Andrew Cuomo the other day reminded me how much I miss people-watching. Early on in this quarantine season, you would see people describing the introvert’s paradise being ushered in. First of all, don’t make assumptions. Your favorite introvert may very well benefit from a check-in. And this introvert unexpectedly misses crowds — literally one of the last things I would have ever thought I had a fondness for.
But think for a moment — maybe this is your experience, too — what a day in New York City looks like. A midday walk from Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to National Review’s offices only a few blocks away, off Fifth Avenue, brings constant encounters with all kinds of humanity. There are people carrying bags from stores that many of us wouldn’t even bother walking into, knowing there’s nothing we could afford. There are people rushing. There are counterterrorism police patrolling (including in the church). There are tourists stopping in the middle of the street to take selfies. There is Tabby, about mid-walk, who always claims that squashed gluten-free fig bars are her favorite, when that’s all I have to offer from my purse. There are men delivering catering for breakfast (lots of coffee) or lunch. Whenever you make eye contact, it’s hard not to realize that this is a person with a biography, with concerns and dreams and sacrifices and joy and pain. Sometimes you can tell the pain is outweighing the joy. With others, the joy might be contagious, even just passing by. Of course, most people are somewhere else, under headphones or behind screens. Pope Francis has talked about the epidemic of anesthetization. We find something to numb us because we don’t know how to handle the drama of life otherwise. This is why one of the chief mistakes of this time is not considering religion essential. I’m not saying we should have St. Pat’s at full capacity, but let’s make a statement about who we are — people whose lives are gifts, creations of a Creator.
Maybe inadvertently, the governor of New York stumbled on all of this during a recent press conference about the slow reopening of things. He asked rhetorically, “How much is a human life worth?” He continued, saying: “That is the real discussion that no one is admitting, openly or freely. That we should. To me, I say the cost of a human life — a human life is priceless. Period.”
Although we have stopped so much of our regular activity to protect vulnerable human life, what about the inconsistences? We are learning about some grave mistakes involving nursing homes. And what about the abortion clinics that remain open? What about the fact that Andrew Cuomo only last year expanded legal abortion in New York, lighting the Freedom Tower and the bridge he named after his own father in celebration? Just last spring, he talked about his support for legalizing assisted suicide in the state. And even during these coronavirus times, New York State became a surrogacy state. While we all wish well to Anderson Cooper, a new father by surrogacy, a coalition of pro-lifers and liberal feminists opposed this move in the Empire State, pointing to the exploitation of women that legalized surrogacy can make mainstream.
The Sisters of Life have their home base in New York, and their existence is about giving people confidence that their lives are priceless, that every human life is priceless. Sometimes if we don’t believe it about ourselves, it’s going to be hard to protect it and defend it when times get especially difficult, never mind to walk with people. The way the Sisters of Life put it is that you were chosen for life by a Creator who loves you and created you in His image and likeness. You or I can’t convey the pricelessness of life to everyone in the world, but we can in our encounters. And we can insist on an end to the inconsistencies. It’s good that people conventionally want pro-lifers to be consistent, but how about “pro-choicers,” too? How about an end to the euphemisms, for a start?
During these quarantine times, the Sisters of Life continue to be approached by women, including from inside abortion clinics, who feel that they don’t have a choice, that the pressure in their life is too great to go through with their pregnancies. This is not health care or freedom they are experiencing, it is a miserable culture of death, at the very same time we are talking about life. Let’s start connecting some dots here, openly and freely. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for getting the discussion going. New York has been dubbed the abortion capital of the world. Let’s make a change for life. Let’s give your words meaning and transformative power.