Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don't buy the lie.

The article I link to below was published in 1992. Why, then, 16 years later, do we have so many pro-lifers still taking the approach that focuses on trying to convince people that a fetus is a baby? Dr. Reardon makes the excellent point that everyone knows a fetus is a baby. They may choose to talk around the point or to avoid thinking about it, but they know it. Even if they support abortion, they know it. And they don't, if pressed, deny it. Biological fact demands as much.

Many pro-life people still seem to think, though, that conviction of this one biological fact is all it will take to convert a pro-abortion person into an anti-abortion one. Not true, Dr. Reardon says. People don't deny the personhood of the fetus because they don't believe it's biologically human. They deny it for an explosion of reasons, ranging from political convenience, to desire not to hurt others who have lost pregnancies, to deep personal suffering over involvement with abortion. In every case, though, there's one common factor: prioritizing the needs of the woman over those of her unborn child. Reardon emphasizes what others have acted on, that there should never have to be an opposition between those needs:

Once average citizens realize that women are being hurt by abortion, they will finally begin to question why we are allowing abortions at all. Until now, much of the public has been convinced by pro-abortionists that "abortion helps women." But once this myth is called into question, once the public begins to wonder if abortion is actually hurting women, then the tragedy of killing unborn babies for nothing becomes more apparent. If abortion doesn't help women, it doesn't make sense. . . .

We seek to awaken in the common mind the fundamental truth that whenever one hurts a child, one hurts its mother as well. And conversely, whenever one helps a mother, one helps her child. Therefore, the solution to problem pregnancies is not abortion; it is compassion.

Practical Pro-Life Action: Read the whole article. (Annoyingly, I can't seem to get a direct link, so click here, then on "Politics," then on "How To Put Compassion in Pro-Life Politics,) then scroll down to the bottom of that page and click "A New Strategy for Ending Abortion. Oy, sorry about that.) Then share the content with someone you know who seems to need to hear it: either a pro-abortion person who (wrongly) believes pro-lifers don't care about women, or a pro-lifer who (wrongly) believes pro-aborts don't care about anything.

"That ain't no etch-a-sketch. That's one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet."

I loved "Bella," the sweet, spicy, much-touted film about life, love and Latino culture, but "Juno" -- the next unplanned-pregnancy film -- while different, sounds like a lot of good old-fashioned indie comedy fun. It opens on Christmas Day, so your Practical Pro-Life Action for next week is to go see it. Need help making up your mind to drop the $10? Read Jill Stanek's concise review. She is pleased, and is pretty sure you will be too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

an oldie, but a goodie

In the throes of Christmas prep, as I'm sure you all are as well, I'm still thinking about how I can participate in pro-life activity. For me, a lot of the volunteering is going to be on hold till after the season. . . my husband and I are travelling to see family, meaning the PRC that is normally right down the street will be 1300+ miles away.

But, for your reflection, here is a classic Practical Pro-Life tip sheet: Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life details Things You Can Do Today To End Abortion. I don't think they're all grand ideas, mind you (be they pro- or anti-, who's going to be anything other than upset and angry if you interrupt graduation with a memorial for the students who never made it?), but many are surprisingly simple and direct, especially for awareness-raising.

Practical Pro-Life Action: Do check out the list. Think about which suggestions you might be able to implement.

Let's hope this happens:

South Dakota seeks to seriously restrict abortions in-state. The bill has the rape-incest-and-life-of-the-mother tagline on it, but still. That would be serious progress. Wasn't there an initiative like this in 2004 or even 2006? Maybe this time it will pull through.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

In which The Practical Pro-Lifer decides to adopt, spiritually.

I'm not a POD ("pious and overly-devotional") Catholic. I like me some candles and frilled surplices, sure, but I wasn't brought up saying (nor do I now say) three daily Rosaries. I don't possess the art of juggling multiple novenas (indeed I can barely hack through one; I usually lose it around day six). And as sweet as the baby Jesus is, I'm more than mildly allergic to those kewpie-doll-like Infant of Prague statues.

So I'm surprised to find myself participating in the prayer marathon that is spiritual adoption. I've been thinking about it for some months, but haven't really found the strength to commit to it -- until recently, when I started this blog and began thinking seriously about concrete pro-life actions. Now I think it makes good sense. If you believe in the power of grace, nothing is more practical than prayer.

Spiritual adoption, for those unfamiliar with the practice, isn't necessarily Catholic or even Christian, though as far as I can tell it has its roots in that tradition. All it means is that you pray daily for nine months that the life of one particular unborn child, whose parents are considering abortion, might be spared. You can use the Christian formula prayer, or you can invent one of your own. You can (and I will) pray for the child's parents as well, that they will be given strength and that their needs will be met. And since we don't know what the case will be, and adoption might play a role, it seems to make sense to pray for the baby's potential adoptive parents, too.

Today, when Catholics celebrate the conception of the woman who chose Life in the ultimate way, seems like a particularly good time to begin praying that other women who conceive may be empowered to choose life. It seems like a good day to pray that those children conceived today may be born and may give of themselves to the world as she did.

Practical Pro-Life Action: If you feel comfortable praying at all, I invite you to join me in nine months of prayer that one more unborn baby conceived today may be born and loved.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Now for something a little more cheerful.

Wow, sorry for that outburst yesterday. I'm not going to delete it, because it's an accurate record of how I felt at the moment. But wow. I said I would try to avoid that kind of posting, and then I went and spewed sarcasm and bitterness anyway. Memo to Future Practical Pro-Lifer: don't do that again.

To atone, we'll keep it short and sweet today. Practical Pro-Life Action: Watch and share.

Monday, December 3, 2007

"Now you're harassing..."

... because harassing is SO much worse than, you know, killing someone.

Apparently the Kansas Republican party is encouraging candidates to "back off" the abortion issue in their state, because, they say, a strong pro-life stance won't win elections anymore:

Alesha Doan, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, said that in this election cycle "there's a sense of, 'Let's move on'" among voters in the state. Candidates risk repercussions if they are too closely associated with the effort to place criminal charges on physicians performing abortions, Doan said. She added, "At some point, a line is crossed, and you're no longer just expressing your opinion and trying to do God's work. Now you're harassing, and voters say, 'We don't want to be part of that.'"

Okay. So it's also "harassment" when the police arrest axe murderers and serial killers. And the victim's family, and society at large, should just "move on." Got it. I'll remember that next time I'm called to jury duty. *sigh*

Just one more clue that Republicans at large have abandoned the pro-life voter, who, in many cases, didn't like them that much to begin with. The good old boys were always more interested in their own power and gain than in what was and is right, as most politicians tend to be, and I think we always knew it. But at least they were better than no one.

At least Ron Paul's still fighting the good fight. And, unlike many of his cohorts, he's
got a pretty realistic take on the relationship of abortion to politics:

[F]ederalization of social issues, often championed by conservatives, has not created a pro-life culture. It simply has prevented the 50 states from enacting laws that more closely reflect the views of their citizens. . . . It is much more difficult for pro-life advocates to win politically at the federal level. Those who seek a pro-life culture must accept that we will never persuade 300 million Americans to agree with us. Our focus should be on overturning Roe and getting the federal government completely out of the business of regulating state matters. A pro-life culture can be built only from the ground up, person by person. For too long we have viewed the battle as purely political, but no political victory can change a degraded culture. A pro-life culture must arise from each of us as individuals, not by the edict of an amoral federal government.

Practical Pro-Life Action: Email or write your local Republican representative -- and heck, your local Democratic rep too; we're equal opportunity here -- and express your disappointment (or, in my case, disgust and rage) that their party has become so unprincipled and inconsistent on this issue. Dems are supposed to be all about social justice; why haven't they legislated to protect the most vulnerable members of society? (As Flannery O'Connor said, you can't be any poorer than dead. But the next closest thing is to be not yet born.) Meanwhile, Republicans -- but I can't begin to express the multifariousness of my disappointments with them on this issue. I'm sure you can figure out some of your own.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In which The Practical Pro-Lifer has a crush on a 72-year-old man.

Friends, it's official. I said just a few days ago that I was politically disenchanted. No longer. I've discovered Ron Paul, and I am part of the R3VOLUTION.

I mean, how can you not love a candidate who's all about ending Roe v. Wade AND bringing the troops home?

Practical Pro-Life Action: Read about Paul's consistent pro-life views, unique among all presidential candidates in the upcoming election, here and here. Because without him, for my money, 2008 would be looking pretty bleak.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Put your money where your mouth is"...

That always seemed like a strange phrase to me, but here's a great opportunity for pro-lifers to do it.

Lots of you may already be aware of Life Decisions International and its boycott list of companies that make donations to Planned Parenthood. But how many pro-lifers actually pursue the list, actively avoid business with companies that are on it, and write to inform the companies that supporting Planned Parenthood has just lost them a customer? I know I haven't been, but I intend to start.

Of course it's just one person's money, but a whole lot of individual units representing "one person's money" can add up surprisingly quickly. As of today, LDI claims that at least 153 corporations have stopped supporting Planned Parenthood after having been listed. Even if we just bump it up to 154, we've done something good.

So I invite you to join me in today's Practical Pro-Life Action: order the boycott list, or if you can't afford the (minor) reimbursement fee now, at least check out the free local and regional list. Avoid companies that are on it, even if it means sacrificing the convenience of the corner bank or the deliciousness of that smoked salmon at the pricey grocery chain. Put your money where your pro-life mouth is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Via Ales Rarus, a solid post by a Methodist minister about seemingly irreconcilable differences. It summarizes a lot of the groundwork I've been trying to lay here. The original post is about Christian community, but I think it applies to differences that crop up within the pro-life community as well:

The better way is to face our disagreements openly, with the humility to be willing to learn from one another. Of course, in any argument I’m going to be sure I’m right. And I’ve got an opinion about everything. But I hope I’ve acquired sufficient wisdom to know that I won’t be right about everything. It’s in dialogue with one another that we learn and grow . . . . Talk to me. Say your piece and, I hope, let me say mine. The internet offers us more channels for communication than we’ve ever had before . . . . It’s up to us whether we use the opportunity to promote growth or deepen our divisions.

Practical Pro-Life Action: Wherever you discuss pro-life issues today, listen well. Make sure to respond to what the other person really said, not what you think they said or a similar thing that someone else once said.

Questions They Never Asked Me: All About Practical Pro-Lifer, the Blog and the Blogger

Who is The Practical Pro-Lifer?

Presumably, you are. Or at least I hope you will be after spending some time here.

No, I mean who are you?

Oh. I'm a young professsional woman who spent some time doing pro-life advocacy in college. In my early involvement, I quickly grew frustrated with the terms of the debate and with the minimal effect most of our activity seemed to have. Since then, I've been seeking practical ways to make daily choices that will help us progress toward ending legal abortion in this country -- and, more importantly, toward changing the culture until abortion is seen everywhere as both unwanted and unnecessary. I've started this blog to share what I'm learning and to learn from you, my readers, in turn.

So let us get this straight. You're one of those rabid, repressed fundies who hate choice and reproductive freedom, who want our bodies to belong utterly to the patriarchalist ultra-right wing establishment?

I don't recall having been bitten by any dogs recently, I happen to like sex just fine, thank you, and I am allergic to the words "fundie" and "patriarchalist."

Also, I love choice and reproductive freedom -- but I think real reproductive freedom is having the maturity, self-respect, self-knowledge, and consideration for others to know when you are in a relationship that is loving and permanent enough to bloom into a family. And real choice happens when you are empowered to choose what won't cause harm to you or anyone else. That's not the case with abortion, which ends a human life, quite often causes physical and/or emotional harm to the woman, and frequently ruptures relationships as well. See the extended Practical Pro-Lifer essay on abortion [in progress] for more.

Ohh, I see. You're one of those anarchical witches who are all about ditching outdated concepts of morality, inverting the universe, and sitting around in circles singing kumbaya because that will make everything better.

Did you read the Five Simple Rules yet?

Just kidding. Is the Practical Pro-Lifer religious?

The writer is, the blog isn't. How is that, you ask? While my pro-life convictions are certainly shaped by the teaching of the Catholic Church, of which I am blessed to be part, the facts and principles that first convinced me against abortion are primarily scientific and logical. If tomorrow I suddenly lost my faith and became a die-hard atheist, I would still be pro-life. Those, then, are the facts and principles this blog will rely on -- things that anyone, religious or not, can embrace.

For the same reason, I'm asking that we not engage in direct discussion of religion on this blog. It will only be fair to you-my-readers that you get to read what you came for, not long off-topic threads that can become highly technical, emotional, and/or exhausting. If anyone has honest questions or respectful comments about the Church, I'll be delighted to respond to those via personal email, at katyacatholic (at) Sincere discussion makes me happy. Attempts to be inflammatory, however, will be -- with all due respect -- ignored.

If it's not a religious blog, how come the Virgin of Guadalupe is on your banner [also in progress]?

Notice I said direct discussion is out of bounds. That means no long debates about doctrine, Scripture, practice or worship. A picture's not a long debate; it's art. It's an expression of faith. Expressions of faith are totally in-bounds at The Practical Pro-Lifer, as long as they relate in some way to pro-life-ness. And Our Lady happens to be the patroness of the pro-life movement, so there we are.

Will you tell us anything else about yourself?

No, and here's why not. Everyone has spheres of experience. Everyone shows one facet or another of themselves to one person or a group of people. Here on this blog, I want to share with you everything that's directly relevant to my passion for pro-life activism. But there are lots of things in my life that aren't directly related to that, and it wouldn't be fair to anyone if this blog became personal in that way. I want to be involved in the pro-life discussion, but at heart I'm a fairly private person, and I'd prefer to stay that way.

It's the same principle by which we share some things but not others with our colleagues at work. To be widely known as The Practical Pro-Lifer in my workplace, for example, would be just as inappropriate a crossing of boundaries as if my supervisor were to post my performance review here on the blog. Or as inappropriate as if my husband, on a lunchtime visit, called me, in front of all my co-workers, his "sweet little pumpkin."

Does the Practical Pro-Lifer in any way resemble a pumpkin?

Not relevant. Next question?

What does the Practical Pro-Lifer think of feminism?

I self-identify as a feminist, but I think few mainstream feminists would agree that it's accurate for me to do so. That's a shame, since I believe the same things that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and the other feminist foremothers did.

Does the Practical Pro-Lifer support contraception as one practical means of reducing abortions?

Nope. It doesn't address the root causes of abortion; so far from that, it contributes to a culture in which the body is an object to be manipulated, not a human being to be respected. Therefore, though contraception might decrease abortions in the short term, it isn't an effective long-term solution. For those who need to avoid pregnancy, Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an organic, holistic solution that empowers women to know and embrace their own fertility instead of fearing and manipulating it. And yes, I practice NFP myself.

In all seriousness, is the Practical Pro-Lifer liberal or conservative?

Neither, though most people would probably label the positions I take as conservative. I find that frustrating and limiting, though, and try to stay away from the designation in my own discourse. I find it creates tension and polarization without the benefit of contributing clarity.

OK, then how do you normally vote?

I know how I WOULD normally vote, but these aren't normal times. More and more, I wonder if there are any "normal times."

Will the Practical Pro-Lifer comment on issues like race, economics, the environment, the death penalty, war, euthanasia, stem cell research or anything else that might be seen to be connected to the issue of abortion?

Only if it's absolutely necessary to show the empirical or logical effect that something has on abortion and, in connection, what we can do about it. This blog is not a forum for speculation about pet theories, though the author may (correctly) be suspected to have them in plenty.

What about politics?

[Update!] At this writing, The Practical Pro-Lifer is disaffected with politics and will only nudge them with a nine-and-a-half-foot pole, and that only when necessary. As with religion, threads about politics can become highly technical, emotional and/or exhausting very quickly. I prefer to save my technical prowess and emotional energy for the simple issue at hand, which is exhausting enough to begin with.


I try.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Great post at Abortion Hurts about post-traumatic stress disorder and abortion. It's a letter written by a woman who had had an abortion, to a psychiatrist she visited. Apparently, the psychiatrist did little to help her, but spent the visit mostly hammering home pro-choice rhetoric. She complains that, between the "amateur counseling" of most pro-lifers and the highly ideological insistences of doctors like the one she saw, women have few resources when dealing with post-abortive pain. She writes:

[W]hen I met you, I had another, less personal reason for seeking you out. If I continue speaking publicly about how abortion has negatively affected my life, I will run into other women who have problems. Unfortunately, some of these will be like me, and while the Scripture-based post-abortion counseling programs are helpful in a spiritual way, those women who are particularly afflicted with psychiatric disorders will need expert medical attention. In addition, most of the post-abortion counseling programs are faith-based, usually Christian; we must have an answer for our sisters who have not received the gift of faith; or who are of another faith entirely; or who feel justified in having aborted, yet still suffer over the difficult decision they have made. As it stands, we are leaving the counseling to the pro-life community, and it is full of amateurs.

Practical Pro-Life Action: Even if you're not a student of medicine or psychology, get informed. Spend 15 minutes today studying the physical and psychological effects of abortion. Don't be an "amateur counselor," but instead, be articulate about what abortion does to women, and sensitive when you discuss it.

can't know the players without a program

On National Right to Life, there's a handy candidate scorecard that shows you where all the contenders for presidential nomination fall on the major pro-life issues of abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Practical Pro-Life Action: Be an informed voter in the primaries. Check it out.

Buy Nothing Day with The Practical Pro-Lifer

Today it struck me that Buy Nothing Day, though it's often promoted on the basis of a philosophy that's not necessarily anti-abortion, can be, if you participate in the right spirit, a very pro-life event.

The premise? Don't buy anything the day (or weekend) after Thanksgiving. Instead, devote the shopping hours to practicing more sustainable ways of living. Think about what you really need as opposed to what you only want. Save money and resources.

For some participants, Buy Nothing Day is connected to environmental philosophies that also promote or encourage population control as one important way of preserving Earth's resources. But there's no necessary connection between thrift or environmentalism and a population-control mindset. At the same time, people do need a good clean environment to thrive, and what's more pro-life than making sure the planet can still sustain those babies when they're born?

So if you participate, use Buy Nothing Day as a way to remind yourself that the resources you preserve by not pursuing your superficial desires could help to meet a brand new human being's material needs. Figure out how much money you probably saved by not shopping, and donate it to your local pregnancy resource center. Or spend the time volunteering instead of mall-crawling.

Buy Nothing Day is also a great day to launch The Practical Pro-Lifer in earnest. Because what we're all about here is building common ground, taking concrete action, and making the unconventional move to transform the confused culture we live in, making it just a little closer to the ideal culture of life we hope for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Five Simple Rules

I'll be honest. As much as it grows out of pro-life convictions, this blog grows out of dissatisfaction with the tone and direction of much pro-life discussion on the Web today. As a pre-emptive measure, I offer these Five Simple Blog Rules for commenters (and myself):

(1) Keep it on-topic. While I do want to explore the connections between and among various life issues when that seems appropriate to a practical action, this blog will be overwhelmingly devoted to going beyond the rhetoric on the specific life issue of abortion. That means we won't be talking a lot about the sexual revolution, the war on Iraq, embryonic stem cell research, consumerism, environmentalism, vegetarianism, or whatever other issues you (or I) may happen to be interested in at the moment. Just moms, dads, babies, and what we can directly do at this time and in this place to make a better world for them.

(2) Keep it practical. Readers are, presumably, most interested in what I'm most interested in: pragmatic ways to help real women in crisis pregnancies, to promote pro-life ideas to real people in their lives, and to create a truly life-welcoming, life-affirming, and life-sustaining culture. Despondent monologue about how bad the current culture is does little to serve this purpose.

(3) Keep it kind. Speak ABOUT the woman in crisis pregnancy, the post-abortive mother, the confused or angry or missing father, the pro-choice or pro-abortion interlocutor, just as kindly as you would speak TO her or him. Same goes for your fellow readers and commenters. If you would not speak kindly and helpfully to these people, please choose another forum in which to speak.

(4) Keep it ecumenical. Many pro-lifers (me too) have religious as well as natural reasons for thinking the way they do about human life. And of course prayer is one direct action we can take and discuss taking. Still, in the interest of creating and preserving common ground, let's not debate the religious reasons here. Other forums exist for that (also very important) discussion.

(5) Keep it bipartisan. Since this is a direct action blog, it will make sense to talk about a little bit of political action. This will obviously include straightforward, factual description of things like candidates' voting records and platforms. Still, same principle as above applies: no stickering, no bickering. Don't label your fellow commenters across the aisle, and don't begin with the assumption that, since their approaches and efforts differ from yours, they're not made in good faith. Disagree if that's honestly what you think, but do it with respect.

If we all abide by these guidelines, I think we'll get along just fine.