January 16, 2013
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I try not to pay attention to bumper stickers. It is important to drive safely and calmly. Many of the bumper stickers I see leave me frustrated and are a real distraction. So when I can, I keep my eyes away from the bumpers in front of me. Last week though, I saw a bumper sticker that left me frustrated, sad and, frankly, confused.
The slogan was simple. It read: “Pro-woman. Pro-child. Pro-choice.” I was baffled. I can’t imagine that anyone with a basic knowledge of biology would really believe that legal protection for abortion is “pro-child.” Each time an abortion takes place, a child—a unique, small and miraculous human life never to be repeated—is extinguished from earthly existence. Science, with or without God, demonstrates that human life begins at conception.
The pro-choice position affirms that some things are more important than the lives of the unborn. In fact, most pro-choice leaders will admit this—that the unborn are unique lives, but that freedom, or choice, or “compassion” trumps the life of the unborn child.
It is equally confusing that anyone would believe that legally protecting abortion is good for women. You cannot be pro-woman and be pro-choice.
Studies show consistently that abortion often leads to mental health crises and an increased suicide rate among women. Surgical and pharmaceutical abortions are dangerous medical procedures with a higher statistical rate than other surgical procedures of complication, hemorrhaging and even death. No evidence suggests that legal protection for abortion has made the procedure more medically safe.
Erika Bachiochi in her book “The Cost of Choice,” demonstrates from a sociological standpoint that legal protection for abortion enhances poverty among women by diminishing any drive for economic or political protections for motherhood. In short, Bachiochi argues that because feminists have spent so much time and energy ensuring the legal protection for abortion, they have diminished the expectation that motherhood, and mothers, should have some protections in the workplace and the marketplace. Legalized abortion has created strong cultural and economic expectations that women should avoid motherhood. In the name of choice, suggests Bachiochi, women are left with no choice but to delay or avoid motherhood to gain basic economic security.
Most fundamentally, abortion harms women because it diminishes the dignity of motherhood. Legal protection for abortion has fostered a cultural perception that maternity is something to be avoided—a problem to solve. But motherhood is a gift unique to women. Blessed John Paul II reflected that motherhood is essentially the gift of “a special openness to the human person.” In the model of motherhood, all women can give the feminine genius of nurturing, fostering and loving to the world. Abortion has robbed us of our ability to appreciate that unique gift—to appreciate the genius of women.
Abortion is not pro-woman. Abortion is anti-woman. Abortion hinders and diminishes what is unique to women. Furthermore it has contributed to women being treated as objects of gratification by men. Because of abortion, we have lost the sense of the feminine genius and the dignity of women. We need to rediscover it.
In the Archdiocese of Denver, there are many organizations that recognize and support the dignity of women. I would like to highlight just two: the Gabriel Project, and Endow.
The Gabriel Project is a network of parishes and volunteers that provide women and families with material, spiritual and emotional support at all times but especially during and after pregnancy. The Gabriel Project connects women with needs to people who will love them—who will support them and honor the dignity of their feminine genius. The Gabriel Project and its volunteers are committed to supporting motherhood as a community and to supporting women as they live the vocation of motherhood. The Gabriel Project has helped women in prison, in addiction, and in poverty to become the mothers God has called them to be.
Endow is an apostolate committed to forming women with an awareness of their dignity and their feminine genius. Endow forms small communities of women who study the Church’s teaching on femininity and who learn how to live an authentically Christian feminine presence in the world. Endow groups meet in homes, in schools, in homeless shelters and in convents in order to discover the plan of God for women in the world.
Many women I know who have participated in Endow have experienced a new joy as they have discovered their God-given feminine dignity and gift.
Society and culture need the gift of motherhood—the gift of the feminine genius! Without it, we fail to appreciate the dignity and the potential and the gift of one another. Without the feminine genius, we easily lose sight of our humanity. Without the gift of women, we cannot really be pro-life.
Endow, the Gabriel Project and many other apostolates like them are truly pro-woman—they understand the dignity God has bestowed on women. If we are formed to appreciate that dignity, then we will be truly pro-woman, and truly pro-life.