Today, of course, is the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, DC. I've been enjoying some of the posts and images from the March that I've seen so far today, and will look forward to hearing from those fortunate Catholic bloggers who got to be there today.
I know that many people will be focusing on the good news today, as they should--the good news that fewer and fewer people identify themselves with the most extreme pro-abortion positions; the good news that state legislatures have been doing what our cowardly Congress will not do and have been chipping away at abortion law, carving out more and more protection for the unborn; the good news that even the rabid pro-aborts out there have started to abandon the Schrodinger's Fetus fallacy (e.g., "That blob of cells is only a baby if her mother wants to give birth to her!") and come right out to admit that they know the unborn child is a living human being, and that they like killing living human beings or having the ability to kill living human beings stay legal.
The mask is being ripped off of the euphemism "choice," as the new young generation asks "Choice to do what, exactly?" and makes it clear that they don't buy the answer.
And truth about unborn human life has always been a benefit to the pro-life side of the abortion argument. It's hard to make the "blob of tissue" or "clump of cells" argument to a woman who is seven weeks pregnant when she can visit a website like the one above and see many images and videos of what her developing child looks like at that age, watch such a child move or see her heartbeat, and read text descriptions of what her baby's current stage of development involves. Sure, there are hard, broken, empty women who can still kill that child with seeming ease, just as there are women who would stomp on kittens or pull wings off of butterflies, but I hardly think that we should make our laws about animal cruelty based on those outliers, do you?
Nonetheless, even with all the good news out there today, I have been sad to realize how much more work we have to do to advance the pro-life cause, even among our own fellow Catholics.
I've always known that some liberal Catholics are ambiguous about abortion, or even openly in favor of it. But people like Zippy Catholic and some of this blog's commenters are making me realize a new facet of this problem: there are some Catholics who think that a single woman who gets pregnant really is being "punished with a baby," and that it is perfectly fitting and merciful for her Catholic employer to fire her (because we can't employ sinners; why, what would people think of us?). Oh, I know. Zippy will say that's not his argument at all, and that this woman by having unmarried sex was metaphysically handing in her resignation because she knew that such conduct violated her employment agreement, but it's not really the school's job to go rooting out the private sins of the male and/or married employees; unmarried pregnancy is the visible sin unlike any other which must always be punished, and the fact that other people get away with sin is just like the fact that some people get away with speeding while others get tickets. Because a speeding ticket is just exactly like losing your job and your health insurance, for reasons which I'm sure Zippy's commenters will explain.
And that her unborn children suffered along with her (especially given her loss of health insurance) was just too bad. But we can't take the suffering of the children of sinners into consideration when we do what is right and fitting, because that is somehow being Christlike. Besides, failing to fire this woman is just encouraging abortion, in that same way that letting women vote is. Or something.
If I sound exasperated, it's because I am. Because the simple truth that many people, many of them male, don't realize is that pregnancy is difficult, childbirth often excruciatingly so, and raising children a struggle even for a married stay-at-home mom whose husband pitches in whenever possible. For an unmarried woman who becomes pregnant to chose life in our disposable culture of easy death for the unborn is already a noble and courageous thing to do; she is refusing to add vice to error, or even graver evil to already (putatively) grave sin. Treating her coldly as a reprobate whose conduct deserves punishment is wrongheaded and may even be unjust--for if she has confessed the sin of fornication in a worthy sacramental confession, then God has forgiven her, and it's not our place to do less. Her pregnancy is not, itself, a sin, and by treating it as if it is, we are not openly encouraging abortion? In other words, if continuing the pregnancy is apparently so gravely sinful and scandalous that it is right and just to fire her from her job, are we not making it seem as if ending the pregnancy, while still gravely sinful, is at least a hidden sin that will let her save face and keep her job and her reputation? Are we not simply saying to her, "Well, damned if you do, damned if you don't--but it's your own fault for creating this mess in the first place?"
Because if that's all we really have to say to women in crisis pregnancies, then I wonder how it is that we have the courage to call ourselves "pro-life" at all. If we see an unmarried woman's pregnancy as her fault, her problem, her sin and her shame (forgetting that her partner in the sin may be an EMHC in her parish and a well-respected local businessman, married, even, but he won't lose anything), how do we reach out to women in these terrible situations without hypocrisy? Seeing it all as her sin, are we not ignoring our own failures to love, or our own serious sins mercifully forgiven and washed away?
Luckily, most pro-life Americans don't think this way. I've known pro-life families who have welcomed a woman in a crisis pregnancy into their own homes, helping her find employment and caring for her as a person and a beloved sister in Christ. I've known pro-life people who have started crisis pregnancy centers using their own resources, and becoming beacons of light and hope in their communities. I've known situations where employers, far from throwing unmarried pregnant employees out into the street, have thrown them baby showers and been generous in allowing them leave time. I've seen the deep hearts and loving souls of many pro-life Americans, Catholic, Christian, and of other faiths, who have exhibited the warm light of merciful love in place of the coldness of "just deserts."
But even though we've been marching for Life for 40 years, we clearly have a long way to go, if we are to welcome both the unborn child and her mother with the kind of love Mother Teresa (among others) modeled for us.