by Deirdre A. McQuade
May 18, 2007
When Notre Dame undergrads go to the campus bookstore for course supplies and sweatshirts, they pass a striking bronze sculpture by Holy Cross priest, Rev. Anthony J. Lauck. It depicts the Visitation – the Blessed Virgin Mary greeting her cousin Elizabeth. Both pregnant, the two have to lean in toward each other, as their growing bellies don't allow for an upright embrace.
I was quite taken with this piece while working as a crisis pregnancy counselor and showed a photo of it to my dad, who loves to apply scripture to daily life. He remarked: "That's what you do at the center ... you greet the unwed pregnant woman with love when others might judge or reject her." His words inspired me to reflect on the passage from Luke's gospel (1:39-56).
Elizabeth first trusted the angel's words and miraculously conceived John the Baptist beyond her natural childbearing years. Then when Mary wondered how she would conceive the Christ child, asking "How can this be?" Gabriel explained that he would be the Son of God, and reassured her of God's powerful generosity: "Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age .... for nothing will be impossible for God." Upon hearing this, Mary assented joyfully to God's will, a pivotal moment in salvation history.
When Mary came to visit, Elizabeth could hardly contain herself. The infant John "leapt for joy" in her womb and she cried out in the Holy Spirit: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." The joy and solidarity of their encounter is captured in Fr. Lauck's work, as well as in the opening words of the "Hail Mary."
While it is not unusual for pregnant women to be alternately excited and worried about the future, some can become overwhelmed in the absence of a strong marriage or supportive community. Others lack sufficient financial resources or may see pregnancy as an intrusion into their well-established life plans. Far from being embraced with joy, they may feel like they don't have much of a choice.
Abortion promoters insist that access to abortion is necessary for such situations. But this is false solidarity. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we can respond differently, more creatively. There is no such thing as a "need" for abortion. It is never necessary for anyone to do evil, and it is always possible to choose the good.
Pregnancy help centers across the country help women choose the good at a pivotal moment in their family history. They greet pregnant women with compassion, offer a safe place for them to reflect on their life situation, and address their actual needs. They help women see children as a gift regardless of any difficulties that may lie ahead. Once women are empowered with real alternatives – including adoption as a loving, generous option – they can resist the temptation to abort. Combined with policy and education initiatives and much prayer, such outreach will help bring an end to abortion, for nothing is impossible with God.
To find your local pregnancy help center, call 1-888-4-OPTIONS (888-467-8466).
Deirdre A. McQuade is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.