The annual convention of Massachusetts Citizens for Life this past Saturday was outstanding.
David Reardon, of the Elliott Institute, keynoted. His incisive points included the following:
1. A basic and decisive fact we gloss over is that once a woman is pregnant, everything has already changed. She has become a mother. It is because of that momentous reality that what happens afterwards (abortion, adoption, raising her child) is momentous. A little clarity and honesty about the reality of sex is necessary for intelligent discussion of abortion.
2. Reardon is very good on the power differentials actually involved in abortion. It takes a certain privileged social positioning not to acknowledge the fact that the legalization of abortion meant that many, many mothers, especially young ones, became radically exposed thereby to the pressures of irresponsible men, and of families prioritizing the preservation of social respectability. “It’s legal. It’s no big deal. If you choose not to do it, then it’s all on you.” No one with a critical social sensibility will want to evade this point.
3. Then Reardon started in on some basic evangelical dynamics, given how many women have had abortions and how deeply they are suffering from that, whether they recognize it or not. He was making an appeal to our pro-life hearts to be evermore compassionate, to build a sensitivity to pain into the way we approach the public discussion of abortion. “When one recognizes one’s sin, one is vulnerable,” so one might therefore lash out in defense of abortion. “We have all sinned, and mercy must surround all of us.” “It took the blood of Christ to remove our guilt; it takes the acceptance of others to remove our shame.”
There were many other powerful presentations, but I want to single out one other, that of Catherine Morrissey, who spoke of how she dealt with a teen pregnancy by making the painful decision to give her son up for adoption. I have listened to pro-life talks for a couple of decades. This was one of the most moving. She did what was best for her child, a thing hard but beautiful.
One point that became clear along the way from her presentation: the social shaming of fornication incentivizes abortion. It must end. Yes, fornication is in fact not perfective of the human person. Morrissey’s own testimony made clear what kind of pain can result. But we must communicate the objective defectiveness of fornication with a recognition that God has placed a very powerful impulse in us, one that generates immense ambiguities and involves immense difficulties. We must tell the objective facts objectively, not moralistically. (The key point about sexual teaching is the social-justice recognition that children are owed a specific matrix of care; that's the gravamen of sex.) And we must always communicate the few redlines of sex in a spirit of humane recognition that failures in this realm are not the end of the world (indeed in the scale of sin, as such, they are the lightest). The most salient thing our children must know from us, beyond the truths which we do in fact owe them, is that we will love them no matter what, just like our good Father above. Anything else is the antithesis of being pro-life, for love alone gives life.