Perhaps I'm reading too deeply into the Daily Texan's coverage of the Gonzales v. Carhart post-ruling protests (Abortion Ruling prompts protest), but I couldn't help but notice the choice of terms to describe the two sides in question. Those of us who favor extending protection for the right to life to the unborn were unfailingly referred to as being “anti-abortion.” Perhaps it is simply a matter of political correctness to not use the term “pro-life” (though apparently “pro-choice” is fair game), but the implication is that we care only about making abortion illegal—a development by no means unwelcome by us. However, being pro-life means more than simply advocating bringing abortion to an end.
Those of us who are pro-life believe in what Joseph Cardinal Bernardin has referred to as the “seamless garment of life.” Abortion, infanticide, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, suicide, euthanasia, and even capital punishment each tear holes into this garment by violating the dignity of the human person in the gravest possible way: by destroying him or her, by ending his or her life. We hope to stop this violation of human dignity, which does in part mean making these things illegal.
However, since our motives for respecting life are based on the dignity of the human person, we do not limit ourselves to the opposition of abortion. The dignity of the mother is not forgotten in the name of the child: for this reason, a part of the pro-life movement involves helping those women who are experiencing an unexpected, unwanted pregnancy.
This help is manifested in a variety of forms. It is present in the crisis pregnancy care centers, helping women who are in unplanned pregnancies to find better options than abortion. It can be found in maternity homes, providing a safe and welcoming community, a home, to those young women who choose to keep their unexpected children. And it may be seen in the thousands of volunteers who are there if only to provide an ear to listen to the concerns of these women, or to offer comfort, support, and above all love to those women who so often feel lost and alone in their pregnancies.
Our belief in the dignity of the human person is also what causes so many on the pro-life side to provide comfort and counseling, reconciliation for those women who have chosen abortion and later regretted it. The best members of our movement recognize that it is possible to love the sinner while hating the sin—a mark of true compassion. It is thus that we are able to help the penitent women (and yes, the men) who have chosen abortions, to welcome them into the fold with open arms rather than to abandon them into the cold night of despair. We recognize their dignity in spite of, rather than because of, their choices to commit an abortion, and can thus help to fin forgiveness, rather than merely reassurance that there was nothing wrong with their decision.
This, too, is why the opposition to abortion is at the heart of the pro-life movement. “They will never love where they ought to love,” Edmund Burke once noted, “who do not hate where they ought to hate.” To be pro-life means to wish to abolish abortion, both legally and practically. We do it not only for the sake of those unborn multitudes whose lives we may save, but also for their despairing mothers, their unhappy fathers.
To make abortions illegal would be a large victory for the respect of human life, not only because doing so would discourage abortion, but because keeping abortion legal encourages it. It was Princeton University’s McCormick Scholar of Law, Professor Robert P. George, who noted that “the law is a teacher.” It shall, of course, either teach that life is sacred, that humans have an inherent dignity, or it shall teach that none have inalienable rights based on these things, and that we may each be deprived of our rights as the government, or society, decides that they are no longer worth defending.
However, to insinuate that this is the only thing that we who are pro-life care about is to do us a grave injustice. We are also here to comfort those women who are distressed by their unplanned pregnancies and to aid those who choose to keep their children. We are here to encourage the young women (and men) who choose not to abort, often against the pressures of family and friends. We are here to offer reconciliation to those who have later regretted their abortions. But above all, we are here to foster a society in which the prevalent attitude is to choose life.
If you found this post helpful, some related posts may be found here:
35 Years of Roe and Doe
Some Thoughts on Abortion: Some Rights are Greater than Others
Remarks on My Twenty-Third Birthday
My Thoughts on the CLFL Roe v Wade Day Booth
Righteous Fear of the Lord and the Pro-Life Movement