Tuesday, December 20, 2005


“For someone who is pro-life, the news of an abortion by a friend or relative brings a mixed bag of emotions. Anger, rage, regret and sorrow are some of these emotions. She did commit a selfish act by aborting her child, however no woman who truly understands what abortion is seeks an abortion.”

~ a Faithful Pro-Life Blogger

In an article telling pro-lifers how to talk to the post-abortive, a young blogger begins with the above paragraph. My comment in response did not make it through her screening process to publication, which disappointed me. I had politely cautioned the blogger against beginning her conversations with the post-abortive with statements such as the one she made above.

I didn’t retain my exact text, but can remember it pretty closely: “While it is true that abortion is an intrinsically selfish act, it is not appropriate to say that the woman who submits to an abortion is always acting selfishly. There may be mitigating factors, such as coercion...Secondly, there are plenty of women who understand exactly what they are doing when they abort. But again, the state of mind of the sinner is the Lord’s domain.”

That’s pretty close. I don’t see anything objectionable about it myself, but it’s been twenty-four hours and I’m not published, so I will assume my commentary has been rejected. It’s a good thing I don’t mind giving unsolicited advice; rejection doesn’t bother me. It’s also a good thing I have my own blog, because my response will be published. I want to protect the blogger’s identity, as this doesn’t merit any undue attention. She meant no harm. The content that followed her introductory paragraph was good, with references to organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard and the Silent No More Awareness campaign.

This serves as an example, though, of what’s wrong with some of the thinking in the pro-life movement, particularly among those whose hands are squeaky clean and who wear their religion on their sleeves. Let’s start with the title of the article in question – it runs along the lines of, “How to talk to the post-abortive.” Why, thank you. I appreciate your interest in speaking to me. But no, wait. She didn’t publish my comment, so that was not her goal. She only wants to tell others how to do it; I’m not ascribing motives to her, because she presents her article as a template to be handed out. But since I’m taking up valuable internet space with this topic, let me add to the remark I made above, because the spread of this kind of misinformation shouldn’t be encouraged. Step one, Faithful Blogger: if you want to learn to talk to the post-abortive, you’re going to have to come down here to our level. The first thing you do is stop referring to us as if we were a unique type of freak who requires special handling. We are just sinners, after all. Abortion is a particularly heinous kind of sin because the unborn is always an innocent victim; but it isn’t the only heinous crime against the innocent that people commit. And in the final analysis, particularly if one professes the Catholic faith, we don’t get to judge which sinner is the worst kind. So try to think of yourself as one of us, for just a moment: a sinner. St. Paul does this when he acknowledges, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Come on down here where the sinners live and get to know us, even though you aren’t one of us, and when you do, remember to thank God for your clean hands.

The second step you will want to take in order to effectively communicate with the post-abortive is to stop thinking we are all ignorant of what we are doing. Not only are we apparently unique in the world of sinners, but we are also stupid, because “…no woman who truly understands what abortion is seeks an abortion.” Faithful Blogger wants to believe that we are only aborting because we don’t know better. This kind of thinking is only going to lead her and others who feel the same way into deep disappointment and disenchantment with the world. It exposes her inexperience and ignorance of the often sordid reality of reproductive “choice.” FB, go read some abortion testimony, and some statistics – 43% of today’s abortions are repeat procedures. Ignorance isn’t likely. A lot of us knew what we were doing; unfortunately, that knowledge didn’t suffice to change the outcome. Something else was needed to prevent the abortion. Again, if you are interested in speaking to the post-abortive, listen first – find out why we abort. It will make you more helpful in the long run.

Faithful Blogger is an example of the pro-lifer with no personal abortion experience; clean hands, clean hearts, clean minds. Good for her. I hope she stays that way. On the flip side of the same coin, I finally finished Naomi Wolf’s book, “Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood.” If you don’t know her, and I don’t know much about her myself, Naomi Wolf is a feminist writer who now advocates legal abortions only through the first trimester. She changed her position on abortion after her first pregnancy, which resulted in a live birth. As far as I can tell, she and Faithful Blogger can sit comfortably side by side, as Naomi appears to have clean hands, too. She is a Pro-Abort with No (declared) Experience – a P.A.W.N.E., if you will. The friend who referred me to her writings insists that Naomi has had an abortion, but I can find no confirmation of that anywhere. She is said to have taken the morning after pill once, but that doesn’t count. Every woman who has ever used oral contraceptives has killed a “Maybe-Baby,” or two, or three, or ?. Possibly killing someone who may have existed is about as far as one can get from the kill emotionally; the psychological consequences of this kind of killing are not usually severe. In spite of my efforts, instead of finding any mention of personal abortion experience for Naomi, I find quotations from her along these lines:

“Naomi Wolf suggests a need to face clearly that a death occurs during an abortion, saying that pro-choice rhetoric would be more honest and therefore more effective.”Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish, and casually destructive." She applies this idea to helping abortion staff. "Pro-choicers, too, scapegoat the doctors and clinic workers. By resisting a moral framework in which to view abortion we who are pro-abortion-rights leave the doctors in the frontlines, with blood on their hands, the blood of the repeat abortions -- at least 43 percent of the total; the suburban summer country-club rite-of-passage abortions; the 'I don't know what came over me, it was such good Chardonnay' abortions; as well as the blood of the desperate and the unpreventable and accidental and the medically necessary and the violently conceived abortions. This is blood that the doctors and clinic workers often see clearly, and that they heroically rinse and cause to flow and rinse again. And they take all our sins, the pro-choice as well as the pro-life among us, upon themselves.

"And we who are pro-choice compound their isolation by declaring that that blood is not there."


At least she is honest enough to call abortion what it is; but those who have only been horrified by the sight of their own blood should be careful when discussing the blood spilled by others. In “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” Naomi elaborates further about perpetuating the myth that no one dies during an abortion. The article is posted on the Priests for Life website at http://www.priestsforlife.org/prochoice/ourbodiesoursouls.htm

On their website, Naomi is referred to as an “abortion apologetic.” I take issue with this title. Apolegetics is defined as:

1. The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

2. Formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.

Naomi Wolf is not an apologetic as I would understand the term. In my limited experience, Catholic apologetics are Catholics. In my opinion, Naomi cannot be an abortion apologetic if she has never had an abortion. In fact, I'm not sure how well she defends the issue at all. In this book, Misconceptions, Naomi devotes a chapter about her third month of pregnancy to “Baby Values,” and questions whether we have the right to take the life of the unborn child. And she waffles, back and forth, about the humanity of the unborn. At one moment during her first sonogram, she sees the tiny hands and feet of her unborn child and, in her own words, “Some voice from the most primitive core of my brain - the voice of the species? - said: You must protect that little hand at all costs; no harm can come to it or its owner. That little hand, that human signature, is more important now than you are. The message was unambivalent,” (Wolf, p. 29). Later, when she sees the child’s eyes in the image, she is struck by its “alien appearance:” “This was a baby in my belly, but it was also a time glider hanging poised in inner space, ensouled already, or to become ensouled at some moment that I would be wholly unaware of...And I could swear that, when it had looked at me, it had conveyed this directly to me: Yes, I will be a human baby eventually, small, helpless, new, and wholly lovable. But not yet,” (Wolf, pp. 30-31).

I finished reading this chapter in complete disbelief that Naomi Wolf was a pro-choice advocate. I'm not sure Naomi knows what it is she advocates. This book is not a difficult read by any stretch of the imagination, but it sat unread at this point for two weeks. I didn’t want to finish the book, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So in the interim, I did internet research about Naomi, hoping perhaps to find some insight into what makes her so flaky. Is she pro-choice or not? There is mention that she “flipped” on her fellows in the pro-choice movement after this, her first pregnancy, and mention of an article she writes advocating limits on access to legal abortion in the first trimester only. This is a flaky cop-out as well. If abortion is a necessary, right, and healthy medical procedure at 10 weeks of gestation, it is at 13 weeks as well – or it is none of these things.

I dreaded returning to Naomi’s writing, but finally realized the dread I felt was disproportionate to the scope of the project. I had only agreed to look into her writing at the suggestion of a friend, after all. Nothing major hinged on my finishing the book; I could walk away from it if I wanted to. Or I could just take the few hours needed to go on from her third month of pregnancy to the end of the book. One day, I threw the thing across the room, disgusted with it, and left it askew in the corner for days. I vacuumed around it. As it gathered dust, I tried to figure out what my problem really was. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, this will sound familiar. Apparently, healthy people don’t have to go on an expedition to find out what their emotions are, from where they stem, and why. But I do, and at times, I am very dense.

I sat one morning glaring at the book, noting its drab color scheme, pus-yellow and brown; Naomi smiled at me through a fairly thick layer of cosmetics from the back cover; and as I tried to talk myself into picking it up, I thought, “But, crap, she’s going to take me through every month of her freaking pregnancy,” and it dawned on me, at last. I opened the book, barely noticing the bookmark and its “All things are possible with God” message, and finally understood my reluctance to continue. Naomi and I had left off at the beginning of her fourth month of pregnancy. This is where she and I would diverge. I had been pregnant until my fourth month. I did not want to go there again, and more than anything, I did not want to go beyond.

So I did. I finished it that day. Here’s my book report: if you are a woman who wants to have children, read the book. It will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about being pregnant, bluntly, honestly, and from a pro-woman perspective. There’s marvelous information about the natural birth process and midwifery, and Naomi’s case studies in birth trauma support my contentions on abortion and maternal bonding, found here and here. Naomi “discovered” that the medical community condescends to pregnant women, and in so doing, demonstrates one of the things I don’t like about her. Apparently, social problems don’t become social problems to Naomi until they trouble her own world. Abortion was to be advocated until she became pregnant and recognized the individuality of the child in the womb. And as she searched for a nanny, she lamented that equality between the sexes has not advanced into the area of child care, since she and her friends who were mothers were deemed responsible in the household for all things “Baby,” in spite of having husbands who had been well-trained in the finer points of feminism.

Here she disappoints again. She calls herself a journalist; yet, when she wanted to know what other women experienced in becoming mothers, she asked her friends. When she wanted to know what women of color experienced, she asked her friends’ nannies. She discovered, to her outrage, that the child care providers she and her friends employed were most often leaving their own children unattended or in substandard care in order to go to work every day. To Naomi, this best exemplifies the disrespect we show to mothers in our society; we make no provisions for them in the workplace. She ends her treatise on modern motherhood with “A Mother’s Manifesto,” otherwise known as “A List of Things Naomi Thinks Other People Should Do To Help Mothers.” Here’s one example: “We need on-site day care so that we can see our children while we are at work and on-site nurseries...” Marvelous idea. I support it all the way, along with the spirit of the rest of your manifesto. I just have one question, Naomi – when you were interviewing your friend’s nannies, one of them, a black woman, mentioned that her own youngster was a latchkey kid, left home alone while she worked. Your own nanny’s children were in another country; she was sending money home but unable to see them. Why not suggest to your friends that your nannies could raise their own children alongside yours very easily? You could have provided on-site day care instead of talking about the lack of it. You had the resources in your hands; you saw the problem; and you could have actually done something to make a difference.

And now, I really am finished with Naomi Wolf. I have a litany of complaints, and more than a few compliments. But most of what I would say would probably be tainted with sour grapes. I don’t like P.A.W.N.E.S, Naomi, especially those who go on to discover the joy and sometimes savage beauty of motherhood. I also don’t like people who have never killed who endorse killing as though they are intimately familiar with its characteristics:

“Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus in its full humanity must die. But it is never right or necessary to minimize the value of lives involved or the sacrifice incurred in letting them go. Only if we uphold abortion rights within a matrix of individual conscience, atonement, and responsibility can we both correct the logical and ethical absurdity in our position - and consolidate the support of the center.”

~ Naomi Wolf, http://www.ariga.com/frosties/naomiwolf.shtml

It is most often those who have never experienced combat who endorse it; who describe it in its most glowing terms; and who want to glorify the deeds done therein. The only woman of sound mind who can so blithely discuss wielding the power of life and death over her unborn children is one who has never actually done so.


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