Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | January 24, 2011

So that next year it’s not just another day…

There was a time when I didn’t think much about abortion one way or the other. I’d gotten the message: “Not my body, not my business, stay out.” So I’d been beaten into submission back in high school. Can say that my wife felt differently. God love her, she’s been on the right side since the beginning… and against it. I came ’round. How can you not? You love babies, I love babies, who wouldn’t?

Well, real life isn’t always easy, I grant. And for a long time, we moved in the middle ground of realizing that mistakes happen. We were fortunate in so many things, and never hard up against this. But I do know I wouldn’t have had much say in it at the time, and glad it was that way. She’d have made the right decision, and I’d have had another kid – and almost did except for an ectopic explosion. I did make it back from Baltimore in about half the normal time that day when my mom called to tell me to hurry to the hospital, and my wife did live despite everyone’s expectations – my mom’s, the doc’s, and emergency room folks. No… she was so pro-life she wasn’t about to die that day… even after losing 7 pints of blood. We had no idea she was even preggers. And we’d already popped out two kids… so it’s not like we were clueless.  And yes, if there were ever a “life of the mother” bit… this was it. She spent the next week in intensive care blowing air through the bubbler to impress the docs she was making progress.

As I became Orthodox, I formally crossed over to the pro-life side. I came to the conclusion that behind so many abortions stood a boyfriend, a father, or someone who seemed to push a poor, impressionable girl to go ahead and make her (or their) life easy and have the abortion. Someone’s talking folks into these things probably too often. And the more often it happens, the more like a snowball it becomes difficult to imagine another sort of outcome. The stats are pretty poor.

I’ve served at the Pro-Life masses the last few years. I’ve not done the marching… I just am not all that sure that we’re being honest with ourselves, or that loving with the victims – both mother and child – of abortion. No one’s going to change anyone’s mind by yelling, marching, and beating on them with a bunch of rules. Call me a weak spine if you will, but I think we’ve got to redirect the protests to impress the whole… not just the folks at the end of the line. Judges don’t make law no matter what we think when we don’t agree. Judges “discover” law from the values of the people. I’m not saying it’s right… it’s just what they do or think they do. But truth be told, I’m also just not sufficiently political to get involved in an issue I know less about than some others.

Nevertheless, this year as I left the liturgy to go to work, I wondered why doesn’t anyone try something new? Folks have been stomping around screaming and yelling on both sides for nearly 40 years and nothing’s changed. Well… something has changed a bit… but not much. We may be making progress with ultrasound and all the other visualizations on the question of where and when life begins. and if it hasn’t had much impact, we have to remember that ideas take time. A good 400 years passed between the ideas of the Renaissance found their embodiment in the politics of Enlightenment. And whether you date Civil Rights to John Brown or to the Civil War or even the Pullman Porter strike… it’s pretty clear nothing happens quickly.

But neither does anything happen without preparation.

Marching is fine. But as for preparation… it’s a ticket to shouting and going home. Preparation is heavy lifting. I’m thinking about fundraisers, dances, banquets, phantom events, auctions, annual galas… the whole nine yards. If there’s one thing that needs to happen, it’s raising money to put the bankroll where the mouth is. Where are our orphanages? Where are our adoption centers? Where are we providing care for mothers to take them to term and beyond without fear, without shame, and with the preparation so that they can understand not the fear… but the love and wonder of raising a family. Yes… there’s enough stress from the changes involved, and in facing them in so many cases alone… without having to add to it.

Imagine today that were any normal impressionable person in the middle of this… of all the shouting on both sides… surely they’d just want to end it then and there and just be left alone. Confusion often leads to shut-down. We need to give love a chance. We need to buy time. We need to let God speak to our people… male and female… in ways that all our speeches, marches, sermons, and prayers have not.

A few seeds have been sown here and there. But let’s face it… the civil authorities have made so many rules on social services that at least in my area, even the Catholic church has threatened to withdraw it’s engagement. Maybe if we’re going to speechify… we might start here: Encouraging a more civil society that cares first for the services provided and then worries about some of the other niceties. After all, if the “market is always right”… maybe the market for social services might even be able to indicate something about who provides a more loving service than a bunch of rule-oriented busy bodies. But more to the point, why don’t we get on with the heavy lifting? Trust me… it’d be a lot more fun, too. Might even invite  some of those “other” people to come and have a good time… even see we’re not dragon ladies and dudes more intent on having someone ELSE live the christian life than ourselves. Sure… it’s a lot easier for me if  I can talk someone ELSE into being the good christian I-do-and-don’t-want-to-be at the same time…. rather than trying to actually be one. But then again, I know I’m not much good at these things. Together might be another matter. And I think that might even be why we’re this Body thing. Just a thought.


  1. “I came to the conclusion that behind so many abortions stood a boyfriend, a father, or someone who seemed to push a poor, impressionable girl to go ahead and make her (or their) life easy and have the abortion.”

    With grief I write to tell you this is not always the case. My son tried valiantly to talk his girlfriend into not having an abortion. She was quite certain that she wanted *it* gone because she didn’t want her career to be sidetracked and would go ahead with or without his support. He has swallow the poisoned fruit juice and believed “It’s her decision ’cause it’s her body.” Six months later, ironically during the Nativity of our Savior, he sat on my couch sobbing into my shoulder confessing the sorrow of the death of his unborn child, my grandchild.

    This young woman is not some poor impressionable girl. She is highly intelligent, bright, beautiful, well read, by all externals a success.

    I’m still working on forgiveness.

    “We need to let God speak to our people… male and female… in ways that all our speeches, marches, sermons, and prayers have not.”

    He does. No one is listening nor do they care.

    Kyrie Elesion. God forgive me.

  2. Athanasia: Yes, I’ve made it too simple.

    But farily, one of my best friends was left out of the same discussion about their third child when his wife made other arrangements on her own. There is a grief and bitterness in this still unhealed. Forgiveness is hard.

    I’ve wondered whether this explained the tensions in their family… in their two kids. Oddly, the mom was the happy-go-lucky one and he was the pressured, ever precisely metered one. I think there’s no telling sometimes. And marriage alone is no guarantee of safety… or sanity.

  3. My understanding is that adoption in the US is very difficult, nearly impossible. People are in line waiting to adopt. Orphanages have been shut down and replaced with state operated care centers and foster homes.

    • Think so. I manage the endowment for an orphanage that was closed thirty years ago. The Board now searches for ways to help children… but there is no similar institution, and so a lack of proposals that meet what the Board would really like to do. I’m sure costs to re-establish an orphanage today would run through the roof. So the Fund tends to coordinate with Catholic Charities. I suspect there are more of these foundations around the country than people are aware of.

      Adoption is difficult everywhere. I have friends who have adopted kids from Russia, Guatamala, Vietnam, etc. I have another who is providing foster care for babies while the mothers decide whether to put the kid up for adoption or keep it. There’s not one of these that has ever marched in the March for Life, but more to the point, they have acted where their heart was. This is their interest…. both personal and local. The distinction between right and wrong often has less to do with righteousness. And maybe when we get focused on righteousness, somehow we work it backwards… and meaning well isn’t enough for us to escape the right and wrong thing instead… and simply focus on the needs of the child and mother or would-be mother.

  4. James… I think you need to go to the march before you say there’s stomping and shouting. However, there was some chanting. Last year in the Orthodox corner we were chanting “Holy God, Holy Mighty have mercy on us.” while marching. And I think the only stomping we did was to keep our frozen feet from falling asleep.

    • Fair enough. Comment on that score withdrawn.
      Nevertheless… my point is simply there is no infrastructure for another alternative. There are traces that remain, but no effort to rebuild. Where’s the follow through?
      If we assume that all these babies are a product of abortion as birth control, then there’s not a problem. Stats pre-Roe are very sketchy to non-existent. If assume that the first year might (emphasis on might) be indicative of pre-Roe levels, then half were happening before hand. Old podcast of Frederica’s on a book indicates that it was indeed quite common at the turn of the last century as well. Not accepted, but still more common than thought.
      But assume we get rid of the half that are birth control substitutes. This still leaves the other half where things are not so happy. We need that infrastructure. And given that it was dismantled prior to the great inflation and the resources subsequently dissipated, it will be extremely costly to reconstruct. It is something that needs to happen – no matter what the law is.
      My point is simply that if you wait for the law to change before taking concrete steps, you’ll never be taken seriously. Every OTHER civil rights movement has proceded on the basis of changing the facts on the ground first. The legal community discovers and ratifies an existing condition. This is what has always seemed to happen. Look at history.
      And if this is the case, then a few marches won’t do it. Change the facts on the ground, and you’ll change history. Concrete steps are harder than marching.
      I’d make the same argument with recycling – that it accomodates a wasteful distribution system rather than changing it at is core. If we’re really about real change… then we deal with material issues over the attention getting surface level. I’m no saint, so don’t look at me… but as my kids would say, “I’m only sayin'”.
      Sadly, I’d note that I can’t even find a single word or picture in the Washington Post today. Like it didn’t even happen.

      • Correct my underestimation of the Washington Post: There is a small article in the Metro section. “Balanced” coverage gives no numbers for the “two sides”, and stays more or less consistent with giving the impression that there were as many Pro-Choice as Pro-life (see the AOI referred article). Bad coverage.

      • Oh I don’t disagree with you there at all, James. I think abortion rights will be in place until the hearts of men are changed. The Catholics are the best organized of all the other groups against abortion. I wonder what sort of “on the ground” things they do. It’s probably not nearly as flashy as getting 300K people out for a march, but I’m sure it is making a difference.

      • Deb – you are 100% on the mark. Though Athanasia’s point shouldn’t be lost: Plenty of women are very much in favor for one reason or another.

        FWIW, at least one of the fellows on the board I mentioned is catholic. I’ll see what I can find out from him. My out-loud wondering is “What if all these remnant organizations actually began preparing the groundwork for a different ethos that might emerge after my lifetime? It’s kind of funny how many things seem to fit that category as I… gulp… double the geezing and find so many issues still so intractable. The problem in so many cases isn’t that solutions are available, but that the resistance on both sides within the Baby Boom generation has hardened into fighting each other with eyes and ears closed. Don’t confuse each other with the facts or actual mutual respect. Nope. So we have to change the people in order to change the status, and that seems likely to come in a new generation. I am excited to see the number of young people in the Pro Life camp. Very, very encouraging. Don’t know whether they’re just too young and idealistic, or whether they’re really serious… but assuming the latter and they can pull it off with love, I have tremendous hope for their generation in so many ways. They are builders, and our future. All they need is a shot at credibility. World War II vets earned it by surviving the war where they provided all the muscle. This generation I think will be earning it by paying their own way – plus the way of their older country men and women. Probably a number of other ways as well. Prying the cold dead hands of the last Baby Boomer off the throttle of the nation… that’s gonna be another story.

  5. Excellent post, James. I concur 105%. I too think marches basically impress the choir. IMO, we’d do better to lobby for more efficient adoption laws than a change of the abortion laws at this point in our culture. Private adoptions are not nearly as difficult as institutionally run ones. Unwed mother safe houses that take no federally controlled contributions staffed with a private network of pro-bono adoption lawyers would go a long way to making adoption more accessible and cheaper.

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