by David Paul Deavel
It has been the taunt of those advocating the moral legitimacy and legalization of abortion since the modern pro-life movement began: “You’re not pro-life; you’re just against abortion. You couldn’t care less about the lives of mothers or children after the nine months of pregnancy are over.”
The accusation as made is truly false. In the first place, anybody who ever visits or volunteers with a lifecare center will know that telephone counseling is not simply a matter of making arguments to women not to abort, but involves the support of women in crisis who are often pushed toward the option of abortion by boyfriends, husbands, or family members. Words of affirmation and reason are certainly involved, as well as the great gift of seeing by ultrasound that what is inside them is not a what but a who. So too are recommendations and referrals to sources of medical, financial, and emotional help if the mother is keeping her baby, to options for adoption for those who do not believe themselves capable of taking care of the child whom they are carrying. Many lifecare centers have on hand donated clothing, diapers, baby formula, beds, strollers, and other things needed for mothers to care for their children. A number collaborate with groups providing free housing for homeless pregnant women. Along with material tools of motherhood are classes on childcare. The pro-life center’s purpose is to assist women in saying yes to the human life within them—letting it live and caring for it.
Those who have taken up full-time work advancing the legal recognition and protection of innocent human life are neither opposed nor uninterested in the welfare of mothers and children after the birth has occurred. Many of their efforts have centered around the fact that the American abortion industry has largely involved unregulated medical practice leading not only to the deaths of babies but also to the maiming of many women seeking abortion, as the writer Will Saletan, an uneasy pro-choice journalist, has detailed in a series of articles for the center-left magazine Slate. Many other efforts have resulted in laws allowing desperate women who have given birth alone to drop off their babies at hospitals when the women are worried that they cannot care for the child. To be pro-life is to care about the medical, emotional, and spiritual health of women as well as the life and health of babies.
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David Paul Deavel is associate editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. He earned a Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University and has taught at the University of St. Thomas (MN) and the St. Paul Seminary. His writing has appeared in a number of books as well as a wide variety of popular and scholarly journals.