October is Right to Life month. Some Catholic parishes in Springfield erect small white crosses on their lawns as a reminder of all the babies who have been aborted. While I appreciate the efforts of those opposed to abortion to put their feelings into actions, I find I get angry because I feel those crosses don’t take into account the “why” of abortions. The crosses represent the babies who have been aborted but what or who represents the woman who had to make that decision? Was the woman an abused woman who couldn’t care for a baby? Was the woman a scared teenager? Was the woman a victim of incest or rape? Was the mental health of the woman at risk? Was the baby doomed to certain death because of congenital malformation?
A simple fact should be acknowledged. Abortions have happened since the beginning of time in every culture. People are kidding themselves if they think abortion is a twenty-first century phenomenon. It is not. For the life of me I don’t understand how abortions have become political when the decision has nothing to do with politics. It is between the people involved in making the decision, the women, the men and the doctors. In some cases, ministers, social workers and therapists may be involved. A bureaucratic legislator has no place in this decision.
It seems as if society has given us two camps to plant our feet in. Pro-life or pro-choice. Am I am in the pro-life camp or the pro-choice camp? I learned that I am neither. The terms pro-life and pro-choice are political at best and are very simplistic terms to describe the myriad of issues that surround reproductive issues. Pro-life and pro-choice are just words to push political buttons. I am pro-person, pro-humanity, pro fullness of life for everyone regardless of race, sex, color or creed.
No one likes abortion. I certainly don’t. It would be wonderful if abortions never had to happen. I was never faced with the decision to have an abortion so how in good conscience could I pass judgment on a woman who chooses an abortion? I haven’t lived her life. I believe in abortion in cases of rape, incest and the physical or mental health of the woman. I believe mental health is on par and maybe even up several notches over the physical health of the woman. I find I do not want an overturn of Roe v. Wade and drive abortion underground again. Having access to doctors and clean facilities assures the health of the woman. If abortions were illegal, any women who had an abortion would have to be criminally prosecuted. That would be ludicrous.
Have you heard the term “reproductive justice”? Reproductive justice is a holistic approach to all things concerned with the reproductive process and the lives that follow, not just the hot button issues of contraception and abortion. It includes sex education which teaches about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and respect for one’s body. Reproductive justice includes welfare laws, especially laws that say a mother receiving benefits must find work outside the home. Reproductive justice then says there needs to be quality day-care for the babies of those mothers. Reproductive justice includes the issue of choice, who makes the choice of how many babies a woman on welfare may have, the woman or the state? Good prenatal care for poor women without health insurance is part of reproductive justice; prenatal care is vital to a heathy baby. The educational system is a disgrace for those in the lower socioeconomic sector. It is an accepted fact that education is the key to escape poverty. Why are substandard schools allowed to exist?
The legal system is part of reproductive justice, too, and I don’t mean the legality of abortion. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world with the exception of Russia. While incarcerated, people cannot have children. Were these people given fair trials by competent lawyers? Could they even afford competent lawyers? Were their sentences commensurate with their crimes?
Taking all of those huge topics of reproductive justice and boiling them down to little white crosses on a lawn doesn’t do justice to the seriousness and yes, the indisputable right to a quality of life for all people, regardless of age or color, gender or creed.
Let me close with a story.
I overhead two people talking. The woman was telling a man that a mutual friend of theirs found out she was pregnant. This woman and her husband had three children and were thrilled at the thought of a fourth child. A few days after the pregnancy was confirmed it was discovered the woman had cancer. It was a cancer that would need chemotherapy and radiation to treat. The husband and wife decided to terminate the pregnancy because of the three other children who needed their mother. Oh my heart hurt when I heard this story. But then a phrase from Scripture popped into my head: “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13). Was the purpose of that little life to sound the alarm to save the life of that mother? The doctors may not have found the cancer until it was too late if the pregnancy had not happened.
I don’t know the ending to the story. I hope the cancer was arrested and life could return to normal for that family. But I know that that husband and wife will never forget the sentinel little life that was part of their family. What would the little white cross on the lawn say about this family?
Blessings on us all,