The mindset of women in the pro-life movement who deny choices to other women is incomprehensible to me.
Rummaging through an exhibit on spirituality at Barnes & Noble a few weeks back, I came across an interesting-looking book called “Radical Spirit: Twelve Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life,” written by an 82-year-old Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister.
Intrigued by the title and eager to stretch my brain a bit, I perused the jacket of the book and noticed that Sister Joan is the co-founder of the Women’s Global Peace Initiative; has authored over 60 books; and has lectured worldwide on women’s issues and human rights. I also learned that she has appeared on numerous TV shows, including “Meet the Press,” “60 Minutes,” and with Bill Moyers, the BBC and Oprah Winfrey. She has spoken openly and bluntly about abortion, economic inequality and bigotry.
This is a contemporary Catholic crusader, I thought, and, considering the times—and the Church’s war on a woman’s self-determination—I’m interested in what she has to say.
I had no intention of buying the book and reading it from cover to cover, so I took it over to the Starbucks café, in the corner of the store. I figured I’d grab a cup of java and leaf through it, trying to catch the highlights. And, in a quest for some quick wisdom, I did a Google search as well. I have a relatively short attention span when it comes to reading books, especially non-fiction, and I was looking for a road map.
The first quote I landed on from Sister Joan was from an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, in 2004. It gave me pause and spurred me on.
“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life,” she said. “In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
A TED talk that Sister Joan gave in December 2012, which I found on YouTube, seemed as if it was written for this moment.
“These have been very difficult times for me,” she said. “Everything I was ever taught about human accountability to the will of God for the world has, it seems, been forgotten. Whatever I thought about our obligation to follow the Jesus who supported the needy, fed the hungry, and commissioned women to follow him is being smothered by racism, sexism, and discrimination. The loss of those things is changing the character of the country, a character hard won by the generations before us.”
And, in a more recent quote, Sister Joan articulated what many of us are feeling: “Suddenly, I also saw everything that had been done to care for the earth reversed. More, I was seeing the wealth of my own country rushed to the top; refugees being abandoned; prejudice and misogyny becoming the language of the day, and the country’s concern, instead, becoming “America First’ in a global world. And yet, through it all, Congress said little and people grew silent. How could our former vision of greatness slip away so quickly, so silently, so easily?”
Extending those thoughts, I ask, why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, continue to introduce/pass restrictive laws against woman’s reproductive rights? Why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, shut down women’s health clinics, refuse to fund sex education and restrict the expansion of Medicaid?
Why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, vote to restrict access to birth control, which prevents abortions? And why do they continually attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and destroy universal health reform, which protects the needs of millions of American children?
Why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, repeatedly vote to make cuts to the food stamp and school lunch programs, and block financial aid to families who are homeless and/or in need?
Why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, insist on the teaching of creationism rather than science, permit corporations to poison our environment and our food supply for profit, and endanger the lives of our children by refusing to consider safe gun regulations?
Why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, fail to support legislation that would establish a livable minimum wage and promote affordable daycare and family leave policies—all of which would substantially help women and families in need?
And, why do Republican lawmakers, especially women, seem more concerned about controlling other women’s bodies than ensuring women’s futures?