I had every intention of writing a cheerful Brood today.
(I recognize and embrace the irony in that statement.)
In fact, I have a column in my drafts folder that is 75% completed, all about how even brooders can have fun! Yay!
I was just about to finish that column when the news broke that a draft of a SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade had been leaked to the press.
So, yeah, that’s why this column is posting late. I am forcing myself to write it, even though this is the third-rail topic I never, ever wanted to address, the last closet I ever wanted to come out of.
There is very little in my life that I have brooded about as much as I have brooded about abortion.
I began building an expertise in pro-life arguments and apologetics at around the third grade. My parents, particularly my mother, were and are active in our parish’s pro-life ministry. During the late eighties and early nineties, I cheerfully attended the March for Life, and other pro-life events in and around D.C. In school, I debated abortion with classmates and friends, and I didn’t let up until one of us was crying. I routinely compared abortion to slavery. I routinely compared it to genocide.
When I was a college student and Ron and I were first dating, I learned that he was fairly ambivalently pro-choice, whereupon I immediately broke up with him. Fortunately for me and our four kids, the courage of those particular convictions didn’t last more than a few hours.
As an adult in Michigan, I cantored a funeral Mass (with press in attendance) for the souls of those whose physical remains were found discarded outside a nearby abortion clinic.
A year after that, I cantored another funeral service, this time for the children of a dear friend. Her twin girls were lost, like so, so many of our children are lost to us, before they had a chance to be born. This was the first time I was faced with the permeability of the line between miscarriage/stillbirth and abortion. Bioethicists could pick apart the circumstances and medical conditions surrounding this mother and her children, I’m sure, but at the time, all I cared about was that these little ones were loved, and they were lost, and my friend wanted me to help her say goodbye.
As the years rolled on, I passed my pro-life views on to my older children. Although I softened on my hard-line position that you could not be pro-choice and also a generally good person person, anti-abortion credentials determined my votes in every election until 2016.
After the Great Disillusionment of 2016 and the subsequent Leftward Expansion of my mind, abortion rights was the last domino to fall, way, way after my positions shifted on just war, gun control, same-sex marriage, social justice, universal healthcare, and so on.
I held fast to my position on abortion, I think, for two key reasons.
First, I am genetically predisposed to abhor violence and destruction of all kinds. I was never a supporter of capital punishment, even as a kid. I held this view in contrast to the elders in my community, who believed it to be an unfortunate but necessary extension of the duty to protect. To me, you just don’t kill a person unless you are forced into a position where you have no other way of defending your own life or the lives of others. I saw the unborn as persons because I didn’t see anything else they could possibly be.
Second, and I think more importantly, I desperately, desperately want to believe that every human dilemma has an absolute and knowable moral answer, and that the correct answers will unfailingly lead to best-case outcomes, whether those outcomes are determined by natural law or divine intervention.
Of course I want to believe that. What an infinitely comforting thing to believe. And how easy it is to believe it, until the day you are faced with an unsolvable dilemma.
Like, for instance, a mother faced with the choice of her child dying now—without suffering, but by her own say-so—or later, naturally but painfully.
Like, for instance, a 12-year old pregnant by her abuser, whose mind and body may not be able to bear that child without breaking themselves.
Like, for instance, a candidate who claims to desire life for the unborn, but also expresses active contempt for so many others who would fall under his authority: the refugee, the poor, the sick and disabled.
Clever reader, don’t try to offer me the counter-arguments to morally smooth over these hypothetical-but-very-real situations, because I know them all. They ring in my ears even as a type.
Also, brothers and sisters in Christ, for mercy’s sake, don’t try to pacify me with promises that God Himself will step in and bring blessings from these situations, so long as those concerned “choose life.” Because we know it doesn’t always work that way, does it? Maybe in heaven, but certainly not on earth.
On earth, children suffer, and too little is done to alleviate their suffering, and yes, sometimes the same voices calling for the protection of the unborn are the ones stripping away protections for the already-born.
Maybe I have a speck in my eye when it comes to abortion, one that prevents me from seeing how overturning Roe will somehow lead to a “culture of life.” If you feel called to pray that obstruction be removed, I welcome it.
Regardless, I can’t help but notice the ones with planks in their eyes, keeping them from seeing the extent to which children in our nation suffer terribly from abuse, neglect, poverty, addiction, mental illness, and lack of adequate health care. Nor do they see the extent to which they are accountable for that suffering, even as they cast votes that all but ensure more and more children will be born into these circumstances..
I see that plank because I carried that plank. I carried it, and protected it, and kept my own vision blocked by it until it was ripped from me by force, and even now, I’ll be damned if I don’t still miss it.
If I can (and I must, mustn’t I?) accept that God can work in the brokenness of war, poverty, addiction, and violence, if I am bound to accept that even as we fight these evils, they will remain with us until the last days when all is sanctified, then I can also accept that God can work in a nation where abortion is a legal right.
Accepting all that, I can acknowledge the reality that too many parents are faced with impossible situations, and I can allow those parents to choose whatever looks most like life to them, because this world is complicated and hard and sometimes all we are presented with are terrible choices.
All the while, I can hope, hope, hope that there is a Power that can pour grace into this broken world, so that one day every child can live and be cherished, and none will be lost, no, not one.
Until that day, the only grace I can be sure of is the grace that is mine to give.
So today, if you are rejoicing, I offer you grace.
If you are despairing, I offer you grace.
And I will try to hold on to a little bit of grace, for myself.
Theresa Weiler is a writer/singer/speaker/seeker. You can follow her broodings at sickpilgrimblog.com or on twitter @SometimesReese.