Culture

Building a Culture Hospitable to Life

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As Dorothy Day saw, we need to learn to value human life as highly as we do animal life.

‘A  deer gets trapped on a hillside and every effort is brought to bear to rescue him from his predicament. The newspapers carry daily features.”

“Three little pigs are crowded into a too-small cage, the case is brought to court, the judge’s findings in the case being that pigs should not be crowded the way subway riders are.”

The late Dorothy Day was writing (in House of Hospitality, recently reprinted by Our Sunday Visitor) about the contrast between how we treat animal life and human life sometimes. This certainly rang true last week as the news was dominated by the dual stories of the killing of Cecil the lion and the harvesting and selling of aborted children’s body parts.

Day went on to tell a few stories of families and individuals, and their struggles that most of the world seems indifferent to at best.

She knew about this herself all too well.

“God forgive us the sins of our youth! But as Zachariah sang out, ‘We have knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of our sins.’ I don’t think anyone recognizes the comfort of this text better than I do. I have not yet been attracted by the present tendency to bring everything out into the light of day by public and published confessions. Were we not taught by Holy Mother Church to respect the modesty of the confessional? Or is that a silly expression? But oh the joy of knowing that you can always go there and be forgiven seventy times seven times. (Even though you wonder, in your distrust of yourself, whether you really mean or have the strength to ‘amend your life.’) I hope your readers can read between the lines from the above and recognize what my positions on birth control and abortion are.”

She wrote this at 75 years old, in Commonweal. Despite a full life, one devoted to service; despite religious conversion and forgiveness; despite age, she still had a wound that needed tending from the abortion she had had in her youth.

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She revealed this, perhaps, in no small part because she knew she was not alone.

Alone is the great lie. And yet how many among us feel alone?

This, among other things, is the deception that keeps us from making any progress in the abortion debate, such as it is. I mention abortion because it is truly the human-rights issue of the day, because it is in the headlines, and because our current regime is unsustainable and we know it. We know it in new ways as we watch — or read or hear about — those undercover videos from a group exposing conversations with top abortion-industry executives. They are medical doctors who have strayed so far from the “do no harm” rule that once was the lifeblood of medicine.

RELATED: Ending Planned Parenthood’s Tyranny of Euphemisms

A few days ago, I asked some folks what they thought the world might look like if Planned Parenthood ceased receiving federal money. The most common answer was some variation of Arina O. Grossu’s (she’s the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.): “Defunding Planned Parenthood would free up over half a billion dollars a year that could go to a myriad of health-care service providers . . . that provide a broader range of health services than Planned Parenthood ever has.”

Planned Parenthood is not a beacon of women’s health and freedom. It is America’s biggest abortion provider. It errs on the side of death.

Over the years and even now, there are myths and misinformation about what services Planned Parenthood actually offers. Mammograms have been high on that list (Planned Parenthood doesn’t do them — it only refers). And as Chad Pecknold, a professor at the Catholic University of America, points out, “If Planned Parenthood lost your tax dollars, the agency would still give out contraceptives, perform pap smears, and check for HIV. These things are relatively cheap.” The real misunderstanding about Planned Parenthood involves its architecture. That’s where the poison is. Planned Parenthood is not a beacon of women’s health and freedom. It is America’s biggest abortion provider. It errs on the side of death. Women go there to solve what they perceive to be — what they have been told is — a problem. That problem is a human life that we are stewards of.

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And it is “we” who are responsible. This is a social problem every bit as much as it is an individual one. This is an important point. If you are a woman who has had an abortion and you regret it, know that you did not have that abortion alone. The law said it was okay. People, societal norms pressured you. A doctor made it look routine. We’ve been terrible stewards of human life in this way.

But this moment of sunlight — where even Hillary Clinton has had to admit that the revelations in the Planned Parenthood videos are disturbing — is a tremendous opportunity.

As Pecknold puts it: “What defunding Planned Parenthood would really mean is a reduction in the costliest side of the house — the abortion side.”

RELATED: Are We All in for the End of Innocence? Or Something Better?

“Consider a young woman,” he says, “let’s call her Maria, and let’s say she’s black since most ‘clinics’ are intentionally placed in minority neighborhoods, which is why half of all babies killed in Planned Parenthood centers are actually black babies. The young woman arrives scared and uncertain about what to do. The forms are filled out and she is given several options, including adoption referral. Last year, 327,000 babies were killed in Planned Parenthood clinics, while only 1,800 women took up the agency’s offer of adoption referral. What does that mean? It most likely means that Maria, and women like her, experience a certain ‘nudge’ in a Planned Parenthood clinic. No one ever tells Maria to get an abortion. But there is a ‘choice architecture’ in the Planned Parenthood culture that consistently inclines women to seek only one gruesome solution — a solution at which the agency truly excels.”

#related#Taking these intimate decisions out of the taxpayer-supported realm of Planned Parenthood would open the doors to encouraging (and building on) some real choices under different roofs.

Dorothy Day dedicated her life to hospitality. Welcoming people, hearing them out, providing for their needs. Light on the darkness of an architecture of death — however well intentioned many of those who work there are — means we can build a culture more hospitable to life, never leaving anyone alone.

We have the right instinct, being sensitive to our stewardship of animals. But human beings, especially when most innocent and vulnerable, are part of creation, too. And if we can’t see humanity always, we’ll be lost on all other fronts.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. She is co-author of the upcoming revised and updated edition of How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice. This column is based on one available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

 

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