presentation by speaking bluntly of abortion procedures, to make other students understand how bad these procedures are.” Rita also spoke about the side effects of abortion.
“Then Jen goes on to speak in positive terms of her experience with adoption,” Rita explains. “So, it provides a great contrast.”
Jen feels that high school students should be aware of the consequences of abortion. “Most of the women who get abortions are teenage students,” she explains. “They should understand what the consequences are (of) abortion, because they are the ones who at 16 or 17 will live with it for the rest of their lives.”
“We shocked some people,” Jen replies when asked about how other students received her presentation. “Some kids cried. Lots asked questions, mostly related to my adoption. Also questions about being a pregnant teenager – did people treat you okay? Did your friends stand by you?”
From their initial presentation to classmates, Jen and Rita would be invited to share their presentation to other groups of highschool students. They readily accepted.
“I think it’s important to present adoption as an alternative, because most teens believe their choice is abortion or raising the child as a single teenaged mother,” Jen states. “The boyfriend will likely leave. Adoption gives the child a loving, stable home in a two-parent family.
“When young women and teens don’t get support, they get scared into abortion,” Jen adds. “That’s what we try and get across in our presentation. There are pregnancy support centres and various support options within the community.”
Mike Girard is a local pro-life activist and the religion teacher whose class discussion inspired Jen and Rita. Mike was thrilled when his two students approached him after class. “That’s the beauty of this presentation: it happened of its own accord. I wanted to encourage them.”
“Mr. Girard was very supportive,” Jen confirms. “He had previously given us a newspaper called “She’s a Child, Not a ‘Choice.’ I asked him if I could keep it and he said yes.”
Although Jen will be graduating into college next year, she would like to keep the presentation going. She will have to do so without Rita, who will spend the year in Argentina as an exchange student.
Rita is not concerned. “Jen has grown a lot as we’ve given presentations. She’s much more knowledgeable about abortion now and much more confident about speaking in public. She can keep going on her own.” Mike shares Rita’s hope.
Both students and teacher have learned from this presentation. “I had a hard pregnancy because of school, my friend passing away and support was lacking from certain people,” Jen shares. “Despite all this, the adoption emerged as a big positive in my life.”
Rita confirms the personal growth she has observed in her friend. “What I learned from Jen is that young women in her situation have a hard nine months. But with adoption, it emerges as a lifetime positive experience. With abortion, the negative experiences last a lifetime.”
“From a teacher’s point of view, this often doesn’t happen,” Mike adds. “You don’t know the effect you’re having on the students. Are they listening when you promote the culture of life in the class-room? For me to see this coming out of the course – these young ladies are saving lives – it gives more meaning to the vocation of teaching.”
For their part, Jen and Rita are happy to be saving lives. “I never really mentioned the adoption before our religion class or thought of abortion before Mr. Girard’s class,” Jen shares. “But in today’s culture, we need to talk about the alternatives.”
For more information on booking Jen for a presentation, please e-mail Campaign Life Coalition Sault Ste. Marie at: email@example.com.