At the Register: What Planned Parenthood Needs

News flash, Cecile:  Abortion is not and never has been #WhatWomenNeed.

(Our pipes have been frozen for a few days, and my hair is in desperate need of washing; so my vanity won’t let me post a picture of myself holding a #WhatWomenNeed placard.  But if you want to join in the fun with New Wave Feminists, where you can find a template for the placard, my suggestion for What Women Need is “PEACE IN THE WOMB.”)

 

At the Register: Ten ways to raise pro-life kids

. . . without having to get off your hiney and go out in the horrible, freezing cold.

Eight Reasons Not to Use Graphic Images at the March for Life

[This post originally appeared on The National Catholic Register on January 22, 2013.  Comments there are closed; comments here are closed.  I will not respond to any emails about this topics.  Anyone who comments about it on any other thread, here or at the Register, will be banned.  As I said on today’s other post about graphic images, I spend part of every day crying for my lost baby, and I am not up for another round of hearing that I’m not really pro-life.  I have already heard what you have to say, and the rage and condescension only persuades me further that the pro-life movement needs to be purged of misogyny if it will ever gain ground.]

*****

Are you going to the March for Life, either in DC or in your state?  If so, are you planning to display graphic photos or videos of aborted babies?

If you are, I’m begging you to reconsider.  Fr. Pavone famously said, “America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion.”  Most pro-lifers understand that Americans are tragically ignorant about what abortion really is — what it really does to real babies.  Many of us remember seeing those bloody images for the first time, and can recall being shaken out of a vague, fuzzy support for the pro-life cause into the realization that this is a life-and-death struggle — real life, and real death.

But a  public place is not the place to use these images — ever, I’m convinced.  These images are like a terrible weapon which should be used with fear and trembling, and only as a last resort.  Why?

There will be children at the march.  Do you let your kids watch gruesome war movies or slasher films?  No?  Well, those movies show actors with fake blood, pretending to be tortured and killed.  Why would you let them see the real thing?  The pro-life cause is about protecting innocent life, and that includes protecting the innocence of young children.  Studies show that violent images stay with us for a lifetime, and damage us.

There will be post-abortive women at the march.  Imagine their courage in being there at all.  Then imagine what it does to them to see, once again, the dark thing that keeps them from sleeping at night – the thing that often keeps them in decades-long cycles of self-loathing and despair.  We don’t ask victims of rape to look at videos of rape in progress.  We don’t ask holocaust victims to look at huge banners showing the piles of emaciated bodies.  As pro-lifers, we must remember that every abortion has two victims:  the child and the mother.  We must never be on the side that hurts mothers.  Never.

Mothers will be there.  Thousands of the women at the March are mothers — mothers who have already given birth, mothers who are pregnant as they march, and mothers who have miscarried, delivered dead babies.  For many of them, the grief over a miscarriage never goes away entirely.  Many women stay away from any public march for fear of being subjected to these images so similar to the thing that caused them so much pain.  Motherhood makes a woman’s heart tender.  The pro-life movement should be a shelter that protects that tenderness — because the world needs it desperately.

Those are real babies.  Christians are almost alone in affirming the dignity of the human person.  Catholics, especially, understand that the human body is mortal, but still worthy of respect.  When we use pictures of real babies as a tactic or a tool, we are in danger of forgetting that these are children with an immortal soul, and who have a name that only their Heavenly Father knows.  They have already been killed.  Let us treat their poor bodies with respect.

Public image matters.  Some people’s only contact with obvious pro-lifers is with people who shout and condemn and terrify.  It’s just basic psychology:  if you want people to listen to you and have sympathy for your cause, don’t come across as a lunatic.  You’re not a lunatic — but to people who don’t already agree with you, you sure look that way.  Yes, your cause is worthy.  No, you’re not helping it.

They sometimes push women into abortion.  Do these images change hearts sometimes?  They sure do.  I’ve heard pro-life activists tell stories of women who saw these horrible images for the first time and decided on the spot that no way could they be any part of that.  They kept their babies.
And I’ve heard pro-life activists tell stories of women who were pregnant, scared, and undecided — and when they were confronted with bloody images, they freaked out and rushed into the clinic as fast as they could, to get away from those maniacs with the signs.
So, yes, sometimes they save lives.  And sometimes they cause lives to be lost.  We don’t do things just because they work sometimes.

Desensitization is a real danger — even among pro-lifers.  It’s just how humans are made:  see something too often, and you stop really seeing it.  I thank and bless those who work so tirelessly for the pro-life cause.  But I beg them to stop and consider that, like policemen or like soldiers, they are human, and are in danger of becoming hardened out of self-preservation. People who have become hardened must never be the public face of the pro-life cause.  If you, as a pro-life activist, see a bloody image and you don’t flinch, then it’s time to take a break — move into a different segment of the ministry, one that emphasizes prayer and reparation.

People see what they want to see.  When the apostles begged the Lord to send the dead to persuade people to repent, He said that if they didn’t listen to the prophets, then they wouldn’t be impressed by the dead coming back to life, either.  Many pro-choicers speak as if everyone knows that pro-lifers use photoshopped images — that the tiny, mutilated feet and hands and heads are a hoax that’s been thoroughly debunked.  It’s a lie, of course.  But people believe it all the same, because they want to (and pro-lifers don’t help their cause by being sloppy about things like identifying gestational age on photos).

*****

All the same, bloody and shocking images have their place.  Pro-life activists are right when they say abortion depends on silence and darkness, and that truth must be exposed.  Too many people who are pro-choice because they somehow still don’t know what fetuses actually look like, or what happens to them when they are aborted– or because they’ve simply slipped into a comfortable shelter of euphemisms.  These lies, this comfort must be stripped away.

So when should you use graphic images?  When a teenager shrugs and says, “My health teacher says it’s not a person until 25 weeks.”  When someone who works at a clinic says she’s doing a gentle, compassionate work of mercy.  When your boyfriend wants you to get rid of “it” before it becomes a real baby.  When a college girl likens unborn babies to tumors or parasites.  Then you can respond to the actual situation, to the actual person.  Then you can take out the picture and say, “Is this what you’re talking about?”

I believe that everyone should see an image of an aborted baby once in their lifetime.  And I believe that, like any traumatic image, it will stay with you.  Once or twice in a lifetime is enough.

Abortion is violent.  Abortion is cruel.  Abortion inflicts trauma and pain.  As pro-lifers, we should have no part in any of that.  Let us save the graphic images for a weapon of last resort.

 

Why abortion workers love those graphic images

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa posted this excellent article from New Wave Feminists on Facebook.  It’s an open letter she wrote to a fellow who insists that it’s essential to use large, graphic photos of aborted babies outside abortion clinics. There ensued a lively discussion about whether or not this practice is (a) appropriate and (b) effective.  The fellow to whom the open letter was addressed boasted that he’s been a pro-life warrior for twenty years, and insisted that it was both right and effective.

O wonder of instantaneous social media:  Abby Johnson responded.  Johnson is the founder of And Then There Were None, which ministers directly to people who want to leave the abortion industry.  She says that, while these graphic images occasionally do change people’s minds, they also often do something else:  they tip the balance toward abortion.

She should know.  She once managed an abortion clinic, and for many years saw protesters march around with their gory posters.  Johnson says (emphasis is mine; and she gave me permission to reprint her comments here):

I watched them be ineffective for many years … from inside the abortion clinic. A perspective that most do not have. I watched for several years as women would literally run away from those holding graphic signs. They would come into my office and ask us why those people were holding them. We used that as an opportunity to point out how crazy the prolifers were and that they would do anything to prevent women from making the choices they felt they needed to. It was an AMAZING way for us to build camaraderie inside our clinic.

Then I saw the signs come down…and I actually saw women changing their minds. They started approaching the people on the sidewalk, asking questions…and then leaving our parking lot and going to the crisis pregnancy centers. Once the signs came down, we started to have volunteer escorts so that we could try to convince the women coming in not to talk to the sidewalk counselors…because they were having such an impact. When the signs were out there, we LOVED IT!!! No one was approaching them. We didn’t need escorts. 

Read that again:  they liked it when the gory pictures were out there.  It made their job easier.  Women literally ran toward abortion.

As I have said many times before, these graphic images are essential for showing ignorant or apathetic people the true horror of abortion . . . as long as the images are used in the right context.  Waving them at women in emotional turmoil is the wrong context.

We are several generations past Roe v. Wade.  We have the luxury of speaking to women who have lived with abortion for many years — women who can tell us what it’s like to make that choice, and who can tell us what would have changed their minds.  We can talk to women who can tell us what doesn’t work.  If our goal is to protect women and babies from abortion, then in God’s name, we must listen to people who know.

——

Note:  I am closing comments because the last time I talked about the proper use of graphic images, I was subjected to months and months of incredible nastiness from people who consider themselves pro-life.  I spend part of every day crying for my lost baby, and I am not up for another round of hearing that I’m not really pro-life.  Please note that I will not respond to any emails on this topic, and anyone who comments about it on other posts, here or at the Register, will be banned.  I have already heard what you have to say, and the rage and condescension only persuades me further that the pro-life movement needs to be purged of misogyny if it will ever gain ground.

Why give birth? Why love?

Wow.  Many, many thanks to Garard Nadal for posting this incredibly pro-life short film from Unilever:

I do not know what Unilever’s Project Sunlight is about, but man, the clip is lovely, and will do much good. A great companion, as a matter of fact, to this comic illustrating a quote from C.S. Lewis, who died fifty years ago today.  (Thanks to Jason Bach for sharing the comic on Facebook!)

Hope doesn’t mean you know nothing will go wrong.  As Lewis says:

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

 

Father Pavone praises Pope Francis’ approach

Thanks to Steve Jalsevac of LifeSite News for linking to this letter!

Fr. Pavone, the National Director of Priests for Life, says,

No, the Pope is not diluting the anti-abortion focus of the Church.

As the Director of Priests for Life, known worldwide as a ministry within the Catholic Church that urges more preaching, teaching, and action against abortion, I was asked by many alarmed and confused people these past few days about the reported comments of the Pope that the Church should not be “obsessed” with this issue, and that there should be “balance” and “context.

Is the pope saying we should talk less about abortion? Is he saying that the emphasis the Church has placed on this issue has been a mistaken emphasis?

When I first received these inquiries via emails and text messages, I was actually in the presence of Pope Francis, in the dining room of his residence. I had spoken just hours earlier, at the invitation of the Vatican, about the Church’s defense of the unborn child, and about the clear and strong position of the Church, expressed in many documents, that the right to life is our first right and the foundation and condition for all the others.

So the news came to me with more than a little irony, and I immediately began to tell worried pro-life warriors that they had no reason to think that the Pope no longer wanted the Church to focus on abortion.

 The Pope is, as I said myself, giving the world context for the pro-life movement.  The letter from Father Pavone is short, clear, and reassuring, and concludes this way:

This approach radically strengthens the Church’s opposition to abortion, because the Pope is saying not simply that it breaks the Fifth Commandment (“You shall not kill”), but that more fundamentally it breaks the First Commandment (“You shall not have other gods besides me”) and that to disrespect life is to abandon God himself.

Nobody should worry or think that the Pope is in any way diluting the Church’s strong and unchangeable stance against abortion, or contradicting all that has already been said and written, in documents like The Gospel of Life, about the urgent priority that this issue deserves. Some 50 million children are killed by abortion around the world each year. If we want to know how much we should focus on it, we only have to use human reason and ask what our response would be if 50 million adults throughout the world were killed each year by terrorism.

Long live the pro-life movement, and long live the Pope!

Hear, hear!  Thank you, Father Pavone.

Catholic Digest: Pro-life Even at the End of Life

Oops, just realized I have a second article in the latest edition of Catholic Digest.  Do get your hands on this one if you can!  The strength and clarity of the people I interviewed is just astonishing. I wish I had had enough space to include all of what they had to say about making end-of-life decisions for the people they love.

I wrote about the experience of tackling this harrowing subject in a post called “Bright Wings.”  I’m just going to reprint it here (it ran first in the Register on Jan. 17, 2013), because it dovetails so nicely with Thursday’s Bigger on the Inside post.

****

I’m writing an article for Catholic Digest about end-of-life issues.  To be more precise, I’m finally writing this article.  I was putting it off because (a) I’m lazy, (b) it involved conducting interviews, and I get very nervous talking on the phone, (c) it seemed like a depressing topic, (d) I was petrified of getting some detail wrong, leading readers astray, and causing the needless deaths of countless helpless grandmas, and most of all because (e) I was scared.  Scared of finding out exactly what the Church actually teaches.

I knew the secular ideas of Church teaching were wrong.  I knew that the Church is not cruel or heartless, and I knew that her teachings are derived from hundreds of years of rigorous scholarship, and are guided by the Holy Spirit.  I knew that sometimes people suffer needlessly because people misunderstand Church teaching.

But I also knew, without even realizing I was thinking this way, that what God wanted from us was awful.  Or, in the older sense, awe-ful.  Scary, hard, intractable, too much to bear.  Without realizing I was thinking this way, I thought I’d have to massage the facts into something more palatable for the general public, so as not to scare people away from fidelity to the Church.

Yep, I thought God would need my help.

I did five interviews in three days, I read the catechism, I looked up the relevant documents, and I got some clarification from Rich Doerflinger.  I did my research with the same internal posture as I take on externally when I’m watching a horror movie that everybody says is really, really good and I shouldn’t miss:  I was tense, defensive, ready to cover my eyes as the hero slo-o-o-o-owly opens the door to see what’s inside the creepy old shack in the woods.

So, I opened the door. I found out what the Church really says about end-of-life issues — how to make the decisions, how to care for people, how to do your best to strike the balance between letting technology do its job and letting nature take its course.

Guess what the Church teaches?  God loves you.  He loves life.  He has life to share, and He shares the light of His eternal life by sending the Church as a support when we are weak.  He sends the Holy Spirit into the ICU and the NICU with the respirators and dialysis machines, into the womb that holds the anencephalic child, into the hospice room with the 80-pound man who no longer wants or needs to eat.

And because He is a God who loves, He is a God who grieves — not only for the sick and the dying, but for the living, who have to carry the burden of their decisions after sitting up night after night without sleeping, without a change of clothes, without knowing clearly if they are causing pain or bringing relief to the ones they love.  That every life is valuable, and that includes the lives of caregivers.  He enlightens the minds of nurses.  He strengthens the hearts of parents.  He brings clarity to grown children.  And He grieves.

What I learned is that the Church teaches, “God loves you, God loves you, God loves you.”  Always and forever, in the darkness of doubt, and in the light of the truth.  This is what is at the heart of all the teachings of the Church; this is what we will always see when we force ourselves to uncover our eyes and watch the story as it unfolds:

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

TheyToldMeToAbort.com – UPDATED!

Ever had a prenatal ultrasound?  Ever had a false diagnosis based on that ultrasound?  In the course of nine pregnancies, I sure have.  Doctors have told me the baby’s development was weeks behind gestational age; that there was a life-threatening hematoma forming; that the baby’s organs were forming improperly.

In my case, I had good doctors who ordered follow-up ultrasounds, and we were all glad to see that nothing was wrong.

Many women aren’t so lucky.  Here’s something that happens all the time:

[UK mom Sarah] Hagan says that, after a 24-week ultrasound scan of her unborn baby, doctors told her that her son Aaron was “brain dead,” had just one eye and no chance of survival.

The mother of two says physicians advised her to take an abortion drug, even though the mifepristone abortion pill is only authorized to be used to destroy the life of an unborn baby much earlier in pregnancy.

When the abortion drug didn’t work, another doctor informed Hagan her baby needed to be delivered immediately and she gave birth to Aaron, who was born at 1lb 7oz with both eyes  and healthy other than the fact that he was born prematurely — which has left him with chronic lung problems he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

They told her to abort based on ONE ULTRASOUND.  They didn’t even bother to do a follow-up ultrasound, or ask for a second opinion.  The only defects he was born with were the direct result, according to his mother, of his premature birth, which was caused by the unsuccessful abortion attempt.  Here is Hagan with her baby boy:

Hagan is right to sue.  If her story is accurate, her doctors were wildly, grossly irresponsible to counsel abortion and to administer the abortion drug.  It’s just too damn easy for them to say, “Ehh, something looks off here.  Better get rid of this one and try again later.”  They’re afraid they’re going to be sued for “wrongful birth” if they miss diagnosing some problem, and the parents are angry that they got saddled with an imperfect child.

It’s unfortunate doctors have to take legal pressures into consideration when they counsel patients, but at least there should be pressure from both sides, not just pressure to “be safe” and counsel abortion.

There are two ways to combat this horrible trend.  One is to make it harder for doctors to blithely counsel abortion when, even for people with the most utilitarian view of pregnancy, it’s simply not warranted.

Two is to give women a reason to fight back when a doctor is pressuring her to abort.  Here’s where you guys come in.

Anyone want to start a blog or website called Theytoldmetoabort.com?  I’m picturing something very simple:  people submit their brief descriptions of why their doctors told them they ought to abort, and then post a picture of the child they decided to give birth to.  Here’s what they said; here’s how it turned out.

I’ve been lucky.  No doctor ever had the nerve to suggest abortion to me; and if they did, I’d have the support of my husband, my family, and of course my faith.  But so many women do not.  So many women are carrying babies that they love and want to protect, but they are surrounded by people who tell them it’s stupid, it’s irresponsible, it’s actually wrong to give birth to a baby who might have a defect of some kind.

I want to show pictures of babies who were supposed to be imperfect, and turned out not to be . . . and I want to show pictures of babies who were supposed to be imperfect, and are imperfect — but they are still loved and cherished.  It could also include pictures of developmentally normal babies who were in danger of abortion simply because their mothers weren’t married, or were teenagers — but their moms decided not to bear and raise them anyway, or give them to another family.

I think the site should include a page of resources, such as benotafraid.net, for women looking for support in carrying a baby in difficult circumstances.  The idea is not to make arguments or supply all the information.  The idea is just to show the world that doctors say “abort” all the time, and that so many women are glad they did not listen.  Stories, pictures, and links for more information.

So, what do you think?  Or if there’s another name that would get more traffic, go for it!  We want something that a sad and desperate woman is likely to enter into a search engine.

UPDATE –  A reader who is a web developer has volunteered to design and host the site!  Still needed is someone to sort through submissions (I assume there will be spam and hate mail entries).

Shameful, probably illegal

Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director, pro-life activist, and founder ofAnd Then There Were None, posted this on Facebook:

We just found out today that a former Planned Parenthood employee, who is now working with ATTWN, was fired from her new job today simply because “she used to work at Planned Parenthood.” We guess someone higher up found out about her former employer and didn’t want her there anymore. We are working with one of our attorneys on this situation. She was not given a good explanation except to say that it wasn’t her performance…just her past employment.
People often say to me, “I just don’t understand what makes it so difficult to leave the abortion industry. What’s the big deal? Why don’t they just quit?” This is why. There is a lot of discrimination against former abortion workers…even if they are now prolife. Please pray for this woman, as she is very upset about this and now looking for another job.
If you have any PERSONAL job leads in the St. Louis area, or if you own a business and can help, please email karen@attwn.org.
I suppose it’s possible that the apparent discrimination is based on something more substantial than just spiritual snobbery.  If she had been, for instance, directly responsible for a PP clinic that was closed for health violations, or that has been charged with massive fraud, I could understand her new employer’s distress.
But maybe her former boss really is a pro-lifer who thinks that anyone who has ever been involved with abortion — whether as a mother, a family member, a medical worker, or anyone else — is unclean, untouchable, unforgivable.
If so, shame.  I know this attitude exists within the pro-life community, although I think it’s a small, noisy minority.  Most pro-lifers understand that “more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.”  (Luke 15:7)  We need people who understand the industry, who can give us first-hand information about how it operates.  And most of all, we need to be on the side of life, always, and that includes helping the abortion industry’s refugees find a way to make an ethical living.

The most disgusting thing you will read all day.

From some “bro-choicers” — a cheat sheet with four reasons why Texas guys should oppose #HB2.

These males — I can’t bring myself to call them “men” – shed a few crocodile tears over the health and safety of women, should — horror of horrors — abortion clinics who perform surgery be forced to adhere to the same health and safety standards of your typical LASIK eye clinic.

Because, as we know, women will only be safe once abortionists are free to shove sharp tools into their insides without having to bother with petty stuff like getting hospital privileges, or making halls wide enough for a gurney to pass through when someone made an oopsie and a bowel or uterus got perforated, or if some pesky lady is hemorrhaging again.

But then we get down to what’s really at risk, should late term abortions become harder to come by.  The bro-choicers warn:

Your sex life is at stake. Can you think of anything that kills the vibe faster than a woman fearing a back-alley abortion? Making abortion essentially inaccessible in Texas will add an anxiety to sex that will drastically undercut its joys. And don’t be surprised if casual sex outside of relationships becomes far more difficult to come by.

Vomit.  Vomit, vomit, vomit.  That’s all I have to say.  I know the protestors were just trolling when they chanted “Hail, Satan,” but Satan is not fussy.  Trolls make excellent fodder for the mouth of Hell.