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Last June, in a boost to the pro-life movement worldwide, the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. As delighted right-to-life activists celebrated, much of the media commentary in Ireland expressed dismay, issuing dire warnings that women would suffer if abortion was made illegal.
Those reports ignored the reality on the ground in the United States and elsewhere: that it has always been the pro-life movement who stepped up to offer women real choices other than ending the life of their child.
It’s easy, after all, to pat yourself on the back as being fashionably “pro-choice” by offering women in crisis an abortion. But the truth is that most women seek abortion in fear and panic because they have been offered no real choices. All too often, and this applies to politicians in particular, taking a “pro-choice” stance actually means telling women they are on their own.
That’s why pro-life activists, the world over, have always been to the fore in offering women real support and choices. In the U.S. a vast network of thousands of pro-life pregnancy centres has been funded by tens of millions of dollars over the years – money raised, not from the government, but through hard slog from ordinary people who want women to have a better option than abortion.
So when Roe fell, and state after state announced Heartbeat Laws or other significant restrictions on abortion, there wasn’t a need to tell pro-lifers to step up to help women: they were already doing that. For years, thousands of unsung heroes have been quietly helping mothers and babies every day, offering life instead of death.
Many pregnancy support centres, in expectation of Roe being overturned, had already set in place strategies to meet the expected increase in demand for support, with pro-life and faith networks making significant commitments to help women with unexpected pregnancies.
The Knights of Columbus, for example, promised in its Aid and Support After Pregnancy initiative, to donate at least €5 million in one year alone to match funding already being given by its local chapters. There are approximately 3,000 pregnancy support centers located across the U.S., outnumbering abortion clinics 3 to 1 nationwide, even before the Supreme Court decision last year.
Centres, like those operated by Stanton Healthcare, have already joined local leaders, churches, and organisations together post-Roe to ensure that women receive life-affirming care.
Now those efforts to support women in pregnancy have been bolstered by a very welcome new initiative from pro-life leaders in America who have issued what is being described as an “unprecedented joint statement” from “activists, leaders, and academics from across the political spectrum” seeking public policies designed to reduce the economic and social pressures that drive many women to seek abortions.
While maternity services and family supports may need improving here in Ireland, we forget how dismal they can be in other countries, including the U.S., where there is no national paid maternity leave scheme, for example, and where the cost of having a baby averages out to almost €19,000 according to recent research, with at least €3000 not recoverable through insurance.
As the pro-life statement, ‘Building a Post-Roe Future’ spells out “more can be done on both the state and federal level” to eliminate abortion. ”
“We know that a wide range of circumstances drive women to seek abortion, and that there are concrete steps we can take to reduce the demand,” renowned activists and scholars such as Eric Scheidler, Jonathon Van Maren, Charles Camosy, John Brahm and others point out.
They say that the following policies are a good basis to build a society that loves both mother and child.
Accessible and affordable healthcare for parents and children—including expanding Medicaid funding for prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum expenses—to reduce the financial barriers to welcoming a new child
Expanded child tax credits that promote family formation and lift children out of poverty
Paid parental leave that ensures every infant can receive the close attention and nurturing care they need from their mothers and fathers in the early months of life
Flexible work hours to enable families to establish a tranquil home life, with predictable work schedules and better options for meaningful part-time employment
Affordable childcare options that support working parents, without disincentivizing the choice to raise young children at home that many families say they would prefer
Full enforcement of existing prenatal child support laws and effective new ways to demand that all men take responsibility for children they fatherThese are sensible and life-affirming changes in building a society that cherishes and protects life, and genuinely wants to help women by helping them have their babies. And the statement points out that the onus should actually be on the government, given its capacity, and not on over-stretched volunteers to take these actions.
“In a post-Roe landscape, with some states restricting abortion and others expanding access to it, the support offered by nonprofits, donors, and tireless volunteers will not be enough to address the scale of the need. State and federal governments must take action to eliminate or reduce the significant economic and social pressures that drive women to seek abortion in the first place. We would like to see the demand for abortion aggressively addressed,” they write.
“The goal of the statement is two-fold: to highlight the support of a significant portion of the pro-life movement for policies that go beyond directly limiting abortion and to demonstrate to the American people that we are collectively committed to helping mothers, babies, and families with all of the tools at our disposal, including political ones,” the statement continues.
“We are from all over the ideological map, united in our conviction that every human life has intrinsic worth and value, including the lives of both the unborn child and that child’s mother. We believe that our society must prioritize the needs of both, and that public policy can be drafted and passed to support those ends.”
It’s to be hoped that the shift in attitude and policies they recommended is taken up and driven by those with political power. Certainly, it has been revealing to see that, in our own post-8th Ireland, the politicians and NGOs who shouted loudest for abortion seem to be entirely quiet – or actively opposed – to any measures that would help women keep their babies.
It is shameful that it is left to voluntary groups like Gianna Care and Every Life Counts to do the frontline work that a truly compassionate State would offer to women with unexpected or difficult pregnancies.
But pro-life activists in Ireland believe that, just as Roe was eventually overturned, in time this country will also realise again that the only truly progressive answer is to love and support both mother and child. In working towards that goal, those who want to offer women real choices are commited to ensuring that life-affirming care is available to women in need.
This piece was first published on the Irish Catholic.