It’s hard to be a native New Yorker and be stunned by much of anything that you see on the streets. But the other day I was in for quite a surprise.
As it happens, I had just mentioned in a column a certain maternity-clothes store in Tribeca that happens to be across the street from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood also shares a wall with The Sheen Center, an up-and-coming Catholic staging ground for cultural renewal. I sometimes find myself there for events, and this was one such night. As I left the building, I was about to head over to Planned Parenthood to pray a Divine Mercy chaplet as I usually try to do when down there. But first I looked straight ahead at Hatch, the aforementioned store. They had a new window display: a full-body photograph of a very pregnant woman, with the word “Mama.”
In so many ways, it really is that simple. Mother and child. New life. Expectation. Abortion isn’t a political issue, it isn’t a women’s issue, it’s about our basic humanity, the most precious resource there is.
Here in New York, there has been a poison in the air in recent weeks. It’s not new that we’re a full-on abortion-on-demand kind of state. But the celebration of codifying it in new extreme ways, led by our governor, was a deep dive into an abyss of death. It was as if we took a dose of hemlock that wouldn’t quite kill us all off but would make so many lives so much more miserable. And it will take lives. Lives of the unborn. Lives of babies who survive abortions. This abortion regime sucks love out of the life of families. It kills dreams. Tender hearts become more inflamed with sadness, unhealed pain, anger.
What’s stood out these last few weeks is that politicians have been talking more openly about abortion. The brutal nature of a late-term abortion, and the possibility of a baby surviving it, necessitates the frankness, because lawmakers have been asked to make their positions clear. Our collective attention spans are such that we don’t necessarily retain the memory of jaw-dropping moments such as the one when the governor of Virginia, a medical doctor, said it was up to the mother and her doctor to decide whether to allow a just-delivered baby to live. Mamas fight for life. Fathers protects life. Doctors do no harm. Can we revisit these fundamentals?
I haven’t gone in to ask, but I assume the people who run Hatch on Bleecker Street aren’t trying to make a bold pro-life statement in their window. New York’s most radiant, the Sisters of Life — religious sisters dedicated to making life possible for pregnant women and mothers and families — haven’t taken over a storefront in Tribeca. But they couldn’t have a healthier message: Mama. That’s what she is. She has a baby. And that’s now the focus. That’s what we need to rally around.
A few years ago, I was a speaker at the Chicago March for Life and I had the chance to meet Gianna Jessen, who is one of those survivors of a saline abortion. She was born in a Planned Parenthood clinic — by accident. She has cerebral palsy because of a loss of oxygen to her brain. She’s got more than her fair share of challenges, but she is thanksgiving incarnate, overflowing with life. And her existence keeps the ongoing debate about abortion — especially in the latest stages, and infanticide after birth — from being a mere talking point.
The governor of New York and other progressives like to claim Pope Francis as their own on some issues, when convenient. But they miss that late last year Francis talked about how abortion is like hiring a hitman:
It is not right to “take out” a human being, no matter how little, to resolve a problem. That is like hiring a hitman to resolve a problem.
That’s not out of character for Pope Francis or for the church. The church at its truest and best is reaching out, with love, to everyone who is in need, who feels desperate or afraid.
One of the most beautiful things ever written on these issues was from John Paul II, when he wrote to women who have had abortions: He starts out acknowledging that “in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision.” And then he speaks to the heart:
The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly, what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance.
He encourages Confession, a sacrament of healing: “The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace. . . . To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.
With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.
New York is a state with a cloud of darkness covering it right now. But one “Mama” can do a lot to help us to that new way. There’s another way. Whatever you think of abortion, let’s think about what we can do to rally around every mother and child, before birth, after birth, and throughout their lives. With public policy. As good neighbors. As communities and a culture of welcome and loving support. This is about so much more than politics.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.