28 Mar 2021 / by Annetta Sutton
Evolution in Understanding the Abortion Debate
Evolution in Understanding the Abortion Debate
This is an updated blog on a topic many of us struggle. I did. I do. And yet, as my life continued, my evolution became apparent. Writing this helped me. I agree with Pat Conroy, the gifted writer, who said, “The reason I write is to explain my life to myself. I’ve also discovered that when I do, I’m explaining other people’s lives to them.” I hope this blog may also help you. It is lengthy because it is a topic that deserves such consideration and critical thinking. I pray everyday for women in the throes of these decisions. I hope you join me. in that prayer.
Elections bring it back with a vengeance. After the election, it goes back into the closet until those who use it to get elected pull it back out and pontificate, doing nothing in the interim to address the realities, then return to it the next election. Until January 22,1973, it really wasn’t even a ‘thing’, in the political landscape. Since then, it holds prominent sway. Used by both sides, it has caused people to get elected, and others to lose elections. And yet, the dominate voice in the chaos is lost in the process. Yes, the voice of the one who carries the most weight, figuratively and literally, the woman’s. Some say the babies voice. You cannot have a baby without a woman. So we start there. My own evolution of understanding a woman’s voice came in spurts. For me, it truly has been an evolution. Evolutions come from overcoming ignorance with education or by changing view of a particular situation or person. Along with education, it comes with experience and understanding. When in grade school I won the Keep South Dakota Green Contest, I had no idea my love for taking care of nature all these years later, would relate to the way I look at abortion. And how what we do to the earth, impacts a child growing in the womb. When I won the American Legion Oratory Contest, that too did not bring an awareness of the importance of using one’s voice, nor
did I know my Confirmation class would play a significant role. I evolved in understanding my faith, science and humanity. I had no idea the connectivity to all things life. And so my evolution began. First and foremost, I have yet to meet one person who wants abortion. Nor have I met one woman who decided to get pregnant to have an abortion.
Myths perpetrate around this subject. Many judgments. More misconceptions, little understanding of pregnancy or biology. I know, I was one of them. As a woman, a mother of five, Catholic, prolife Democrat, the thought of abortion makes me ill. As a naturalist, who believes to be natural is to be at home with our own body with God given creations. Yet, I really was clueless. My own history began with staggering, embarrassing naiveté. What I thought was a black and white issue. Isn’t. What I found is gray. It is where most of life is lived. Today the gray area is blaring.
Flannery O’Conner, the provocative, timeless writer, implanted in her writing an inner and outer dialogue. This often occurs with the realities of abortion, an inner and outer conversation. Humans have capacity for self deception. Blatant self deception is rampant in the abortion discussion. The mystery of life is just that, a mystery. Walk with a woman, a couple, who has experienced a still birth, a miscarriage, a spontaneous abortion, infertility, and you realize the miracle of birth. Walk with any pregnant women from the moment she ‘knows’ she is pregnant, to birth. You will discover the miracle. Every birth of a human being is truly a miracle. Humans that recognize that inner/outer dialogue will also see the contradictions. Until people are faced with similar challenges, slapped in the face with a realities, they remain clueless. I was.
My sanctimony was before I discovered: Most priests did not want to touch anything about abortion, or Right to Life Programs, most still avoided them. Before I found out fathers, boyfriends, partners, mothers, friends either encouraged, or worse, forced, women to terminate a pregnancy. Before I had a clue that incest was more common, especially in certain areas, than I had any idea. That a women named Norma McCovey was paid to say she had an abortion, she didn’t, then they used her for a case célèbre. Before I understood the Republican party would use abortion, and well meaning people, in the process, to get elected, then stonewalling any potential help to stop the despair, crisis or causes. It was before I truly understood the ramifications of substance abuse disorder and, the impact that abuse has on the user, and any pregnancy she may discover. Or, before I met people who had to chose between the life of the mother, or the child, or both. And most importantly, that a woman’s voice was negated or silence in her own decisions. I was clueless, yet I began working to stop abortion even before the Supreme Court Decision on January 22, 1973.
Prior to January 22, 1973, Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. I was a radical. A radical pro-lifer, although, it was not called that in 1972-73. I wore the bracelet. Alpha and the Omega. Bumper stickers, spoke to Church Groups, Youth Groups. My husband, the father of our five children, and at the time, a Chief of Police, prior to the disease of alcoholism taking him from us, supported me, and a few times, even attended my talk. I was judgmental about anyone considering abortion. How could they? As a young wife, and mother of two small children, I was authentic, sincere in my passion. I was naïve. I am not proud of my ignorance. My only real understanding of pregnancy or a pregnancy test at that time was sprinkling ground garlic on cooking meat. It made me nauseous. A sign something was going on. No one talked about how, when, what caused pregnancy. Sex Education or human awareness. Are you kidding? Still missing. You were just suppose to know. I also did not see the vulnerability, or understand what others were going through, or what they faced. However, if a girl became pregnant out of wedlock, God help them, mutilated by wagging tongues.
Truth be told, I had to look up the word abortion. In that era, prior to politicians using it as a political ploy, it was not part of the lexicon. I first heard the word at a presentation where a mother of six children spoke. My inner and outer voice were horrified. Since childhood, I love babies, wanted a big family, adored my younger siblings, began babysitting when I was in the third grade, loved being pregnant, birthing and parenting. I thought when I heard the lovely woman’s talk, “I have to do something.” I began working to stop abortion. The Supreme Court decision was a year off.
I helped form a Right to Life group in our state, later helped established National Right to Life. I pontificated with self righteous condemnation, just like I hear some well meaning people today. I never stood outside a clinic, yet some of my behavior was just as abhorrent. It was a time when we basically had to beg Church leadership to listen to us. They had no interest. I was shocked. My own view was myopic, though, and until a young woman challenged me to “Not to judge until I walked a mile in her shoes.” I tried to justify my narrow position. Not until I really thought about her, learned her painful back story, did I begin to change. Slowly. Very slowly. She changed me. Humbled me. My inner dialogue changed. The evolution began. I began to question the difference between being anti-abortion and pro-life.
Then several ladies appeared in my life to drive the point home. The first. A young woman, impregnated by her own father, was forced, by him, to have an abortion. He had raped her, more than once. Because of her Catholic faith, she was completely destroyed spiritually and emotionally, blaming herself. The abuse began when she was a child. She was a child! The abuse continued to the day she sat in front of me. A woman, who had received pastoral care from me, brought her. We talked about the fact none of this was her fault. She was a child. I kept reminding myself and her of that fact. It was the first time she shared these horrific experiences. I gave her tools. Encouraged her. Talked about her voice. It mattered. I was only an instrument with ears to listen and a heart that cared. We talked of opportunities to transform the pain. Sending her to authorities, at that time, was not an option. We worked to change the law, yet at that time, it was to no avail. That weekend she went to Mass. The priest’s homily was similar to some of those haranguing, judgmental sermons in some churches. She left Mass. Committed suicide. She was not the last that came through my door with similar experiences. In fact, I worked in an area that intergenerational incest was all too common. Horrific situations. The victims had no voice. They were trapped.
The second. A high school friend was confronted by the fact her husband, a well educated, but sadistic man, from childhood, his parents were involved in an intergenerational cult. He inherited the horror. We had no idea. My friend, extremely naïve, and very sincere, her love for him was real, unaware of who she had really married until she found out he had impregnated his own sweet, innocent daughter, forced his daughter to abort and in this cult’s vile, sick rituals, used the baby as part of part of it, causing the daughter to disassociate mentally, going into psychiatric crisis, followed by witness protection, along with her mother. None of us have heard from her since. Yes, these nightmares happen.
Additionally, I was confronted by another obvious reality. I was beginning to lose count of women impacted by unreported rapes followed by pregnancies. I provided pastoral care and support. Witnessing so much pain was changing my understanding of women’s despair. Ringing in my ears were the ones who told me “No one would believe me.” No one listened, or cared. Her voice silenced. I was witnessing a pattern.
The pattern of no voice, included me. While pregnant with our fourth child, due to physical abuse, I went into premature labor at seven months. I lay on the surgical table having experienced a horrific night, with the help of a cadre of physicians; we worked to save the life of our oldest son. They called it a miracle. I knew it was, there was no question. They were unable to give me anesthesia due to the crisis. I asked for a priest. He baptized, our son, weighing 4 lbs. 1 oz., he was air lifted from our small rural hospital to the University of Minnesota’s neo-natal unit in Minneapolis. Prior to his leaving me, I was only able to touch the top of his tiny head. The emptiness was overwhelming. As our baby was being transferred to the University of Minnesota neo-natal unit, I lay on the table, a nurse working in the room, without any formal conversation, asked me, “You will have your tubes tied.” Translated, a tubal ligation. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. I was stunned. Without a moment of hesitation, I answered as empathically as a woman having just had an emergency cesarean section without any medication, can. “No. Absolutely not. What God placed there will remain.” Through her PPE her eyes told me, “You are crazy.” No need for words. That moment is etched in my brain and it came back many times over the years. I used my voice. It surprised even me. The ‘No.’ came from me. Not the doctor. The surgeon. Not even my children’s father. It came from me. Emphatically. It was my voice. It may sound strange, but I had never used it like that, ever. A significant moment in the evolution of understanding a woman’s voice. Of understanding a woman’s body. If I had made a different decision, my fifth child, a boy, would not be here. Tubal ligation was never a decision I even entertained, then, or ever. My body is my body created by my parents with God’s cooperation. As an adult woman, I would speak for it. No one else.
At that time, my doctor advised me to not become pregnant “until you are stronger”. I knew he cared. He was right. I was exhausted from attempting to manage a household suffering from the disease of alcoholism, not dissimilar to cancer, however, treated by society, very differently, especially in a small rural isolated town when drinking was like breathing. The advice from a well meaning doctor is impossible to negotiate in such a situation. Education and treatment were lacking. Different from today’s availability. My parish priest knew what was occurring and provided constant reality checks. He also told me I must make a decision in order to save all of our lives. After multiple crisis, and treatments, I made a painful decision to leave the marriage. I was asked, “Why don’t you ‘take’ something to stop pregnancy?” And again, while my religious believes are strong, it was a personal decision to never put anything in my system that stopped the natural processes. So, yes, I, was pregnant again, with four small children. You do not tell a man in the throes of alcohol abuse to stop, without consequences. He also owned guns.
I knew the ramifications of another pregnancy, another cesarean. So did my doctor. And we had no insurance. “I don’t know if you will be able to carry to term.” my doctor said. I did not know what that meant until he said, “I am not hearing a heartbeat.” It was another defining moment. I feared for the child growing within me. Yet, that fear did not dim my faith that my child, would not only live, it would thrive. We would make it. For me, no alternative decision was even possible. And my doctor, knowing me, did not suggest it.
The miracle of medicine and science working through doctors, we lived. That child today is in a lovely marriage with five exquisitely beautiful children. However, I realized at that moment things are not so black and white, especially, when you have virtually no support from anyone other than your doctor. I grew up. Stopped judging, went to confession, and a beautiful caring priest said to me, “Through this, God gave you a gift. The gift of understanding, compassion and empathy. We never know for sure what is the purpose, what we learn, until we are faced with a similar situation. Then we can stop judging.” He, too, was right. It was also at this moment I understood, why women, in desperation, made a different decision. Again, I was humbled. I committed to help. I changed my professional approach as well. It brought moments of grace too numerous to count. I am, and continue to be, present to anyone who has come to me seeking counsel in crisis pregnancy. I provide life giving resources, a shoulder. If help is sought when the decision has been completed due to force, abandoned, or personal choice, I do not judge. A significant point in the evolution of understanding a woman’s voice was the voice of my mother. My radical position was changing as I began to understand why, she, a devote Catholic and an active pro-life Democrat, worked to give every women a right to her own voice and decisions. In our already complicated relationship, she was reticent about my over the top passion in Right to Life. I wrote about Mom’s feelings in my memoir:
“She was progressive in her thought. Strongly opposed
to abortion, she also felt strongly about it not being a political
platform and opposed politicians who used it the issue to be elected. She grew up knowing about a local woman who
helped out girls in bad situations. She also knew of the coat
hanger and the desperation, often both the baby and woman dying.
In fact, she once told me that no one protected young
women, who had been taken advantage of or impregnated by their own relatives. Today we call it rape and incest. Back
then, there were only “situations.” Mom knew of a significant
number of these “situations” taken care of in back
alleys. She also knew of the women in the area who provided
those services; Mom told me of her empathy for the young
women and the person who helped them. “What they must have suffered,” was Mom’s response. Mom didn’t judge, and she provided homes for abandoned and neglected children. It was Catholic social teaching at its best.” Catholic Alcoholic: A Witness to Addiction and Redemption P. 66-67
Mom’s words gave me pause. As a professional pastoral minister, numerous women shared the forced abortions by men in their life; fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and neighbors and yes, even some clergy. Most forced and most under age, when pregnancy occurred. The man took care of the pregnancy by eliminating it. It also explained the reasons for far too many women’s early deaths. Listening to women’s experiences, Mom’s insightful words returned often. One of several tributes I have written about Mom includes one from our last family reunion. She ‘took in’ many children over the years, raising other mother’s children, including after being orphaned herself, her younger brothers, nephews, grandchildren, abandoned children and anyone needing shelter, food, a kind word, care. She was a lady, who gave birth eight times, one child living only a few days, and with more than one complicated pregnancy. Her final pregnancy, in her 40’s, and due to the complications prior during my youngest brother’s birth, we did not know if she would survive. Mom was at peace. She told my older sister and me that if anything happened she knew we could handle it. I wept. As a small child, I remembered she was returned to the hospital after my brother’s birth, we were told later of her near death experience. Mom’s eighth pregnancy paralyzed me with fear she would die. She lived, yet Mom had more tragedy than anyone I know, other than Rose Kennedy. She buried three of her children, two husbands, five brothers and her parents.
Mom’s political activism was well known. Dad and Mom were close friends of George and Eleanor McGovern, Hubert and Muriel Humphrey, Democrats, and Bill Janklow, Republican. They were non-partisan in their friendships and taught us to vote for principled people, not a party. Dad was elected Sheriff of our county for over thirty years. Mom was his deputy. A Democrat, in a Republican county. Again, Mom and Dad’s integrity well known, as well as their compassion. Dad, more than once, delivered babies, especially among our Native America population, who never had adequate health care, a travesty to my parents. And to this day, lack of health care for Native peoples still a common issue.
As with my mother, the woman who gave and sustained her life; her mother, my grandmother, had extraordinary strength and courage. As all my other grandmothers, they were women with indomitable spirits. They reminded me of Pauline Nehr Deide’s mother, who she so eloquently wrote about in Homesteading on the Knife River Prairie. It was a book I came by serendipitously while presenting a Women’s Retreat. I included the experience in my book, Catholic Alcoholic, and my monthly Living Justly column in our Catholic paper.
“A Prairie Women Her hair was a salt and pepper. Well dressed. Well spoken. I was presenting a women’s retreat, She approached me during the break. “Thank you for speaking about the generational abuse of women. Also, thank you for talking about the strength of your own mother, and your grandmother’s death at 43.” She continued, “I want to send you a book titled Homesteading on the Knife River Prairie by Pauline Nehr Deide. It speaks of what so many Prairie women lived.” Thanking her, it was obvious she knew from where these words fermented. The book arrived. I could not put it down. It was riveting and spoke from our immigrant roots which, other than our Native neighbors and those arriving on slave ships, is how most of my Irish and German immigrant ancestors came to America. As I read, my eyes filled with tears. The author wrote:
“Knowing she was pregnant again and fearing she would miscarry, she laid down on the prairie grass. Scripture was understood to mean that it was a woman’s duty to bear children and to work hard.” She continued, “ Because of the great demand placed on men just to survive, some became sever and took out their anxieties on wives and children by rough treatment, often beating them. This was a way of life that now cannot be described to fourth, fifth and later generations. There was general abuse of children and wives and it was considered discipline according to the Bible. Of course, such sever discipline did not prevail in every settler household. Never the less, the man in the family held all the rights, often making things hard on women folk.” Today the prairie is lush and green, not so much in those early homesteading days. The cemetery where my family lays, it is dotted with women who died of early deaths because of this harsh reality.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time researching my ancestors, fascinating women’s voices speak from the pages, the graves. Two of my grandmothers, one a great grandmother, who delivered my mother, came from Ireland, were midwives. In that era they dealt with, complicated pregnancies without the possibility of a medical facility, and for far too many, living with the abuse Pauline wrote about. It was also through my own grandmothers that helped me understand my own evolution.
Grandma Sanow, Dad’s Mom, a mother of 10 living children, devote Missouri Synod Lutheran, who I remember her as kind, and of small physical stature. When I was told, “You are a carbon copy of Grandma Sanow.” I loved the compliment. The research bore out a new understanding. I discovered a remarkable woman with a stellar reputation, today we call a natural healer. Grandpa was also gifted in physical healing, as well, and they made a formidable couple, summoned to homes when illness occurred, or birth eminent, delivered babies and cared for women with ‘female issues.’ Grandpa and Grandma Sanow, along with their broad, created an impressive Iowa farm, still to this day a workable farm and buildings. My cousin, Laurel, captures Grandma in her book My Name is Esther Clare. And I spend considerable amount of time writing about this impressive tiny lady in my own memoir. How many crisis’ pregnancies did she have, witness? Save? Bury? I think of her often. Her picture watches over me as I work. Her work ethic, sense of responsibility and desire for the natural, instilled deeply in my psychic and DNA continues to make me proud to call her Grandma.
Life was hard. Most births, and babies, were looked upon for their practicality. I remember a father of a large farm family once telling me, “I wanted many children because I needed milkers and tax deductions.” He was one of those Pauline wrote about. Then there were others who were kind, gentle and loving. Unfortunately, for too many women that was the exception rather than the rule. As time went on, my Grandpa Sanow also, became the person of whom Pauline wrote in her book, with the addition of alcohol. Grandma Sanow, after the last of her children were raised, told Grandpa, who loved this lady, yet when drinking, had become abusive. Grandma said, “Enough.” And did what was unheard of in the 1930’s, she divorced him. A few years later, he died a broken man. She lived to 92. And asked to be buried beside him. I visited their graves. And wept.
My maternal grandmother, Grandma Braun died at 43 of peritonitis, pregnant, mother and child died. Her death left Mom and her brothers, motherless. Grandma Braun, one of four girls and three brothers lost two of her sisters at age 46 and 43 prior to her early death. All prairie women with harsh lives. As I read Pauline’s book I not only thought of my Grandmothers, I thought of my aunts too. and the number of children left motherless and left to navigate life without them. All total my Great Grandma Tracy was left with twenty grandchildren, many very young, motherless. Treasured letters from the 1930’s, speak of her grief.
Like Grandma Braun, fifty years later, my sister Karren’s death, at 21 years old, was caused by appendices while pregnant. Karren’s voice was gentle, loving, protective. I adored her from the first moment I understood she was my older sister. Pregnant with their third child, Karren suffered ruptured appendix during the beginning of her second trimester. Karren was 21 years old! The physician thought it was false labor pains until it was discovered her appendix was ruptured for several days. Baby died, a few days later my sister succumbed to infection. It devastated our entire family, which included her beloved husband and two small children. We never really recovered.
In the debate over abortion, I think about Karren and Grandma. If given the chance to save Karren’s life, what would have been decided? To think that would have been posed to my brother in law and parents is more than I can wrap my heart around. I know what my sister would have said. As most of mothers, she would have said, “Save baby’s life.” Due to the situation, Karren was not given that opportunity. What her decision would have been, knowing of her love for her two little ones is more than I can consider. Even the thought makes me sick to my stomach, Yet, these situations happen more than people realize.
With the advance of ultra sounds, many difficulties can be addressed, unfortunately not always. This is what is called late term abortion. It occurs when the life of the mother and/or baby are compromised. It comes from medical situations like this. One of the myths is that this is a chosen decision. These horrific tragedies occur when people are faced with heart wrenching decisions. And up until the law changed, and still to this day, people will share horror stories of being in hospitals, which refuse to address these tragedies in a compassionate, legal way. Medicine will fight to save both. Sometimes that is not possible, one or both die. These decisions deserve personal privacy, not judgment. Not interverance. People will say, “These are the exceptions. Maternal death is not common.” Unfortunately, that too is a myth. Pregnancy is a miracle, medically complicated and personal. Women die from it all the time and that is not talked about in this debate. It is an abomination that it has become a political issue instead of a personal medical issue. This is the stark reality that I discovered. As I continued to evolve, my eyes were open to these painful complexities.
Realities give back stories
Reality brings truth. In my professional experiences I have already cited many examples. There are a hundred more. I will save you the trauma by sharing three publicly known real life examples. With so much misinformation, they deserve to be shared in entirety. The first was written by Haylie Gammer and her husband.
“Hey. It’s me, Haylie. I have tried for the past few years to keep politics off of this space, but tonight it’s about to get a political. Kinda. Stay with me. I saw this article today about Senator Gary Peters and his abortion story. It reminded me why I am pro-choice, reminded me that people need to hear my story too. Some of you may have already heard my story. I think it is a good reminder of how politics are used to control women’s bodies and how everything isn’t always what it seems on the surface.
4.5 years ago, I gave birth to my first born. Her name was Embree Eleanor Grammer. She was born via c-section on April 25, 2016. She weighed 4lbs 4oz. She was only 25 weeks gestation. She lived for approximately 20-30 minutes. She was born with a tumor roughly the size of a volleyball invading her body both externally and internally. It was sucking her blood supply, pushing her organs out of place, deforming her body, overworking her heart. We found out about the tumor only 5 weeks prior. In 5 weeks the tumor grew from the size of a walnut to the size of a volleyball. I grew along with it, from the tiny bump of a first time mom at 20 weeks to measuring the same as a pregnant woman who was roughly 36 weeks along. In 5 weeks! The hardest 5 weeks of my life. We had sonograms twice weekly, traveled across the state to visit more specialists, were told that essentially our sweet Embree would probably not make it. We had a choice to make. The state of Texas allows an abortion a time period after 20 weeks if the pregnancy is life threatening to the mother or if the fetus has “abnormalities.” We qualified for this. I have always been pro-choice, but I have never been pro-abortion for myself. While I agree that women have the right to do what is best for them, I myself wasn’t ever planning on an abortion. I also had hope that Embree would be healed that the tumor would stop growing. So we chose to push on with the pregnancy, hoping that Embree would have a chance. I was counting down to the age of viability, just hoping that if I could keep Embree cooking until then, maybe…. just maybe, modern medicine and prayers could keep her alive.
We were not only closely monitoring Embree, the doctors were closely monitoring me. Even though Embree was still alive, she was not in good shape. She was developing Hydrops. I was at a risk of developing mirror syndrome. This would be life threatening to me if it fully developed. On April 22 I went to my second sonogram of the week. My doctors were concerned with the swelling in my feet. I was told that I had a decision to make. I was starting to develop the beginnings of mirror syndrome. We were 2 weeks away from 27 weeks. This was important because at 27 weeks, I would no longer be able to deliver Embree in Texas via c-section. Why? Because according to the law, by choosing to deliver Embree this early, I would be having an abortion. And while at 24.5 weeks I was still in the grey area of Texas Abortion law where I could deliver her, at 27 weeks I would not be. Surprised this is considered an abortion? Many are. Stay with me.
We decided to schedule our c-section for that Monday. I would be 25 weeks. We made it past the age of viability, but it was becoming obvious that she would not make it. We met with NICU doctors. They reviewed our case. They decided that they would not be attempting any life saving attempts on Embree after delivered. This meant officially, we were choosing to have an abortion. We were giving birth to our child early, knowing full well that she would not survive. This is what “late term abortion” looks like. Catch that political buzz word? I will explain more below.
As you can imagine, this was the worst and longest weekend of our life. We knew that in 2 days we would be meeting our daughter and letting her go. But it gets so much worse. Again, this is considered an abortion. A late term abortion. The State of Texas, like most states who have a large majority who claim to be “pro-life,” has many restrictions in place to prevent abortions from happening. Here is the thing about abortion legislation…. it doesn’t differentiate between what we were going through and what the “pro-life” groups think they are preventing. The laws in Texas stated that in order for us to give birth to Embree and have a chance to hold her while her soul still resided in her body, we had to do the following: 1. Our doctor had to apply for permission to perform the c-section from the state. This had to be done 24 hours before the surgery. We had to go to the hospital on the Saturday before we were to give birth, in the midst of our mourning, to sign a paper requesting an abortion. Put yourself in that situation. Forever, in the records of the State of Texas, there is a piece of paper that says that I aborted my precious Embree. 2. On top of filing this paperwork for us, our doctor also had to give me a pamphlet published by the State of Texas about the consequences of abortion. By law, she was required to give me a booklet that told me that if I had the abortion I would suffer from depression and anxiety for the rest of my life, have an increased risk of breast cancer, and possible be infertile in the future. Think I’m kidding? Have a look:
If you consider yourself “pro-life” you are probably thinking something like, “yes but your situation was different. This isn’t what I’m fighting against.” Or maybe you’re thinking “but I don’t consider this abortion.” Great. But the actual definition of abortion is “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.” So while YOU might not consider what we went through to be an “abortion,” it was. I had an abortion. I had a late-term abortion. Why am I bringing this up? Why am I telling you this? Because when lawmakers and people fight to end “abortion,” they are talking about this too. When you hear about “late term abortions” taking place, THIS is what is happening. It’s not women who have carried babies to full term and then just deciding to have an abortion. It is women and families who are devastated that they are in a situation in which they have to decide whether to let a child suffer in the womb, or end their suffering. “Pro-life” laws are designed to make this process difficult. They are designed to but obstacles in place. This process is already difficult enough. Even women who are deciding to have an abortion at 8 weeks. It’s already a hard decision so why are we allowing people to torture them too.
Every time people talk about saving the babies, being pro-life, I cringe on the inside. Not because I don’t want to save babies, but because I want to save babies. Save babies from suffering that they are made to endure because some man who has no medical training has decided that he knows women’s bodies better than doctors. I cringe because I know as a survivor of these terrible “pro-life” laws that these laws are being used to trick women in America to vote against their own interest in hopes that they are saving the unborn. I cringe every time I hear people call those who vote in favor of Pro-Choice laws… “murderers”, because they are saying I murdered my Embree. I chose to deliver Embree on April 25, 2016 via c-section. I chose late-term abortion. I did so because it was the only way I could hold my baby girl while she was still alive. It was the only way I could encounter her soul until we are together again in heaven. This is why I am Pro-choice. Remember Embree and I when you vote.”
The next real life example is the story of Senator Peters that Haylie referenced:
“United States Senator Gary Peters, a low-key, moderate Senator from Michigan, is in a very tight re-election race that could decide whether his party wins the Senate. But he’s not the kind of guy who typically makes national headlines. He’s more known for being a dad who enjoys riding his motorcycle and drinking the local beer than he is for saying attention-grabbing things. So it may come as a surprise that with this story, he will become the first sitting senator in American history to publicly share a personal experience with abortion.
“It’s a story of how gut-wrenching and complicated decisions can be related to reproductive health, a situation I went through with my first wife,” he told me in a phone interview Sunday afternoon.
In the late 1980s in Detroit, Peters and his then wife, Heidi, were pregnant with their second child, a baby they very much wanted. Heidi was four months along when her water broke, leaving the fetus without amniotic fluid—a condition it could not possibly survive. The doctor told the Peters to go home and wait for a miscarriage to happen naturally.
But it didn’t happen. They went back to the hospital the next day, and the doctor detected a faint heartbeat. He recommended an abortion, because the fetus still had no chance of survival, but it wasn’t an option due to a hospital policy banning the procedure. So he sent the couple again home to wait for a miscarriage. “The mental anguish someone goes through is intense,” Peters says, “trying to have a miscarriage for a child that was wanted.”
As they waited, Heidi’s health deteriorated. When she returned to the hospital on the third day, after another night without a natural miscarriage, the doctor told her the situation was dire. She could lose her uterus in a matter of hours if she wasn’t able to have an abortion, and if she became septic from the uterine infection, she could die.
The doctor appealed to the hospital’s board for an exception to their anti-abortion policy and was denied. “I still vividly remember he left a message on the answering machine saying, ‘They refused to give me permission, not based on good medical practice, simply based on politics. I recommend you immediately find another physician who can do this procedure quickly,’” Peters recalls.
The Peters were able to get into another hospital right away because they were friends with its chief administrator. Heidi was rushed into an emergency abortion that saved her uterus and possibly her life. The whole experience was “painful and traumatic,” Heidi shared in a statement. “If it weren’t for urgent and critical medical care, I could have lost my life.”
Reflecting on the experience now, Senator Peters says it “enacted an incredible emotional toll.” So why go public with it? “It’s important for folks to understand that these things happen to folks every day,” he explains. “I’ve always considered myself pro-choice and believe women should be able to make these decisions themselves, but when you live it in real life, you realize the significant impact it can have on a family.”
Peters decided to share the story at this moment because the right to make such decisions as a family, free of politics, has never been more at stake. He is alarmed by the threat President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, poses to women’s reproductive rights. The very conservative nominee once signed her name onto a newspaper ad calling Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion, “barbaric.” If Republicans successfully confirm her to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, she could reverse legal abortion in America or significantly curtail it. “It’s important for folks who are willing to tell these stories to tell them, especially now,” Peters says. “The new Supreme Court nominee could make a decision that will have major ramifications for reproductive health for women for decades to come. This is a pivotal moment for reproductive freedom.” It is also a pivotal moment for his campaign. With so much at stake for Peters in a purple state that narrowly broke for Trump in 2016, it is remarkably bold of him to go public with his own abortion story less than a month before the election.
Peters’ stance on the issue couldn’t be more different from that of his Republican challenger, John James, who supports overturning Roe and has referred to abortion as “genocide.” James openly opposes abortion in nearly all circumstances, including cases of rape and incest, and he won’t say whether he supports allowing the procedure to save the life of the mother. National anti-abortion groups have endorsed James and poured money into his Senate campaign.
But abortion rights activists hope that Peters sharing his story will help put a human face on the sensitive and historically politicized issue, and in doing so, help them in the fight to protect Ginsburg’s legacy. “Senator Peters’ family is an example of countless stories across our nation of the injustice and harm that occurs when we allow politicians, who know nothing about our lives to make decisions about our pregnancies,” said Ilyse Hogue “In breaking the silence, he not only gives voice to what’s at stake, but he reminds us of our common humanity and quest for dignity and compassion when we fight for reproductive freedom for everybody.” Update: Following publication of this story, the James campaign confirmed John James does support abortion in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. By LAURA BASSETT
And yet another:
A precious 82 year old devote Catholic friend once told me, “People have no idea what they would do when told by their doctor to make a decision between the life of a child and the life of their mother.” He said when the doctor told him he had to chose, he looked at his two other small children and it was an immediate decision. His two living children needed their mother. Fortunately for that family, both lived. However, as he told me it changed him and how he thought about abortion and people faced with these decisions.
None of these three examples are political decisions. They are personal. And deserve to be respected as such. The following are more stark examples of situations most of us will never experience:
I was volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Children’s Home in Haiti, a place of abject poverty and despair, someone brought a baby whose mother had been given a substance that causes miscarriage. It was reported it was a person who helped women abort. The baby lived. We have no idea what happened to Mom. Someone else brought the baby to Mother Teresa’s. The baby’s skin was horribly burned. The Sisters knew the baby would not survive. They provided loving care, dressing her in the best clothing they could provide. We loved her as she died. I thought of her Mom; the desperation in that desperately poor country. The impact on all of us was immediate. For the Sisters, it was not the first time they were faced with such suffering. I found beauty in the mystery of this tragedy; the tenderness for which the baby was cared. Another example of how life moves us in its messiness, I still think of the small human being and her Mom.
So too, the reality of war, brings decisions in an extraordinarily painful way. Think of the genocides committed in countries, which women and children are trying to escape. Families facing God awful circumstances to arrive on our shores. Many do not arrive. One situation I came face to face. A woman and her children from a war torn country were brought unannounced, unexpected, by her husband, to our home. Their older children had become a part of my families’ life while they attended a boarding school I worked. Shortly after arrival, the mother became seriously ill. I had returned her children to their school, she stayed behind with my family and without an interpreter, I was stymied. I took her to our family physician. He told me, it was serious. We needed to notify her husband and secure an interpreter. I could locate neither. This was long before HIPA. My doctor then explained the critical nature of her situation. It was a self induced abortion. She was filled with infection. He needed permission to perform surgery to save her life. I had no other option than to contact the children. Without sharing the situation, they were able to tell me they thought there was an aunt in Chicago. She spoke fluent English. She also knew how to locate the husband, who was out of country. I located both and told him to contact the doctor. While comforting her, the phone rang. It was her husband. I witnessed horrific treatment from the husband. He wanted to talk to me. He proceeded to tell me “She was pregnant before they left their country he said she thought that if he knew, she would not be allowed to come to the US, away from the violence and persecution.” She wanted out of the country. And because of that, she used an object to cause an abortion.”
It was a horrific event that still makes me sick to my stomach, from his control, to the horror she had lived through in her home country. Since, I often wonder how many women have been in this same situation? She had used a wire to abort. From the hospital, her husband sent her to Chicago by air ambulance, a rarity at that time. I never heard from any of them again. To this day, I have no idea if she survived the abortion, or the husband. Like this lady, women have been placed in the position and cycle of abuse and forced by circumstances to make such a difficult decision out of fear of being separated from her living children, fear of a spouse, a partner, or fear of dying from war and poverty. We often witness this with immigrant women attempting to find safety.
I have seen no joy in a woman who has made this decision, or the ones in the throes of making it, quite the opposite. No lady would make a decision to go through an abortion if the realities were not so dire. It is easy for those of us not faced with a crisis, to sit in judgment. Almost always, the thread of some form of abuse is involved and it is often a cycle with tension building, acute battering, remorse followed by reconciliation, which sometimes creates a pregnancy, and then the cycle recurs. Any form of abuse is wrong.
In my professional experience the reasons women seek, or have sought, abortion is as varied as the women I have met. A more recent phenomenon is what I call abortion by bullet. The father wants neither so both are shot and killed. I know of four such tragedies occurring recently. The proliferation of guns is a prolife issue as well, yet where is the outcry? So why aren’t we doing more to stop this slaughter?
Women carry life. Women also carry the joy when it is anticipate, and the burdens when brought about in a crisis. The larger question is what crisis would cause any woman to seek an abortion? Pregnancy is complex. A miracle. The answers they give are complex. Some people will negate that, stating a woman makes this decision willy nilly. Think about that. I have not met a woman who gets pregnant to have an abortion. If such thing occurs, I have not met them. Each experience brings the complexity of that experience. The reasons I have witnessed that women have been faced with this decisions include:
⦁ Physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual abuse
⦁ Poverty-poor is poor. Staggering poverty.
⦁ No insurance
⦁ No support
⦁ Youth-too young for responsible parenthood or physically able
⦁ Age-too old to birth a child
⦁ Multiple children and fearful of caring for another
⦁ Medical crisis, ie as cancer of one, or both, ruptured appendices; others
⦁ Job loss and loss of job due to pregnancy
⦁ Women from war torn countries
⦁ Alcohol or other drug abuse, addiction
⦁ Forced by parental, partner, spousal
⦁ Complex physical and mental challenges
⦁ Medical crisis
⦁ Martial affair
Another element I have witnessed comes through my office are parents, grandparents, partners and spouses dealing with regret, and guilt, over forcing abortion on a loved one.
First question. What causes pregnancy? Intercourse. It takes a man and a woman to make a baby. Yet, when it comes to the discussion or debate on abortion, the man is never mentioned. Immorality of silence. Healthy education begins early. We have failed our young people in not teaching healthy human sexuality, reproduction, biology. I include my own Church in that failure. No real healthy education. I know. As an educator, I am ask to speak in parishes, schools and universities and have done so for over 40 years, usually after a major crisis of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases or suicides. No prevention prior, called in after a crisis. I am asked to speak on human sexuality, life skills and awareness, often connected to Catholic Social Teaching. After speaking about the gift and power of human sexuality, I am asked, “Why don’t we hear any of this from the pulpit, from our priests? It is so important.” I return the question with a question. “What do you think is the reason?” They have no answer. I respond by telling them, having worked with over a hundred priests in my life time, they were never taught, and/or are extremely uncomfortable talking about sex. Sexual abuse or anything pertaining to the complexities of human sexuality. Period. It is one of the reasons we have the sexual abuse crisis, although, as we all know, it is not only in the Catholic Church. Next to the original sin of racism, I believe lack of healthy sexual awareness is one of humanities’ greatest crisis. No open honest, healthy discussion and education on all things sexual. We all know of bad apples, and yet, I know there are those who are ill because of their own abuse. It has never been addressed. It continues from generation to generation.
In never talking about that one important aspect of this entire subject. The man. Often, a young man. we eliminate the rich opportunity to have the discussion about responsibility of what causes pregnancy? Teaching respect of the miracle instead of using a woman for sexual release, we lose that opportunity to educate our men to respect and be responsible for that which brings about the pregnancy. Crickets when it comes to these discussions. Silence. And it is deafening. As a society, we are silent as well. Sex is used, abused, ridiculed, but not talked about in a healthy positive way. I once spoke at a school about human awareness and was told by the principal, “Do not bring up the ‘S’ word.” I realized this particular educator was clueless about human reproduction and what his students were doing. After my talk on human ‘awareness’ and the dignity of the human person, I was surrounded by students asking me what to do about their ‘S’ behavior. We, as a society and Church, literally pour the baby out with the bath water by avoiding the conversation. I don’t blame the principal, I am sure he thought any discussion on sex would result in gratuitous laughter and ridicule. It didn’t. It doesn’t. However, because we do not have a healthy discussion that is usually how it is framed; vile, gratuitous, and abusive. Tragic, since we are all beautiful sexual beings. It is to be celebrated in a healthy not abusive way. Although, our young people ‘seem’ sophisticated about sex and sexuality, most are clueless about the biology that creates a human being. The ignorance and through no fault of their own, lack of maturity, offers trouble. Too few talk about the beautiful mystery of feeling that movement in the womb. And yet look what people do to a mother nursing in public yet think nothing of exposing most of all in public.
I was reminded of this when the Jeffrey Epstein’s name hit the news. The name came full circle for me. It brought for me, human trafficking of girls and women, a major issue, to the front again. The reality is sexualization of young girls occur during horrific trafficking’s. American men are usually the perpetrators. The circle began when I was asked to present another youth retreat due to a significant amount of unplanned pregnancies. This youth director, and priest, wanted me to address human sexuality, responsibly and Church teaching. They were more sophisticated than many. In private, a mother presented to me a full page ad from a popular store geared to young people. The ad was of girls obviously pre-pubescence, scantily clothed. It was shocking. Sad objectification of innocence. The mother asked for guidance. I encouraged her to call authorities and the store owner. Go to the top. Years later, the owner of that store was well connected to Jeffrey Epstein, we now know he is the well known perpetrator of abusing young girls, ultimately was charged and succumbed in a jail cell under questioning circumstances. Years later, when his case was reported, the full page ad flashed through my mind and I questioned how many of the young girls in the ads were subjugated to being used? We now know the girls were sexualized at an early age by these older men. This ad was printed in major newspapers. As we wonder about the increase in human trafficking of women and children, child pornography and how social media contributes, this has been going on for a number of years and yet, where is the outcry? If students were taught healthy human sexuality and life skills how much of this would be eliminated and how many unplanned pregnancies avoided? Today it has ‘progressed’ to taking nudes on their i-phones only to be sent around to anyone and everyone with lives destroyed.
The one area most people avoid when discussing, or debating, abortion is the impact alcohol and other drugs play in the decision of abortion. I stopped counting the number of people who, in the throes of drinking, blacking out, overdose have later found out they, or their partner, are pregnant. This discovery includes both parties, male and female, young and older. Others petrified with what they have done during their drinking and using, make the decision to abort out of fear of what will happen to the pregnancy knowing, or not knowing, for sure what substance they placed in their bodies, or were given. This is a major reality with an unplanned pregnancy in these decisions. One woman arrived to my office in a wheel chair. During the course of our appointment she inquired as to why I did not ask how she lost her legs. I responded by saying, “I felt if you wanted me to know you would share.” She did. “It was the best thing that ever happen to me.” I was stunned with such a confession. She continued, “From the time I was an infant I was sexually abused. I only know this because a doctor giving me an examine asked me if I had ever been sexually abused?” Continuing, she shared through her tears. “In my community, it happened all the time. The doctor told me my organs were impacted from infancy. I would never have children.” Then in a matter of fact tone, she said. “I don’t remember when I didn’t drink alcohol. During one of many drinking binges I was lying by a railroad track and my legs were cut off when a train ran over them. I was passed out. I don’t remember it, but having no legs stopped the abuse, and I stopped drinking when that happened.” Almost every woman knows some form of sexual abuse, misogyny, ridicule, bullying, overt sexual suggestions, inappropriate touch at some point in her life. We can tell you who, where, when. Most of us do not have to lose our limbs to make it stop.
Hearing these cries of women beginning recovery is one of the more difficult aspects of my work in Spiritual Care. They seek to understand their lives, to heal, while working through getting sober and clean. The reality of an abortion is a common experience during those moments. The largest number of abortions I encountered from one person in my professional life is seven. It began when she was 12. She was a child, raped by her neighbor boy. He came from an influential family, they were family friends. Afraid to tell her mother what he had done to her and confused, she said nothing. She became ill six weeks later. Her mother, thinking it was the flu, took her to the doctor, who told her mother, her daughter was pregnant. The child had no clue. The mother gave permission to terminate the pregnancy and after the abortion the daughter was destroyed by her mother’s resulting accusation and words. The rejection that followed, as if it were the child’s fault. Although, she did not understand these dynamics until adulthood, she felt rejection until the last day of her mother’s life. Her reputation in the neighborhood was destroyed by the same boy who raped her. Sexual promiscuity and substance abuse followed. Her life took a spiral until she sat before me and as her tragic story unfolded she began to heal and her life in recovery began. Her grief palpable. She had never spoken about this to anyone and wanted more than anything to have a child. In her sobriety, and recovery, we transformed the pain, to a life of helping others.
I cited in this writing only a mere few of the hundreds of human souls and situations that have come through my life. And I am only one professional. There is no outcry concerning the horrific situations so many have gone through. Where are the marches for these women? The silence has been deafening.
These are the realities. Simple? No. Complicated? Yes. Each of these souls have changed the way I have evolved to understand the gray area of life. The gray area of these decisions. We can pontificate. It matters not. Reality speaks louder.
The role of the Church. What it means to be a Prolife, Catholic, Democrat believing in Consistent Life Ethics: a profession of my faith.
It was my Church, the Catholic Church, that caused the greatest evolution in my understanding the abortion debate. It was there I learned the interconnection of all life issues. All. Not a singular issue, it is all life. Cardinal Joseph Bernadine taught us “the Consistent Life Ethic.” And a noted Catholic theologian stated “a moral world is one whose societies realize that none of us can manage alone without the help of those who believe that every life is as important as their own.” “It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, limiting approach to the very essence of life.” One issue Church. No. Everything is Interconnected. Everything. Connected to the Scripture, to the Sacraments, which is the very foundation of the Church. Those who believe abortion is the only issue in the Church do not know Church, the Sacraments, the foundation. It is a place for sinners, a human being with all our frailties, not a sanitized person
Our Church has been hijacked and weaponized by the extremes and some leaders within the Church have contributed to the weaponization. The extremes, are left and right and it is the rest of us in the middle trying, with God’s help, to hold it all together. For years that was true. Today the extreme has taken over. And now the Church has been weaponized as a one issue Church. Perhaps no one has stated the interconnection between all life issues better than our beloved Pope Francis when stating.
“ When the unborn child-the stranger in the womb- is declared to be beyond the protection of society, not only are Americas’ deepest traditions radically undermined and endangered, but a moral blight is brought upon society….Both as Americans and as followers of Christ. American Catholics must be committed to the defense of life in ALL its stages and in every condition.” This includes the immigrant, the elderly, the disenfranchised, the ….. Pope Francis.
M.T, Davila, associate professor of Practice, Religious and Theological Studies at Merrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts added to the discussion:
“There is no denying that for decades many have continued to work tirelessly for the relief of women in crisis pregnancies and for poor families in addition to their advocacy for the unborn. This labor of good intentioned people of faith, however, has also been co-opted, misused and weaponized against a vision of the common good that requires us to seek to lift up the least of these in all their forms. It has become an obstacle to the careful and arduous task of reflecting, organizing and acting for the kinds of political, economic, cultural and social projects that bring life with dignity to all, not just the unborn.”
The Gospels are where a Baptized and Confirmed Catholic lives. It is the Social Justice mandate of our faith, wrapped in mercy, compassion and love. It is that simple. That profound. Lack of committed education, in some quarters, have led some to believe we are a one issue Church. We aren’t. Our Baptism, the Sacrament of Confirmation makes it much, much more. I taught a University theology class and at the beginning of every semester I asked the question, “How many of you were confirmed in your faith? The response was a somewhat quizzical look. Then eighty percent of the hands nervously went up. It was obvious no one had asked them before. I suggested they were going to learn in this class what they didn’t learn in Confirmation class. It was a true statement. I sat through those Confirmation classes, my own, and my five children’s. I learned I was becoming a ’A soldier for Christ’. Sounded ominous. I went along with what I was being taught. The teacher had been taught the same thing. She believed it. So, I did too. There was nothing about living our faith in the world. The Common Good. The Seven Principles of Catholic Social Teaching. I did not learn about the Life of Christ connected to our opposition to the death penalty. He was a victim of the Death Penalty. He came from an unwed mother, raised by a second father, just like me. In understanding Confirmation, my faith came alive. It begins on the edge of understanding. Today it is obvious to me we would label the Holy Family, a dysfunctional family, since Jesus kept running away from home. To make matters even more shocking, he talked to the Woman at the Well, the disenfranchised, the divorced, the ‘sinner’ the poor, the lepers…..and he railed against those who disrespected or misused the sacred. I was ecstatic to learn that plastized statue of Jesus and his family were made so by us, not Him. He was Jewish, had olive skin, a person of color, and he was a walker before it became popular! And our blessed mother had a baby bump. Who knew?
It is this person. This God made human, the Great Teacher, that takes us to a new level of understanding our faith. In the Sacrament of Confirmation we confirm that we will take this rich, beautiful faith and make it come alive in the way we live as Catholics, as Christians in the world. We strive to become like the Lover of mercy and justice. Although we fall short, we try. For some, these words are like a foreign language. I learned them late. I did not want my students to wait as long as I. “Faith begins on the edges of understanding.”
When I see the March for Life, I wonder if the marching young people are taught about the Common Good? About the young woman among them who have been victimized, sometimes in her own home? The family who struggles for food? Housing? Health care? Clean water without lead causing brain and developmental damage? Or hiding from drug cartels brought about by the insatiable drug usage in the United States. Or those little ones who have bullets landing in the wall above their heads or finding a gun in their home due to the proliferation of guns by adults and have never known a safe nighttime or security by having their own bed? The suffering alcoholic or other drug addict? The one who is rejected by family, society, the Church, born with a different sexual orientation from their own? And how they must feel. I wonder if they are being taught the connection of prolife and the fear of walking to school or to the bus and being shot or abducted by human traffickers to provided the insatiable sexual appetites of some. Living in black or brown skin and being afraid when you see a police car because Mom and Dad had to give them ‘the talk’. The stench of those living in open sewage pits because there is no infrastructure, or poisoned by the chemicals seeping into the water supply? Do they know, understand, how all of these are interconnected to that one issue? Have they heard of Matthew 25, the gospel of challenge and responsibility? Does wearing a red MAGA hat address any of this? No. The real Sacrament of Confirmation is living for the Common Good in the Common Good. Some call that that socialism, liberalism, being a snowflake. I call it living as Jesus taught. He has scars to show it. In fact if Jesus is a Socialist, a liberal, a snowflake, I want to be just like Him. We, who live like this are called the Left. The left of what? The Gospels? How different our world would be if we recognize those scars and have the courage of our convictions to feed, care and shelter those without. The Gospels like the Sacrament of Confirmation calls us to enter into changing the things that need to be change and do so in love with justice. When I see students from some Catholic schools wearing MAGA paraphernalia at a March for Life Rally I know it is a political rally, not a March for anyone’s life.
For a number of years I wrote a monthly column on Social Justice and the Seven Principles of Catholic Teaching. One such column I wrote about the significance of Cardinal Joseph Bernadine teaching on Consistent Life Ethic; all life is sacred and the importance of the women’s voice and her right to be heard. I challenged us to look at living life in all the messiness with the teaching of Jesus’ words on grace and mercy. One such column, much like this blog, I wrote about recognizing all life issues, not a singular one. I heard from many, they were ecstatic I addressed the issue with compassion, only two people took offense, one wrote to the man I work with, the Bishop. He responded with his characteristic pastoral care to the writer. He wrote;
“Please excuse the late reply to your letter of September 26, 20–concerning the article written by Annetta Sutton in the most recent issue of the ______. Annetta sent me a copy of her response to you. I hope it helped to explain her point of view in the article.
Let’s look at it another way. Pro-life candidates worthy of the name should be motivated by a consistent ethic of respect for all life otherwise they don’t deserve our vote. Some candidates who are anti-abortion may not necessarily be pro-life if they disregard compassion toward other suffering members of society, such as abused children and women, the physically and mentally challenged, racial minorities, homosexuals and prisoners.
I guarantee you that all of us working for the diocese are solidly pro-life and Annetta demonstrates it not only by what she says, but also by how she lives.
Wishing you every blessing, I remain Sincerely in Christ, Bishop______”
The other was a priest. He called me. I responded to the priest with a question. I already knew the answer and he knew, I knew. I challenged him, “If the ladies you have been with had become pregnant, would you have supported her, emotionally, financially, spiritually, medically? Or like too many other men, in like situations, which is one of the reasons abortions happen, would you have abandon her, the child?” The phone went dead. A couple years later he called and apologized. He had, for whatever reason, found his conscience and a new awareness, grace.
Consistent Life Ethic was put on trial this past election. It was like no other. During the election, I appreciated Bishop Stowe’s words about the then current occupant. He said
“For this president to call himself pro-life, and for anybody to back him because of claims of being pro-life, is almost willful ignorance. He is so much anti-life because he is only concerned about himself, and he gives us every, every, every indication of that,” Those words of Roman Catholic Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky in an unusual pointed criticism of a sitting president. Though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops often criticizes Trump administration policies, especially those concerning immigration and environmental protection, Stowe’s comment was one of the sharper criticisms a Catholic bishop has made of Trump himself. Stowe continued,
“Pope Francis has given us a great definition of what pro-life means. He basically tells us we can’t claim to be pro-life if we support the separation of children from their parents at the U.S. border, if we support exposing people at the border to COVID-19 because of the facilities that they’re in, if we support denying people who have need for adequate health care access to health.”
As reported by Lucy Grindon of Bishop Stowe’s remarks at the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs-Pax Romana, a global lay community of Catholic intellectuals. Grindon went on to report;
“Trump has long sought to win over Catholic voters by touting his support for the pro-life movement. In remarks broadcast to the crowd at the 2018 March for Life in Washington, he said, “Every unborn child is a precious gift from God.” But for Stowe, being truly pro-life must include efforts towards racial, social and environmental justice. “We have to be concerned for the unborn children, Ms. Grindon wrote, “Bishop Stowe’s unusually direct terms for an American church leader, to publicly criticized President Donald Trump during in the July webinar.was surprising,” she said. Bishop Stowe continued, “our understanding of pro-life has to be the vision that was described as the seamless garment vision.” That vision gained traction after a 1983 speech by the late Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, all life is sacred. Imagining the future of the church, they also addressed the importance of the life issues of racial and social justice advocacy.” I am in total agreement with Bishop Stowe. We cannot compartmentalize life issues.”
I was raised in the pre-Vatican II Church. I was in awe. I loved it. I knew no different. I loved growing up Catholic. Mystery was pervasive, which I also loved.
Yet, I did not realize then, as I do today, the oppressive, suppressive nature of the Church until Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. In those days there was no transparency about anything. Pray, obey. Today, we are hopefully beginning to address some of which caused the secrecy. A huge order.
My parents were ecumenical. In our small Midwestern town at the time, there was significant religious bigotry and mocking of Catholics. And like all religions, we, Catholics thought ours was the best, and only religion. My parents were different, while solidly Catholic, they were ecumenical, opening our family, to all, of every belief and culture. We were richer for it. Today I realize even more the significance.
Then came Vatican II and it was like being let out of prison. We could breath. Ruah! Hebrew for breath. The Spirit was allowed to move, bringing about a voice never heard before-the people’s voice. Vatican II took us back to the way Christ instituted the early Church. Prior to Vatican II little, to no, formation occurred. Little to no critical thinking. What the priest said, we followed. We trusted. The human being struggles with repression. Vatican II changed all of it. I loved learning about the saints prior to Vatican II from one little saint book in our family. With Vatican II, we began to learn their back story. A perfect example was Saint Francis of Assisi, who after Vatican II seemed to come alive in a much different way. I loved the story about when he removed his clothing and stated the freedom of knowing and loving God. He was free to love all with the same abandonment God loves us. He was not bound up by the externals.
I have worked for years with seminarians, priests and Bishops. The healthiest are the ones who have an integrated formation, an integrated sense of self. The best priests are ones who have known love and chosen to listen to Pope Francis’ challenges, to know the smell of their sheep. What has occurred in the pre-Vatican II seminaries was often fear-based formation, which has never worked and caused significant mental health and other crisis. And the people in the pew pay for it. Seminarian formation is sorely lacking, I know. I have worked with many, some stayed without significant psychological help, others left, which was good for them and the people in the pew. There is plenty of blame to go around. We have learned nothing from the sexual abuse crisis, which was a perfect teachable moment and it was lost. Tragic. We could have been the leader for the Boy Scouts, coaches and teachers, parents and the children, oh, yes, the children, who were lost in this process. I worked with some phenmenonal priests and lay people who tried to turn the ship around. They were stonewalled. One magnifecent leader in particular. He died knowing he tried. Instead of healthy formation the ‘one issue’ has dominated.
A very wise priest once told me, most clergy want to serve the people. Those who are clerical, do not. They want the people to serve them. It is as old as the Church, and the human condition. It saddens me. Yet, it is not surprising. Sin, or the separation from a relationship with God and others, raises its head among the clerics, just like all mortal humans. I have witnessed it more than I ever thought possible and it affirmed that my faith is secure in God and not in these type of men. Pope Francis has attempted to teach and form priests, for the people, not for the priests. Unfortunately, those who are clerical are the ones who are attempting to malign Pope Francis. It has taken a very cruel, offensive and dangerous tact. These are the same rogue priests and Bishops fighting Pope Francis every moment of his papacy, they are toxic, spreading their control and meanness to anyone who will listen. It is an orchestrated effort to malign Pope Francis’ message and mission, and the Pope himself. Pope Francis angered these type of priests and bishops when he said,
“The priest who seldom goes out of himself … misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. … This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, lose heart and become in a sense collectors of antiquities or novelties — instead of being shepherds living with ‘the smell of the sheep. This is what I am asking you — be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”
This same toxicity reminds me of the issues related to law enforcement and community policing. If you know your people, you can live your vocation. Sitting in a car, or in a rectory, keeps you from knowing your flock. Know your flock, love your flock, commit to the Flock and you will receive 100 fold.
Pope Francis, who like his name sake, Saint Francis, and the previous Pope Paul II, is ecumenical, builds bridges, not walls. Pope Francis teaches: Mercy. Forgiveness. Humility. Sirach writes “The Lord hears the cries of the poor.” Often the poor are women, who have never had a voice. Pope Francis hears them.
Similar to those who malign the Pope, is the practice of some of these same priests and religious congregation who display crosses or headstones to represent the unborn. I have never understood the purpose. I once asked has there ever been consideration of taking the formidable money spent, the time to make and place them, to reach out to young, and sometimes older women, who are in total despair and racked with fear over a pregnancy. Take the passion and money used for this memorial and go to a place that cares, I mean, really cares, for an unwed mother, a trafficked teenager, a hospital providing care for a new born with mothers, who have nowhere to go. Give it to adoption and foster care facilities. The migrant. Reach out to the family that is struggling with another pregnancy. Help a family seek treatment for substance abuse, perhaps pay for treatment. Use that money to provide shelter, food, clothing, a hand, a heart, the possible outcome could be different.
Yes, anticipate the child yet to be born, as important is to love all children already born and to make sure they are fed, clothed, loved, educated, not placed in cages. Open your home to the migrant. We have done so, often, and are richer for it. Use the money to stop the proliferation of guns, not place a picture, in a Catholic newspaper like the one below a child of a child playing with a ‘play’ semi-automatic on her back. The outcry was immediate and removed. We need moof such outcry.
As I evolved and matured in understanding the debate on abortion, I thought of the words of James. He wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” Maturation is not a popular thing in some quarters of Catholicism.
Consistent life ethic is inclusive for all life. Comprehensive. Not singular. A seamless garment. When we raise our voices, where are we as the Church in that voice? A moral voice? Moral imperative. A culture of life? Pure and simple all life is a gift in all its glorious mystery and messiness. Below are examples of the inclusivity of addressing a consistent life ethic:
⦁ Paid parental leave
⦁ Eradication of racism
⦁ Earned income tax credit
⦁ Ending poverty
⦁ Ending human trafficking
⦁ Addressing sexual abuse
⦁ Teach healthy human awareness of body and spirit
⦁ Dignity of work and rights of workers
⦁ Clean environment
⦁ Selling of women and children
⦁ Affordable housing
⦁ Voting Rights
⦁ Climate change
⦁ Addressing criminal justice and its system
⦁ Safety net programs
⦁ End death penalty
⦁ Affordable health care
⦁ Addressing the proliferation of guns
⦁ Mental illness
⦁ Economic justice
⦁ Sexual orientation
⦁ Domestic violence
⦁ Ending War working for peace
⦁ And today we can add Covid 19
⦁ Just laws to protect all life
Working together on this list and addressing the despair which bring the immigrant into horrific waters within the human condition is to be an authentic Catholic. No exceptions. It is our Baptismal call. Our vocation.
Politics of abortion-The Big Lie
The decay of Truth has become wide spread. Laws are passed to protect us, sometimes from ourselves. One such law was the Supreme Court decision on abortion. It became abundantly clear that abortion and politics are not about the lady or the baby, it is about getting elected. You realize that immediately when working with the reality. Legalizing abortion does not mean anyone has one. It means people are free to make decision on their own about a medical decision and the law will protect them. Yet, you never hear that. Working to eliminate the need, or cause, are more important. It takes commitment. Helping people heal is also a commitment. Every woman knows that no one is a little pregnant and most women who has missed her period is well aware of what is occurring. Although, for young girls, they may have no idea as to what is happening. For many, the moral imperative is an absolute. For others it is a medical decision for the woman alone, or with the support of her spouse, partner, clergy and physician. And for others the absolutes enter gray areas. It has become conflated. Complex is the more apt word. The ink and time spent are disturbing, when often the same people using the ink will do nothing to eliminate the causes.
When the truth came out about the Supreme Court ruling, an unknown woman surfaced in the Big Lie impacting the lives of millions. The tragedy in this ongoing debate was the use of Norma McCorvey, better known by the generic legal pseudonym “Jane Roe”, as the plaintiff in the case Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose without excessive government restriction. On January 22, 1973 it found that individual state laws banning abortion were unconstitutional. It gave the woman the ability to make her own decision and use her voice.
Shortly before her death, in what Ms. McCorvey referred to as her deathbed confession, she said she had been paid for her anti-abortion stance by ultra conservative groups. One of the most reprehensible aspects of politics since January 22, 1973 is the use of abortion for politicians to get elected and then do nothing after election to address the causes. Ms. McCorvey lived a troubled life and was used in the landmark decision. Prior to her death she confessed they paid her, she did not have an abortion. During her involvement in the anti-abortion movement she became Catholic and abandoned her prochoice stance and became active in the antiabortion movement. She stated later that her involvement in Roe was “the biggest mistake of her life.” And during an interview said. it had been “all an act.” Another tragedy in the political use of women and children.
Similar was the hearing of Supreme Court nominee Kavaungh. It was obvious to me of what really saved Susan Blasey Ford. It was the one piece bathing suit she was wearing under her clothes. He was a teenager, drinking alcohol. Drunk? Probably. His ability to assault her did not include penetration because of that one piece bathing suit. Many naïve girls have found themselves in similar situations. I attended an all girls high school with an entire student body of girls, who for the most part were, naïve. As I listened to the testimony of Dr. Ford testifying to the assault from, now Supreme Court Justice Kavaungh, I was reminded of situations from high school, which included boys like Kavaungh, and completely naïve girls, like Susan Blasey Ford. There were five key words in her description of the assault-“alcohol” “one piece bathing suit”. Unfortunately, Kavaungh got away with the assault and fortunately, there was no penetration, not for a lack of trying, but for the one piece bathing suit. If a pregnancy had occurred, in those days, the girl was ‘sent away’ often without anyone asking what happened, or what did she wanted. The child released for adoption with the hope the baby never to be discovered. If found out, often the young woman was shunned. More than one of my friends suffered these experiences. Fortunately, the forced adoptions, through change in laws, found their way back to their mothers. My friends experiences were one of the many reasons I worked to change the law for open adoptions. I also have encouraged and paid for more than one search for biological parents. Every person deserves to know who they came from, to know their backstory.
The lies continued, and for the last five years, lies have been prolific. Those of us who called them out, were attacked. People close to us, long time friends, some ordained, some with law degrees, educated people, who believe the lie. They excused his lies by promoting their own, “These lies are no different than……” fill in the blank. The blank usually was filled with the last name Clinton, negating the fact that she was the one who called this from the beginning. She named them, “Deplorables.” We witnessed the Deplorables, looting, threatening and corrupting our government for five years. His lies have been flooding the nation, the world. However, the biggest lie of all is the prolife lie. The lie using abortion to get elected with his tongue in his cheek. We knew. We saw. We witnessed the truth of that lie. Anyone addressing the issues, which have often caused abortion: like poverty, health care and the list goes on, with him and his ilk, were null and void. On January 6, we saw lives placed, not only in danger, but mutilated, as we witnessed peace officer after officer beat by flag poles with the American flag being thrown like a rag. Officers crushed mutilated, as we witnessed peace officer after officer beat by flag poles with the American flag being thrown like a rag. An officer killed. One officer crushed between doors screaming for his life. The Big Lie was used to co-op churches, my beloved Church, is one of many. Homilies given at some of those churches, promoting this so called ‘pro-life’ president. They believed the lie. The Big Lie promoted by people who should have known better. As one New Yorker told me, “We all knew what this guy was, we told you, why didn’t people listen?” I told her, “I did. And worked to tell others.” The Big Lie came from the Biggest Liar of all. Yes, all he needed was for those to believe him. And they have. The red hatted MAGA kid, who was allowed to wear a MAGA hat at the March For Life. He wasn’t the only one. Then he sued because he was called out for his egregious behavior toward a Native American veteran at the March for Life. He was allowed to wear that hat. Was the same kid in that mob at the capitol? He was given permission by adults who should have known better. Because of the Big Lie he was given permission. And for all those who have believed this man cowering in the White House is Pro-life, that is the Biggest Lie of all.
It is popular among the extreme right, whatever that means, to call Democrats Baby Killers and our current President, pro-abortion. Both are a lie. I was fortunate enough to work on the Violence Against Women Act with Joe Biden. It told me everything I needed to know about his stance on issues of human life. His faith. His fidelity to what protecting human life really means. Not just words. It is action and his passion to help women and children be safe are enshrined in that extremely important Act. He is no different today. Perhaps even more passionate, if that is possible. He is the most prolife person you will meet. He also, like the rest of us, feels strongly about that it is prolife for the women, who is the giver of life, to have her voice to make her own decisions. And to help her with that decision providing support and safety. He believes all human beings are sacred. He doesn’t preach his faith, he lives it. If you are a one issue Catholic, you miss the truth. If the issue of abortion were not being used as a political ploy, the Republican party could have changed the law easily when they had full control. They didn’t because they don’t want too. If they changed it, they could not use it. It is that simple and that tragic. This time it has become a cult. Destroying everything in it’s wake.
I am a Catholic, pro-life, Democrat. Every Democrat I know is prolife, many of whom are Catholic. We work tirelessly to support all life, including the life of the woman insuring her voice is her voice. No one has the right to control her. Yet, constantly she is told what her decisions are to be. Nothing. And I mean nothing is said that makes a statement of the father. She makes that decision. Not me. Not you. What we are responsible for is to be there for her, for one another. The party I belong fights every day to support all human life. It is simple. Yes. Simple, when you know that a life is a life is a life. Let me explain. It begins even before the beginning. It is why the incidence of abortion declines during Democratic administrations. Abortions have always gone down during Democratic administrations, why? Because those administrations address the causes. Neither party wants increased abortions. The Republican strategy is make it illegal, while the Democrats’ approach is make it unnecessary. The more effective is in the numbers. The facts and numbers reported by the CDC don’t lie. They speak for themselves. I am more interested in supporting those who do everything that will stop the need for abortions than those who stand on a soap box, like I use too, without any reality check, or to make it illegal because that just causes more death and destruction.
Examples of how we work tirelessly begins before the beginning of life by fighting for affordable health care for all. When a pregnancy occurs, a healthy pregnancy is possible from healthy parents, who receives continuing health care, and protected privacy. Some of the needs to address:
⦁ Addressing racism, seeking justice for all, not just a few.
⦁ Addressing safety needs of the vulnerable, including those with special needs and the elderly.
⦁ Supporting peace officers and just enforcement of the law.
⦁ Working for peace, and against the proliferation of the war machine.
⦁ Work to end gun violence and the slaughter of the innocents, including abortion by bullet.
⦁ Addressing addiction and mental health, including treatment. Work for babies in the womb, suffering from addiction, often facing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
⦁ Work for affordable housing, feeding the hungry, includes healthy school lunches.
⦁ Work for rights for all people.
⦁ Work on immigration helping children and women, some pregnant, most abused, become safe, fleeing violence, human trafficking.
⦁ Work to educate the masses from ignorance, to understanding and inclusiveness.
⦁ Work to eliminate all forms of Violence against Women including sexual assault and abuse. Working to protect the poorest women with no support from those atrocities.
⦁ Address climate change and a clean environment.
⦁ Support women in their own reproductive process. And more.
This party works tirelessly to remind society, if as much energy went to helping, instead of judging, abortion will be eliminated, or rare and personal private medical reproductive decisions will be placed where it belongs, with the person, medical provider, clergy. However, attitudes and ignorance must be eliminated and cruelty stopped for that to occur. As stated before, the cemeteries are dotted with desperate women, who in desperation sought to end their pregnancy, and with it, their life.
And if as much time was spent on helping, reaching out, teaching about healthy human sexuality and its extraordinary creation, this discussion, this debate would be so different. When the opposite is done, it is often done under the guise of a religion, even some in my own beloved faith tradition, the behavior and words are unrecognizable from what Jesus taught. Stunning on so many levels. Sad on many other. And what about the woman who is told her baby is deceased within her body and she is expected to carry it to term with medical complications? A medical crisis. Thankfully, because of the work of many to support a woman’s voice, she can at this time, in most states determine her medical decision.
James writes in his letters: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” I would add along with perseverance, critical thinking is important. Maturation is not always a popular thing in some quarters of Catholicism.
The way I see it.
While taking my morning shower, I experienced a sexual assault by a man who broke into my home. It became a high profile case. I chose to make it a teachable moment for others who had experienced a similar nightmare and were afraid, ashamed or dismissed. At one University presentation I was asked if I had become pregnant would I abort the child. Without a moment of hesitation I said, “No.” to stunned reaction. I continued, “But that is me. I would never expect anyone else to make such a decision.” I then added my philosophy, faith, knowledge and experience tells me there is a human being growing inside me and no child should have to pay for the sins of its father. Yet, I also know it is within me to raise any child with the same love I have for my five children. For me it is non-negotiable. However, I always used my presentation concerning assault to educate. The gist of the presentation goes like this:
“First and foremost, as quickly as humanly possible get to a hospital or clinic, reporting it there, or prior to arriving. During the exam any possibility of pregnancy is negated. Following the trauma of an assault it is extremely important to be surrounded by supportive people, including loved ones, a support group and those in law enforcement that are understanding. During my nightmare, our local law enforcement were absolutely incredible as were the medical professionals in the emergency room. While I know this is the ideal, and not everyone is as fortunate, or come in contact with trained professionals, seek until you find. They are out there. Rape Crisis Centers literally saves lives. It is imperative the perpetrator be brought to justice as well. Our advancements in procedures make anyone who has assaulted a women, charged. However, the important thing that it is reported immediately to obtain evidence. There are few women who have not experienced some form of sexual abuse be it suggestive, physical, emotional or assault whether or not it is full penetration. Safety classes are taught. I have used my knee more than once. The most important of all is a women’s intuition. It is invaluable. Historically we were taught not to trust it. Ladies, trust your intuition. And no one. No one, male or female, deserves to be assaulted or abused. Yes, men experience rape too.”
The word sin has become antiquated, not the reality. Simply and profoundly, sin is separation from a relationship with God, and others. We all experience it. I believe through grace relationships are restored, perhaps, not with the person, who may refuse amends, but with God and self. So it is disturbing to many when Pro-life Democrats are told, if you didn’t support the last Republican current occupant, you are pro-abortion, a fake Catholic. I hate to disappoint, I am a real Catholic. Cradle Catholic and will remain so in all the messiness that means. I will authentically defend my faith always. No longer with pre-Vatican II rose colored glasses, I will do it with truth and light. And I will speak with clarity for justice, mercy and compassion. Sometimes causing disagreements, or separation. Remember we are the Church. I defend it when attacked, whether from without, or within.
For those who see abortion as the seminal and only issue, I have challenged them to consider the interconnection between how when a woman prior to pregnancy does not receive appropriate health care, due to poverty, while living in substandard, or no shelter, where lead is present, little or no food, gun violence on every corner, no support, as a black women treated with the reality of systemic racism when she asks for help and denied or ridiculed in her ask, how in God’s green earth is she suppose to align with the culture of life they promote? One of our well known black activist, shared the story of his mother who had three children before him, the nearest hospital that would accept black people was 170 miles away, so her babies were birthed on a kitchen table and died. Racism has a constant role in prolife issues. A child born into black or brown skin are miracles if they live to adulthood because of all the insidious of racism. I hate it. Since a young child have worked to eliminate it. It continues to rear it’s ugly head. Where is the outcry from every single Catholic, every person who proports to be prolife? Growing up, and later working on the Indian reservations, attempting to find resources for indigenous people was near impossible. I know, I tried. The reality is incongruent with the reality of a failing culture of life. It sounds good. Yet, commitment to care for a women pre and post pregnancy takes commitment. Add to that for people of color. Where is that real commitment? People are driven to life crisis, not always of their own making, and that is where we as a society, a Church are to step up. Without fail, one political party fairs far above the other when it comes to addressing those in crisis. It is why abortion goes down during those administrations. The facts don’t lie. How many of these same babies born with brown and black skin are never given a chance to thrive? Please save your ‘pull them up by the boot straps’ mantra because many have no boots or straps to pull. Where is the outcry when these same boys, now men, are strapped to an electric chair and now we know many innocent of the crime through DNA? How do we know, the person being executed is guilty when time after time, DNA, corruption in a particular law enforcement officer, or judicial, are biased. It is now well documented and it is another way the white man has used those straps to destroy after condemning a black child to death. Just a different way of using straps (ropes) to lynch. Wonder if the people who do this horror are denied Communion?
People will say the unborn are the most important because they have not be given the chance to live. They skip the part it is as important is what happens after they are born. I know many prisoners who have only known starvation of food, shelter, clothing and love from the moment they were born. They had no one to love them, feed them. The debate of which life is more important is mote. Every life is important. Period. No equivocation. Every woman knows she is not a little pregnant, she is or she isn’t. Ultra sounds prove the point. However, a Mom knows. Some make decisions, others forced due to the issues already stated and there are those who never want to be a parent. Their insight is often correct. Others who weep to become parents. I weep for them. Children help us become less selfish. I remember a wise person once told me, “You can tell the way the world is going when the dog food section is larger than the baby food section.” I smiled. I told him, “I make my own.” He looked at me strange. I said, “Babies and baby food.” He just smiled.
Adoption continues to be a solid alternative. Yet, adoption agencies, including in the Church, have closed. Some denied the possibility of adoption due to sexual orientation. Yet, over the years I have known a significant amount of same sex couples who are exceptional parents providing a home of security, love and hope for children abandoned, unwanted, or wanted, and the woman not unable to care for the child, or children. Others have gone the way of seeking one who is a surrogate. Love does not distinguish. The first heart beat a child hears is its mother. However, a heartbeat outside the womb can sustain life. My parents did it all the time. So has our entire family. Raising a family as a single parent, I sought healthy male role models for my children I didn’t ask their sexual orientation, I wanted men who showed care, responsibility, integrity and compassion. Children thrive when a good person provides love.
When sacred intimacy creates a child, the deepest of all intimacy comes to life at the birth, holding the baby in your arms, you realize the miracle. I say again, the first heart beat a human experiences is your mother’s heart beat. Just the thought of holding your child in your arms brings a joy that surpasses all understanding. Truly a gift from God. I truly believe, to be born is to be chosen. Created souls with all their complexities and uniqueness. Carved in the image of an all inclusive God. Think about it. Look around a room filled with people. Study the faces. The color of their skin. Movements. Hands. Toes. Human life is sacred. It deserves dignity. Each life is equal. No one more. No one less. Equal. To be natural is to be at home with yourself. Pregnancy is complicated, sacred. Blessed to birth five times, gifted with eleven grandchildren, present at the birth of many other related only through humanity. Some considered abortion as the only alternative, until they received support. The birth changed them. It always does. I thank God for the priests I received caring direction, and the many caring priests and ministers I have sent multiple women and men, to reconcile with God’s loving grace. There are many lives walking this planet because she or they, came to my office before meeting an abortion appointment. They were not left alone, or forced, in their decision. They chose and were walked with and supported throughout their pregnancy by me, and a cadre of resources. And as many, who came broken, and in despair, because they experienced an abortion, they found love, encouragement and suggestion, without judgment or rancor, how to heal. In their process they found strength in their courage.
In closing, we are called to teach all life is sacred. Support and provide health care for women and children. Provide education in basic biology and science. Teach boys and men to respect their bodies, understand their sexual drives and the responsibility connected to it. Teach girls and women to love themselves and their body. Allow no one to abuse you. If they try, seek, justice with mercy, not anger, for that only destroys oneself. The world is littered with people who self annihilate. We are all responsible. In evolving understanding abortion, one thing is clear, it is not as simple as black and white, it is complex and a human life is a miracle.
Let us all work as a country, world, state, Church, to help every child be conceived in love, wanted, protected by its parents and society. My crew is, and every little human being in utero or outside, will be given the same intense love I give everyone, even those who turn from that love for reasons beyond our control. May they be taught to love themselves and others. Ideal? Yes. Possible? No question. Until then we have work to do. Will you help? “Faith begins on the edges of understanding.” So does human life. Celebrate life. And teach all life is sacred.