I'm staunchly pro-life. I also hope and pray that more pro-lifers will not just fixate on overturning Roe v. Wade (that is important, I maintain, to help reduce the grisly killing of, what is it, over one million every year? Back in June I'd put some thoughts up on overturning Roe.). I pray every day for a greater respect for all human life in our society. I pray for the establishment of a culture of support in our parishes, in the Catholic world, where no woman should feel that she needs to make the choice of killing her child, for an end to the shaming of women who get pregnant out of wedlock. I pray for an end to condemnatory language towards women who have had abortions. From the pulpit, and everywhere else, all Catholics need to hear a message that doesn't just denounce abortion, but lets women (and men) know that their parish is a place where they can talk about this in a non-judgmental manner. Where they know that they will be supported, where having an unplanned pregnancy need not mean the end of their dreams and hopes. Where alternatives are clearly and really present, that do not result in the death of a human being. Utopian? Maybe. But as Christians, we all yearn for the coming of the Kingdom. And labor for it every day.
[Last year Busted Halo featured a piece where a teacher at an all-girls Catholic HS had her class do a project to find out what kind of support there would be in their communities for a pregnant teenager. What would Trixie Do.
What surprised me most was that the majority of the groups decided they would not choose abortion in the end. Girls who assumed at the beginning that abortion was the only choice (the vast majority) changed their minds. Some said, though, that even knowing of that support, they would choose abortion because they could not imagine taking on the challenge of raising a child.Great stuff by Stanley Hauerwas after the jump!
None of the twenty or so groups chose adoption. It is pretty typical among the students I teach that adoption is never considered. They fear that their child would be unloved or abused or placed in foster care. They also can't bear to think of their child out there somewhere in the world without them.
Via Neil at Catholic Sensibility, I came across this article at beliefnet, the Catholic Abortion Paradox. The stories are heart-wrenching. This is where we need to be -- not just priests, but committed faithful, who can reach out and support women in such situations. Real love. Real support, material, financial, spiritual.
Also via Neil (thanks!) is this really thought-provoking talk by Methodist theoligian (and somewhat of a maverick) Stanley Hauerwas. Abortion, Theologically Understood. I don't know that I agree with his complete abandonment of rights talk:
We must remember that as Christians we do not believe in the inherent sacredness of life or in personhood. Instead we believe that there is much worth dying for. Christians do not believe that life is a right or that we have inherent dignity. Instead we believe that life is the gift of a gracious God. That is our primary Christian language regarding abortion: life is the gift of a gracious God. As part of the giftedness of life, we believe that we ought to live in a profound awe of the other's existence, knowing in the other we find God. So abortion is a description maintained by Christians to remind us of the kind of community we must be to sustain the practice of hospitality to life. That is related to everything else that we do and believe.I'm not sure how this is opposed to an inherent dignity that comes from being made by God in His image but maybe that's a quibble. Then there's this:
As this evening's sermon suggests, the legalization of abortion can be seen as the further abandonment of women by men. one of the cruelest things that has happened over the last few years is convincing women that Yes is as good as No. That gives great power to men, especially in societies (like ours) where men continue domination. Women's greatest power is the power of the No. This simply has to be understood. The church has to make it clear that we understand that sexual relations are relations of power. Unfortunately, one of the worst things that Christians have done is to underwrite romantic presuppositions about marriage. Even Christians now think that we ought to marry people simply because they are "in love." Wrong, wrong, wrong! What could being in love possibly mean? The romantic view underwrites the presumption that, because people are in love, it is therefore legitimate for them to have sexual intercourse, whether they are married or not. Contrary to this is the church's view of marriage. To the church, marriage is the public declaration that two people have pledged to live together faithfully for a lifetime.YES! And the end of the talk is just brilliant. Much to chew on. I'll quote these paragraphs in full here.
There is one other issue that I think is worth highlighting. It concerns how abortion in our society has dramatically affected the practice of having children. In discussions about abortion, one often hears that no "unwanted child" ought to be born. But I can think of no greater burden than having to be a wanted child.May the Good News of life take root in our hearts, grow and spread!
When I taught the marriage course at Notre Dame, the parents of my students wanted me to teach their kids what the parents did not want them to do. The kids, on the other hand, approached the course from the perspective of whether or not they should feel guilty for what they had already done. Not wanting to privilege either approach, I started the course with the question, What reason would you give for you or someone else wanting to have a child?" And you would get answers like, "Well, children are fun." In that case I would ask them to think about their brothers and/or sisters. Another answer was, Children are a hedge against loneliness Then I recommended getting a dog. Also I would note that if they really wanted to feel lonely, they should think about someone they raised turning out to be a stranger. Another student reply was, Kids are a manifestation of our love." "Well," I responded, "what happens when your love changes and you are still stuck with them" I would get all kinds of answers like these from my students. But, in effect, these answers show that people today do not know why they are having children.
It happened three or four times that someone in the class, usually a young woman, would raise her hand and say, "I do not want to talk about this anymore." What this means is that they know that they are going to have children, and yet they do not have the slightest idea why. And they do not want it examined. You can talk in your classes about whether God exists all semester and no one cares, because it does not seem to make any difference. But having children makes a difference, and the students are frightened that they do not know about these matters.
Then they would come up with that one big answer that sounds good. They would say, "We want to have children in order to make the world a better place." And by that, they think that they ought to have a perfect child. And then you get into the notion that you can have a child only if you have everything set--that is, if you are in a good "relationship," if you have your finances in good shape, the house, and so on. As a result, of course, we absolutely destroy our children, so to speak, because we do not know how to appreciate their differences.
Now who knows what we could possibly want when we "want a child"? The idea of want in that context is about as silly as the idea that we can marry the right person. That just does not happen. Wanting a child is particularly troubling as it finally results in a deep distrust of mentally and physically handicapped children. The crucial question for us as Christians is what kind of people we need to be to be capable of welcoming children into this world, some of whom may be born disabled and even die.
Too often we assume compassion means preventing suffering and think that we ought to prevent suffering even if it means eliminating the sufferer. In the abortion debate, the church's fundamental challenge is to challenge this ethics of compassion. There is no more fundamental issue than that. People who defend abortion defend it in the name of compassion. "We do not want any unwanted children born into the world," they say. But Christians are people who believe that any compassion that is not formed by the truthful worship of the true God cannot help but be accursed. That is the fundamental challenge that Christians must make to this world. It is not going to be easy.