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Actions Speak Louder than Words

August 31, 2012

Once again, an unthinking Republican man has insulted women and seriously injured the conservative cause he was trying to help.  Thanks to Todd Akin and his ridiculously insensitive claim that most cases of “legitimate rape” don’t result in pregnancy, pro-choice advocates are incensed and think that everyone who is pro-life is a cruel misogynist who wants to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.  (Just read the 285 negative comments in response to Sherif Girgis’ pro-life piece in the New York Times, “A Distraction from the Issues About Abortion”, from Aug. 22, 2012.)  Over and over again, I keep hearing that pro-life people only care about the child before it is born, and not afterward. 


I wish these angry pro-choice people could have just one glimpse of the women who work behind the scenes at places like the White Rose (a crisis pregnancy center) and Catholic Charities.  Volunteers work long hours collecting car seats, baby clothes, diapers and baby food for women with unplanned pregnancies.  They help refugee women with children learn new skills so they can support themselves.  They help set up apartments with donated furniture so poor women and their children will have a place to live.   All of the women who spend their time volunteering with these agencies are motivated by a deep love and compassion for other women and their children.


Contrast their quiet work with the judgmental and ignorant statements of people like Todd Akin and Rush Limbaugh – who called law student Sandra Fluke a slut on television during this year’s contraception debate.  Admittedly, both men apologized, but the damage was done.  I realize there are many men whose actions on behalf of women and children – born and unborn – speak louder than words, but right now no one can hear them.


It seems to me that the recent rhetoric about abortion has done nothing but damage to the pro-life cause.  Interestingly, the widespread use of sonograms has led to a significant change in public opinion about abortion. Clear images of developing fetuses have made it harder to argue that abortion only destroys a clump of cells.  Expectant parents carry around sonogram photos of their children before birth – and no one can tell them it’s not a child.  However, the recent debates have been handled so poorly that much of this progress in public opinion may be in danger.


 I would like to make a series of proposals for men wishing to represent the pro-life message about abortion.  First, please have some humility.  Maybe it would be better to let some pro-life women lead this conversation, unless you have relevant personal experience or expertise.   One of the most persuasive pieces I have seen lately came from the daughter of a woman conceived by rape.  She and all of her family would not exist if her grandmother had chosen abortion.  Another great example of someone who can talk about abortion is Tim Tebow.  When his mother was pregnant with him, she became seriously ill, and was advised to terminate the pregnancy.   Because of her faith, she chose not to, and Tim Tebow, the Heisman trophy winner and NFL quarterback, is alive today.  Women like Tebow’s mother, who have experienced an unwanted or a difficult pregnancy, can speak with authority on this subject in a way that no man can. 


Second, I would encourage pro-life men to work on telling other MEN what to do – they can lead the call for MEN to avoid premarital and extramarital sex and to promote responsible fatherhood. They can promote programs that help men get an education and good jobs so that they will make better candidates for marriage.  How many abortions could be avoided if the woman knew her baby’s father would be willing and able to commit to her and the baby with financial and emotional support?   I’m not saying that all women who get abortions have no responsibility for their circumstances, but I wish someone would focus on the role of men in unplanned pregnancies.


Finally, any male politicians with a pro-life agenda should spend at least as much time promoting programs that support women in crisis pregnancies as they do seeking to enact stricter anti-abortion laws.  Those whose political views do not support government programs could spend their time helping faith-based or other charitable programs for women in these situations.  Actions like these, more than anything, would help dispel the notion that the pro-life movement is heartless and misogynistic.  


It is standard procedure on airplane flights to instruct those traveling with a small child to put on their own oxygen mask first, then put the mask on the child. This recognizes the plain fact that if you really want to help a child, you have to help its mother first. 



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