Yesterday, New York’s Catholic archbishop Timothy Dolan joined other religious leaders in a press conference to highlight New York’s shamefully high abortion rates. During the conference he renewed an offer to all pregnant women: The Catholic Church, with all our resources, will help you.
For the first time in my happy twenty-one months as a New Yorker, I am embarrassed to be a member of a cherished community I now — usually with a lot of pride — call home.
That 41% of New York babies are aborted — a percentage even higher in the Bronx, and among our African-American babies in the womb — is downright chilling.
This New York community is rightly celebrated for its warm welcome to immigrants, for its hospitality, sense of embrace and inclusion, and gritty sensitivity for those in need.
But we are tragically letting down the tiniest, most fragile and vulnerable: the little baby in the womb.
We have to do more than shiver over these chilling statistics!
I invite all to come together to make abortion rare, a goal even those who work to expand the abortion license tell us they share.
A quarter century ago, Cardinal John O’Connor publicly stated: “Any woman who is pregnant and in need can come to the Church and we will help you,” a pledge Cardinal Egan, and now I, reaffirm. Through our Catholic charities, our adoption services, our lobbying on behalf of pregnant women and mothers of infants, our support for life-giving alternatives to the decision all call tragic — abortion, — in our education of youth for healthy, responsible, virtuous sexual behavior, our health care, — we have done our best to keep that promise, … and these haunting statistics only prod us to keep at it.
Mother Teresa remarked that the worst poverty was to take the life of a baby so we could live, as we want. New York does not deserve the gravestone, “Abortion capital of the world.” Our boast is the Statue of Liberty, not the “Grim Reaper.”
His statement was received with disgust in some quarters. NARAL, in response, blasted not the abortion rate but “these men” who “gathered to cast judgment on New York City’s abortion rate.” (Never mind that two of three organizers who talked to me in advance about the press conference were women.) We already know that the abortion industry wants us to pretend abortion is all fine and good for women, that it’s even a “responsible” “parenting decision”– as was presented on MTV right after Christmas.
But make no mistake — this isn’t just about hostility to men, or even hostility to the Catholic Church. The abortion industry is nervous — as pro-life women take to politics; as the House majority pledges to cut off federal funding of abortion, for real; as Mike Pence reintroduces in the House an effort to cut off federal funding to the profit-making Planned Parenthood. That’s why they attack Godsends like the Sisters of Life, one of the beacons of liberty and charity in New York’s archdiocese.
We need to do what we can to empower women and couples to avoid unplanned pregnancies. We have been teaching our children for two generations that condoms and hormonal contraceptives will protect them from unwanted pregnancies. But two generations later, here in NYC well over half of pregnancies are unplanned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 54% of women who obtain an abortion were using some form of contraceptive during the month in which they conceived.1 It is time to rethink the condoms-and-pills approach to avoiding unplanned pregnancies. Maybe it is time to reassert the simple fact that the last few generations seem to have tried to deny: sex makes babies. The fact is, sex is an extremely powerful natural force, not easily hemmed in. Contraceptive methods will always fail some percentage of the time. The unplanned, unwanted pregnancies which result keep our abortion rates so high.
Some say it is unrealistic to expect young people to abstain from sex when they are not prepared to take responsibility for the potential consequences. Challenging it certainly is. But if we think we can’t expect young people to refrain from sex, why do we think we can expect them to use a contraceptive method consistently and effectively? We can choose the challenging path, or we can resign ourselves to high rates of abortion, STI’s and family breakdown.
Finally, we need to strengthen family and community support systems which can help young parents and families make their way through life’s challenges. We need to strengthen church and community based marriage education, preparation and enrichment. We need to provide women and families with knowledge-based methods of achieving and avoiding pregnancy.
If all of us, individuals, families, faith communities and community organizations, take a look around our neighborhoods to see what we can do to address New York City’s high abortion rate, little by little we can bring the numbers down.
This news, by the way, comes in the wake of a renewed attack on crisis pregnancy centers by New York’s City Council. Committed alternatives to abortion are a threat to the aging values of the sexual revolution, values that even hometown New York magazine has featured as a depressingly failed experiment.