I like Anne Conlon, managing editor of the Human Life Review. I have known her for, gosh, more than 15 years now, having often been published in the journal, and was honored when the Human Life Foundation named me–along with my mentor in this work, Rita Marker–“Great Defenders of Life” for our efforts fighting euthanasia/assisted suicide.
I bring this up because Conlon is interviewed in today’s NRO by Kathryn Lopez to mark the publishing of a book of HLR essays about abortion, The Debate Since Roe. Lopez asked Conlon a very interesting question I have never seen raised before, and received what I think is a profound answer. From the interview:
LOPEZ: You contend that in the years since Roe, the “bitterness” has “intensified.” What accounts for that? Pain?
CONLON: That’s a hard question. And I’m not sure I have a good answer. But here’s a roundabout way of telling you what I think.
Conlon relates how she was once an “I oppose abortion” but “wouldn’t impose my views” kind of person, and then discusses the pain of learning that the doctor who saved her son’s life during a hard delivery also performed abortions. That not only hurts, but it is the pain of disagreement that can’t be expressed in order to save personal relationships, that–on both sides–leads to bitterness:
I saw her a few weeks ago…She’s no longer delivering babies, and I’m not sure she’s still doing abortions, though something she said about “the Pope who wants to put us out of business” made me think that she is. She said it with a smile, but it was a bitter remark — and one which evoked a bitter feeling in me. Like me, she doesn’t think I’m a bad person because I disagree with her about abortion, but my disagreement, I realized at that moment, causes her pain, just as hers causes me pain. There is no way to compromise on the matter of killing human beings. But today, in navigating a culture permeated by abortion, most of us have at least some people in our lives with whom, on this contentious subject, we have in essence agreed to disagree. But there is a cost for this uneasy agreement, and that cost is a massive suppression of pain — on both sides of the debate. So getting back to your question: I don’t think pain by itself causes people to become bitter. I think the suppression of it does.
Conlon is saying that abortion is such a hugely important moral issue to those who care deeply about it that it either destroys relationships when friends/loved ones disagree, or takes a costly personal toll in the effort required to maintain them. Not a pretty picture. But I think she is right.