feeling homeless on abortion

I've been preoccupied with other things (understandably) and not paying close attention to the Roberts nomination hearings. Other than being a tad annoyed that NPR's morning edition was preempted!

It has got me thinking about something I've been thinking about for a long time. The unintended consequences of the narrow focus of both the pro-life and pro-choice movements.

Over my 33 years I've spent time in both camps, and currently find myself homeless. Most of my friends are in the pro-choice camp, but I really do believe in my heart that a life is a life (whether it is a death row inmate or a human being growing in a mother's womb). My church (big C here for the Catholic Church) is part of the pro-life camp, but I've been uncomfortable with the dogmatic narrow minded approach for a number of years. Ever since I was a teenager in fact.

Being familiar with both camps, I know that deep down they actually share a similar vision. Not that you'd get folks entrenched on either side to see it, but they do. It's about life, but a quality life where all people are able to thrive, to have not only their material and physical needs met but their spiritual and emotional needs as well.

I've started wondering though if by focusing on one issue, or even one court case (Roe v. Wade) if both camps have inadvertently pushed that vision ever further away.

By focusing on saving Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice camp has been forced to compromise and spend less energy pushing for living wages, family jobs, health care, and quality education. Things that would all increase the quality of life and I believe greatly decrease the perceived need for abortions in the first place.

By focusing on repealing Roe v. Wade, the pro-life camp has likewise been forced to compromise. It is my belief, and I know this from experience having grown up in a democratic Catholic neighborhood where people voted for politicians they vehemently disagreed with on 99% of issues merely because they were against abortion, that by focusing on the issue of abortion, many pro-life people have inadvertently supported politicians and policies that are decidedly detrimental to quality of life. Low wage jobs, the lack of heath care, our sorry educational system, the dissolution of the family, an entire laundry list of societal woes have been deemed "unimportant" when contrasted with being against abortion. Ironically, it seems that policies have been pursued that decrease the quality of life and increase the perceived need for and actual number of abortions.

And so I find myself homeless on this issue. And as this issue seems to be the only issue at times, I'm often at a loss.

Those are my thoughts this lunchtime. Now back to work.


Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Though I am unreservedly pro-life on all life issues, and because of that, I have felt homeless for a very long time. I think this is a common experience of our generation and perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the generations which preceded us in the Church tried so hard to be accepted as American and Catholic that they sometimes chose the first to the detriment of the second. The result, in my experience is that the Church has become polarized not on religious lines, but on political ones. Too many Catholics have "sold out" to one or another political party in order to fit in. The result is that those of us who see the shortcomings of both parties (and if you are pro-life on all issues you can't help but see them), and thus of the different polarities in the Church, don't quite seem to fit in. But, hey, Jesus didn't fit in with the categories of the Church of his day either. Maybe his statement that he had "no where to lie his head" was more than just a statement of actual homelessness!!

So, you're not homeless alone!!



Omis said...

Susan, I think there is a growing population which feels as you do. Politicians and religious leaders have made abortion the issue by which political affiliation is measured, along with gay marriage.

I'm uncomfortable with groups that claim the lable "Pro-Life" when what they really are promoting is a strictly "anti-abortion" agenda.

That includes politicians who claim to promote a "culture of life" while waging questionably justified wars, allowing poverty to increase, and continuing to sign death warrants to prisoners sentenced to execution.

I'm uncomfortable with bishops who make announcements that the only issue worth voting on is overturning Roe v. Wade, while not having the same courage to speak out and challenge politicians on war and poverty.

I don't think that overturning Roe v. Wade will have the affect of abortion-reduction that the anti-abortion camp would like. Not now, after over 30 years of legal abortion. And you're right that there are other ways to truly reduce abortion rates without focusing on an old court case that probably won't be overturned anyway.

I have to say that politically at least I don't actually feel homeless. I have a strong opinion on which party actually has a more realistic chance to reduce abortion, even though their platform includes maintaining the status quo on legal abortion. The 95-10 Initiative is just such a specific effort. You can find details on the Democrats for life website, www.democraticsforlife.org .

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Thanks Guys! So nice to have bloggy friends who get it. No, I'm not politically homeless. I am the daughter of a democratic politician after all. But on this issue, I'm often at odds. It's so often black and white, when the reality is in shades of grey.

I do wonder if this is a generational thing. Are there more of us (the Roe generation) who grew up with this issue in our face constantly, particularly in the Church, and yet see that focusing on one aspect of life so specifically is really not very productive?

Perhaps there are. Perhaps there's change in the wind? We can hope. And pray

Richard said...

I, too, have felt homeless in the arena of abortion over the years; however, my own discernment has taken me down the path that believes in the dignity of life. We have an obligation to respect life from the love that leads to conception through death, burial, and remembrance. By focusing on Court decisions and laws, as you said Susan, we have made an issue out of the issue itself.

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Reading the comments, what I find interesting is that they are all 3 from men who are discerning vocations (or in formation) to the priesthood.

For one thing, I'm impressed that as men you've developed such a nuanced opinion to the point that you get my feeling homeless.

And I'll admit that like Richard, it was in part my discernment process that got me to move a bit further from my friends in the pro-choice camp and more to a point of realizing God values ALL life.

Steph said...

>>Judge Roberts, there are many subjects of enormous importance that you will be asked about in this confirmation hearing, but I start with the central issue which perhaps concerns most Americans, and that is the issue of the woman's right to choose and Roe v. Wade.<<

Your cooments match my thoughts posted on Saturday to some extent, so I won't re-write it here. However, today on Channel One (gotta love school TV!), they were showing part of the Roberts confirmation hearings. With Sen. Specter's opening comment (above), the other teacher and I both looked at each other as we suddenly realized: "Of course! If only we could settle that silly little abortion issue for once and for all, then all the problems facing our society today would be resolved."

At least .... that's how some people make it sound ....

Susan D said...

Speaking as someone from the generation that came of age in the 60s - that wild and contentious group - I think you all have hold of truth, and I wish everyone in every prochoice/prolife interest group would read your blog, Susan, and all the comments. Thanks to all for the clearheaded and clearhearted thinking.