A New Mission
“My cousin has twins. She got pregnant again. Her boyfriend is a gang member. She had an abortion. How can anyone say she should have had the baby?”
This question came after a talk I was giving at a Christian college. The student was opposed to abortion, but was also struggling with the reality of life’s complications. Her question should be a challenge to anyone who has ever had a word to say about abortion in a political context.
“Match Our Compassion With Laws”
The Heritage Foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The headline speakers at a recent event for the conservative think tank were mostly politicians and members of the media. But I want everyone in the country to hear what Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch had to say. She talked about the case she brought to the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which resulted in the Court striking down Roe v. Wade, the decision that had until then ensured a legal right to abortion.
From the moment Fitch gained national attention due to the Supreme Court case, she was consistent and insistent: A country without Roe is a country that can both empower women and promote life. Fitch talked about the tremendous opportunity pro-life citizens have to “match our compassion with laws,” to “wrap our love and support around mothers-to-be, young mothers, and children.”
Mississippi has been focusing on the development of an “Empowerment Project,” which works to make “quality child-care affordable and accessible,” enhance workplace flexibility, boost child support and “fix the broken foster-care and adoption systems.” Children need to be placed in loving, stable families as soon as possible. Forever. Children of all ages and situations.
Empower Women and Promote Life
And what does empowering women look like? Resources. The kind of work I see people at pregnancy-care centers do every day. Job skills. Education. Help filling out difficult government forms.
“That’s on all of us,” Fitch said to the room of conservatives. “And we can do it.” The Mississippi legislature recently passed tax credits, established an app for mothers that connects them with resources and offers other assistance for women, children and families, as well as setting out a foster parent bill of rights.
Not long after the Supreme Court struck down Roe, I was sitting across from Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, of the Sisters of Life, a group of religious women who minister to mothers and expectant mothers in need. I asked her what the women with whom her group works need the most. Her answer was: “Friendship.” They feel alone. They feel beaten down. They feel like there is no other choice but abortion.
Is the answer to the question that began this column that the cousin should stay with the gang-member boyfriend? Or could it be to make sure that the cousin knows there are ways out of the toxicity surrounding her, and that abortion wasn’t one of them.
In her remarks, Fitch was confident that everyone in the room remembered where they were when the Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision. I’ve heard some say it was a little anticlimactic because of the leak that had many of us reading the gist of the decision in advance. But no. As Fitch says, “Life truly changed for all of us on that day.” And beyond some of the dishonest histrionics, it did provide “a new pathway” for how we look at young women and their sometimes-desperate challenges.
Fitch herself raised her children as a single mother after a divorce. She doesn’t sugarcoat what that felt like. One of the worst things we can do is talk about life issues as if they are easy. Life never is. That’s why we are meant to live in community and love our neighbor and create policies that don’t make it more difficult.
Fitch’s message was a call to tenderness. That’s not the caricature of a conservative. If you’re not a conservative, you should know that some of us want to work with you to actually help women. What do you say: Can we get started?
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary. She can be contacted at [email protected].