Politics & Policy

We Failed to Value Life in Afghanistan, as at Home

A U.S. airman holds a baby during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 20, 2021. (Sergeant Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps/Handout via Reuters)
Abortion corrodes and destroys more than the individual lives it intimately touches — and ends.

The upcoming abortion case at the Supreme Court is about more than a Mississippi law and Roe v. Wade. It’s an opportunity for a nation to look in the mirror. We end the lives of unborn babies in United States. We sever the most precious relationship there is — between a mother and a child — and we call it health care. Long gone are the Bill Clinton days of “safe, legal, and rare” — even while vetoing a prohibition on partial-birth abortion, which the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan rightfully said was too close to infanticide. Now are the days of shouting your abortion.

It’s a miserable thing we do to girls and women — expect them to have abortions when everything isn’t planned and pretty. When we are soon to hit the half-century mark of legal abortion in America, is it any wonder that we would be callous to others? Many argue for abortion because of so many other imperfections and injustices. But we ought to ponder: Whatever our beliefs on abortion, could it be making us more inhumane?

On a recent Saturday, I was part of a Witness for Life group trying to walk to an abortion clinic in Brooklyn to pray outside it. We were blockaded by protesters. After some urging and ample warning, two arrests were made of those protesting our prayer. I won’t even begin to tell you some of the crass, blasphemous things that were said. They pale in comparison with the horror of men falling from a plane trying to escape the Taliban in Kabul. The situation in Afghanistan has so many layers of awful and evil. But the scenes from Kabul should make us humble. And reconsider the value of human life.

By now you’ve probably seen mothers passing their babies off, trying to get them out of Afghanistan. Imagine that. A mother who loves her baby so much that she hopes against hope that whatever is on the other side of the airport fence is better than the hell of life under the Taliban. We haven’t been serious people in the United States, even before thinking about what we’ve done and haven’t done in Afghanistan. Even while saying we value every human life, encouraging people to get vaccinated, our Centers for Disease Control, in official guidance, refers to pregnant “people.” Even as the mantra of the times is to “follow the science,” we live at a time when we have decided to pretend that someone other than a woman can get pregnant. Not by any natural means.

It’s denials of reality that gets us into trouble. Arguably, it was a denial of the reality of the mindset and traditions of Afghanistan that led us to assume that we could remake it. Perhaps if we hadn’t tried to do the same in Iraq simultaneously, Afghanistan would have been more of a success. That will be debated for as long as we exist. But what will we learn from this, as, please God, we are able to get people who helped us with the best intentions get out of there? The value of human life? That the health of a society is determined in no small part by how it treats its women and children? The life of a woman in the United States is such a gift in so many respects, compared with other places in the world, as any woman who has encountered the Taliban and other evil regimes will tell you. But, as abortion advocates here compare pro-lifers to the Taliban, it is in fact abortion that is the assault on women and children. That’s not a judgment so much as a plea that whatever we believe about abortion, we consider there might be a better way.

A law student weeps as she walks into an abortion clinic because she believes she will have no career if she has her baby. That’s a lie. And we make women believe that lie. Girls walk into abortion clinics in America every day believing they have no other choice — “I haven’t even finished high school.” The greatest gift in her life just might be that unborn child her mother is telling her she has to get rid of. These are some of the stories I’ve encountered while praying and sidewalk counseling at clinics in recent months in New York. We don’t see the images on the news, but there are distraught — and numb — women and girls daily at abortion clinics in America. It’s not health care. It’s an oppression. This is much bigger than a Supreme Court case this fall. This is a matter of conscience. As we are humbled by the images coming out of Afghanistan — whose upheaval we have played no small role in — let it be a moment for reflecting on the value of human life and how we can cherish it better.

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

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