As part of its “Salt and Light” speaker series, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes today (the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade) featured parishioner Victoria Johnson, who spoke about abortion.
Victoria shared from her own experience of having had an abortion at age 16, speaking of both her pain, and her ultimate healing. She also spoke about both the legal and cultural landscape both at the time of her own abortion and now, and about the Catholic Church’s teaching about abortion. A difficult topic to speak on, and Victoria’s spoke with authenticity and grace.
The subject of abortion is a contentious one in our society, with strong disagreement both about the morality of abortion and about the role of law in addressing the issue. From a Catholic perspective, there is no debate on the first of those: abortion is inconsistent with the Church’s teachings on human dignity. As Pope Francis observed:
It is necessary to reaffirm our solid opposition to any direct offense against life, especially when innocent and defenseless, and the unborn child in its mother’s womb is the quintessence of innocence. Let us remember the words of Vatican Council II: “Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”
The question of the role of law is, in my view, one that is open to debate; I view that as a prudential matter. (Victoria expressed the view in her talk that abortion should be illegal because she feels unjust laws should be changed since they mirror back to us what we value as a society.)
There were several points in Victoria’s talk that I think deserve serious reflection by everyone, regardless of their views on the moral and legal issues.
First, that a disproportionate number of abortions are had by minority women is more than little troubling. Victoria cited statistics from New York City in 2013 that black women accounted for almost 42% of all abortions in the city, and, more sobering that the number of terminated pregnancies in that population (29,007) exceeded the number of live births (24,108). Think about that: African American women in New York City terminated pregnancies more often than they carried babies to term. (The statistics were similar for the previous year.)
Second, those who argue for the dignity of the human person must take a consistent view and protect the right to life at all stages. And that those who make those arguments must also be committed to providing the assistance necessary for women to bring their babies to term.
Third, regardless of efforts to pretend it is not the case, there are reliable studies that the emotional consequence of abortion is severe for many women. Clearly not for all, but for many women, the experience creates a serious trauma. (And kudos to groups like Rachel’s Vineyard to helping women to heal from their experience.)
Here is the video of Victoria’s talk: