These remarks were made before a NARAL audience, in 2007, but are only just getting some reaction, perhaps because of the current movement to suppress the conscience clause that protects doctors, nurses and pharmacists from losing their jobs, and Catholic hospitals from closing their doors.
Or, perhaps her words are becoming more widely distributed because The Rev Katherine Hancock Ragsdale has just been named Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massacusetts.
If you do not mind, in the interests of space, I am going to put Ragsdale’s sermon in bold, and I’ll respond here and there, in italics
Too often even those who support us can be heard talking about abortion as a tragedy. Let’s be very clear about this: When a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.
If you actually talk to women who have kept the babies conceived ‘due to violence,’ as I have in my life, you would more likely find that their allowing their child to live has delivered them from their trauma, and brought love, healing and light into a very dark reality. When “violence” has been done to someone, it seems counter-intuitive to suggest that further violence – via both penetration and a ripping, violent murder done deeply WITHIN her body – can be a blessing…unless you subscribe to the odd two-wrongs-make-right equation.
When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion – often a late-term abortion – to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.
These two young mothers and their babies belie the idea that doctors are always correct in their predictions about sustainable life. With extremely rare medical exception, a woman never “requires” an abortion, and even the AMA has testified that late-term abortions are unnecessary, given the availability of safe Cesarean sections, to protect “life” or “health” or “fertility.” It is certainly a crushing and painful thing for any pregnant woman to learn that child she is carrying and nurturing in her womb has a problem and may not live, or may live “differently” than most of us. But healing is a funny thing. It only comes when you walk through the fire rather than by attempting a detour around it. I wonder if Rev. Ragsdale has ever talked to women who have delivered children destined to die, who have managed only to swaddle them, name them and kiss them before burying them. She might learn something about what a powerful, and unending – Eternal – love comes with those experiences. It is the difference between being able to say “I know you and you know me”, and not knowing, at all. Blessings, indeed.
When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.
Certainly there are women who struggle with these issues, but there are pretty extensive government programs in place to assist them, and I have never heard of a church that has refused help when a need has been made known. And I reject out of hand the notion that if someone is poor, they should simply kill their children. Barack Obama’s mother surely had few social “justice” mechanisms in place when she chose to give birth to him!
But if Ragsdale is really worried about women being forced to abort because of insufficient government or community help, and if she is sincere about the notion of “informed choice” – including the “choice” not to abort, then perhaps she will head into the monied enclaves of the pro-choice, on the Upper West Side, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hollywood and elsewhere to urge the establishment of a “Pro-Choice Mother’s Help Foundation,” so that more women have even more resources to help them. It seems to me the pro-abortion side raises enormous amounts of money to support their facilities and their lobbying efforts. Why not spend some of it putting some money on the “life” side of the “choice” they’re so very, very “pro” about? I’d donate to it – a show of good faith.
And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.
Actually, in this scenario, there are several tragedies “in sight.” There is – lest we forget – the ripping and shredding up of a human life (come on, Rev. Ragsdale – it’s a baby – a living being, species human, not vegetable, not wolvine), and more tragically a weird societal validation of the supremacy (and stagnation) of the beloved self, which compromises for no one and nothing, and puts nothing else before it. This is the ultimate, intimate idolatry, whereby one has made oneself a godling, a facsimile I AM. It is very tragic, indeed. It is also a lie and an illusion.These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.
Oh…boomers….they do love their group chants.
I want to thank all of you who protect this blessing – who do this work every day: the health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, who put your lives on the line to care for others (you are heroes — in my eyes, you are saints); the escorts and the activists; the lobbyists and the clinic defenders; all of you. You’re engaged in holy work.
As you see, Rev. Ragsdale and I have very different ideas as to what constitutes a saint, and holy work.
Anyway, that was Ragsdale’s big finale. Earlier in the piece, she had another message to deliver, and you need to read that, too, is because we’re going to see doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others being told to go against their consciences or lose their livelihoods. Indeed, talk in that direction has already begun, and Ragsdale delivers the moralistic (and quite specious, condescending and adolescent) “talking points” for her crew:
Let me say a bit more about that, because the religious community has long been an advocate of taking principled stands of conscience – even when such stands require civil disobedience. We’ve supported conscientious objectors, the Underground Railroad, freedom riders, sanctuary seekers, and anti-apartheid protestors. We support people who put their freedom and safety at risk for principles they believe in.
But let’s be clear, there’s a world of difference between those who engage in such civil disobedience, and pay the price, and doctors and pharmacists who insist that the rest of the world reorder itself to protect their consciences – that others pay the price for their principles.
This isn’t particularly complicated. If your conscience forbids you to carry arms, don’t join the military or become a police officer. If you have qualms about animal experimentation, think hard before choosing to go into medical research. And, if you’re not prepared to provide the full range of reproductive health care (or prescriptions) to any woman who needs it then don’t go into obstetrics and gynecology, or internal or emergency medicine, or pharmacology. Choose another field! We’ll respect your consciences when you begin to take responsibility for them.”
As Rev. Ragsdale likes to say: Let’s be clear: this is genuine disorientation, species diabolical. The only consciences that will be respected are the ones that are aligned with the agenda. This is what “tolerance” has devolved to. “Tolerate me; but I need not tolerate thee.”
Or, to put it another way: Obey;your conscience means nothing to me.
And now, good people, if you would – I have received an email from a young woman who is 7 months pregnant with her first child and who also has been told by doctors that her daughter will not live past her birth. This mother and her husband are prepared to hold and love and kiss this child, and then let her go. But they also believe that – as the angel told Mary – with God nothing is impossible. I have written back to ask her if I may give you more details but in the meantime, please pray for them. As she wrote in her email, “I believe God uses others to keep His children going…”
How funny…in ten words, she articulates the whole mystery of life and love, better than Rev. Ragsdale or I ever could.
Women are screwed up if they think they do not have power:
By the world’s measure, the power of a woman lies in what she “does.” By Christ’s measure – by God’s – woman is intrinsically powerful, simply in her being. She is afforded the power, freedom and respect to “make” or “break” mankind’s connection to the Creator.
Check back. If I can, I will give you more details.