Can we talk . . . about abortion?

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I have to tell you, I’m excited by the thoughtful responses engendered by my last post.  For one thing, as I happily blog away, it’s hard to know if I’m making any impression at all if no one responds.  For another, I have always been discouraged by the lack of opportunities for pro-life/pro-choice dialogue.
I’ve written and spoken on life issues for years, but I have always realized that most of my audience already agreed with me, and preaching to the choir isn’t any way to effect change. As I go forward with this blog I intend to continue writing about life issues.  And I want to be as clear as possible about my beliefs.
So I want to answer Leah’s comments with a whole blog post.  I’m not going to do it point by point, though, so if I miss anything let me know!
I would not wish to minimize in any way the difficulties faced by young mothers unexpectedly pregnant and without financial and personal resources.  I do think it is “pro-life” to find ways to help them.  That’s why I drew attention to Catholic Charities, which I believe is the largest such organization in the country, and the help that it IS giving to poor women and children in general and women in crisis pregnancies in particular.  Here in Knoxville there are at least two “Pregnancy Help” centers run by pro-life folks, and other cities have similar centers run by pro-life supporters.
Systemic change is another, more complicated issue.   I don’t mind saying that I tend to be “liberal” when it comes to providing aid to the poor and “conservative” when it comes to moral issues.  Here’s what Pope John Paul had to say about this in the Gospel of Life (Chapter 90):

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defence of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defence and promotion of the value of life. Here it must be noted that it is not enough to remove unjust laws. The underlying causes of attacks on life have to be eliminated, especially by ensuring proper support for families and motherhood. A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. For this reason there need to be set in place social and political initiatives capable of guaranteeing conditions of true freedom of choice in matters of parenthood. It is also necessary to rethink labour, urban, residential and social service policies so as to harmonize working schedules with time available for the family, so that it becomes effectively possible to take care of children and the elderly.

Did you read that?  Wow.  I answered Leah’s earlier comment by saying that the difficult circumstances weren’t pertinent to her sister’s choice to give birth.  I didn’t mean the circumstances that the children were born into were not important, or unfortunate, or damaging.  And I’m not accusing Leah, who is having a discussion with me and not a debate, of trying to confuse the issue.
But “professional” pro-choice advocates DO confuse the issue when they bring up all the unwanted children, all the kids in foster care, all the kids being born out of wedlock and into poverty, because since 1973 we can assume that women who have given birth CHOSE to do so, since abortion has been legal all that time!  In other words, abortion has NOT solved the problem of unwanted children or abused children or children being born into poverty, as some of its advocates presumed it would.  I could go into the contraceptive mentality argument to explain how legalized abortion has even contributed to these problems, but that is a post for another day.
Bottom line, if abortion kills, then it is wrong.  We can’t allow something so morally wrong in a civilized society.  Some people are especially called to fight for changes to the law.  Others are specifically called to work for systemic change to help the poor.  Others are called to direct charitable pursuits.  Yes, all of that can happen at once, and should.  However, no one can do everything, and some have gifts or passions that incline them in one direction more than another.  Once a year I march for life.  I’ve prayed outside abortion clinics.  I admire the people who do so faithfully week after week.  But I have written thousands of words about life issues because writing is my passion and my gift.
I also just don’t understand why any time someone says abortion should be illegal, he or she is immediately called upon to adopt babies or otherwise step up and solve the problem of “unwanted children.”  If I say I am against the death penalty (I am) no one expects me to go out and fight crime.  If I say I am opposed to the war in Iraq (yes, I am), no one asks me to do anything about that.  If I say I don’t think red light cameras are constitutional (not really sure about that, but I don’t like them!) no one demands that I stand at the corner of Henley and Summit Hill to arrest people.  It’s perfectly fine to have a conviction that any other law is wrong without having to back it up with action.  Think about it.
Back to Leah and the foster care system.  I don’t disagree with anything she says.  My husband is an attorney and I am his assistant.  I hear a lot about children with less than ideal parents and who are in and out of foster care.  We do a lot of Guardian ad Litem work where we do our best to determine the best placement for his little clients.  Some of the situations are heart-wrenching.  I don’t know what the answer is and I know what we have doesn’t always work.  Leah is right that these children are scarred at an early age and even if society doesn’t have the heart to care about the welfare of the children, society should care about the effect troubled kids have as they grow into troubled adults, falling into drugs and crime and becoming parents to another generation of troubled kids.
All I can say is that the right to life is fundamental.  Maybe these kids don’t have much of a chance but they have some chance, and it’s not our right to take that away from them.  I firmly believe part of the problem in the system IS our society’s lack of respect for life, which has led to a culture of death and destruction.
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0 thoughts on “Can we talk . . . about abortion?

  1. Leah

    About the call to step up and help unwanted children: I don’t mean to say that you are somehow not really pro-life if you aren’t trying to solve the problem single-handedly. What I’m trying to emphasize is that it is much easier to be an advocate for innocent fetuses than troubled children who have been scarred by a dysfunctional system and we see that in how most people (both pro-life and pro-choice) choose to get involved. Very few people want to adopt anyone but infants. Donating, etc. is wonderful. But these kids need permanent homes. Statistics show that the kids who spend their lives in the system are more likely to become teenage parents themselves…and the cycle continues.
    My siblings’ mother choose life, that’s true. (The mother is not my sister. My parents took in two of the mother’s children. None of them are biologically-related to me.) So no, abortion doesn’t get rid of the “unwanted children” issue. But that doesn’t change the fact the making abortion illegal would inevitably make the number of “unwanted children” larger.
    I’d also be curious what your response is to my argument about how driving abortion underground (by making it illegal), may well do nothing to reduce the number of abortions and cause a great deal of harm to unborn babies and mothers. Making something illegal doesn’t mean you’ve gotten rid of a problem. Moral arguments are powerful. But actions based on moral arguments can still have unintended (and counterproductive) consequences. We need to judge the moral strength of our society not just on what we try to do, but how successful our efforts are.
    The words of the Pope are nice, but ultimately I think we live in a country where the majority of people believe in small government. (I’m not one of them, but I think I’m in the minority.) I just don’t see us creating a truly supportive system. I don’t think the political will for that exists in this country. I think if we had a system that was more supportive the way they do in Scandinavian countries the number of abortions would go down drastically without us having to do anything. In other words, I think one of the best ways to lower the number of abortions is to fight poverty. Personally, I do not like to see people protesting outside of abortion clinics. I don’t think adding emotional and psychological pressure somehow reduces the likelihood that these women will go through with the procedure.

    1. I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply. You are absolutely right that making abortion illegal won’t put a stop to it altogether, although it would put a stop to a lot of them I’m sure. I believe when something is as wrong as abortion is, we HAVE to advocate for making it illegal, despite possible consequences, because some things just should not be legal in a civilized society. For example, drugs and prostitution are illegal in most states, although many people believe they should be legalized and regulated.
      On the other hand, I have always been a big believer that we also (more importantly, even) have to educate people about abortion and change their minds and hearts in this area. That is why I write more than I picket and it is where almost all of my efforts have gone. I want to understand what the factor is that prevents some women in difficult situations from even considering abortion and find a way to help others feel the same.
      And you and I are, I am sure, pretty much in agreement about government and fighting poverty as a way to end abortions. Any compassionate person has to realize that there are many factors out there besides making abortion illegal that can affect a woman’s decision. I just happen to believe in addition to those measures we need to make it illegal AND work on the other factors.

  2. alf

    Wow. What you had said in your post about people who are pro life being insulted for not “doing something” is very true. You can see this everywhere online whenever abortion is discussed. Of course, it is ridiculous, since as you pointed out, it is like asking a capital punishment person being asked to fight crime as a cop.

    1. I know, right? I can’t think of any other issue where people are told that their opinions are invalid if they are not backed up by action. (Not to mention that there are lots of pro-life people who are “doing something”) Thanks for commenting!

      1. Michele

        On a side note, pro-life action is taken via many different avenues…. prayer, financial donations ti pregnancy centers, meals made for new mothers (adoptive mothers included) …. we could not have adopted our four without the help of neighbors and family.

  3. Pingback: October Is Respect Life Month | Life in Every Limb

  4. Michele

    I am heartbroken when I hear someone use the “foster care” arguement to validate abortions. I have four beautiful, wonderful and very loved children from foster care. Are they scarred? Yes! Are they any less valued or loved than my biological children? No! Were they “planned” children? No! Then again, not all of my biological children were planned! All children are precious. I will be forever grateful to their birth mother for choosing life!

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