Politics & Policy

How about a Little John Paul II for the Women in White?

Democratic women of the House of Representatives listen to President Trump deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, February 5, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
It’s more than a dream to hatch a more life-giving politics. It’s deadly without it.

On Bleecker Street in Manhattan, there is Planned Parenthood, and there is also a boutique for pregnant women. According to Vogue, the store, Hatch, “is arguably the first of its kind, in that it was designed specifically for pregnant shoppers: Changing rooms have a size chart to help you figure out how a garment will fit your belly a few months down the line; there’s a ‘cravings bar’ with candy, pickles, and ice cream; and Goldman set up a downstairs meeting space for workshops and lectures, including one on breastfeeding and another called Dudes to Dads, in which new fathers can learn how to swaddle or change a diaper.”

When I find myself in the neighborhood, I often wish somewhere in the middle of the road between the forceps and the ice cream there could be a perpetual meeting place, where any woman looking for a moment’s pause could find a respite. I think of a woman named Eleanor McCullen, who for years has stood outside Planned Parenthood in Boston with a sign offering help, hope, and love. Who doesn’t want those things, whatever you’re facing? Many a woman has been relieved by her presence, invited by her warm, grandmotherly smile to revisit her options, having been on her way in for an abortion. She stands out like a seat of wisdom, someone who will walk with you — and she does. So much so that she and her husband have children named after them, are godparents to children who are in the world because they stepped out to extend a hand to someone who needed to be pulled out of darkness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those women who get lost in our debates about abortion, and their children. The State of the Union address was a little bit of an occasion of sin for me because I couldn’t get past the women in white. They seemed to care most about the fact that they are in Congress. And yet, what difference does that make? Shouldn’t it be a window for a more tender politics? Instead, the Democratic party most noticeably and alarmingly appears to be doubling down on brutality. If an unborn child survives an abortion — is delivered alive — even then her life is not worthy of protection? The doctor governor of Virginia said as much the day before his medical-school yearbook hit the news for a blackface image. I was grateful for a moment for the connection it made between the two civil-rights movements. But, of course, that message seemed lost on most of those with the megaphones calling for his resignation. Are we resigned to such a poisonous way of life, one that is the very opposite of life-giving?

Weeks after a momentary obsession about a teenager with a Make America Great Again cap and what at first glance looked to some like a smirk, can we take a moment to pause at the smirk on the face of the senior senator from New York while the president of the United States called us out on this barbarism? It should make for an examination of conscience just after the Empire State proudly codified its Abortion Capital of the Country moniker, with a governor who flaunts his extremism, presumably expecting it to be a step to higher worldly power.

I understand that the women in white aren’t going to applaud much of anything this president does or says. But I keep thinking of a letter Pope John Paul II wrote to women, celebrating this great gift of the Creator — men and women both, in unique ways. There’s this, in his letter, to all of us:

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life — social, economic, cultural, artistic, and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery,” to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

There’s so much confusion and misery in the world today. What if women, uniting reason and feeling, were to lead a revolution of love? One that took issues that have been our most contentious and transformed them into a meeting ground where a better politics is conceived, one that considers how we can really help women and children and families with some common-ground initiatives? (You don’t have to think every abortion is evil to help ease the adoption option or help kids out of foster care.) I think of issues Donald Trump brought up in his address to Congress and in his National Prayer Breakfast speech, for starters: this late-term abortion and born-alive infants monstrosity, the foster-care crisis only made worse by ideological extremism pushing faith-based partners out of being vital resources for children and families and government agencies — loving in the way no bureaucracy can.

These women right now could contribute to our miserable politics, or they could become trailblazers of a better politics, and while reflecting some of the moral convictions, too, of the suffragettes they sought to honor. Take a pause and consider what could be more life-giving than the current status quo of the Democratic party — abortion expansion — what could hatch a healthier politics for women and children and families? There are a ton of issues. A baby step would be to quit refusing to stand for a helpless survivor of abortion. And then we might survive these poisonous political seasons and come out of them renewing our commitments to life and liberty.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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