Mrs. Pelosi’s Erroneous Ongoing Catechesis

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Overnight I received an e-mail from MSNBC publicity about an interview Andrea Mitchell has done with former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, airing later today. They talk about the Texas bill that will be signed into law today, which puts protections in place for unborn children at 20 weeks and older. Pelosi, not for the first time, tries to shut down any opposition to her abortion-rights “sacred ground” position by pulling a “mother” and “Catholic” card, somewhat incoherently.

The Democratic leader starts out by seeming to blame her Catholicism for her five children, but then again, it’s just not clear what’s she saying other than apparently you can’t have an opinion on abortion unless you’ve had five children, “almost to the day, in six years.” Abortion — and contraception (it all gets jumbled and run together in Pelosi’s answer) — she contends, as many do, is a matter of “women’s health” because the “reproductive part of us is part of our health.” Fair enough. And the 20-week-old a woman is carrying is also a second patient whose health someone ought to be caring about. Only if the mother chooses to, is the position Pelosi stands by, as she tries to scare people into thinking Rick Perry is coming for women’s birth control.

I happen to believe the Catholic Church has a beautiful and sensible teaching on contraception, which respects human dignity and fosters actual love, not pop-song or hook-up “love.” I happen to think that understanding — and respecting — those teachings would do a lot of people a world of good, and help with a lot of our problems of our day — involving men, women, and even violence. But that’s a much longer conversation (this is a good start, if you’re interested). Right now, in the wake of the Gosnell trial in Philadelphia and this pink-sneakered spectacle in Texas, as public officials, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ought to get serious and quit it with the “war on women” meme that pretends any restriction on any abortion or any plea for conscience rights is a rollback of women’s rights or “sacred ground” no male politician, especially, can tread on, or male reporter can dare ask about

(Incidentally, I happen to know young women with more than five children who are quite happy with each one of them, and believe that every child conceived deserves to be welcomed, and we have a responsibility to help women and men be parents, or find parents for children conceived.)

Here’s the full Pelosi answer:

Now I really think, and I’m Catholic, I go to church regularly, I had five children in six years, I don’t want anybody who’s had five children, almost to the day, in six years to talk to me about that. This is women’s health, reproductive part of us is part of our health, and-and, especially young women. How can they say that we’re not going to be doing contraception or we’re not going to be doing family planning. And so people focus on the most extreme cases in terms of terminating a pregnancy.

But what is at risk is the discretion of a woman to make judgments about the size and time, timing of her family. It’s respect for the judgment of women about what is good for them, for their families, their health, which is important to their families. So I think that we have to . . . the reality is that people in our country do practice birth control and use contraception. I don’t know if my colleagues need a lesson on the birds and the bees. I really don’t get it.

I really don’t get it. Perhaps Pelosi can explain it better in a second edition of her advice to America’s daughters (the first edition I reviewed back in the day). This catechesis on the Gospels According to Pelosi are tiresome as they are untrue and distracting.

Her mother-card position is both patronizing and poverty-stricken. It’s actually an incredible gift — motherhood, grandmotherhood, a full flourishing family life she appears to have. What’s so tragic is that the first woman speaker of the House is part of the deniers when it comes to what’s so great about women. The Catholic Church is a great herald of just that, as a successor of Peter reminded me this past fall (a message I’ve written about before here and here and here).

Her Catholic-card position is simply untrue. That she attends Mass on Sundays does not give her the authority to make Catholicism up from interview to interview.

Over the weekend I was reading an old interview with Bill Richardson about his position on abortion, presenting his legal-abortion advocacy as a simple gentleman’s disagreement, where Church leaders disagree with him, not vice versa. That’s a misunderstanding of so much about the Church, faith, and conscience. But we can put that aside here, too. Let’s start, if we’re talking about the Texas law, by simply pressing elected leaders on the question of late-term abortions. I know that the abortion industry is terrified that some protections for unborn children will change mainstream, conventional language and debates about abortion in America. Yes, I hope that happens. I hope doctors can be free to always see two patients. But when asked a question on Texas, reporters need to press politicians: Are you really so wedded to a culture of Roe that you will not allow 20-week-olds protection, that you will turn away from the cries of an unborn child who is capable of feeling pain and pretend we’re talking about baby spacing in a family? Perhaps it is because she is a mother and a self-described “ardent, practicing Catholic” that I most especially don’t understand Nancy Pelosi’s position. She could be a trailblazer for some common sense and human-rights protections for unborn children, who we can clearly see are babies, not an academic debate, not rhetoric about choice. 

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