by Cathleen A. Cleaver, Esq.
January 3, 2003
Thirty years ago, all laws against abortion throughout the country collapsed when the Supreme Court changed the Constitution without our consent. Abortion was declared the supreme law of the land, and what followed was a social experiment using the lives of women and children as its primary subjects.
For thirty years the abortion experiment has been dominated by a public debate that embraces an utterly false dichotomy: women versus children. Pro-lifers are seen as those who fight for unborn children, pro-choicers as those who fight for women. Women and children are of course natural allies, not enemies, and pro-lifers fight for women every day, but the terms of the debate have been set, and they have held.
The fight for children has made some gains. Thanks to the sustained efforts of the pro-life movement -- and some marvelous developments in science and technology -- fewer people now question the humanity of the unborn child. People generally accept the fact that abortion is bad for unborn children.
Still, abortion is accepted in our culture. Why?
Because the other side of the abortion debate has offered up the false assumption that abortion is good for women, and the culture has swallowed it. It is time to challenge this assumption head-on.
Only a tiny fraction of abortions today are for health reasons or rape, the pro-choice movement's favorite justifications for abortion. The reality is that women turn to abortion because they feel alone and helpless, or abandoned, or pressured by boyfriends or family members. Abortion is not the act of empowerment it was promised to be. Women choose abortion as a last resort, not a free choice. Even the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research affiliate, reports that the primary reasons women have abortions are a lack of financial resources and emotional support.
The website www.afterabortion.com -- very clearly not a pro-life site -- is a forum for women who are suffering from the effects of their abortions. On this site women share their pain, their remorse, their anger, and their profound loneliness. It is utterly heartbreaking, and should be required reading for anyone considering supporting Planned Parenthood.
Women deserve better than this. This month marks the first major public education effort of the Women Deserve Better campaign, a campaign supported by a number of pro-woman and pro-life groups to refocus the nation on the reasons why women feel pressured into abortion and to promote women-centered solutions to these problems. (For more information on the campaign, visit www.womendeservebetter.com; click "join" to download advertisements.) Advertisements will appear in Washington, D.C. subway trains, buses, and commuter trains, in newspapers and periodicals. Their message: "Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women. Women deserve better than abortion."
No teenage girl should have to drop out of school because she became pregnant. No young woman should have to face the prospect of a life of poverty. No one should feel abandoned by her family and friends. And no person should ever have to suffer the pain and anguish of abortion. Pope John Paul II has said that we are called to "a radical solidarity with the woman in need." Each and every woman deserves better than abortion -- the problems she faces are ours to help solve.
Cathleen A. Cleaver, Esq. is Director of Planning and Information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.