Father Gabriel was killed just as Mendoza was, but it was Father Gabriel who died with a clean conscience.
My latest piece for Ethika Politika:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sin includes any activity that brings death to the body, or death to the soul.
Increased utilization of third party reproductive technologies and our current infertility epidemic are deeply tied to sin. The birth dearth is primarily a result of the marriage decline. The marriage decline is a result of a profound absence in virtues and character development—resulting in a culture in which people can’t trust themselves and can’t trust the opposite sex to meet the basic demands of a marriage: commitment, fidelity, and cooperation. We don’t need more sexual education, we need more virtues education.
I recently was confronted about my Catholic conversion by a teenager whom I’ve known for years. “You’re not going to force your religion on your kids, are you?” he chided. I responded defensively, “I plan on at least giving my children the gift of a moral education—which the Church expertly provides.” From there began a conversation about whether there was an absolute truth or not. My teenage friend announced that there is no such thing: “morality is arbitrary … Good and bad means different things for different people in different circumstances.” Later in the conversation, the topic of children came up. I asked him, “How old do you think you’re going to be when you get married and have kids?” “I’m not sure I want to have kids,” he said.
I’m not sure I want to have kids.
His response shocked me greatly, because I’ve known him for years and I know that he is great with kids and since early childhood he has regularly declared his desire to eventually be a dad. Were his first remarks regarding truth related to this change in desire for children? I think they are.
David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column in 2011addressing a researched study that found that young Americans lack categories and vocabulary on matters of “right and wrong, moral dilemmas, and the meaning of life”:
Tonight I went to a fundraiser in DeRidder, Louisiana in support of their local Community Pregnancy Center. I sat next to a gentleman working for Mike Huckabee, and together we were at the Louisiana Right to Life table, just adjacent to a table full of women from Gabriel’s Project, in a room full of a hundred or more people—all dedicated to defending the sanctity of human life. The fundraiser’s keynote speaker was a woman named Abby Johnson. Abby has an interesting story. She went to Texas A&M for college. While there she started working for Planned Parenthood, hoping to help women in crisis by offering contraception services and healthcare. She moved up the ladder and became Director for a Texas branch. As she got higher up she began to witness things that really bothered her. She used to defend Planned Parenthood publicly by saying that they did everything they could to reduce the number of abortions. That’s why they provide condoms and birth control pills to girls as young as 10. The solution to solving unwanted pregnancies we’re all made to believe, is more contraception. In tonight’s riveting speech, Abby told us that she was in the boardroom at an executive level meeting her superiors told her she had to double the quota of abortions from previous years. Yes—shockingly, there is a quota, a minimum goal of abortions that Planned Parenthood aims for, and they were increasing that number, hoping for a higher number. It confused her. She thought the goal was to help women in crisis, and decrease the likelihood of those crises. But no, PP is in the abortion business.
She decided to quit working for PP after a particular day when she was asked to oversee an actual abortion procedure. She knew what an abortion was and what a fetus is, but somehow the bio-hazard bags full of “products of conception” never phased her. But on this day the abortionist doing the procedure was from out of town and he brought in an ultrasound, to do an ultrasound guided abortion. Ultrasound guided abortions are actually sort of rare. Most abortions are performed blindly, as in the doctor can’t see what he’s doing. This is because nobody really wants to see what they’re doing, its too soul crushing. But this doctor did use one, because he embraced the idea that its safer for the woman if he could see what he was doing while performing surgery on her. So Abby was there to oversee. The woman was sedated. The baby in the womb was 12 weeks and his profile, limbs and major organs were all visible. They could even tell his gender. When the doctor put the suction device into the woman’s uterus, he aimed it at “the target” and Abby watched as the baby squirmed and began flailing his arms and legs as if trying to escape from the device. But of course there was nowhere for him to go. Abby says she flinched and felt the need to cry out “Stop, you’re hurting him!” But she stayed silent. She then watched as he was dismembered and suctioned out.
Abby quit working for Planned Parenthood. She founded an organization called And Then There Were None—to assist abortion workers in getting out of the industry and helping them heal. Abby says she’s responsible for at least 20,000 abortions. One woman that came to her ministry used to work for a late term abortionist and says that after 17 years in the industry she’s probably responsible for around 500,000 abortions. The former abortion workers that find the organization typically will go on healing retreats. There they are asked to humanize one baby that they participated in aborting, and write him or her a letter.
This is where I choked up and started crying.
Abby had written a letter to the little boy she saw that day on the ultrasound screen. She named him Paul. She said (something like) “when I think of you now I see you safe and warm in Jesus’ arms and hope that I can see you again in heaven. But as comforting as that image is to me, I know of the horror you were subjected to, and I’m sorry for my role. I’m sorry I didn’t defend you that day. Please know that your life was not in vain, and that me knowing you has given me the courage to speak out and do what I can now to redeem myself.”
Interestingly, Abby says that Christian women make up 72% of the women who came into her offices for abortions. There were women who had blood pressure cuffs on one arm, while they held rosaries or bibles with their other. She says there is lots more for The Church to do. The “presumption of forgiveness” is a real problem. And pastors and priests need to directly address this issue in their homilies and sermons.
Perhaps, and this is me speculating, the cultures that Churches are fostering actually motivate women to get abortions because to be an unwed or young mother in these circles would be far too embarrassing and stigmatizing for the woman to handle. They would rather get the abortion and keep it a secret, hoping God will forgive them, than be subjected to a community of judgmental gossipers, holding regard for the gospel’s teaching on sexual morality, while failing to live up to its high standards for forgiveness and love.
Tonight was a special night for me. I must thank Abby for making me feel something and for speaking the truth even though its uncomfortable, even though she’s ashamed of the person she once was. We’ll see if I’m given opportunities in the future to put her testimony into positive use. I hope so. While I never directly oversaw any abortions, I did volunteer for NARAL, and that weighs on my conscience. I have other sins too that weigh me down.
There were two young looking mothers in the room with new infants—miracles from the efforts of the Community Pregnancy Center. The women looked happy and safe. They were surrounded by other women eager to support them, give them baby clothes, and their time. I saw one of the mothers as she lifted and kissed her baby’s face. I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter (this was over 3 years ago now). I didn’t have health insurance at the time and the only name I knew to call was Planned Parenthood. I thought surely since they have “parenthood” in the title that they could offer me prenatal care.
No, they could not offer me prenatal care because its not on their list of services.
Thank you Abby for your testimony.
When I first arrived out of high school I started volunteering one day a week at NARAL Pro-Choice America. It was an office full of women, whom I considered all to be smart. We went to Democratic conventions, handed out brochures and signs and materials. I organized the list of financial donors–which had many recognizable names. I remember asking one of the women that worked there full time why she became a feminist. She grew up in the protestant faith and one day visited her pastor to ask him what can I do to make the world a better place? His response to her was this: “If you want to make the world a better place you should be loyal and obedient to your husband.”
From there on she was put off.
When I was pro-choice I too felt a nauseous aversion to men and patriarchy. I had scar tissue from every boyfriend, every father-figure. I joined NARAL because in my world, men did everything they could to take advantage of me. In my world, I was expected to provide sex, but men were not expected to love me, nor devote themselves or their resources to raising a child. In a world like this, with so much sex, but so little love and commitment, women must be able to abort their unborn children lest we invite a landslide of chaos and poverty into women’s lives.
But now I realize, no woman should have to choose between security and her children. We can demand that guys be men.
And how about this for the business side of abortion:
The scale of the human tragedy of abortion in New York City demands action. But what can we do? In such a large city the task can seem daunting, but we must do what we can.
First, we have to make sure that women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy have the help they need if they choose to carry their babies to term. We cannot accept a state of affairs in which a woman feels that she has no choice but to abort her baby.
Second, we need to do what we can to empower women and couples to avoid unplanned pregnancies. We have been teaching our children for two generations that condoms and hormonal contraceptives will protect them from unwanted pregnancies. But two generations later, here in NYC well over half of pregnancies are unplanned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 54% of women who obtain an abortion were using some form of contraceptive during the month in which they conceived.1 It is time to rethink the condoms-and-pills approach to avoiding unplanned pregnancies. Maybe it is time to reassert the simple fact that the last few generations seem to have tried to deny: sex makes babies. The fact is, sex is an extremely powerful natural force, not easily hemmed in. Contraceptive methods will always fail some percentage of the time. The unplanned, unwanted pregnancies which result keep our abortion rates so high.
Some say it is unrealistic to expect young people to abstain from sex when they are not prepared to take responsibility for the potential consequences. Challenging it certainly is. But if we think we can’t expect young people to refrain from sex, why do we think we can expect them to use a contraceptive method consistently and effectively? We can choose the challenging path, or we can resign ourselves to high rates of abortion, STI’s and family breakdown.
Finally, we need to strengthen family and community support systems which can help young parents and families make their way through life’s challenges. We need to strengthen church and community based marriage education, preparation and enrichment. We need to provide women and families with knowledge-based methods of achieving and avoiding pregnancy.
If all of us, individuals, families, faith communities and community organizations, take a look around our neighborhoods to see what we can do to address New York City’s high abortion rate, little by little we can bring the numbers down.
Students for Life have put out a really excellent video exposing how Planned Parenthood is first a business- and any placating for women’s health is mere propaganda from a well informed public relations team.