Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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August 24th, 2011

Pro-Life Priorities


The other day I read one of the most horrific, truly mind-boggling statistics I’ve ever read. But I will get to that in a second. First I want to establish a few points. I am pro-life. Obviously. Hopefully that is clear from my writing. But sometimes I am so embarrassed by the 1% of pro-life people that believe they are furthering the cause when really they are just giving others ammunition against us.

A few months ago I read this post on pro-life euphemisms. The author very articulately scolds pro-life advocates that put their energy into not-so-important hair-splitting instead of something useful. She talks about people who correct mothers that use the phrase “welcome into the world” at their child’s moment of birth. They argue that we “welcome the baby into the world” at conception and “meet for the first time face-to-face” at birth. I read that and said, “Ok, I get your point. Technically this is correct. Nit-picky, but ok, I get it.”

Then a few weeks ago I read this from a pro-life advocate, “A baby should be named as soon as the mother knows she is pregnant, giving that baby a girl and boy name. Deciding to name the child until after they are born only reinforces the thought process that they are not a person until birth. From the moment of conception, they are a child of God, and individual deserving of love and care, by name.”

Ok, now it’s time for that horrible statistic: In New York City, 41% of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2009. Among the black community, the rate of abortions was 60%. Sixty percent. Really, I cannot wrap my head around this.

When pro-choice people rip on pro-life people, their main arguments are that pro-life people are out-of-touch with reality and do not understand the burden that comes with an unplanned pregnancy.

When some pro-life people tell me that my Facebook status of, “We welcomed Maria Catalina into the world Feb 10,” actually degrades our sweet baby’s humanity or when they tell me that we obviously don’t value her personhood because we didn’t name her until six hours after she was born, I believe they give this “out of touch with reality” accusation some credence.

Forty-one percent of babies are killed in New York City and you are wasting your time and energy on this? There is SO much work to be done.

Just off the top of my head, here is a list of more important things we need to do:

  • Provide more widespread crisis counseling.
  • Talk to girls at a younger age to help them develop a healthy positive sense of self. Too many girls grow up with the goal of being sexy. Too many girls grow up thinking their self-worth is based on how much men desire them, thus, making them want to be sex objects rather than teachers, lawyers, doctors.
  • Change the explicit nature of media and marketing.
  • Change the way people think and talk about sex.
  • Pray fervently for women that find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Expand employment opportunities so that people have ways to support their families.
  • Work for a just wage, because even if someone has a job that doesn’t mean it pays the bills.
  • Reform the health insurance industry to better support pregnant women.
  • Offer widespread parenting classes.
  • Show compassion.
  • Share more stories of women who were supported and helped, and told they could make great mothers if given the chance.
  • Educate people on financial literacy and financial stability.
  • Help people feed their families.
  • Provide better and safer communities and neighborhoods in which to raise children.
  • Improve the schools we send kids to.
  • Help parents teach their kids about sex.

So much needs to be done. There are so many factors that affect a woman in a crisis pregnancy. Why, why would pro-life advocates waste their time on such trivial semantics? I know that language is powerful and changing language can be a powerful tool, but, please, there are such bigger battles to fight. Let’s focus, people. After all the big stuff is figured out, fine, I’ll be willing to engage you in a lively debate on wording, but until then, quit yapping and start working.

Here are some examples of true progress toward decreasing the amount of abortions that I have heard of recently. A chapel opened in Fargo, North Dakota, that is located across the street from the only place in North Dakota that performs abortions. This clinic only performs abortions on Wednesdays, so the chapel is open on Wednesdays with Adoration celebrated until the clinic closes. This is what I like to see. Creative thinking. If we opened an Adoration chapel next to every abortion clinic, I am positive that it would effect great change. Or there is a new order of Sisters that take a vow to “protect and enhance the dignity of life” and daily counsel women in crisis, women with past abortions, and single mothers. Here in Austin the diocese offers regular training for anyone interested in staffing the Gabriel Project hotline or the Project Rachel hotline. These are great, concrete steps toward fighting abortion.

You will hardly ever win anyone over by being condescending and uncompassionate. It’s not that we have to be PC when it comes to talking about abortion but we do need to convey a sense of understanding. If a woman is truly dealing with a crisis pregnancy, the last thing she needs to feel guilty about is that she hasn’t decided between Kate with a K or with a C.

The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and five daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Michigan_Pat

    “…. Things like knocking on a deeply religious 82-year-old’s door and telling them they’re voting to kill babies because they have a yard sign for a candidate the door knocker doesn’t support.”

    If this happened, maybe the guy(?) was doing the people a favor? Maybe they didn’t realize that the candidate they support, supports abortion?

    He “hit them over the head with it”.
    Does that make him wrong or just obnoxious?

    I know someone who has been “in the trenches” fighting the Pro-Life fight. At times this person can seem a bit obnoxious, but I might get that way also if I’d been through what they’ve been through. I haven’t walked in their shoes. Don’t know that I could.

    Maybe this is an oppotunity for you to pull this person aside and see if you can’t help them present themselves in a less “hitting over the head” manner? I don’t know.

    I know what you’re saying and that your hearts in the right place. I have seen the type of person that you’re talking about and it can be a bit “off putting”. Different folks with different demeaners and methods. Wanting the same thing we do, just going about it a bit harsher than we would.

  • Gage

    Birth control isn’t going to solve the problem. Sex leads to babies.

    Even with contraception, there is always some failure rate. The idea of sex being an end to itself is simply false.

    I’d be curious about the stats of Catholics (“culturally Catholic” as well as practicing Catholics) having abortions compared to the general population. My biased guess is it’s not the “I’m not using birth control because I’m Catholic” crowd seeking out a proportional number of abortions.

    Continuing on Gina’s thread and tying into Vanessa’s post, Black Catholics make up only 1% of the U.S. Catholic population. Catholic black folks make up an incredibly small portion of the general black community. In other words, the 60% stat in Vanessa’s post isn’t because of the Catholic Church.

    It would be interesting too to see how many married women get abortions (would the Church loosening up on birth control within marriage make an impact on abortions?).

  • Gina

    Great article but one thing that it seems many of you are avoiding is that the Catholic church is partial to blame because it teaches that it is a sin to use birth control. I understand that sex before marriage is a no-no. But what about sex between married people that already have children and do not want more? They should be allowed to make love to each other. If birth control was more accessible, more effective, and acceptable then there would be no need for abortions. Condoms are considered taboo with many black men, thus the need for more abortions. It may seem simplistic but it is true and is something the Church needs to loosen up on to survive.

  • Laura

    Well put.

  • Megan

    Vanessa, another great column! Thank you!

    As Germaine Greer said, “Too many women are forced to abort by poverty, by their menfolk, by their parents … A choice is only possible if there are genuine alternatives.” So let’s get to work on MAKING those alternatives possible!

    Here’s a good example of what I mean. I became unexpectedly pregnant while in school (at a *supposedly* pro-life Catholic university). When I went to the campus health center for assistance, they had NO idea what to do with me. They had ZERO resources available for that purpose. They actually told me that they “never” see pregnant women there. Really??? NONE??? What is going on there?

    And we wonder why college-age women choose to abort their children! Because they don’t see any other choice! They are forced to choose between their education and their children. If we provided on-campus housing and child care for pregnant and parenting students; if we mandated that health insurance companies provide appropriate and accessible medical care for pregnant women; if we supported laws for expanded maternity leave and benefits for parents… etc… etc… then we might start to see an expanded number of women who feel empowered to choose life.

    As far as NYC goes, that number doesn’t surprise me. The cost of living is so outrageous in NYC that it might be absolutely impossible for some people to imagine adding to their families in the current economic climate. Welfare reform didn’t help, either — poor single women who are full-time parents are now forced to “go to work” within 3 years — as though their work raising their children was not valuable in itself! Now they have to go to work AND pay someone else to care for their children. How can they afford to live like that? Every additional child costs more in childcare, and they have NO options and NO access to benefits. I have a *master’s degree* and I don’t make enough money on my own to pay for the childcare I need while I work. How can someone with less education manage?

    Oh yes, we have a lot of work to do, indeed. *Rolling up sleeves and going off to make a donation to our local crisis pregnancy center* Thanks for the reminder!

  • James

    Play the violin all you want, but when someone thinks it’s their right to hit someone else over the head with it, that’s what I’m talking about. Things like knocking on a deeply religious 82-year-old’s door and telling them they’re “voting to kill babies” because they have a yard sign for a candidate the door knocker doesn’t support.

  • Michigan_Pat

    Playing the violin doesn’t make me “anti-cello”. I may not spend much if any time help someone play the flute. I don’t know how, and it’s not my thing. But in playing the violin I can be become a member of a symphony and play a part in creating a beautiful tapestry of music and art. As Saint Paul says: “we are many members, but one body.”

    Don’t be so quick to vilify people who seem too focused for your tastes. Perhaps it is just an opportunity for you to find “your own seat”, and join in the symphony.

  • James

    Very nice column. But I know parishes where it’s more like 25 percent (or higher) of those who are most vocal in the pro-life movement who demonize anyone who doesn’t share their level of emotion. As some of the other comments have noted, their commitment to life above all is limited to one issue.

  • AnitaH

    Gwen makes a great point. I’ve run across more than a few pro-lifers who are also pro-death penalty. How they reconcile the two is beyond me. Life is life and we should respect that throughout all the stages of life.

  • Gwen

    I could not agree with you more!! Being pro-life constitutes from conception to natural death…and EVERYTHING in-between.
    I experienced a similar enraged moment, when, at a dinner party, an individual actual had the nerve to say that he avoids the Masses where we have letter writing campaigns to our Congress members to end hunger. He said he would write a letter if it were to end abortion, but not this…my blood pressure immediately jumped 30 points and I quickly left the room potentially saving myself from a potential battery charge. Being pro-life isn’t just about an unborn baby…named of not. EVERY life is equally valuable and we have a lot of work to do. Sorry, I had to vent.

  • AnitaH

    Bless you for writing this. In the last year I’ve run across several pro-life people who believe that if you don’t base your voting decisions on someone’s pro-life record, and that one issue alone, that you’re a bad Catholic and should be shamed into voting “correctly”. Hearing a message like that can turn off many a good Catholic from supporting or helping in the pro-life movement.

  • Kaylor

    Really excellent article! I’m going for my Masters in Public Health to learn how to do a lot of this work– particularly in reforming education so that the way sex is discussed and thought about among young people can be changed. Please pray for me!

  • Christian

    I still believe the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and that requires some real, hard, work.
    First: provide age-appropriate medically-accurate sex education that includes abstinence and contraception.
    Second: provide opportunities for girls and boys to gain a well-rounded education
    Third: don’t treat girls as second-class citizens. Some studies have shown that when women are given proper health care and education, the well-being of the entire community is raised.

  • Matt


    I think you misunderstand me.

    If my wife and I could be confident of getting a child out of bribery, the bribes would be paid, and paid happily. If we could move a young pregnant American woman into our house and cover all her expenses for all nine months in the reasonable assurance that she’d actually let us keep the kid, it’d happen _tomorrow_. And I know, for an absolute fact, that we are a long way from the only ones.

    Vilify adoptive parents? No, absolutely not. I congratulate them on both their generosity and their extraordinary combination of unreasonably hard work and unreasonably good luck. They’ve managed to clear all the insane obstacles that the system throws in their way, which my wife and I haven’t yet. I wish we also had what they have, but I wouldn’t ever think to vilify them for it.

    No, I vilify the abortion propagandists, for ensuring that the _overwhelming majority_ of what would otherwise be adoptable children are instead murdered in utero, to the sound of cheering from half the American population.

    I don’t blame the girls who believed the lies…I blame those that keep pushing those lies.

  • Mike

    “So many out there are actually just pro-fetus and give no thought to the systems that must be put in place to support the families of unplanned children.”

    This sort of statement succumbs to the same uncharitable actions certain pro-lifers are being accused of.

    You would be hard-pressed to find a pro-lifer who has absolutely no genuine concern for the life of the child after birth.

    It’s not that pro-lifers don’t care about these “systems of support” but that human life is not CONTINGENT upon these systems. Would a mother be justified for terminating the life of her 5 year old simply because she lost her husband, her job, and had no “systems of support” left to support her child? No. The same rationale is being applied before birth. Absence of such systems does not preclude the existence of a human being.

    And, ultimately, isn’t the foundation of our faith that God is our only, true “system of support” in life?

  • Patty Spear

    Vanessa: excellent article! Those statistics horrify my and I share in your frustration with the 1% who are out of touch with reality.
    I too, would add Adoption awareness to the list as a life giving and loving option for unplanned pregnancies.

    However, Matt, I am very uncomfortable in the way you have vilified international adoptions and couples who adopt domestically and provide financial assistance to birth parents prior to delivery. While there are challenging problems with some international adoptions, there are adoption agencies that work legally and above board outside the US to provide ALL children with a forever family. In the US there are laws and regulations of what birth parent expenses can and cannot be paid. A couple cannot simply “throw massive amounts of money” to adopt a child.
    Adoption in all of its forms is a life giving choice.

  • Gaby

    So true. Thank you for saying all this. Thanks especially for emphasizing the importance of educating girls (and boys!) about sex. I feel like some conservatives shield their children from the facts, thinking that it will tempt them, when really, having open and honest discussions gives young people the information they need to make the right decision.

  • Matt

    Can we add “raise adoption awareness” to the list?

    In an era where infertile couples are flying to the third world to bribe bureaucrats in the often futile hope of getting a child out of it, and every baby offered up for adoption in the US has a selection of would-be couples vying for the right to raise it (many of them ready to throw massive amounts of money at the birth mother to cover her expenses during pregnancy), how is it that abortion advocates are still getting away with presenting pregnancy as a lifetime obligation and abortion as the only alternative to it?

  • Julie

    Excellent, excellent, excellent!!! Very well said and right on target. Thank you for expressing what many of us in the pro-life community feel.

  • Cathy

    I just loved your list. So many out there are actually just pro-fetus and give no thought to the systems that must be put in place to support the families of unplanned children.

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