The Catholic Thing
Listen to the Woman Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse and Cathy Ruse   
Thursday, 12 August 2010

Several years ago at the March for Life we handed out signs that carried a message that was brand new to the pro-life movement. You would have thought we were the Beatles. People surrounded us and literally screamed for those signs. The message, created by Feminists for Life, simply said: “Women Deserve Better than Abortion.” And thus a pithy slogan gave voice to one the greatest acts of political jujitsu in history.

The great trick of the pro-abortion feminists was to convince women of two propositions: that abortion was good for them; and that the “conceptus” was their enemy. Naturally and properly, the pro-life movement was born to wade into that fight on behalf of the unborn child. The fight over abortion crystallized over that divide between mother and child with the pro-abortion side seeming to defend the woman and the pro-life side unequivocally defending the baby.

A number of things over the years have arisen that change the abortion debate.

Widespread use of ultrasound imagery has shown America the face of the unborn child. The partial-birth abortion debate showed America the skull-crushing reality of the procedure. But something else that has changed the debate is taking women’s arguments away from the other side. Abortion advocates consistently said, “Listen to the woman.” Good idea.

There are two parts to the pro-life/pro-woman arguments, one pre-abortion the other post-abortion. The post abortion arguments let us listen to women who have had abortions. These brave women stand in the public square and tell their stories of having killed their unborn children and how this terrible fact led them to depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, family breakdown, breast cancer, and much more. These are the post-abortive, women-centered arguments.

But they also say something that cuts right to heart of the feminist claim that abortion is a “choice.” They say they were all alone in their choice, abandoned by those who should protect them, and in a very real sense forced by family or circumstance to kill their own babies. For most of these women, they felt they had no choice: I wanted to keep my job; I had no choice. I didn’t want my boyfriend to leave me; I had no choice. My family would kick me out; I had no choice. I wanted to stay in school; I had no choice.

John Paul the Great said we were called to a radical solidarity with the woman in need. And this is the most potent pro-life/pro-woman argument of all. Her family should support her. The father should stand with her. Her job should be secure. School should provide day-care instead of just abortion coverage. Somehow abortion became the default position, the compassionate response for a woman in need. Actually, this is what Roe v. Wade hath wrought. We leave our women all alone in the killing of their children. The pro-life/pro-woman arguments, both pre-and-post-abortion, are about changing this terrible equation.

Do these arguments forget about the unborn child? They are in fact built on the future prospect or the actual fact of killing another human being, a woman’s very own child. These arguments in fact link mother and child together irrevocably. Mother and child are not enemies; they are natural allies and together are the most potent defenders of unborn life.

The three great aims of the pro-life movement are, first, to save lives, second, to change hearts and minds, and, third, to change the law through legislation or litigation. The pro-life/pro-woman arguments work on each of these levels.

They save lives because we stand in for those who have abandoned the woman in her hour of greatest need. Look at the 2,000-plus pregnancy care centers in America and you see the women-centered arguments actually saving lives.

Pro-life/pro-woman arguments change hearts and minds in that they take away the final argument of the other side, that abortion is somehow good for women and that abortion is the compassionate response to a woman in need. Watch a pro-abortion feminist react to “Women Deserver Better than Abortion,” and you will see how potent this message really is.

Finally these arguments are necessary to change the law. The Court in Roe created a societal dependency on abortion and then in the Casey decision had the gall to cite this dependency as a key reason for sustaining Roe.  Not only the culture but also the Court itself must be disabused of the myth it created, that abortion is good and beneficial for women, in order for this precedent to change. 

The fact is we are winning the abortion debate and the pro-abortion feminists are desperate to keep their remaining argument.  In the end what the pro-life/pro-woman arguments do is to recast the pro-abortion feminists in their true light, not as true defenders of women but as the defenders of abortion.

Austin Ruse is president of the New York and Washington DC-based C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies to the Family Research Council.
©2010 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info at thecatholicthingdotorg

The Catholic Thing
is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (6)Add Comment
written by Joe, August 13, 2010
Good thoughts. Truth may be painted over, but paint will flake off in time. I think that is why hope is a virtue.
written by Jack T., August 13, 2010
You certainly make some good points, but it seems to me that the problem with these types of arguments is that the other side can find women who were not emotionally affected by their abortions (or at least who claim not to be) and women who felt very strongly that this was their choice and they were not forced into anything. This is fundamentally an issue about the moral/legal status of a child. If it was about the damage done to women, then the focus would be on mitigating the harmful side-effects of abortion. In fact, I read in a magazine a few years ago of "abortion support groups" where the abortion clinics meet with women after they have had their abortions to help them through the process. At the level of society the pro-women arguments work to raise awareness of, as you rightly pointed out, that this is not oftentimes a pure "choice." But, again, the other-side may find ways to argue around that, including the study that Mary Eberstadt wrote about on TCT on happiness and child-bearing.
written by Austin Ruse, August 13, 2010
Of course, the other side will find ways to counter all arguments. This should not stop us from telling the truth, in this case that the killing of her own child harms a woman, sometimes irrevocably. Please go back and read my piece because I talk mostly about pre-abortion pro-woman arguments against abortion, that is, that we are required in charity to have a radical solidarity with the unexpectantly expectant mother such as that you will find in crisis pregnancy centers.
written by Austin Ruse, August 14, 2010
And let's remember what the Church teaches about imperfect contrition. She allows for forgiveness of those whose sorrow is alloyed with self-interest, that is, fear of punishment. It's not as good as perfect contrition, that done for love, but it is still efficacious.

And by the way, none of the women standing in the public square regretting their abortions are there for any other reason than the deaths of their children.
written by Jacob, August 15, 2010
Jack T. I can bring you a lot of people who would say that methamphetamine use is more or less ok "in moderation"...and a lot more who would say the same about cocaine.

That in itself (at least for me) is no argument for decriminalizing cocaine or meth use, or pretending that they're ok because not everyone overdosed.
(I have to note that in the case of abortion everybody dies.)
If you're willing to make the claim that cocaine or meth use are good or even a push for society then I think you're not capable of meaningful debate sir.

Now that we know that a fetus has a unique DNA strand at the moment of conception can't we agree that the least inhumane thing to do is not murder a human being?
written by gb, August 19, 2010
Mr Ruse, This is the best article I've read on this topic in a long time. I know bc I aborted my daughter 40 yrs ago this yr. It makes absolutely NO difference if Jack can find 1000 mothers who say that aborting their children was the best thing they ever did. The fact remains that, for every baby that dies, a mom dies too. You can't rip a baby out of her & not lose part of her too. Period.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author