Friday, March 24, 2006

Dear Zelda

In response to my last post, Zelda writes:

I don't have a problem with gays raising children because they're gay, but because the parenting qualities inherent to members of the opposite sex are absent from those children's lives. But if it is a choice between aborting children and having gay couples raise them, I think the whole argument becomes moot.

As for the pictures of aborted babies, I am truly sorry you are traumatized. And I'm sorry for all the other women who thought they were left without an option. It will never be the case as long as there is anything I can do about it.

I don't know that those pictures help women who are considering abortion, but they do help reinforce the humanity of those babies to the population at large. And it is the population at large who will decide whether they want that blood on their hands. I hate that they add to your trauma almost as much as I hate the fact that they exist. But people have to know. From young men who might get their girlfriends pregnant, to parents who might force their daughters to have abortions. Everyone has to know what abortion is, and so many are completely oblivious.

This is a thoughtful comment. It merits a thoughtful response, which I hope I can provide.

I am struggling to understand Catholic Charities, and how Pope Benedict's remarks regarding parenting by homosexual couples translate into action by denying them the opportunity to shelter the homeless (I haven't been able to read his remarks in full, just the snippets reported by the media). Are orphanages, group homes, and foster care more desirable? Are we so without hope and faith that we don't believe people can overcome a difficult and problematic upbringing? Do we deny sinners the opportunity to parent because they remain obstinate in sin? (If so, then none of us is qualified to raise a child.)

As to images of our shredded children, I understand fully that some people are made aware of the reality of abortion when they see them. Your point that the general population will decide the issue is also well taken. Unfortunately, the statistics show that a large segment of this general population is post-abortive (over 40% of all women in this nation of reproductive age); further, at least one in four of these will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to some extent. And the numbers are still underestimated. With the more frequent use of chemical abortions, many more women will have the experience of seeing their dead children, and if they found this traumatizing at the time, images of same will surely trigger a traumatic response. We have the capacity to understand the phenomenon of trauma reenactment, but we ignore the facts, and the suffering, and the consequences, which too often include repeated abortions.

More importantly, though, we need to consider the population that is aborting. Nearly one in two of the women who will seek an abortion today have already had one or more. These images are often displayed near the doors of abortion clinics. While the population in general may decide the legality of abortion, it is these women who will determine whether individual acts take place, nearly four thousand of them each day. In using potential triggers for a traumatic response, activists are ignoring, hurting, and likely alienating half of their target market.

The justification for using these images is that those who display them hear from people whose hearts and minds have been changed by them. First, they aren't likely to hear from those who have been traumatized instead. Second, this is a denial of faith, which requires us to act as God wills without giving any thought to human respect or regard, or even verification that what we do is working. People who claim to be of faith must work on that faith alone.

The impact on society in general must also be taken into consideration. We have been bombarded with images of violence in the media, especially in the last four decades. All of the experts agree that we become desensitized to violence by exposure to it; it is the basic argument against violence in films and video games. Photos of dead babies might provoke a desire to become actively pro-life in some; in others, these images become part of the general scene of violence and their significance is lost. I remember the popularity of "Dead Baby" jokes from the late seventies and early eighties all too well. They were symptomatic of gallows humor, and most likely an attempt to deny the horror before our eyes. Our society has not become less violent, but more so. Are we changing hearts and minds or are we desensitizing a nation already exposed to too much imaginary but realistic blood and gore by the entertainment industry, and the very real blood and gore that accompanies acts of war and terrorism?

Additionally, I question the desirability of the response provoked by the images in those who don't know what abortion is. If honest, these people who say they learn the truth in this manner will admit that the emotions they engender are anger, hatred, and a desire for retribution. Is this the response we want? Does it make it more difficult for these individuals to consider the plight of women seeking abortion with compassion and sympathy, or does it perpetuate their anger that anyone would consider such an atrocity? And how will these negative emotions come into play in the future, which I hope will be free of legalized abortion, when we must learn to live side by side with people who have committed atrocities? I believe it will make reconciliation more problematic; without recourse to forgiveness by society, those who commit atrocities become intractable in their position. We cannot win them over in a manner that ignores their need for mercy.

And lastly, is there another way to show the humanity of the unborn child that does not generally incite a negative response? Yes. We have the technology to show the living child in the womb, in 3-D images that show an unmistakably human and living form. We have abortion survivors who will live their entire lives with undeniable evidence that at one time, their mothers sought their deaths. We have the abortionists' descriptions of what it is like to perform an abortion on an unborn child. A narrative engages the thinking part of our brains, while images are processed with other sensory input by that center of the brain which engages when the fight/flight/freeze (traumatic) response is provoked. Images of dead babies will provoke a defensive response; images of living children generally do not, although there will still be a segment of the post-abortion population who find all baby images aversive. There is a better way, and if we would only try it, we might learn it is more successful.

Thank you, Zelda, for your compassionate comment and your resolve to assist women and children in need.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Better Off Dead?

In a recent news item, I learned that Catholic Charities of Boston decided to end its participation in adoption placement because they could not obtain an exemption from state laws banning discrimination against homosexual couples who wish to adopt.

Several times over the last two years, I have pleaded with a certain Catholic pro-life organization to discontinue using images of aborted children in their efforts to prevent abortion. My request was reasonable and personal. At least one in four women and girls who abort will develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. One trigger for a traumatic response is an image of an aborted fetus, for me and for many women in my position. Considering the fact that nearly half of all women who seek an abortion today have aborted before, a symptom of trauma reenactment, I have appealed to their sense of reason. It is not logical to engage the trauma center of someone’s brain and then ask her to make a life or death decision based on rational thought. But like other pro-life groups who are so attached to this weapon, I have been told that anything goes when it comes to saving the life of a child from the abortionist.

Anything, that is, except allowing the child to be adopted into a gay family. If there is any evidence that gay parents raise gay children, I haven’t heard of it. And gay children are more desirable than dead ones. I am ashamed of Catholic Charities, and ashamed of a mindset that says the ends justify the means, unless the means involve homosexuals raising children who would otherwise be aborted. Apparently, dead is better than gay.

Author's Note, added on May 11, 2006:

I've given the issue further consideration, and I believe I have a better understanding of what Catholic Charities is trying to do. It is inconsistent with Church teaching against homosexuality to cooperate in a manner that would suggest the sin is condoned. I understand this now, and the need for consistency.

My objection remains, however, against our getting out of the adoption business altogether as a solution to the problem. In the Southwest, in particular, Catholics who work in any capacity to serve the poor and disadvantaged were encouraged to conscientiously object to any immigration legislation that would criminalize offering assistance to illegal aliens. It would have been more courageous for Catholic Charities to do this as regards placement of adopted children as well; or to fight the battle in court, if it has not already been challenged to its limits and denied. I consider this a case of religious freedom, which does not protect the government from relgion so much as it should protect religion from government. As long as Catholic Charities is not subsidized by tax dollars, I disagree with any law that would force this institution to violate its own belief system while performing acts of mercy in accordance with the faith.