Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
August 27th, 2013

Voices for Life


voices for lifeOne day in my all-girls high school religion class, the conversation turned, as it often did, to abortion. Someone ventured that to carry an unwanted baby to term was a difficult thing, and another student retorted, “Well, if she didn’t want a baby, she should have kept her legs closed.”

Yikes, I thought, but before I or anyone else could say anything, another girl slammed one palm on her desk and shot the other one into the air.

“Why didn’t the woman close her legs,” the girl said when called upon. “Why don’t you ask why didn’t the man strap it down?”

The class erupted into laughter, but the moment stuck with me. I think of that memory now, nearly (oh good Lord) 10 years later, whenever I hear a particular brand of pro-life talk: the well-if-you-don’t-want-a-baby-then-don’t-sleep-around kind of talk. The we-can’t-stop-people-from-having-abortions-but-we-can-sure-make-it-harder kind of talk. I identify as pro-life myself, but I don’t think the people who talk like this have really thought about what they’re saying. If they did, they would quickly realize that those kinds of statements are illogical, counterproductive and cruel.

I understand how someone might be passionate about the pro-life cause, but passion for saving the unborn is not license for dismissive or derisive treatment of others.

A recent article in Slate magazine highlighted the plight of a teenage rape victim in Indiana and linked her struggle to pro-life causes. The 13-year-old girl became pregnant as a result of the rape and decided to keep the baby, and in response to this brave decision, her community shunned her, spread rumors about her, and spray-painted the word “whore” on her house. While I think the article may have been overhasty in tying the pro-life movement to the abuse suffered by the girl — do we actually know that the people harassing her were pro-life? — I do think that the pro-life community has to take the incident seriously. We must ask ourselves whether we contribute, wittingly or unwittingly, to this type of demeaning and un-Christian behavior. We must ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Does my rhetoric presume promiscuity on the part of the mother? Not only is such an attitude judgmental and lacking in compassion; it’s also a red herring. After all, a married woman could just as easily want — and get — an abortion. At issue is the life of the fetus, not the sexual guilt or non-guilt of the mother.
  • Does my rhetoric turn the baby into a punishment? This question goes hand-in-hand with the previous one: It presumes that the baby in question was conceived out of wedlock and, therefore, that the mother deserves what she gets for being promiscuous. Maybe if we want to protect a life, we shouldn’t present that life as the scourge of God or karma or whatever. No baby should come into the world painted with the stigma of divine retribution. (See also: judgmental; lacking compassion; red herring.)
  • Does my rhetoric reinforce the idea that sexual responsibility is the province of women only? It takes two to tango, my friends. Any statement that doesn’t acknowledge (1) that men and women are equally responsible for the creation of new life, and (2) that women have to shoulder a heavier burden because of biology, fuels the belief — erroneous, I hope — that you can’t be against abortion without being against women, that “pro-life” and “sexist” are synonymous.
  • Does my rhetoric demean single mothers? You can’t ask single women to keep their babies and then turn around and treat them with disrespect. Christianity may or may not condone the circumstances surrounding a baby’s conception, but Christianity never condones throwing stones.

Once we’ve examined our thoughts and words, once we’ve ensured that we are both thinking and speaking compassionately about this charged topic, we can take the next step by supporting organizations that carry out the pro-life mission in a similarly thoughtful and sympathetic way. Project Rachel, which offers grief counseling to women who regret their abortions, is one such organization.

I understand how someone might be passionate about the pro-life cause, but passion for saving the unborn is not license for dismissive or derisive treatment of others. Being pro-life means caring not just for fetuses but also for the women who carry them. It means raising boys who know how to take responsibility for their actions and how to treat women with respect. Above all, it means thinking before we speak or act, so that our words and actions will always fall within the bounds of Christ-like compassion. The pro-life cause is an important one, and its every effort to promote life must recognize the worth and dignity of every person, including those who might be considering abortion.

The Author : Elizabeth Desimone
Elizabeth Desimone has an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oklahoma State University. In 2009 she graduated from Spring Hill College with bachelor's degrees in English and writing. She is a native of the New Orleans area. Check out Elizabeth's food blog for some delicious recipes.
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  • MyHolyGhost

    When there is an unwanted pregnancy both girls and boys share the blame equally, ideally speaking. But realistically, as we can see in our culture, we tend place blame more on the girls than boys. I think the issue here is not inequality between the sexes but rather as a practicality, since girls have more a direct role in pregnancy. Eventually the girls would be the one carrying the pregnancy to full term. She would have to endure physical and mental pains relating to being pregnant. So it’s crucial that girls should safeguard their body with utmost caution. This sentiment is expressed in all cultures and traditions as girls are taught to safeguard their virginity and abstinence until she is well-positioned to have a child for her own well-being and that of the baby. If the boy is irresponsible, then the girl is the last line of defense for safeguarding her child. It may sound unfair, but this has been the precedent in all human history. It is only recently that many are beginning to question the fairness of this view. When talking about the theology of life, women and men each play a different roles. We can’t assume the same for both, but treat it with sensitivity that each requires while expecting boys to be responsible for their actions.

  • BMS

    I personally believe that bringing an unwanted child into the world is a greater sin than an early term abortion. I believe that there are situations in which the kindest, most merciful thing to do is to choose the mother’s needs over those of an embryo. But whatever my personal beliefs are, I would like to see the pro-life folks actually BE pro-everyone’s-life. That means stop denying women health care, contraception, and assistance when they need it. It means men taking responsibility for their role in pregnancy. If every MAN agreed to stay celibate until marriage, the problem would be greatly reduced. I’m pretty tired of society acting like the women have all the responsibility in this matter. The double standard needs to die, now.

    • Eric

      “I’m pretty tired of society acting like the women have all the responsibility in this matter.”

      So men should have a say in whether or not their child is aborted?

      • JuliePurple

        He can have a say just as soon as he is the one enduring the physical, emotional, and financial burdens of pregnancy and childbirth as well as responsibility for care of the child until it is grown and independent. If he’s not doing the work, it’s not his call. All he did was donate sperm. Big whoop.

  • janet

    …and furthermore, we must forgive as we are forgiven.

  • janet

    If we want to end abortion, words are inadequate. We must make it easier for the mother to begin a family than it is to abort the baby. We must stop labeling people who do things we don’t agree with and start health care and day care facilities so that the parents can work and know their children will be cared for decently. We must walk the walk and love potential families into being.

  • Juergensen

    <<< These weren't "fetuses". They were humans created by God and destroyed by minions of Satan.

    • JuliePurple

      The correct term is “fetus”, until it is a separate organism. Using a different word doesn’t change what it is.

  • Megan Cellucci

    beautifully said. Pro-life means respecting ALL life. The unborn and the born into all kinds of situations we can’t possibly know.

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