The Exception that Proves the Rule

Original source: http://www.france24.com/en/20120820-furor-over-republicans-legitimate-rape-comment

In the wake of Todd Akin’s stupid (really, I could think of a fancier word but I think that one covers it) remarks about rape and abortion, and then VP-hopeful Paul Ryan’s follow-up distancing himself from Akin and downplaying his own oft-stated convictions regarding abortion in exceptional cases, pregnancy and rape are everywhere in the news this week.  I think I have something to contribute, though, and I would like to solicit contributions from you as well, if you have something to add in the comments.

I understand, I believe, the pro-choice position on abortion, as much as I disagree with it: that a woman should have the right to decide what to do with her own body, including whether to become or to stay pregnant. And I think most pro-choice people understand the pro-life position: that abortion is wrong because the unborn is a person whose right to life cannot be trumped by its mother’s rights.

But I CANNOT understand the reasoning behind allowing exceptions for rape and incest. I challenge anyone reading this who holds those beliefs to explain them below.

Pro-lifers and even many people in the muddy middle on abortion often find themselves frustrated by radical pro-choicers who refuse to allow for any limitations on abortion: waiting periods, parental notification, banning procedures most people find repugnant, like partial-birth abortions. But abortion rights activists realize that they have to argue against these limitations because to admit limitations is also to admit that there is something unsavory about abortion, somethings serious, something that makes people uncomfortable. When President Clinton opined that abortion should be “Safe, legal, and rare,” some were uncomfortable with his language because why should it be rare if there is nothing morally wrong about it?

On the flip side, allowing exceptions for incest and rape does much more damage to a pro-life argument. After all, WHY are we against abortion? Because we believe that the unborn child is a human being from the moment of conception and therefore entitled to the protections that human dignity demands from that moment forward. With that as our premise, how can we offer an exception based on how that human person was conceived?

We can’t, not logically. But most Americans have not been trained to think critically. They are uncomfortable with abortion on some level. They are also uncomfortable with allowing suffering of any kind. They look for compromises and find them in limiting abortions to certain trimesters, and to allowing exceptions in certain circumstances.

But offering exceptions based on mode of conception is sexist, honestly. It’s saying, “Well, you poor innocent woman, you shouldn’t have to be further victimized by carrying this baby because it wasn’t your fault.  But as for the rest of you sluts, you play, you pay.”

Because Truth Matters

Let’s get this straight from the very beginning.  I’m not planning to vote for Rick Santorum.  I disagree profoundly with most of his positions.  So the defense that follows has nothing to do with my personal political leanings.  It has to do instead with my passion for the truth, the same passion that leads me to consult Snopes before forwarding emails, and to risk offending people by telling them that the emails they are forwarding are LIES.  And you can believe me or not, but I have even done this when the email in question supported my own prejudices.
Rick Santorum’s wife DID NOT have an abortion, no matter what you may have read to the contrary on your favorite website, or what your friend on Facebook said, no matter how much you want to believe it.  Here’s what happened in my own words:  Karen Santorum was about 19 weeks pregnant when her unborn baby was found to be suffering from a fatal condition.  This is where a lot of people choose to terminate.  Instead, the Santorums tried intrauterine surgery.  Tragically, the surgery caused an infection.  Mrs. Santorum had a fever of 105.  Again, instead of moving straight to early induction of their non-viable baby, the Santorums tried antibiotics first.  Labor started due to the infection.  Mrs. Santorum even asked for drugs to stop the labor.  Despite all the lies circulating on the internet, Pitocin was never administered.  Baby Gabriel was born at 20 weeks and apparently lived a short while.  Through this whole ordeal, the Santorums acted according to their stated principles.
Despite his admittedly strict anti-abortion/pro-life sentiments (no exceptions for rape or incest), I cannot find any evidence that Mr. Santorum ever said that abortion should be prohibited if it is necessary to save the mother’s life.  Both he and his wife in fact stated that if it had come down to his wife’s death or early induction, they would have chosen induction.  Mr. Santorum did sign a personhood pledge, but it provides an exception to save the mother’s life.
Here are links about the Santorums’ baby:  Salon article
NPR interview
Here are more links about his position on abortion to save the mother’s life:  http://www.dennyburk.com/gop-candidates-dont-allow-exceptions-for-the-life-of-a-mother/
http://politics.foxnews.mobi/quickPage.html?page=23681&content=63653356&pageNum=-1
So hate Mr. Santorum (or vote against him) for being pro-life, or anti-abortion, or anti-choice if you want–I don’t really care how you express it.  But don’t hate him for being a hypocrite, because he’s not.

Christians Who AREN'T

I’m updating and reposting this today because four years later a U.S. Senator felt it was appropriate, whether joking or not, to “pray” this prayer for our President at the Faith and Freedom conference held on June 9, 2016.So I’m taking my son and his girlfriend to the mall this morning, and find myself behind a car with the bumper sticker above.  Looks like a nice Christian sentiment, right?  Especially considering it was accompanied by one of those Christian fish symbols some people put on their cars (there was one on my late lamented Durango!).
I’m sorry to say, though, that in my experience many people who wear their Christianity on their sleeves (or on the back of their cars, as it were) frequently don’t appear to live up to the ideals they claim to espouse.  This is certainly a case in point.  A quick Google (by my son, not me–I was driving!) let us know the heart of this so-called Christian:  May his days be few; may another take his office!
Yes, that’s right!  The “Christian” in the car ahead of me wants us to pray that our President will die!
Lest you jump in and suggest the words are figurative, or that it means his days as POTUS should be few, go Google yourself some Bible commentary like I did, all of which made it quite clear that it is literal death that this Scripture describes.
Asking God to kill people you don’t like is not Christian, folks.  You are the kind of “Christians” that give the rest of us a bad name.  You know, those of us who are trying (and failing, because we are human) to do all that stuff that Jesus actually said?  Stuff like “Love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, bless those who persecute you, turn the other cheek, forgive your brother 70 times 7 times, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Don’t ask me for the chapter and verse–I’m Catholic, you know–but He said those things and you know He did.  WWJD about those bumper stickers?  Rip them off your smug little cars and tell you to get that plank out of your eye so you don’t have a wreck, I’m guessing.
You call yourself a Christian?  Then pray, REALLY pray, for your President.  Pray that he exercises wise leadership.  Pray that his heart changes on certain issues–yes, like abortion.  Pray, if you don’t like him, for wise leaders to arise to replace him.  Pray for your country.  But don’t pray for anyone’s death and then dare to call yourself a Christian.
You call yourself a Christian- (1)
Since I’ve decided to revisit this post, I am linking up with #WorthRevisit this week!  Visit the hosts of this weekly linkup at Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You.

Original altered by me and used by permission

Martin Luther King and Abortion

mlk prolife
This was, I believe, my last column for the East Tennessee Catholic, published right around this time in 2010.  Since this is the time of year for participating in Martin Luther King parades and Marches for Life, it seems like a good day to share it with you.

Our small delegation from Immaculate Conception’s Social Justice Committee slogged down Kingston Pike, through ankle deep puddles and muddy grass, wet to the skin. Although our participation in the annual March for Life in the face of such weather proved our dedication to the pro-life cause, it wasn’t much fun.

Less than a week earlier, we had marched in the Martin Luther King parade. Unlike the snow we had braved the prior year, we were blessed with sunny weather that made the 2.5 mile walk a pleasure, especially with all the smiling people shouting greetings and encouragement from the sidelines.

As the chair of our Social Justice Committee, I had the task of promoting both these marches. In advance of the MLK event, we shared with the congregation the words of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers … At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace.”

The following week we drew a parallel between the two marches. We reminded everyone that the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement were fueled by Dr. King’s commitment to organized non-violent protest, a philosophy he adopted from Mohandas Gandhi. Dr. King said: “The method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” It is good to be reminded that we are not just marching to make ourselves feel good, but to effect change.

The proximity of these events made me wonder about Dr. King—were he alive today, would he march for the pro-life cause? Would he recognize abortion for the civil rights issue it is? I wanted to think so, but finding concrete information is difficult.

Pro-life websites claim him for our side, but can offer only indirect evidence. Pro-choice websites paint him as a certain supporter. Their argument centers around the Margaret Sanger Award, which Dr. King accepted from Planned Parenthood in 1966. But in 1966, Planned Parenthood was promoting birth control, not abortion. One of their pamphlets, published in August 1963 and titled Is Birth Control Abortion? said: “An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it.”

While Dr. King is on record as supporting birth control, he cannot have known the truth about Margaret Sanger and her racist, eugenicist agenda, just as many people do not know it today. Had he done so, he surely would have refused an award which honors the woman who said of her strategy: “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (Margaret Sanger’s December 19, 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, 255 Adams Street, Milton, Massachusetts).

Advocates of King as pro-lifer point to his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he espoused natural law theory, saying : “[T]here are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all. . . . A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

They also point to the pro-life commitment of some of his closest associates, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Jesse Jackson (yes, until the early 1980s!) both of whom are on record as deploring abortion. In truth, many black leaders of King’s time called it genocide.

Finally, Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, has said: “What would Martin Luther King say if he saw the skulls of babies at the bottom of abortion pits? If Martin Luther King’s dream is to live, our babies must live. ” (Martin Luther King’s Niece Supports Right To Life, Boston University Daily Free Press, 18 January 2000, p.1)

At the dedication of memorials at the Birmingham church at which her father served as pastor, she added: “The great irony,” she said, “is that abortion has done what the Klan only dreamed of.” She told a meeting of Priests for Life that the killing of a quarter of the black population of the US has not been from the lynch mobs of her childhood days, but from abortionists, “who plant their killing centers in minority neighborhoods and prey upon women who think they have no hope.”

And on that note, staying true to their founder’s ideals, Planned Parenthood has purchased a medical building at 710 Cherry Street in East Knoxville, a predominantly black neighborhood. Non-violent protest deterred them from locating in mostly-white Bearden. While not offering surgical abortions, this center prescribes the abortion pill, RU-486. Pro-life advocates from both inside and outside the neighborhood are already organizing, fostering tensions just like Dr. King in the cause of justice for the unborn.

I’m linking up this post today at the #WorthRevisit linkup.  Visit there and also here to read more thought-provoking posts.

Whose Judgment?

Here’s a column reprint from 2003, which I was inspired to run today by a Facebook post by my friend Amy (you can see her here) whom I have known since first grade.  She said:  “The difference between a flower and a weed is judgment.”

It was a rare sunny day, and 9-year-old Jake, 2-year-old William, and I were going for a walk.  As we passed our neighbor’s house, I warned Jake to stay out of her grass because shortly before I had seen it being sprayed with herbicide.

“Why did she do that?” Jake asked me.  “There aren’t any weeds in her grass.”

I pointed to the white clover flowers.  “Those are weeds, Jake.  So are dandelions and buttercups and violets.”

Jake was indignant.  “Those aren’t weeds, Mom!  Those are flowers.”

Since I have been known to mow around the buttercups and violets in my own yard and vividly remember crying inconsolably as a child when my uncle sprayed all the dandelions in his yard, I tend to agree with Jake.

I started thinking about what makes a weed a weed and a flower a flower.  Isn’t it all about choice?  I have put buttercups in vases and transplanted violets into my border.  I leave the dandelions in my yard alone, but I pull them up when they appear in the rose garden.  To others, like my neighbor, only cultivated flowers are pretty.

Aren’t unplanned babies a little like weeds, springing up unwished for, disturbing the symmetry of the garden we have planned in our minds?  Some people choose to let the “weed” grow, to see what it blooms into, to see how it alters the pattern of the garden with its unique beauty.  Others remove it quickly–before they have a chance to see how beautiful it can be.

With literal weeds, though, at least we have a consensus.  Even if I choose not to poison them, I know which flowers are supposed to be weeds and which are not.  Under our laws, any unborn baby is a weed unless his mother decides he is a flower.

I recently read about a couple’s experience of expecting a baby with Down Syndrome.  Everyone encouraged them to abort their baby because he wasn’t a perfect specimen,  I don’t use chemicals in my garden, so my roses always get blackspot and most of the leaves fall off.  But the flowers are still pretty, even if they won’t win any prizes.

Like most people, I have been shocked and saddened by the terrible tragedy of Laci and Conner Peterson.  Even though Baby Conner never drew a breath, he has been given the dignity of a name and is mourned throughout the country.  He was Laci’s baby, and we all know that she wanted him.  Conner’s murderer will be charged with homicide, yet women pay physicians to legally kill babies every day.
We must fight to change a culture that says the lives of babies are valuable only on the say-so of their mothers.  We must encourage women to take the chance of allowing “unwelcome weeds” to take root and grow.

We have lived in our house only a year and a half, and I haven’t done much gardening yet.  I’ve been waiting to see what would develop.  Last spring a green vine started growing up the side of my porch.  I still don’t know what it’s called, but, like a baby, it grows fast.  I began winding it through and around and under the porch railings.  By midsummer it was like a hedge.  I kept wondering whether I was making a fool of myself, letting some weed grow all over my porch, but my faith was finally rewarded.  In July the vine blossomed with thousands of small, sweet-smelling white flowers.  I would have missed that if I had mercilessly cut it down to the ground.

not mine–uncredited internet photo

Jake’s last word to me on weeds was, “Those are flowers, and flowers can’t be ugly.  All flowers are beautiful.”

As are all babies.

I now know that the vine in question was Sweet Autumn Clematis, and it continued to delight us every summer.

Got baby?

Because I’m on vacation (where I envisioned I would have uninterrupted to hours to blog, but that isn’t happening) here is another column reprint for you:

Billboards. They are everywhere in our town and in our state. Their unsightliness mars the beauty of rural roadsides, and adds to the ugliness of already overdeveloped commercial strips.

The particular billboard I’m writing about is more attractive than most, though, because its subject is a baby, a winsome, chubby little thing with head slightly tilted and tiny hands clasped together, almost as if in prayer. Perhaps you might expect it to be an ad for baby products, or for an agency that helps children. I hope you’ll be as shocked as I was to learn that the baby itself was the product this sign was selling.

“Want one?” the sign asks. Catchy, isn’t it? A bit like the “Got milk?” campaign. Maybe it’s cute and catchy so we won’t think about what is really going on here. The name and the web address of a fertility clinic complete the legend on the sign. Its message is clear: Babies are something we have a right to. Babies are something we can buy.

Many years ago another ad moved me to write a letter to The University of Tennessee’s student publication, The Daily Beacon. That time it was an ad for a local abortion clinic. Bracketed by Visa and MasterCard logos, its slogan read: “No one believes in abortion until they [sic] need one.” Once again, they treat human life like a matter of economics. In this case, babies are things we have a right to be free from. And we can be rid of them, for a price.

One ad promises us sex without babies, another promises us babies without sex. Neither is right, and both are related. Separate sex from procreation, and funny things start to happen. Pretty soon, and people start to forget why we have babies in the first place. Having five kids, my husband and I have gotten more than our share of teasing, for example: “Haven’t you figured out what causes that yet?” about 500 times. It’s good for a chuckle, but the fact is that many people haven’t figured it out, or else they’ve forgotten. Babies are caused–or they are supposed to be caused–by the physical expression of love between a man and a woman. An important corollary is that sex isn’t supposed to be a recreational sport.

I’m sure you are familiar with point/counterpoint columns, where self-proclaimed experts take on some controversial issue and argue opposing sides, usually divided straight down predictable liberal/conservative lines. I cut out one of these some months ago, planning to discuss it here later. This one discussed yet another side of assisted reproductive technology: is it a good idea for single women to become pregnant via sperm donors?

The “liberal” columnist predictably embraced the idea, with comments like, “Women who want children shouldn’t be barred from motherhood just because they never fell in love or don’t want to marry.” The only reason, she claims, that studies find two parents to be better than one is that two parents usually have more money than one.

The “conservative” columnist responded that it’s wrong to deprive children of fathers, and that there are plenty of parentless children in need of adoption already for someone with motherly love to spare; one parent is indubitably better than none! And I agree with her, as far as she goes. But it’s not far enough.

Both columnists spent a lot of time talking about the rights of women to become mothers, but neither mentioned in any way that children are supposed to be–that they have the right to be–generated by an act of love between their parents. Just like the concept of sex without consequences, the concept of babies without sex is already entrenched in our culture.

Can we talk . . . about abortion?


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.

It’s a baby, stupid: Why personhood is moot in the abortion debate

Time for another reprint from the ETC–yes, and I know, time for some NEW life issues writing; I have ideas, and I promise a new one is germinating.  This column appeared, I believe, in 2007.

Anyone who has been really involved in the abortion debate for a long time has got to have realized that the arguments have changed. Back in the day, pro-lifers said, “It’s a baby!” Pro-choicers responded, “It’s a clump of cells.” It was as simple as that.

Enter ultrasound, fetal surgery, survival of micro-premies. It’s hard to argue that those human-looking although tiny little creatures sucking their thumbs aren’t babies. Or what about the widely-disseminated photo of the tiny hand slipping out of the womb and touching the surgeon operating on him? And how about those miracle babies born just barely halfway through the length of a normal pregnancy who with the help of technology manage to make it?

It’s a baby, stupid!” At one time I, and I suspect most other pro-lifers, thought it was going to be just that easy: once the pro-abortion forces saw it really was a baby, of course they weren’t going to say it was okay to kill it anymore. Finally pro-choice women could relax, and admit the tension involved in saying “fetus” when you want to abort it, but “my baby,” when you’ve planned to keep it.

But it hasn’t been that easy. They call it spin: changing the rules of engagement when the facts go against your original position. Yes, there are still people out there on both sides waging the “is it life or isn’t it” argument” but anyone seriously involved in this debate knows that’s a moot point. We’ve moved into a new world, less brave than twisted.
In this new world we have abortion clinics (sponsored by a group called “The November Gang,”) with pink hearts all over the walls, where parents there to abort their babies write apologies and explanations, justifying their choice by saying it’s for the good of the child, promising that they’ll meet again in heaven one day.

In this new world we have an uproar at a hospital in England, where the fact that aborted babies are disposed of in the hospital incinerator with other “medical waste” recently came to light. Said one woman in an online article in the Daily Mail: “I am furious . . . imagine my horror when I discovered my baby was incinerated in the same furnace as the hospital rubbish.” To add to the insanity, the hospital that performs abortions (and ought to, therefore, believe there is nothing wrong in so doing) burns the fetal remains alone, with a white sheet in front of the incinerator, and two witnesses from bereavement care staff.

In this new world, a woman can publish an article in Salon proclaiming, “I had a second-trimester abortion . . . This was . . . not a “clump of cells” . . . He was my baby, and I chose to end his life.” She goes on to say, “Everyone knows now how early a fetus becomes a baby . . . there is a terrible truth to those horrific pictures the anti-choice fanatics hold up in front of abortion clinics . . . my doctor told me that he would make sure my baby felt no pain . . . contemporary women know the truth about abortion.”

They know the truth. They know the truth. And yet they choose to kill.

Once upon a time we thought that knowing the truth–that an unborn baby is a life–would be enough. It turns out it’s not. The problem, you see, is our new world, our fear-filled new world that values perfection (“I wanted a genetically perfect baby, and because that was something I could control, I chose to end his life,” says the author in Salon.), that champions the illusions of choice and control, that craves instant gratification and repudiates the possibility of transformation through suffering, that equates success in life with the acquisition of material things.

We thought there was an easy answer, but it turns out that to end abortion we have to transform the world. “Perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). Only when the hearts of those who would seek abortions or coerce others into seeking them are changed by love will abortion end. How do we do this? You won’t get an easy answer from me. But we have to keep trying.

Wishful thinking

Yesterday a Facebook friend was trying to convince others, via her status, that Pepsi was debuting a new can that included the whole Pledge of Allegiance except for the words “under God” (the HEATHENS!).  We were all supposed to put this in our statuses and NEVER EVER drink that devilish drink AGAIN!
Now I know very well by now that 99.9% of such internet claims are lies.  Some are feel-good lies, like all those sappy “inspirational” stories that are mostly just not true or are exaggerated for effect.  I don’t usually bother bursting anyone’s bubble over those.  But others, like this one, damage the reputations of individuals and businesses.  It only takes a few seconds to go to Snopes and check their validity, and so I always do and always will, even if I hated Pepsi and wished the company would go out of business!  Because, you know, truth is important, and if you have to tell lies to bolster your argument (now I’m thinking of political email forwards) then maybe you need to reconsider your position.
Anyway, the Snopes article did mention that the words “under God” are a late addition to the Pledge anyway, which I think I knew but had forgotten.  And since it’s truthful to say that our nation IS under God (because isn’t everything?) I think it’s a fine addition and I’m proud to say it.
However, this got me thinking about the Pledge, and about a practice that you might be surprised that I object to.  Frequently, at gatherings of pro-life folks, the Pledge is recited, with a postscript at the end:  “with liberty and justice for all, born and unborn.”  I don’t like that addition, and I won’t say it.  And you know why?  Because it isn’t true.  And no amount of saying it is going to make it true.
You might argue that even the “with liberty and justice for all”  part isn’t true, you anti-American you!  But even if it isn’t always true, it’s supposed to be.  Our laws support that ideal for the most part, as do our courts.  On the other hand, our laws explicitly reject liberty and justice for the unborn.
When we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, we are pledging allegiance to a government that has said it is okay to abort babies up until the day they are born.  That is simply a fact.  It is a government that has allowed and sanctioned and approved and codified many other things, some that I object to and some that you do.  I love my country and will continue to pledge allegiance to it, but that doesn’t make me blind to its faults, nor is it unpatriotic of me to think some changes are in order.
What do people mean when they say the Pledge in this altered way?  Are they saying that they aren’t really pledging allegiance to this country, but that they will if the abortion laws are changed?  Are they just pretending that what they wish was true is true?  They cannot claim that they are pledging allegiance to some sort of ideal that the flag itself symbolizes, because the pledge makes it quite clear that those reciting it are pledging allegiance to the country as well.
I know pro-lifers well, because I am one.  And I know many of them have worked tirelessly for changes in the country’s abortion laws.  But adding a phrase to the Pledge that amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking is at best pointless and at worst dishonest and counterproductive.

Grace through Suffering

This originally appeared  in The East Tennessee Catholic in 2006.

It was late at night–later than a twelve-year-old should have been awake–when Jake discovered me crying in front of the computer. Like all children, he doesn’t like to see his mother cry, and he asked me what was wrong. I told him about the website I was looking at, and he went up to bed.

He caught me reading and crying again the next night, and the next night too. “Why do you keep reading something that makes you so sad?” he wanted to know. He’s still too young to understand how joy and sorrow can be wrapped up in one package. He’s not alone–the idea of grace and joy flowing from suffering isn’t a popular one even with adults these days.

These personal stories are the most heart wrenching things I have ever come across in print. And yet there is a beauty in them. Last month I wrote about people who would abort a baby for having an extra finger. The families in these stories welcome babies developing without much of their brains. The news is full of articles about women “terminating” for “defective fetuses.” These stories are full of mothers who pray for their doomed babies to survive long enough to be born alive, who welcome surgical birth to give their sick babies a better chance at a few more minutes of life, who treasure every second of their pregnancies because that is the only time they will have to love and care for their babies.

You’d expect the stories to be sad, of course, and they are. For every story of a diagnosis that turned out to be a mistake, there are 20 about babies who proved to have terrible abnormalities, from anencephaly to missing kidneys to rare chromosomal additions that are incompatible with life. For every story of a baby who miraculously survived after medical intervention, there are ten about babies who breathe for just a few precious days.

But they are also joyful, peppered with such adjectives as “amazing,” “happy,” “beautiful,” and “thankful.” Nobody says, “I wish I’d had that abortion my doctor suggested.” Nobody says, “They were right. It would have been better for my baby to die sooner.” They don’t talk about defective babies, but about much-loved family members. And while many of them begin with anger at God, they end with acceptance, peace, and a respect for His dominion over life and death.

As I write this, my beautiful two-year-old, my fifth healthy child, is falling asleep in my arms. I am grateful for her perfection, but it bears remembering that God’s concept of perfection is not ours. I hope never to receive a poor prenatal diagnosis; I hope the same for you. Nevertheless, I’m glad these stories are there to remind us all that suffering is not meaningless and that its eradication by immoral means is never justifiable.

If you are on Facebook (and who isn’t?) you can “Like” BeNotAfraid’s page and see additional inspirational and informative posts by and about mothers and fathers dealing with prenatally diagnosed fetal abnormalities.