(image courtesy of shutterstock.com)
Someone asked me, recently, what I thought the status is of the pro-life movement, and I said, “sort of stagnant.” Different polling shows different data (and as Sr. Mary Ann Walsh noted at the USCCB Media Blog, “it’s all in how you ask the questions”) but whether anything is really changing is anyone’s guess and tactics — on both sides — are awfully stale and predictable. When it is politically expedient for them to do so, the pro-abortion side hauls out its “war on women” narratives, replete with Pelosian “women bleeding to death on floors” rhetoric meant to make you put all thinking aside in order to feel, feel, and feel, which is cheap manipulation, of course.
But the pro-life side sometimes seems stuck and out of ideas as well. I recently unfriended someone on Facebook and when she asked me why, I told her, “every night my timeline gets cluttered up with your endless memes about abortion, and while I appreciate your passion, I’m already in the choir and don’t need to hear/see you full-blasting it. What purpose is all of that serving but your own sense of needing to “do something?” You only follow people you agree with, so what’s the point? You’re posting pro-life memes among pro-life people. Whose heart or mind are you changing?”
And yes, all of that meme-ing is its own sort of emotional manipulation.
Perhaps with some justice, she got mad at me, but over an email exchange this lady admitted that no, she wasn’t being terribly effective and yes, she felt helpless to do more and was out of ideas.
Well, there are actually lots of ways to work to end abortion. One way is to support women like Jeanette Meyer, who openly talks about her multiple abortions and how she was healed from suicidal torment and inspired to help other women, and like Katrina Fernandez, who was petrified to discuss her painful experiences but can testify to the power of prayer.
But the best way to reinvigorate the pro-life movement and get away from this state of stasis is to work to change hearts and minds. I recall one March for Life, then-president George W. Bush stated that the abortion problem would not go away until a change takes place in the human heart. He was exactly right, of course, but Ann Coulter and others took him to task for being off-message or not on their message, or too compassionate or something. I forget, because that sort of in-fighting grows so tiresome.
Bush was correct: within our hearts there is a brokenness that may be part of our Original Sin but also grows beyond it, particularly as the culture becomes more comfortable and thoughtless about dehumanizing whatever does not suit the zeitgeist.
How do we effect a change to hearts and minds? How do we respect “feelings, feelings, feelings” but also encourage real thinking, thinking, thinking in order to re-teach the value and dignity of the human person to men and women who have been too-long cajoled into forgetting it, thanks to our me-centric, throw-away culture?
I think we do it by offering them something completely new to think about, by saying something new.
In fact, saying something new is essential, because we have all heard every one of the arguments, from every side, for forty years, and hearts and minds are hardly budged.
But is there anything new to be said about abortion and women, and dignity and respect? Well, yes, there is, and over at the Washington Post “On Faith” section, our own Pat Gohn is saying it, and in a most pastoral, wise and moving way:
There’s no mistaking biology. Womanly bodies are wonderfully made, and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb carried under her heart.
A woman’s womb, her uterus, signals that she is made for something and someone more than herself. This reality touches a woman at her very core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The womb’s raison d’etre illuminates this gift that welcomes and receives the life of a child, sheltering and nurturing it, until finally, a woman gives birth. We even use the expression — giving birth — denoting the gift that it is. The maternal gift ought to be honored and celebrated.
What’s more, a pregnant mother is entrusted with carrying an immortal soul besides her own — a soul that is destined for eternity. That’s why a woman really needs to be aware of the dignity of her feminine creation, and the sublime gift of her maternity, so she can confer that dignity on her child, and upon others through her love of life.
The gift of maternity is inherent in all women. They are predisposed to motherhood by their design. Yet, as we know, not all women bear children. Even if a woman never gives birth, a woman’s life is still inclined toward mothering. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. This broadens our ideas of maternity beyond gestation and lactation.
A woman’s relationships with others, even though they may not be fruitful biologically, can be fruitful spiritually. Therefore a woman’s life–her feminine genius–is characterized by physical and/or spiritual motherhood.
When the gift of a woman’s fertility and maternity are devalued, they are misinterpreted as liabilities or threats to a woman’s potential happiness, or earning power, or freedom.
Both women and men are crippled when disrespect for any of the gifts of the other are ignored, stifled, abused, or rejected. But women are demeaned when this precious part of them is reduced to a faculty to be managed, rather than a capability to be treasured.
This is a new approach to the question. It is pastoral. It is generous in spirit, and therefore it is instructive and convincing. Read the whole thing. Send it around.
I am thinking of sending a copy to Gov. Andrew Cuomo! :-)
Related, at Huffpo: The Beautiful and Efficient Anatomy of Pregnancy
Btw, if you like Pat’s piece, you should consider pre-ordering her upcoming book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood, which is every bit as pastoral and instructive and chock full of wisdom you want to underline and ponder.