by Gail Quinn
May 14, 2001
Sometimes the TV is on in the house as background noise, and sometimes I actually listen to it. The first time I heard a new NARAL ad (NARAL is the National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League) I thought: What empty nonsense.
The second time the ad came on I was watching. Pretty pictures filled the screen as a mother teaches her little girl to ride a bike, as the voice-over advises never to give up the right to make "choices," because that's what life is all about. This time I thought: Empty, but attractive and expensively done. As you watch and listen for even the few seconds the ad plays, you wonder if anyone really believes such vacuous rhetoric. Do people see an ad like this and think, oh yes, of course, abortion--excuse me, that word is never uttered--that choice [to take a child's life before it is born] is sacrosanct, and no woman could want to live without it? Perhaps those watching do not see that if the mother teaching her little girl learn to ride a bike had excerised "choice" there would be no little girl in the picture.
It must work for some, and NARAL has announced it will spend $40 million on such advertising in the coming year or so. I doubt, however, the ad will cause people to change their minds about abortion. In fact, it's not really intended to sway minds. It has a different and more pragmatic goal.
Abortion advocacy groups, of which NARAL is one of the larger ones, are trying in every way possible to ensure that anyone confirmed for a federal judgeship passes the "I support abortion" test. Not even a "pro-choice" person who believes Roe v. Wade was wrong as a matter of constitutional interpretation need apply. And, God forbid, that any pro-life person of faith who takes her religious beliefs seriously may be considered. Only those who vow--before hearing the particulars of any case--that they will vote to knock down all laws regulating or limiting abortions are deemed fit even for consideration. Judges are no longer to judge a case vis-a-vis the law and the constitution, but help to create social change based on the ideology of some. Dangerous stuff is being played with here.
The message softly reinforces abortion advocates' decades' old claim: The right to "choose" is as American, as wholesome as apple pie, motherhood and teaching your child to ride a bike on a sunny afternoon on a small town street lined with white picket fences. "Choice" makes us feel good about ourselves. It's "one of the founding principles," the ad claims. Only the tag line hints at the dark cloud looming on the horizon--"that right is being threatened."
And there's the agenda in a nutshell. The Bush Administration threatens to destroy all that is warm and happy in this slice of Americana by proposing judges who do not believe that Roe v. Wade is good law. The message is clear: No pro-life people need apply. No Catholics need apply--or, at least, no Catholics who take their faith seriously.
NARAL, of course, cannot sponsor ads that say "no Catholic need apply." That would be politically incorrect. But regardless of the words spoken, that's the message, loud and clear.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.