Lisa Hall is one of those women who do the pro-life work in America. A wife and mother of two young daughters, she also works with women and children and men and families in upstate New York, to help them appreciate the dignity of each human life in the most practical of ways — to see their options, and to offer them a fuller life of love and joy than a culture poisoned by four decades of legal abortion typically offers. She is director of the Office of Respect Life Ministry in the Catholic diocese of Syracuse, and she talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and where life goes from here.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What do you think most about when you think of 40 years of legal abortion?
LISA HALL: I think most of the terrible rupture that now exists between mother and child. Abortion pits the interest of the mother against the very life of her child. Abortion changes the nature of motherhood. Rather than sacrificing all for the good of the child, abortion says to sacrifice the child for the “good” of the mother.
LOPEZ: If abortion were illegal, there would still be abortions, we always hear. Isn’t it better that they be “safe, legal, and rare”?
HALL: If only that were the case. While abortion is legal, there are many cases where it’s not safe — and it of course ends the life of one of those involved — and abortion today is the exact opposite of rare. Ninety percent of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted. That’s certainly nowhere near rare for an entire population. Across New York State, 33 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. Go downstate to New York City and the rate jumps ten points. This means that nearly as many women choose to abort their children as choose to birth their children. That’s hardly rare.
LOPEZ: You’re Catholic, don’t you contribute to the abortion problem by opposing contraception?
HALL: My Catholic faith teaches that children are a blessing, not a punishment or burden. It also teaches that sexuality is a tremendous gift to be enjoyed in the lifelong commitment of marriage between one man and one woman. Lifelong, faithful, committed love that produces the beautiful gift of family and children. Sounds like a compelling, desirable worldview to me. It’s a proposal you don’t have to be Catholic to consider.
LOPEZ: How can our politics be more compelling, loving, realistic about abortion?
HALL: We need to realize the scope of abortion in our country. Fifty-five million lives lost means there are millions of women, men, grandparents, siblings, et cetera who live with the impact of their abortion decisions. These people deserve to be allowed to grieve and to recognize their lost children. We also need to provide better help and support to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
LOPEZ: You’re involved with Project Rachel, a post-abortion ministry. Isn’t that — and efforts like that — a bit patronizing? Not all women regret their abortions. Why do you insist that they do?
HALL: I can only say that as a woman who is a wife, mother, sister, friend, and worker with Project Rachel, I am amazed at how many people have been touched by abortion. They’ve either had an abortion themselves, encouraged someone to have one, or are haunted that someone they love has had one. It goes against our nature as women not to grieve that loss. We know something’s not right, even if we bury it deep inside. Women are created to nurture and sustain life. Abortion destroys life. That destruction requires healing. I’m so grateful that Project Rachel recognizes this and provides a safe, loving, non-judgmental place for people to begin healing when they’re ready.
LOPEZ: What have you seen to be the most productive way to convince young people there is a better way than high-school sex and a contraceptive college hook-up culture?
HALL: Young people need to know they’re part of something bigger than themselves and that they’ve been created with a purpose and a plan. It seems the real “War on Women” is us women against ourselves. When we are encouraged to buy into a denial of our creation as women with unique gifts that complement those of men. Contraception and abortion exist so that we can be more like men, and that’s a loss for the world. We need to embrace and celebrate our womanhood, not reject and sterilize it! Young people need to be taught what authentic love and healthy sexuality truly is rather than settle for some cheap counterfeit that reduces sexuality to pleasure only. They deserve the truth that will free them to live healthy lives filled with peace and happiness. The best vehicle I’ve seen to teach this is Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” There are introductions available for middle-schoolers, high-school and college students, and adults. It teaches the beauty of our humanity, the purpose of our creation, and the greatness to which we’re called.
LOPEZ: What do women need?
HALL: To know our value and not settle for less.
LOPEZ: What do men need to step up to the plate?
HALL: Older men of character to teach them to seek goodness and truth and that, on occasion, goodness and truth will need to be defended.
LOPEZ: Are there things each one of us can do to make the world a little more hospitable to life?
HALL: Most definitely! We can pray every day to recognize our dignity and to act accordingly. We can work for justice by lobbying against unjust laws, helping at a crisis-pregnancy center, not shying away from talking about abortion, feeding the hungry, assisting the elderly. At its core, the Christian experience is one of love: Love one another as I have loved you. If each one of us truly focused on that task, we’d make some progress.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.