January 25, 2013

Marching for hearts

By Rebecca Ryskind Teti *

A young man smiles a salacious smile. Sniffing brandy in front of a fireplace, in sultry “let’s-get-it-on” tones, he makes love to the camera:  “Hey, Baby,” he purrs, “happy anniversary.” As the film rolls, we begin to understand that he is not addressing a woman, but the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, 40 years old this January 22.

The video (linked here) was produced by the Center for Reproductive Rights to celebrate Roe v. Wade.

My initial reaction was to wonder if the Center’s site had been hacked by a pro-life prankster. (I contacted their media spokesman to be sure, though no response was forthcoming. But the ad hasn’t been taken down, so one must assume it’s legit.)

Twenty years ago a prominent pro-life lobbyist and I fantasized about producing an ad just like this (except my friend’s notion had Alfred E. Neuman asking “What, me worry? My girlfriend’s pro-choice!) and running it on college campuses to make precisely the point the video makes: no one’s as committed to Roe as manipulative men who’ve no intention of ever being committed to a woman.

I even sent the link to my old buddy with the subject line: “are you behind this?”

As it dawned on me the ad was in earnest, I felt stunned and revolted at the perpetuation of an ugly racial stereotype to sell a supposedly progressive message.

What were the producers thinking, portraying a young black man as the oiliest kind of cad? Why did they not recoil? Has the young actor no sense of dignity? Is that the way moms want people to think of their sons?

There’s no indication in news stories that anyone has protested the ad’s blatant racism – but then support for abortion rights absolves one of many crimes among our political and media classes.

All marketers target their ads to a specific audience. Who is this one aimed at?

It’s not speaking to married people, who presumably are not trolling for dates.

At one level the ad is telling young men that if they wish to cat around, they’d better support Roe. But since a handsome young man is talking low and sultry, while the ad might speak for men (or at least a certain kind of man), it’s not speaking to them, primarily. 

The primary mark has to be young single women.

What message is being communicated to these women? Men are dogs. You cannot expect them to love you. You won’t have a man or a family– but at least you have Roe.

No one is going to convince me that any woman who has truly listened to her own heart can find that message even slightly attractive.

That is exactly the point:  the Roe culture – the culture of hook-ups and the taking of life as if it were nothing – cuts us off from our own hearts.  Its core is cynicism – the belief that no one can ever be trusted – with its pseudo-sophisticated mocking of anything pure or of anyone who dares to love or hope. At bottom it’s a defense mechanism, a sort of callus we put around our emotional lives in the effort to never get hurt.

Does it work? Are women’s relationships healthier? Are we happy? Are our hearts less hurt? Are we freer from manipulation?

It sure has coarsened everyone. Twenty years ago leading feminist figures like Naomi Wolf were arguing that abortion was a necessary evil, but still a tragic, not-to-be-celebrated solemn taking of a human life. President Clinton famously called for it to be “safe, legal…and rare.” We lived in a culture in which my pro-life friend and I could imagine the abortion groups being ashamed of their association with cads and “playahs.”

Today a major abortion-rights group thinks nothing of making the taking of human life – and the use of women, and the self-degradation of men – into laughing matters. Are they cynically preying on the hopelessness of others? Or do they themselves not know anything better?

At the risk of being thought a pro-life heretic, I have to admit I worry less about aborted children than about their parents.

Don’t misunderstand. I know from biology that life begins at conception and shrink from thinking what a baby in-utero might suffer during an abortion. But I also hope in the baptism of desire and trust in the Lord’s mercy.

It’s the ones left behind I ache for. Who suffered most and longest when Herod slaughtered the innocents? The babies? Or the moms who had to live with the holes in their hearts and the destruction of trust? Or the executioners coarsened by terrible acts, with guilt on their souls? What effect did that violence have on the local community as a whole?

We’re marching for life today. And also in defense of the human heart.

Rebecca Ryskind Teti is Operations Coordinator for the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at the Busch School of Business & Economics at CUA, though the opinions are her own. This column is modified from an earlier version that first appeared in Faith & Family  magazine.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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