Lucy Schmidt: Reflections on the de Veber Conference
This post was written by Lucy Schmidt — a first-year technically-humanities-with-life-sci-courses-looking-into-Catholic-education student and member of UTSFL.
For one with only moderate exposure to the pro-life movement the 2009 de Veber conference was both enlightening and thought provoking. A number of speakers covered areas such as women’s health (Dr. Deborah Zeni), feminism and the pro-life movement (Andrea Mrozek), the legal complications surrounding abortion (Daniel Bader), real life difficulties (Angelina Steenstra), and Birthright’s Project Rachel (Teresa Hartnett). All of the issues where presented in a way that, in Mrozek’s words, spoke “for women and against abortion.” For me the conference unveiled a side of the pro-life movement that I had previously given less consideration to, that is that abortion can be considered wrong just on the grounds that it is actually an injustice to women. This puts the issue in a new perspective. The pro-life argument becomes a two part argument; it struggles to defend not only unborn human life but also the vulnerable woman (and men) who are affected by the aftermath of abortion.
With all of the pro-choice emphasis on woman’s rights it was difficult for me to believe that there would be much evidence to prove that abortion was, in a sense, anti-women. Harder still was it to understand why so much consideration was given to those who I had previously considered “enemies” of the pro-life movement, that is, the women who chose to have abortions. Those at the de Veber conference spoke of the struggles of pregnant woman and the pressures stacked against them and the fear they experience. I sympathized with the women for what they had to endure but I still found myself wondering, “but why would you kill a child?” Mothers never hand over their babies to strangers to be executed. When Teresa Hartnett admitted that she would die for her children all of the mother’s and father’s in the audience nodded without hesitation. So how can abortion be so widespread and so excepted? It was the same speaker who gave me a helpful analogy. She discussed how woman deal with grief after abortion and compared it to the way soldiers tend to try and bury their pain after they have killed during a war. But the war comparison can be extended beyond the treatment of grief and can help to explain why anyone would kill in the first place.
No one could argue that during the war just about any kind of person could be taught to pick up a gun and shoot their enemy. And it was not because they were bad and heartless people. If in their homes they are pressured to fight for their country, and in the line of fire all their friends are telling them to shoot to save your life, and it is what they have been trained to do, the odds are that they are going to do it. So also have women been trained by society that they do not have to accept responsibility and in a sense, have been taught to shoot to save their lives. I have thus come to understand that women bombarded with pressures and fears do indeed need to be defended and not judged. (Though continuing with the war analogy, I am still trying to understand how anyone could shoot their own son.)
The speakers of this conference have made it clear that women who are pregnant outside of marriage may face financial difficulties, rejection, and embarrassment. Women who have received abortions may avoid some of these but instead must endure the possibilities of health risks, difficulty getting legal support in the case of injury, and grief that can lead to severed relationships, drug abuse, mental health problems, serious guilt, or suicide. The failure of the pro-choice movement to inform woman of these “side effects” can hardly be considered a triumph for feminists and the pro-life peoples’ concern for the well being of pregnant woman certainly gives us a right to say that we are against abortion, but also for woman.
This is a fantastic reflection, Lucy! I think more people are in that position within the pro-life movement initially – they focus so much on the child that they forget about the women (and men) having to deal with the consequences of abortion. It is definitely a hard question for me as well, but I think the war analogy in many cases clears it up. Thank you for this!
Each piece of work pro-life work I read, I feel constantly more compelled to do what I can to help aborted children. But I guess a lot of time it is true that I forget about how harsh this is on these women. What can we do? How can we teach them? How can we teach ourselves? Could I ask your oppinion though on women who are forced into abortions? I can’t imagin being forced to shoot my own child, and I give out my heart to anyone who has to… or in the end anyone who does.
Thanks for this reflection!