By Celia Wolf-Devine
***Originally Published by Providence Journal
You want to be on the side of the angels. You are concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor, cut backs in services provided for the most vulnerable members of our society, environmental degradation, loss of jobs through downsizing and corporations moving to other countries where labor is cheaper, harsh immigration policies, racial prejudice, expensive wars overseas, erosion of democracy, threats to civil liberties, and attempts on the part of right wingers to curtail women’s right to abortion. WAIT A MINUTE!
“Abortion rights” simply do not belong on this list of “good guy” causes. I’ll sign on for all the other things on the list; I believe that makes me a progressive. But the dirty little secret here is that abortion is being used to keep down the numbers of the poor, especially people of color. It is cheaper than doing something to help them. Black women are more than three times as likely to undergo abortions as white women. Abortion clinics are located in poor neighborhoods and abortion encouraged among people of color. Under a mask of compassion lurks the ruthless destruction in the womb of those who would be born poor and perhaps make some demands upon us and threaten our comfortable position.
What is it to be progressive, and why is being pro-life progressive? Progressive policies encourage us to have wider sympathy and recognize universal basic human rights. This led in the Nineteenth Century to opposition to slavery and in the Twentieth Century to women’s suffrage. Once you concede that the same individual exists inside and outside the womb, the progressive pro-life argument goes smoothly. Pro-life people are manifesting solidarity with the last and the least, for who is more helpless and vulnerable than the infant in the womb. After all, it could have been me. We all spend the first nine months of our lives in the womb. Common humanity motivates us to come to the help of those threatened with dismemberment and death before they get the chance to see the light of day
The progressive response to a problem pregnancy is to be welcoming and inclusive by reaching out and doing what we can to help both mother and baby. One thing every citizen should have is decent pre-natal medical care. Simple and inexpensive things like pre-natal vitamins make an enormous difference for the proper development of a baby and the mother’s health. A nation as wealthy as we are can afford to be sure every pregnant woman has them. The several thousand pro-life crisis pregnancy centers across the country are trying, within their limited resources, to put their money where their mouths are, often in heroic ways. Giving the woman the support she needs to carry the baby to term and helping her afterwards in a variety of ways ranging from food and diapers to legal assistance if she wishes to place the child for adoption, help getting the money she is entitled to from the father, helping her find housing, and running parenting classes for new young mothers. To take the progressive logic even further, it should be a very high priority to provide jobs for poor fathers so that they can care for their child.
So, now, how is the progressive pro-life position pro-woman? Having through their own free action brought a vulnerable new life into existence, both parents have an obligation to care for it. Permissive abortion laws make it easier for men to abandon women. The humanity of the unborn is hidden from sight under a layer of euphemisms (“products of conception” is a particularly silly one). Violence against the unborn is also violence against oneself at a deep level, as our feminist foremothers in the Nineteenth Century recognized – Susan B. Anthony for example.
Women have a right to be supported through a difficult pregnancy. Undergoing an abortion is often followed by deep regret, and post-abortive women experience a higher incidence of substance abuse, suicide, depression, eating disorders, flashbacks, nightmares, lowered self esteem, feelings of emptiness and loss, anger, and difficulties in forming intimate relationships. Abortion performed on young teens increases their chance of breast cancer. The future fertility of the woman may also be compromised. Abortion healing ministries are springing up around the globe. The damaging effects extend to fathers, grandparents and siblings as well.
The woman who was Roe in Roe v. Wade broke into tears at the sight of an empty playground thinking of the children who should be playing there but had been aborted. She and the plaintiff in the other landmark pro-choice case (Doe v. Bolton) issued a joint statement: “Today we publically recant our involvement in the tragedy of abortion. We humbly ask the forgiveness of the millions of women and unborn children who experienced the violence of abortion.”
Please give them my website www.celiawolfdevine.com or at least the title of our essay: “Abortion: A Communitarian Pro-life Perspective” in Abortion: Three Perspectives, Tooley, ed. Oxford University Press, 2009. The book is listed on the website, so that would take up less space. If you want a bio I’ll do one