What Our Post-Roe World Needs: To See Love

COMMENTARY: We must constantly ask ourselves: What more can each one of us do to make sure that the people in our lives know what pro-life means? It’s about accompaniment.

The Sisters of Life support life from the unborn on up.
The Sisters of Life support life from the unborn on up. (photo: Courtesy of the Sisters of Life)

Do the young people in your life know that they can come to you if they find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy? 

That question haunts me when I ask it of myself. 

If you are known as pro-life, as a practicing Catholic who believes what the Church teaches about human life and love, you might be the last people anyone would ever come to with a pregnancy crisis. 

If an abortion-minded woman, fearful that pregnancy would be the end of her hopes and dreams, knocked on the door of a rectory or was sitting in the back of the church desperate and hopeful for someone to give her a sign of hope, would we know what to do? Where to send her? 

I probably overly rely on the Sisters of Life when I encounter a scared pregnant mom because the life they live is in no small part to accompany mothers and children. When encountering a woman who is open even remotely to considering parenthood — to raise the child or to choose adoption — the first thing the sisters say to her won’t be: “Keep the baby.” Instead, they will welcome her presence. They will make her comfortable. They will acknowledge the obvious: not her pregnancy, but that it is hot outside — or whatever the case may be. They receive her and love her and start a relationship. 

Trust doesn’t come quickly, and it’s never a given that a woman will choose to have the sisters walk with her and her baby. But they are a presence and witness, and they trust that God has a plan for her. 

The reason I overly rely on the Sisters of Life is simple: I know they are there. I know I can call them. There’s no doubt they know what to say and do. They have pro-life credibility. 

The same can be said of affiliates of Heartbeat International and all the pregnancy-care centers and maternity homes around the country. 

But there’s a question many of us need to ask ourselves as we mark a year since the Supreme Court overturned the gravely wrong Roe v. Wade: “What more can I do? What more can we do?” 

In the last year, we have seen so much anger and so much confusion. One of the facts we need to acknowledge is that abortion being seen predominantly as a political issue hurts people. Obviously, law and policy are necessarily in that realm. But the public square isn’t known for its nuance or mercy. And I fear that most headlines and chatter in the last year about abortion hurt more people than they helped. In the often-brutal dynamics of the political culture wars, individuals in need can get lost.

Don’t get me wrong: Thanks be to God Roe is history. It was unjust and made no legal, historic, political or moral sense. Lives have been saved. A Washington Post profile some months ago looked to pity a young couple for having to make a go of parenthood. The story inadvertently showed the amazing and beautiful things that are possible when young people embrace life. People on the frontlines of pregnancy care tell me that some young women have expressed that they are relieved in states where the law is no longer a pressure — along with so many other factors — for abortion. 

At the same time, most abortions in the United States today are by pills. And you know from even paying cursory attention that the abortion industry wants to make those pills as accessible and anonymous as possible. 

It wants you to be in line at CVS to get your heart medication while a woman in front of you is getting her abortion pills. It wants college girls to be getting them from vending machines on campus. It thinks that there is no life without abortion. 

And while you and I may know that in Christ and with the help of a community there can be freedom in the unexpected and that women — and men — are capable of so much more than choosing death for their unborn children, there is way too much in the culture that says otherwise. 

The misery is ubiquitous. At the Superbowl “Halftime Show” this year, a pregnant Rihanna sang an excerpt from her hit “Rude Boy.” The song is about using a boy before he uses you. Not too long ago, I was moderating a panel event that was protested by a woman declaring, “I love sex” — multiple times. There was nothing during the event that suggested that we were against sex. It does happen to be the most reliable way for children to come into the world. At a prayer vigil, I was hollered at by a local abortion activist one morning. I tried to be pleasant and wished her a good morning. And she replied: “It is a good morning, because no one is forcing me to give birth today.” I’m quite certain she wasn’t forced to give birth the day before or the day after. But people are in pain, and life doesn’t make sense, so what is being said often doesn’t make sense. 

The best explanation of John Paul II’s theology of the body — however beautiful and truthful — won’t convince anyone on a street corner or at a summer barbecue as much as we hope it might. What people need is something more. More than politics. More than our best arguments. More than the telling the truth about human life and love. They need to see love. And that means that we need to be doing more than voting “the right way” — which isn’t always as clear as we might hope it would be — and saying the right things about political debates and writing checks. 

Kathleen Wilson at Mary’s Shelter in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Cheryl Calire at the Mother Teresa Home in Buffalo, New York, are two examples of people who had human encounters that led them to do radical things: open maternity homes, something they never thought they were equipped to do. Here in the Register, Leigh Snead gave another example, when she wrote about the radical hospitality of adoption and the heroism of the birth mothers of her children. 

We who consider ourselves pro-life: Do we know any birth mothers? Would we consider loving on them? The documentary I Lived on Parker Avenue (which was adapted into a movie, Lifemark) is a reminder of the suffering that “giving up” a child can be for a birth mother. We must never pretend that that is anything but an agonizing sacrifice for love. We must continually show these mothers love for their heroic choice for their children. 

When Pope Francis came to the United States, the theme of the visit was “Love Is Our Mission.” A year after Dobbs, we are being invited to reconsider what that means. 

As we go into presidential-election season, there will be more salt poured into open wounds of women — and men — who suffer the wounds of abortion. Most media will continue to spread lies, unintended and intended. 

We must constantly ask ourselves: What more can each one of us do to make sure that the people in our lives know what pro-life means? 

It’s not about judging. It’s not about hitting people over the head with the truth. 

It’s about accompaniment. 

Think creatively. Volunteer. Sit down with people in your parish and consider what the unmet needs in your community are for families. Consider who the foster families in your parish are. Find out how many children are in foster care in your area. Ask new questions. How about welcoming a mom into your home? How about helping someone with her rent or groceries? Do crazy things like consider starting a maternity home!

It’s a new day, and people need to see that we are for real and unmistakably all-in for love. Motherhood is hard. It’s even harder if a father does not choose to step up to the plate. We need to acknowledge that. And flood the zone with the kind of love that Jesus showed us on the cross so people can see that holy families are still plausible, however they come about.