By Mary DeTurris Poust
Editor’s note. Earlier this week we posted a story written by two pro-abortionists in Ireland about how to encourage “critical thinking” in young children about the upcoming abortion referendum. I immediately thought of this pro-life counter-perspective.
As deeply committed as I’ve been to the pro-life effort over the years–going on marches to Washington, standing up in college classes to argue my point, writing columns and feature stories and blog posts–I have to admit that the shock value of abortion can begin to fade when you fight the same fight year after year, decade upon decade. We know all too well the horrors of abortion, but after a while I have found myself getting numb to that harsh reality, tired of having to say the same thing over and over.
Enter my 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, who has not yet been jaded by the larger society’s blasé view of unborn babies and its acceptance of abortion on demand. Children, it seems, know intuitively that there is something terribly wrong with abortion, something incomprehensible. They have not yet been entangled in the relentless drumbeat of “my body, my choice.” They can still see clearly and with honesty.
Maybe it’s because children are so much closer to life inside the womb. Maybe it’s because they recognize the scary possibility that someone could have chosen to end their own life before it had begun. Maybe it’s because children are so pure and untainted by cynicism and selfishness and fear that they recoil at the suggestion that anyone anywhere at any time would willingly choose to kill their unborn child and see it as the “better” option, the lesser of two evils.
It’s not an easy thing, to sit down with your 10-year-old or 12-year-old or 16-year-old and talk about abortion. Even as a committed pro-lifer, discussing abortion feels like I am betraying them somehow, like my role in the adult human family ties me to this evil in our midst because I have been unable to stop it, because I have carried babies in my womb and should never ever become numb to the prospect of someone ending such a life. And my children stare at me incredulous, sure I can’t be right about this, about the numbers, about the methods, about the reasons.
Up until now they’ve assumed–probably because they spend so much time in Catholic circles where people are mostly pro-life–that their view, our view is “normal” or popular, and I’ve had to tell them quite bluntly, especially as they begin to spread their wings and voice opinions in public, that they face an uphill battle, that they will be made to feel they are ignorant or intolerant or hateful because they believe a life that begins at conception should be protected and nurtured from that point until natural death. It’s not easy to prepare your children for the awful words you know will be thrown at them if and when they decide to share their views as they get older. My 16-year-old son has already learned to be quiet in some instance at his public school rather than risk being branded a hater because he is pro-life.
What does that say about us, about our society, about this 40-year battle that shows no sign of letting up, especially in my own state of New York?
This is where we live, not just geographically, but spiritually, intellectually. We live in a collective mindset that refuses to listen to reason, refuses to listen to the science of ultrasound, refuses to listen to the heartbeat that proclaims the right to life with less fanfare but more power than any politician pounding out propaganda from a podium.
But we can also hope that the world may yet learn to listen to the wisdom of children, who know better than we adults that, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Editor’s note. Mary DeTurris Poust has written for Catholic and secular publications for over 30 years. This appeared on the blog of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is reposted with permission.