Small flickers of hope are growing in the hearts of pro-lifers that perhaps we won’t need to solemnly commemorate the legalization of abortion much longer. The marchers at the 43rd annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 22 will be emboldened by the game-changing successes of 2015.
Much of the credit for the success goes to the Center for Medical Progress, which released the shocking and horrific videos of the sale of fetal body parts. The videos underscored the crass ambition of abortion giant Planned Parenthood, while also emphasizing the true humanity of the unborn child. Few pro-life events have swayed public opinion, politics and policy more than these videos. Clearly, if still a bit slowly, chinks in the fortress of lies and deceptions are starting to spread.
Cracks in that fortress are truly hopeful, but the hardest part of our battle for the unborn and their mothers still remains. It is the hardest because we must get beyond the crumbling, external edifice and reach the core of the matter: the hearts of women.
In the heart of every woman is the deep desire to love and nurture. This desire can be denied, wounded or underdeveloped, but never completely eradicated. It is astounding to see how far people — men and women — can go to silence this desire of the feminine soul.
Several years ago, I read an engrossing article about the relocation of German families to Ukraine during World War II. These families were the first phase of the establishment of the Third Reich beyond German borders. A mother of two, Gisela, who was deeply committed to the Nazi Party, encountered four small children who had fallen off of a wagon near her rural home. She knew they were destined for one of the concentration camps. Not quite knowing what to do, because her husband was away for a few days, she took them home, fed them and put them up in her barn. Gisela’s instincts kicked in as to how to care for the destitute children, despite the fact that they were Jews. Few will find it shocking that this woman would do what comes so naturally to most of us, namely, to care for those in need. What she did next, however, should shock everyone: The next morning, Gisela took the children out, shot them all in the head and buried them in a shallow grave. Because they were Jews and supposed enemies of the Reich, she was convinced that she did the right thing for the sake of the Fatherland. Given the steady diet of Nazi propaganda, she likely viewed her actions as good, rational and even heroic. Gisela let the cultural and political pressures of the day turn her into something foreign to her nature. In Gisela’s case, the idol was Nazi Germany; in our current culture, it is the idol of “choice.”
In the hearts of too many dwells a pernicious lie. For decades, our culture has been trying to convince women that we don’t need children or, even worse, that children are something of an enemy. Sure, you can have one or two if you want, but even that might ruin your life, your career, your bank account, your body and your sex life. Our own president, at the thought that his daughters might find themselves pregnant, said, “I don’t want them punished with a baby.”
The lie that children are the natural enemy of women runs deep in the feminist ideologies that shape contemporary culture. In her courageous new book, Subverted (Ignatius, 2015), Sue Ellen Browder chronicles how PR moguls and journalists hijacked the feminist movement to include reproductive rights as an essential pillar of the movement that had not been there previously. She reveals this sad reality as an insider and confesses to her own involvement in peddling the myth that true freedom is equal to remaining childless.
Mother Teresa pointed out the false opposition between woman and child in her 1994 letter to the Supreme Court of the United States. Abortion, she wrote, portrays “the greatest of gifts — a child — as a competitor, an intrusion and an inconvenience.” Mother Teresa saw how abortion not only bought into the lie about women and children, but perpetuated it further, by giving “mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.” Abortion, she explained further, “has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.”
Fortunately, even this lie about the link between women and children, as deeply rooted as it is, is also being challenged from within. Feminists are finding themselves unable to explain the difficult situations that don’t fit into the typical feminist narrative. Famed journalist Barbara Walters, looking back upon her glass ceiling-breaking career, said her one regret is that she didn’t have more children. Another feminist, after suffering a miscarriage, didn’t know what to do with all the emotions that surfaced when her baby died. After all, wasn’t it just a “clump of cells”? There is only so long that the human heart can deny the inborn reality of who women are and the relationships that we are made for.
Women are made to love — to passionately and fiercely love and care for others — be it through physical motherhood or spiritual motherhood. Abortion will last as long as our culture ignores the true bond of womanhood and motherhood by treating children, at best, as just another commodity to acquire when convenient or, worse, an enemy thwarting our deepest hopes and dreams.
The theme of the March for Life this year — “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand in Hand” — is a small antidote to that cultural poison. It is a sad testament to how entrenched the radical individualism of the feminist movement has become that pro-lifers must articulate the natural connection between women and children. But as long as the abortion lies permeate our culture, humbly reaffirming this fundamental truth is a good way to put another crack in the false idol that one day will release us from its bonds.
Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America.
March for Life Instagram image