Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Abortion Turnaround?

The number of people who consider themselves pro-life is rising and that delights many of us who have struggled to educate people on the issue. We are a myriad of persons; some, strong political activists who give their lives to one issue; others, non-political people who support programs for pregnant women such as Birthright; and still others, people who eschew politics and social work but speak for life as they pursue a non-violent, compassionate approach to living, those nice people down the street.

Gallup reported Friday, May 15, that 51 percent of Americans now consider themselves pro-life. That is an advance for our society, even though not all of the 51 percent want abortion outlawed completely. But it does show a growing sensitivity to life.

Why this increased awareness?

Could it be the result of the rancorous election campaign where some saw abortion as the only issue? Did the visibility of the issue finally get through to some people?

Could it be an effect of those who kept President Obama’s visit to the University of Notre Dame front and center in recent months? That the choice for a graduation speaker drew so much attention may have alerted some to the seriousness of the issue.

Could it be that President Obama’s declaring at his 100-days press conference that the much feared FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) was not one of his priority issues had an effect? His position allows many of his followers to ebb away from the pro-choice position that has been a hallmark of the Democratic Party for more than a quarter century.

Does this reflect a generational shift? The parents of today’s young adults today were much more attuned to abortion as a “right” than their children are. Could it be that the survivors of the generation that had so many members aborted know there is another side to the issue?

Maybe we’re seeing the results of the terrible regrets some have for abortions years past. In late March I read a story in the Sunday New York Times by a woman who aborted her child in order to placate her lover, who still walked away from her. The poignancy of her story startled me. I never expected to see it in the “Modern Love” section of the Sunday Times (3/27/09). Her aborted child was the only one she conceived naturally.

The woman now has a husband and two adopted boys, after failed fertility procedures with very short-term pregnancies. She wrote of the lost lives: “The children I did not bring into this world are ghosts, and they are symptoms. I’ve learned to live with them the way you do the phantom pain of missing limbs.”

Put another way, the pain never went away.

With hindsight, abortion may no longer look like the easy way out. One wonders how many other stories of regret are out there, stories which make little lives look precious after all.

Like many, I still do not rest easy about our nation and abortion. We’re still 49 percent away from where we want to be – the abolition of government-sanctioned and supported taking of innocent lives. A statistic that 51 percent of Americans define themselves as pro-life is hardly a resounding turnaround. But a turn around it is and something which offers hope.


Todd said...

A very nice reflection, Sr. Mary Ann. There is one certain explanation behind the change: God's grace. And we can only hope that as the number of those who are Pro-Life increases, so will the number of those praying for our nation. Pray for our elected leaders! Pray for them to be holy, that in their holiness, they will defend the defenseless.

SvenCM said...

Two people very close to me had an abortion and it profoundly affected their lives. Neither would ever choose such a choice again. Both live with regret and the emotional scars that few if anyone in the pro-choice campaign ever deigns to comment on.

If more people who have chosen the abortion route would come forward and express their profound sense of loss and the truth of their experience, perhaps that remaining 49% would change their views as well.

Anonymous said...

I dislike the simplification of these statistics. I think if you phrased the survey question well, over 90% of Americans would be "pro-life."

The real issue is problem pregnancy, and I don't think it can be solved with an attitude of crime and punishment. This is what we all agonize over.

I think adoption is the best alternative, but adoption can leave pain and anguish rivaling abortion for the mother giving up a child. If we acknowledge this as a nation, perhaps we can come a little closer to the compassion needed to deal with this issue.

If a young woman has a problem pregnancy she needs to be cradled with compassion in order to come to the choice of adoption--as a society we start out calling such young women sluts and move on to neglect. The young men in the equation are still mostly invisible--because it wouldn't really be a problem pregnancy if the woman had a stable partner and the two of them had a stable income, would it?

Perhaps I will seem harsh for saying so, but it is the height of selfishness for a young woman to keep a child when she is 1) very young 2) does not have a stable partner 3) does not have a stable income 4) will be raising the child primarily by herself.

As someone who is pro-life, pro-child, and pro-adoption, and eternally grateful to a birth mother who gave me up for adoption, I feel very strongly that we should NOT be encouraging young women to keep their child. Yet that is exactly what most pro-life people seem to do. The risk of a bad outcome for such a child is very high.

I think some pro-choice people come from an attitude that is similar to this and they can easily be brought over to the pro-life side with sensible policies that stress this common ground.

It's a very complicated issue. It's not as black and white as some would make it.