Recovering the pro-life roots of the women’s movement
Not all feminists support abortion. Properly defined, feminism is a philosophy that embraces basic rights for all human beings without exception—without regard to race, religion, sex, size, age, location, disability or parentage. Feminism rejects the use of force to dominate, control or destroy anyone.
The organization Feminists for Life continues a 200-year-old tradition begun by Mary Wollstonecraft in England in 1792. Decrying the sexual exploitation of women in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft also condemned those who would “either destroy the embryo in the womb or cast it off when born,” saying: “Nature in everything deserves respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.”
Mary Wollstonecraft died from complications following the birth of her second baby girl, who was named Mary in her honor. Like her mother, the younger Mary would become a great writer, producing one of the greatest novels ever to address the dangers of violating nature—Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley.
Fifty years after Mary Wollstonecraft’s book was published, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton traveled to England to fight for the abolition of slavery. Barred from speaking at the 1842 World Anti-Slavery Convention simply because they were women, Mott and Stanton determined to hold a convention advancing the rights of women.
At that time, American women could not vote or hold property. They could not control their own money, sit on a jury or even testify on their own behalf. Women’s rights to assemble, speak freely, attend college and maintain child custody after divorce or spousal death were severely limited. Marital rape went unacknowledged. The early American feminists—facing conditions similar to those in developing countries today—were strongly opposed to abortion; despite their own struggles, they believed in the worth of all human lives.
Abortion was common in the 1800s. Sarah Norton, who with Susan B. Anthony successfully argued for women’s admission to Cornell University, wrote in 1870:
Child murderers practice their profession without let or hindrance, and open infant butcheries unquestioned…. Perhaps there will come a day when…an unmarried mother will not be despised because of her motherhood…and when the right of the unborn to be born will not be denied or interfered with.
In 1868 Eleanor Kirk, a novelist turned activist, linked the need for women’s rights with the need to protect the unborn. When a woman told her that suffrage was unnecessary because she and her husband were “one,” Kirk asked what would become of her babies if her husband ceased to provide for them:
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What will become of the babies—did you ask—and you? Can you not see that the idea is to educate women that they may be self-reliant, self-sustaining, self-respected? The wheel is a big one, and needs a strong push, and a push all together, giving to it an impulse that will keep it constantly revolving, and the first revolution must be Female Suffrage.
Without known exception, the early feminists condemned abortion in no uncertain terms. In the radical feminist newspaper The Revolution, the founder, Susan B. Anthony, and the co-editor, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refused to publish advertisements for “Foeticides and Infanticides.” Stanton, who in 1848 organized the first women’s convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., classified abortion as a form of “infanticide” and, referring to the “murder of children, either before or after birth,” said, “We believe the cause of all these abuses lies in the degradation of women.”
Early feminists argued that women who had abortions were responsible for their actions but that they resorted to abortion primarily because, within families and throughout society, they lacked autonomy, financial resources and emotional support. A passage in Susan B. Anthony’s newspaper states:
Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!
Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president (in 1872), concurred. In her own newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, Woodhull wrote: “The rights of children, then, as individuals, begin while they yet remain the foetus.” Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, declared, “Pregnancy is not a disease, but a beautiful office of nature.”
Clearly, we have a wealth of evidence contradicting the lie that feminists must support abortion. Some who begrudgingly admit the early American feminists were anti-abortion have suggested that their stance arose from Victorian attitudes about sex. That is not true either. Elizabeth Cady Stanton shocked Victorian society by parading around in public visibly pregnant. She raised a flag to celebrate the birth of her son. Stanton celebrated womanhood. She was in-your-face about her ability to have children.
But like today’s pro-life feminists, our feminist foremothers also recognized that women need not bear children to share in the celebration of womanhood. Susan B. Anthony was once complimented by a man who said that she “ought to have been a wife and mother.” Anthony replied:
Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.
In her later years, Anthony passed on the responsibility for women’s rights to a new generation, just as we must prepare to do. At the turn of the century, one young woman, Alice Paul, assumed leadership. Paul fought tirelessly for passage of the 19th Amendment, which in 1920 finally guaranteed to American women the right to vote.
The Betrayal of Modern Women
Much later in life, Alice Paul was asked by a friend what she thought of linking abortion to women’s rights. The author of the original Equal Rights Amendment called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.” Yet what earlier feminists called a “disgusting and degrading crime” was, in the 1970s, lauded as the most fundamental right, without which all other rights are meaningless. So how did the second wave feminist movement come to embrace abortion?
Two of the male founders of the National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws were among the first to portray abortion as a “right” rather than an act of violence. Larry Lader promoted abortion as population control. His NARAL cofounder, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, saw a botched abortion in Chicago and reasoned that “legal” would mean “safer.” Nathanson later became pro-life. But in the early 1970s, the men traveled the country advocating the repeal of what they believed to be antiquated abortion laws. After failing to convince legislators that anti-abortion laws were “archaic,” Lader saw an opportunity. According to Nathanson, Lader approached leaders of the women’s movement. He reasoned that if a woman wanted to be educated like a man, hired like a man and promoted like a man, women should not expect their employers to accommodate pregnancy.
Forty-two years after the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, many within the pro-life movement focus on the undeniable humanity of each unborn child, clearly visible through the millions of sonograms obtained by proud parents each year. But it is also a good time to evaluate the impact that Roe v. Wade attorney Sarah Weddington’s pro-abortion arguments have had on women.
In 1973, Weddington exposed the discrimination and other injustices faced by pregnant women who are poor or in the workplace or school. But she did not demand that these injustices be remedied. Instead, she demanded for women the “right” to submit to these injustices by destroying their pregnancies. Weddington repeatedly said that women need “relief” from pregnancy, instead of arguing that women need relief from these injustices.
What if Weddington had used her legal acumen to challenge the system and address women’s needs? Women are not suddenly stupid when they become pregnant. They can still read, write and think. But by accepting pregnancy discrimination in school and in the workplace, by accepting the widespread lack of support for pregnant women and parents—especially among the poor—Weddington and the Supreme Court betrayed women and undermined the support women need and deserve.
The Failing Report Card
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the United States. According to the Guttmacher Institute, their former research arm:
• Three out of four women who have abortions say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for a dependent.
• 69 percent are economically disadvantaged.
• 61 percent are already mothers.
• Women of color are disproportionately at risk of abortion.
• Half of all abortions are performed on women who have already had an abortion.
• 44 percent of all abortions are performed on college-age women.
All too often, the root causes underlying these statistics are shame and fear generated about pregnancy by the attitudes of parents, friends and the fathers of children. Fatherhood has been diminished. Children are disconnected from their fathers, who have rights as well as responsibilities. And millions of women have paid the price. Women, many impoverished because of the billions owed to mothers for child support, are struggling in school and the workplace without societal support. After all, when “it’s her body, it’s her choice,” it’s her problem.
For all these reasons and more, more than a million times a year in the United States, a woman lays her body down or swallows a bitter pill called “choice”—driven to abortion because of a lack of resources and support.
Abortion solves nothing. Almost four decades after Roe, we mourn the loss of 57 million American children that we will never meet. We will never know what they might have contributed to this world. But we must also remember the hundreds of women and teens who have lost their lives to legal but lethal abortion because they did not want to inconvenience us with their pregnancies.
We mourn with the parents of Holly Patterson, who died from sepsis after she took RU-486, and with the parents of Dawn Ravenell, the 13-year-old girl who never came home after she had an abortion without her parent’s knowledge. We mourn with the husband of Karnamaya Mongar, a poor immigrant who died as a result of her abortion at the hands of the convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Where is the outrage from women’s advocates?
Hard Cases, Exceptional Choices
Talking about abortion brings out raw emotions. Nothing is more divisive than talk about pregnancy and rape, and nothing challenges pro-life beliefs more than this heated issue. Just as we have challenged thinking about special-needs babies and their parents, we must help women who have conceived during rape and welcome children conceived in violence.
We must help people have the courage to look into the face of a child conceived during rape and say, “You didn’t deserve the death penalty.” The circumstances of one’s conception do not determine a person’s worth. These children should not be regarded as “exceptions.” But their mothers should be recognized as “exceptional.” And as advocates of life, peace and justice, we will never trade one form of violence for another.
Today we stand in solidarity with women coerced into abortion because they felt they had no choice. We stand with women who were vulnerable because they were young, or poor, or in schools or workplaces that would not accommodate their needs as mothers.
We stand in solidarity with women who have been betrayed by those they count on the most, with women who have underestimated their own strength, with women who have experienced abortion and are silent no more, with young men and women who mourn their missing siblings. We mourn with men who weren’t given a choice or who contributed to an abortion that they now regret.
In all its forms, abortion has masked—rather than solved—the problems women face. Abortion is a failed experiment on women. Why celebrate failure?
Addressing Root Causes
For decades, abortion advocates have asked, “What about the woman?” And pro-lifers have answered, “What about the baby?” This does nothing to address the needs of women who are pregnant. We should start by addressing the needs of women—for family housing, child care, maternity coverage, for the ability to telecommute to school or work, to job-share, to make a living wage and to find practical resources.
As pro-life employers and educators, we must examine our own policies and practices in our own communities, workplaces, colleges and universities. With woman-centered problem solving, we can set the example for the nation and the world. We must ramp up efforts to systemically address the unmet needs of struggling parents, birthparents and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Because 61 percent of abortions are performed on mothers who already have dependents, Feminists for Life is determined to help those facing tough economic times; FFL has published “Raising Kids on a Shoestring,” a national directory filled with creative, frugal and free solutions for pregnant women, parents and advisors.
And Feminists for Life advocates unconditional support for women who lovingly place their babies into the arms of adoptive couples. We applaud birthmothers like the former FFL board chair Jessica O’Connor-Petts, who tells us that “adoption can be an empowering option for women.”
We must focus our efforts on collegians who have never known a day without legal abortion. Forty-three percent of all abortions are performed on college-age women, women who will become our future leaders and educators in every field. For these reasons, Feminists for Life’s flagship effort is our college outreach program.
In addition to teaching the rich, pro-life feminist history that we have uncovered, we have been moderating FFL Pregnancy Resource Forums at campuses across the country. The first such panel discussion was at Georgetown University in 1997. Administrators, community leaders and students came together in a nonconfrontational setting to identify available resources on and off campus and to set priorities for new policies, resources and ways to communicate nonviolent options.
Within two years, Georgetown University’s board of trustees set aside endowed housing for parenting students. The Hoya Kids Learning Center was established. Pregnant and parenting students had access to health services and user-friendly information on the school’s website. Students created volunteer babysitting services. A “safety net” team of university administrators organized to ensure that no pregnant women—including birthmothers and international students—fall through the cracks. And every year, Georgetown hosts a Pregnancy Resource Forum to take another look at ways they can improve.
The first Georgetown forum started with the story of a woman who had an abortion because she did not know where to go for help. At the 14th annual forum, babies played on the floor. Beaming mothers told us they have “everything [they] need.” This past fall I moderated the 19th annual forum at Georgetown University. Because of our early efforts at Georgetown, Villanova and Notre Dame, this is the first year that babies born with the support of administrators are now likely entering college themselves.
Other colleges have also expanded their support for student parents. Pepperdine University created a task force to support pregnant women, adjusting policies to better suit student parents’ needs and building family housing. A donor recently stepped forward to fund a housing scholarship. Abbot Placid Solari and the monks of Belmont Abbey donated land adjacent to Belmont Abbey for “A Room at the Inn,” now called Mira-Via, so that women will not feel pressured to terminate either their pregnancies or their educations. Pregnant women and new mothers can now have their babies and continue with school.
Pro-life and pro-choice students came together at Wellesley College to hold a rummage sale benefitting a pregnant student who lost her financial aid for housing. The young woman had her baby and graduated. A University of Virginia student started a babysitting club. Berkeley Students for Life held bake sales to pay for diaper decks. Students for Life at St. Louis University started a scholarship fund for child care. There are many other examples like this as the ideas of Feminists for Life members and supporters go viral.
In 2010, FFL Pregnancy Resource Forums findings became the inspiration for federal grants to states through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Pregnancy Assistance Fund. After the first 10 years of FFL’s College Outreach Program, Planned Parenthood reported a 30 percent drop in abortions among college-educated women.
Women Deserve Better
Abortion betrays the basic feminist principles of nonviolence, nondiscrimination and justice for all. Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women—and that women have settled for less. Women deserve better.
Forty years after Sarah Weddington capitulated to inherently unfair practices against pregnant and parenting women, we say no to the status quo. We refuse to choose between women and children.
More than a century ago, the same women who fought for women’s rights and for the rights of slaves to be free also fought to protect women and children from abortion. We continue their fight in the spirit of Mattie Brinkerhoff, who wrote in 1869 in The Revolution:
When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we can safely assume that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.
Feminism was born of abolition. All people are equal. Not all choices are equal. We envision a better day, a day when womanhood is celebrated, mothers are supported, fatherhood is honored and every child is cherished.
If you refuse to choose between women and children, if you work to systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion, then you already follow in the footsteps of Susan B. Anthony and our other feminist foremothers, whether you call yourself a feminist or not.
Serrin M. Foster is president of Feminists for Life of America, the creator of the Women Deserve Better campaign and editor in chief of The American Feminist. Since 1994 the author has focused her efforts on serving women at high risk of abortion, including the poor, victims of violence and college-age women. This essay, adapted from the landmark speech“The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” is part of America’s coverage of issues related to the Synod of Bishops on the Family.
Written by Mark McCurdy
I sat across the table from a face that was familiar; one I have been observing for over 50 years of my life. But as he spoke, I listened that Sunday afternoon and studied the lines and creases more closely than I had in years. He appeared thinner and a bit pale since I last saw him. It wasn’t a good kind of thin. It was the kind that comes from the loss of muscle tone, not fat. The lines were deeper on his brow and neck than I remembered. His eyes were a bit sunken and watery as his memories meandered back and forth between times of joy and times of sorrow. It was as if each moment he breathed was carrying him farther from the things he had grown to love and closer to the things he was just learning to love; things previously shrouded in physical and mental suffering.
Conversations with my aging father frequently recycle common threads and as hard as I try, I sometimes find my patience waning as we cover ground that has been covered so frequently that nothing grows there any longer. There are no new reflections or lessons to cultivate. It’s like trying to put away a ghost in a wooden box but forgetting each time that a wooden box can’t contain a ghost. For a moment the ghost is gone from his mind, but then it appears in some new corner and the whole process begins anew.
I thought that was where the conversation was headed when Dad brought up Mom. Mom passed away over nine years ago. Dad began a new thread of discussion by reflecting back on those weeks and months that followed. I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go!’ and I began my own trip down memory lane to a place I really don’t like to visit; the most painful period of my life. As we kids grew older we saw that Dad had an emotional dependency on Mom. Mom, however, did not have the same dependency. I’m not saying Mom didn’t love Dad, or that she did not care for him- she put her heart and soul into caring for Dad. But she had a kind of self-possession that allows one to endure. Growing up, Mom endured great trials, pain, and loss. She was the living embodiment of the saying, ‘what does not kill us, only makes us stronger’. This did not make her unfeeling but a steward of her emotions. She kept her emotional house in order when it came to pain and suffering aimed directly at her. We all knew that if Dad passed first, Mom would be sad, but she had the inner emotional strength and toughness to carry on- Dad’s emotional tether to Mom was much like an umbilical cord. Severing it would be traumatic.
So Dad’s state of devastation after Mom died was not unexpected but it was shocking to actually live through. This was the first moment I ever saw my Dad struck down in agonizing grief and pain; frail and vulnerable. For most of my life, I experienced him as this strong man in command of his faculties in tough situations. In those first days after Mom died Dad was consumed by grief and inconsolable. He seemed very much like a child suffering the loss of a parent. The mental anguish was nearly unbearable for him and it put me and my siblings in a strange place. We had to assume the role of parent and try to console Dad- the man who had helped raise us. It was uncomfortable and strange.
It was at that moment, while I was anticipating another of sad account from Dad, that he took the conversation in a new direction. He said he found out years after Mom’s death that several neighbors had shared amongst themselves that they didn’t think he would survive long without Mom. They were certain he would die of a broken heart or end his life. Their fears weren’t totally unfounded. I saw Dad, first hand, express how he couldn’t handle the pain and that he just wanted it to end. He didn’t want to live without Mom. Everything in the home reminded him of her; and remembering brought him back to the harsh reality of her permanent absence. When those waves of pain came over him it was as though an invisible knife was piercing his heart. There were rifles and shotguns in the house- just as you will find in most farm houses. When Dad started to speak that way the guns were removed. While none of us thought Dad was intending suicide, he was in so much pain that we took no chances.
As I listened and watched, Dad continued. His eyes were a little tearier but there was the hint of a smile- this was something new. He had something inside and it was important to him that I hear it. Yes, he recounted, in those first few years after Mom passed, he could not envision life ever being joyful again. He could not imagine ever wanting to live again, let alone being happy without Mom in his life. But the loss of Mom wasn’t all that weighed him down.
Dad suffered severe ankle injuries and has lost most of his mobility beginning a few years before Mom died. And it has gotten much worse over time. Dad eventually could not get outside and do the work around the farm he enjoyed, or simply get outside and enjoy the outdoors. He remains confined largely inside the house- a seeming prisoner in his own home. With all his serious ailments, a widower for nine years and unable to do the things that brought him joy and a sense of accomplishment, I have worried that he might be suffering most of the time in deep depression. But Dad continued sharing and I was amazed what was coming from those teary eyes and soft smile.
He said he was happy, even though he never dreamed he would be again. He has all he needs and he is pleased with how his children and their families have turned out. Each day he derives simple pleasure from small things. He can still do laundry, with some help, and he likes to keep the house clean. In nice weather he’ll manage his way onto an old lawn mower and take a short drive from the house to look over part of the farm. He likes to cook, again with a little help. He enjoys the challenge of tweaking his favorite recipes in search of something even tastier. On top of the chronic ankle pain, the inability to walk or stand but for a moment, Dad also has celiac disease and has to watch very carefully what he eats. He’s landed in the doctor’s office several times after eating something with just a minute amount of gluten.
There was no magic to Dad’s turn around; no get well quick recipe. He started with grief counseling and developing friendships. It helped that, for a while, he was able to be physically active, though he’s lost most of that. Good healthcare has definitely been important in helping him control depression, high blood pressure, and severe chronic pain. And receiving frequent visits from family and a retired nurse give him human contact and time for conversation. All these things have contributed to a positive turn in Dad’s outlook.
I was feeling a sense of relief as Dad brought the moment to a close. He said, “You know, back then (when Mom died) I couldn’t imagine being happy again or looking forward to each new day, but if I had given up when your mother passed away I would have missed out on so much. I guess God had a lot more for me to work out.” Then his smile grew very wide and I could see a new thought entering his mind as he added, “I guess He still does!” Then Dad broke out into a laugh and his teary eyes twinkled. I’m sure mine did as well.
Written by Mark McCurdy
Physician-Assisted Suicide legislation was introduced last session in the state of Iowa. We were fortunate that it never passed out of sub-committee. They have, however, vowed to bring this up again next session and also push the issue via the court system. In the story above, had physician-assisted suicide been legal in Iowa, Mr. McCurdy’s father might have considered this option given his depression and own physical suffering. Wanting to die because of depression is treatable. Millions of people are living proof of that fact.
Suicide bills are never the answer for anyone and add to the culture of death in our society. It is a recipe for disaster with no safeguards that will ever work. IFL is committed to educate on end of life issues and combatting the idea that suicide is health care- it is not. We must fight to protect the vulnerable people who are older, disabled or terminally ill from this threat.
Iowans for LIFE
By: Claire Chretien
LOS ANGELES, June 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop José Gomez tore apart the “seamless garment” argument that intrinsic evils and social ills are morally equivalent in the Los Angeles archdiocesan newspaper June 3.
Advocates of the “seamless garment” approach to moral issues and social justice, promoted by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, often use it to suggest a moral equivalency between issues like abortion, poverty, and immigration.
“The hard truth is that not all injustices in the world are ‘equal,’” wrote Gomez. “We can understand this perhaps better about issues in the past than we can with issues in the present. For instance, we would never want to describe slavery as just one of several problems in 18th-century and 19th-century American life.”
“There are indeed ‘lesser’ evils,” Gomez continued. “But that means there are also ‘greater’ evils — evils that are more serious than others and even some evils that are so grave that Christians are called to address them as a primary duty.”
“Any approach that essentially tolerates abortion and euthanasia or puts these issues on a par with others, not only betrays the beautiful vision of the Church’s social teaching, but also weakens the credibility of the Church’s witness in our society.”
Abortion and euthanasia “stand alone” “among the evils and injustices in American life in 2016,” Gomez wrote, because each is a “direct, personal attack on innocent and vulnerable human life.”
Conflating abortion and euthanasia with social problems and broader justice issues “can lead to a kind of moral relativism that renders serious social issues as more or less equivalent,” Gomez warned.
In recent years, several U.S. bishops have sought to downplay the moral weight of issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage” compared to issues the Catholic Church teaches are social problems rather than intrinsically evil.
At the 2015 fall meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops, Bishop Robert McElroy said that the bishops’ election guide Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship did not accurately reflect the priorities of Pope Francis because of the document’s emphasis on abortion and euthanasia rather than poverty and the environment.
Archbishop Blase Cupich, who Pope Francis appointed as the Archbishop of Chicago, wrote in August 2015 that unemployment and hunger are just as appalling as the destruction of innocent children in the womb.
Gomez wrote that the Church must confront the “culture of death” mentality of which Pope Francis and previous popes have spoken.
Quoting Pope Francis, Gomez argued that the issues of abortion, assisted suicide, research on embryonic humans, government-mandated contraception, and the death penalty are the “great challenge for the Church’s social witness in our society.”
“Any approach that essentially tolerates abortion and euthanasia or puts these issues on a par with others, not only betrays the beautiful vision of the Church’s social teaching, but also weakens the credibility of the Church’s witness in our society,” Gomez wrote.
There is “no solid foundation to defend anyone’s rights” if the unborn, sick, and elderly have no right to live, Gomez continued.
“How can we claim to speak for the marginalized and disenfranchised, if we are allowing millions of innocent children to be killed each year in the womb?” asked Gomez. “If we cannot justify caring for the weakest and most innocent of God’s creatures, how can we call our society to resist the excesses of nationalism and militarism or confront global poverty or protect our common home in creation?”
By: Emily Derois (LifeSiteNews.com)
Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King is spreading the pro-life message to students across North America. Last week, the pro-life activist spoke to Canadian students at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School on human rights, including rights of the unborn child.
Alveda King was staying in Guelph, Ontario as a guest of Guelph Area Right to Life, according to Guelph Today. She spent an hour with the 200 high school students, describing her family legacy and her position on human rights.
“Civil rights. Human rights. It all goes together,” King said.
“Women absolutely have a right to choose what we do with our bodies, I’ll argue anybody down who says we don’t. But then the baby needs a lawyer. Where’s the baby’s lawyer?”
King described her personal experience with abortion, saying that she had two forced abortions.
“I did have some secret abortions myself, which I repented from when I was born again in 1983,” she said. “I drank the abortion Kool-Aid temporarily because I thought it was the answer.”
It was after this that she became involved in the pro-life movement. She is committed to protecting unborn and their mothers. She explained to the students: “We need to figure out how we can protect women, keep women healthy, have a good community, without killing anybody. And it can be done.”
One student asked King about the ethics of abortion in the extreme cases of rape and incest. She responded that abortion only contributes to the damage.
“Rape, abuse and incest are serious problems … But tests show that when a woman has been terribly abused, then you ask her to take more abuse on her own back because getting an abortion, regardless of the reason, can be connected to breast cancer, cervical cancer, strokes, heart attacks …”
“There should be a way to help every person in the world without pain or death, that’s all I’ll say,” King said.
Alveda King has long been a courageous activist for the pro-life movement. She said her famous uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., would have been pro-life.
“He once said, ‘The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety,’” she said previously. “I know in my heart that if Uncle Martin were alive today, he would join with me in the greatest civil rights struggle of this generation – the recognition of the unborn child’s basic right to life,”
Today, King is a proud mother of six and grandmother of six. As a Christian pro-life leader, she works with Priests for Life and Silent No More to stop abortion. Following in her uncle’s footsteps, she is fighting for the rights of the voiceless and inspiring students to do the same.
“Once upon a time…”, so go fairy tales. What I wish to share with you is not a fairy tale but I believe it has the best of all possible endings. So I hope you will indulge me for just a few minutes as I unfold the story of a life in poverty.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.
I knew a young girl who grew up in a large family of 13 in southern Iowa. Her parents were farmers and she was born during the Great Depression. Born into poverty, this little girl had one dress. Not one for church and one for school …just one dress. She did her farm chores and helped keep watch over her younger siblings while her parents worked in the fields. Like her brothers and sisters she went to a country school for a time. Her family moved often as they lost one farm, then another. Eventually the children were enrolled in public school at a nearby town. They found themselves thrown into a mix of children entirely different from the one they had grown accustomed to.
In the country schools they were more or less among equals. Their farm neighbors, like so many everywhere, struggled to reach subsistence. In town things weren’t easy either but there was a little more opportunity and the depth of poverty didn’t run quite so deep. As a consequence this little girl found herself one day the poorest of the poor; no longer the poorest among the poorest. A fine distinction maybe, but a significant one it turned out.
There was little consolation or relief from the harshness of her family’s poverty. School offered no solace because her classmates were unsympathetic toward her poverty and treated her harshly. By all measures these children were not well off, but their parents could afford a few school clothes and managed simple things that her family lacked; like regular baths. How hard is it to approach someone who hasn’t bathed in a while, let alone draw near them in friendship.
The change wasn’t all bad- in the beginning. At first the little girl was able to enjoy the company of two other girls- twin sisters. They belonged to the bottom rung also and the three girls developed the bonds of friendship and found some consolation in not occupying this lowly place alone. Old sayings are sometimes mocked but so often true at their core. Misery does love company. To be in misery alone is to be on Calvary without the Christ.
Unfortunately the safe harbor of their friendship did not last long. The mother of the twin sisters met and married a man who was financially secure. Virtually overnight the twin sisters found themselves well off and were attending school in new dresses and shoes. With this new-found wealth came a new-found poverty of spirit among the twin girls. Who knows what was in their hearts- only God. Whether they truly lost sight of the little girl’s personhood or they simply wanted to win the approval of their new peer group, they had no friendship or warmth left to
share with her. It was a double cruelty to lose their friendship; she found herself alone and isolated.
Eventually this little girl grew up into a young lady, never experiencing the love and kindness of friendship the rest of her school days. And the in-between years brought other sorrows and hardships. She was present when her baby sister died of tetanus. When her alcoholic father left her mother and their 10 living children, her greatest consolation was that the physical and mental abuses would leave with him. But greater financial hardships followed in the wake of his departure.
By the time this little girl was in eighth grade her heart had born as much pain as it could and she dropped out of school and entered the adult world as a laborer. It was hard work but she was finally free of a culture that was blind to her inviolable worth and dignity. The work world may have been sterile, but at least she was being judged objectively on the merit of her work and not on meager state of her person. Perhaps she never lingered in pain and anger because she was so self-aware that dignity isn’t something we give to, or take away from, another. We are our own merchant of dignity and hers was never for sale.
CCC 2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. the goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”: When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.
This little girl never asked to be born into poverty. No one ever does. If her impoverished family had come into being in the 1970’s her parents would have been ridiculed for being selfish and burdensome on society. Most likely she and eight of her siblings would never had been born. Some people today sincerely believe it’s better that way. But not this little girl. The only fruit of the poverty and hardship she bore was a greater appreciation for life and the lives of everyone around her. She expressed that appreciation to God in prayer and in the way she lived each moment. In her later years, her husband would ask her why she prayed so fervently every night for her family and friends who were struggling. Her husband would say to her, “Why do you pray for this person or that one? God’s not going to answer your prayers.” Undeterred and without malice she would simply reply in faith, “He might!”; a gentle work-warn finger pointing upward to both emphasize her point and to acknowledge the Father.
That little girl of poverty is my mother. Her name is June. She passed away on March 9, 2007. During her life she poured herself out like a libation for her family. She never turned away a soul who crossed her doorway. She didn’t expect charity when times were lean for our family, but she never turned away a kindness when it was offered in sincerity. Mom donated to schools and children’s hospitals. She donated clothing and food, time and resources to help others who were poor in money and who were spiritually poor. By our standards she lived an austere life but she found nothing lacking in her life except maybe a little more time. I know my mom never read the paragraphs above from the Catechism but she lived them. She never gave from a
position that she was doing anyone a favor. She gave because she had and they did not. She gave because she recognized their humanity and longed that they should experience someone affirming their dignity and self-worth. Something that was denied to her in her childhood. She gave because she loved. St. John Chrysostom’s words may be very challenging, but in living up to that ideal we more closely conform our lives to God. That is the witness my mom gave to me.
Emmett Till. Do you know his name? Do you know this person? Have you seen his face? Perhaps… perhaps not. Until a few short years ago neither had I. But we should. Emmett Till is credited with being the pivotal person in motivating the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
What did Emmett Till do to receive such notice? In 1955 a 14 year old Emmett Till left Chicago for relatives in Mississippi. He took a break, along with several other kids, from picking cotton to have some refreshments and cool off at a grocery store owned and operated by a white couple. The reports from the kids outside were that he whistled at the wife. Several days later Emmett Till was forcibly removed from his family’s home. He was brutally beaten. One of his eyes was gouged out. He was shot through the head. A 70 pound cotton gin fan was tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body, was dumped into the Tallahatchie River…to be hidden away from family and the world as though Emmett Till was never a person and with the intent that he should be forgotten.
But somebody didn’t forget Emmett Till. Three days later Emmett Till’s decomposing body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River. His body was delivered to his mother in Chicago. Mamie Till was a single mother- a widow.
On September 2, 1955, Mamie was photographed collapsing at the train station where she received the partially decomposed and disfigured body of her son. On September 3 Emmett Till’s body was taken to Chicago’s Roberts Temple Church of God for viewing and funeral services. In spite of the horrible condition of Emmett Till’s body, Mamie Till insisted on having an open casket funeral so that everyone can witness the brutality and evil inflicted on her son. This is all that Emmett Till had to do to raise the awareness of a nation: to wake from a false peace the conscience of millions of indifferent people.
At last count the pro-abortion movement has created over 56,000,000 Emmett Tills. Bodies ripped out of their mothers. Brutally punctured and cut into disfiguring pieces. Dumped into garbage bins and incinerators that they may remain nameless and faceless to the world. Non-persons who should be forever forgotten.
There were certainly more Emmett Tills in the world before 1955, so a great deal of evil persisted before the murder of this one person. How many more Emmitt Tills will it take to end abortion? Would more open casket funerals revealing the broken bodies of babies from the womb bring us to that end sooner?
A Missouri mother made the ultimate sacrifice when she decided to deliver her baby girl in the face of a serious cancer diagnosis.
Cara Combs found out she had Stage 4 Melanoma when she was 23 weeks pregnant with her fourth child in November, FOX reports. Doctors advised her to have her baby immediately, but Combs chose to wait, giving her child a better chance at survival, thus postponing her cancer treatment.
Combs delayed her treatment in order to get her baby to 28 weeks,” Combs’s husband, Roy, wrote on a GoFundMe page for the family.
Nurses in a big city hospital never know what a day’s shift will bring – straightforward cases or medical miracles, major crises or minor first aid. Whatever her station, whatever the duty of the moment, a nurse tries to ready herself for anything. But some things, you just can’t see coming.
It was Beryl Otieno Ngoje’s turn to work the desk in the Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in Newark. She was busy with the usual administrative duties – filing charts, handing out forms to the patients, answering visitors’ questions – when another nurse hurried up beside her.
“Oh, something just happened, you won’t believe it,” the woman said, visibly excited. “I have it in my hand.” She held up a clenched fist, palm up. “I have it in my hand,” she said again.
“What do you have in your hand?” Beryl asked, bemused at the woman’s demeanor.
“Do you want to see?”
“Yes,” Beryl said – and instantly regretted it. Continue Reading
The Catholic bishops of the United States are pleased to offer once again to the Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, our teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics. This statement represents our guidance for Catholics in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy. We urge our pastors, lay and religious faithful, and all people of good will to use this statement to help form their consciences; to teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue; and to shape political choices in the coming election in light of Catholic teaching. Continue Reading