Choose Life and Compassion :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

Choose Life and Compassion

Jennifer Manning

March for Life 2014 via Flickr
Today the House is set to vote on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation.  President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, and frankly, the outrage surrounding this bill is heartbreaking—it has been called an “assault” on women’s reproductive rights and a “dismantling” of reproductive freedom.  There are many angles to this story—women’s rights, the child’s rights, how to define the beginning of a human life—but I’d like to write on something rarely mentioned: compassion.

I am a new mom. My son was born just 8 weeks ago, and when he is sleeping (which is rare) I like to gaze at him and watch his little chest rise and fall as he breathes. He is just 8 weeks old—a tiny, ten pound human person—and I’ve loved him from the second I found out that I was pregnant.

I’ll never forget the joy and excitement that my husband and I felt during the 20 week anatomy scan. We watched in awe as the ultrasound technician waved her wand across my ever-expanding belly. We saw all of his major organs—his heart, stomach, brain. We were especially in awe of his spine; we could see every tiny little bone. It was breathtaking.

But pregnancy is not perfect. Mothers and fathers receive devastating news about their child’s development in utero. Children are conceived through the violence of rape. Children are conceived by single mothers, by women without any support system. As with all things in life, what is a source of boundless joy for one can be an unspeakable challenge for another.

But in spite of it all, why must it be legal in this country to take the life of another human being? And why must it not only be legal, but be trumpeted as this great right belonging to women? Can we not be people of compassion—people who care deeply about both the mother and child?  Why do we insist that the rights of mother and child be mutually exclusive?

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for women, recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post titled, “Abortion rights are human rights.”  O’Neill asks, “Why are my rights as a woman less important that anyone else’s?”  The answer: They aren’t.  And they aren’t more important either. Human rights are human rights—rights that belong to each and every human. No one’s rights trump those of another.  O’Neill goes on to argue that, “If you accept that human rights exist, and that they apply to all of us, you can’t pick and choose which rights you like and which you want to eliminate. Abortion rights are human rights, and no one should be denied their most basic human rights.”  Yet what right is more basic than the right to life itself?  And if today it is ok to deny human beings—tiny, developing, defenseless human beings—the right to life, what will be acceptable tomorrow?  The mentality that one (stronger) person can have power over the life of another (weaker) person is the most dangerous ideology in modern times. Accept this, believe this, and pave the way for more atrocities.

If all of us have an equal right to life—and by “all of us” I mean every man, woman, and child (even the developing ones)—how do we support the women who see abortion as the answer? Compassion. We have to acknowledge that in order to make abortion unthinkable, women need help. They need to know that they are not alone.

I had the joy of meeting this week with Sr. Lizen, a sister of the Missionaries of Charity. The sisters run a home in Dorchester, MA that provides shelter and meals to under-supported women and their babies. At the end of our visit, Sr. Lizen led us into their chapel and I noticed a list of prayer intentions on the wall. Here, the women and others who visit the home can write their prayers and be assured of the loving compassion of the sisters. The work that these women do is just one small example of what we need to be doing to encourage women to choose life both for themselves and for their little ones.

Today thousands of people will march in Washington, D.C. to stand up for that most basic of human rights—the right to life.  Let us join them in prayer and in hope for a more compassionate world.

Topics: Abortion , Current Events , Family , Fertility , Motherhood , Parenting , Politics

Jennifer Manning is a Catholic schoolteacher in Massachusetts and a volunteer with Catholic Voices USA.

View all articles by Jennifer Manning

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