Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Thoughts on the March for Life

First of all, go right now and read Chris Hale’s excellent article on CNN about why progressives should be “pro-life.” It’s a great piece for anyone who thinks being anti-abortion is for only conservatives.

That being said, I think we should reflect on what the March for Life is really accomplishing. It’s a great event; tens of thousands of Catholics from all over the US march from the Mall to the Supreme Court every year. It’s awesome to be in the middle of the largest anti-abortion protest in the world. It’s also incredibly “safe.”

Forty years ago the March started spontaneously, as people marched in reaction to Roe vs. Wade. Twenty years ago in the 90s there were still anti-protestors harassing the Marchers. But today the March is a fixture of Catholic High School calendars. Over half of the people attending are under 18, and you can count the groups by their matching caps and scarves. It’s adorable. Some are there to protest, but it’s not hard to see many of them enjoying an exciting field trip. Everything is organized, scheduled, arranged, and sanitized. If some wonder why there isn’t more coverage for the March, it’s because nothing was ever changed by a high school field trip.

It’s impossible to be at the March and not hear the comparison between abortion and slavery. But abortion is not slavery. Both are/were deeply polarizing issues, and both inspired massive movements to outlaw them. But slavery was a deliberate attempt to monetize a class of people slaveholders considered equivalent to animals. It was systemic, calculated, and brutal.

But abortions are not motivated by gain, but fear. Pregnant mothers don’t want abortions because they get something out of it, but because they are afraid of what the child will bring into their lives. We march every year to ban abortion out of a sense of disbelief that such a moral outrage can be tolerated. We never stop to think that the people fighting us do so out of desperation. As Cardinal O’Malley said last year in a fantastic homily, “The pro-life movement has to be about saving women.”

So much of the March is pro-birth, not pro-life. We look around at the posters and the signs, and see things like: “Defend Life!,” “I’m worth waiting for!,” “Defund Planned Parenthood!,” and hundreds of pictures of aborted children. But we never see one picture of a toddler, one picture of a young mother and her baby (Mary and Jesus don’t count), or one picture of a child in foster care. The March is against abortion, but not one group advocates for mothers.

We don’t need to scare women with pictures of dead babies or thousands of chanting protestors. They’re scared enough already. If we make their choice about fear, we make it shameful, and we force people to make decisions with as little outside support as possible.

We need to stop punishing those considering abortion; things like vaginal ultrasounds and mass closing abortion centers only serve to make vulnerable women more afraid and insecure. When we’re desperate, we cling to whatever promise of safety we can reach. Trying to take that away, or making it less accessible, only makes us hold on tighter. We can’t make someone “Choose Life!” through fear.

We need more support for adoption centers and foster homes. Whether federally funded or as nonprofits, we need to put our money where our mouth is. At the March we are told over and over about the billions of babies who die due to abortions. If we banned abortion outright, there is no way we could handle the influx of children needing homes, assuming the parent chose not raise their child.

If the parent (mother or father!) does decide to keep their child, we need to guarantee they have enough support to raise him or her until they are old enough to go to school. It is incredibly hard to find work and raise a baby single handedly. If we do not make daycare affordable and accessible, then the parent needs enough money or a place to live until they find a sustainable solution. We cannot demand a child be born and then ignore it. We are responsible for a child’s wellbeing if we demand that they be born.

So much of our fear over raising children is about money. If we demand that unborn children be born and raised, then we should ensure a parent can find work they can raise a child on. No one can raise a child alone on minimum wage, yet that is exactly what we expect of mothers without education or experience.

The March for Life is a great event. But it has become safe, repetitive, and ignorant about the consequences should it succeed. Next year I want to see at least one group marching with posters of mothers with young children, demanding we be “pro-life.”

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