We are only just beginning to make abortion unthinkable
Amid the sea of signs carried at the many rallies following the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision, one was particularly striking: “MAKE ABORTION UNTHINKABLE.”
It is both an ambitious and admirable goal because it signals that this is not the end of the struggle, but in many ways, the beginning. It extends the effort to end abortion well beyond the question of legality, now pointing more to the conversion of hearts and minds.
Since the 1970s, the movement to change abortion laws has claimed much of the energy and resources among the pro-life community, which has now been successful in taking Roe v. Wade down from its perch as the law of the land. But those legal battles were merely a means to an end. The ultimate goal has always been to protect the innocent life of the developing child in the womb. Making abortion unthinkable is essential if we are ever to achieve the ultimate goal.
There is no one who considers herself pro-life who can’t have an impactful role in this effort. The most critical question is ... are we each willing to do what it takes to make abortion unthinkable?
For instance, are we prepared to assist the poor and marginalized, to serve them and help provide for their basic needs, but also to advocate for an end to systemic and generational poverty?
Are we willing to confront racism and the limits it places on families of color to have lives of dignity and value? Will we support paid family leave, adequate health care resources, equal pay for equal work, and early childcare assistance?
Will we send emails, make calls, take part in peaceful marches, and get involved in groups who tackle these challenges? Will we stand alongside those with whom we don’t always agree because we know that advancing the cause of protecting the innocent unborn is worth it?
Will we spend our personal time volunteering in programs where teens or women come looking for help with an unexpected pregnancy? Would we try to start programs of advocacy and support where they may be needed — our local parish or school, for instance? Will we come up with ways to support pregnant teens although their families might react violently or punitively to the news of a baby coming?
Are we willing to put aside judgment and criticism and just serve those in need?
Will we all come to recognize the unlimited value of building a truly pro-life culture in our homes, our communities, our institutional structures?
Because of the personal experience I had in my own family with my daughter and grandson, I am a fervent believer that each of us can make a powerful difference; each of us can save lives. From the example we set with our families, to the material support we give those in need, and the ways we advocate for pregnant women and newborns ... there is so much we each can do.
Abortion was rejected as an option for my 16-year-old daughter when faced with a pregnancy for which she was not prepared. Though she was afraid, she knew her family would help her and always love her. Because of her family’s assistance and her own determination, she was able to finish high school, and then get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She became a teacher and is now a successful business owner. In addition to her son, she has a husband, a stepson, and a newborn baby.
There was nothing special about our family. There was nothing we did that can’t be done by every family, or by those helping the pregnant woman when a family won’t. This is the message that needs to reach girls and women who think that abortion is their only option. We must affirm in our every action that all human life is precious and full of potential.
It is only then that we stand a chance to make abortion unthinkable. Let’s get started.
Rayanne Bennett is the associate publisher of The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.