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January 22, 2007

The Strangeness of Normalcy: Meditations on 34 Years Since Roe v. Wade.

Last week I had a disturbing dream. If you are anything like me, it is infrequent that you awake and remember dreams, and even more infrequent that the dreams are vivid and have something of a storyline. So when they do, you pay attention.

In my dream a mother had left her young infant propped up in a standing position (though the infant itself was too young to balance standing) on a pew. She then walked away. Standing several yards from the baby, I was not quick enough to catch the baby before it tumbled to the floor, hitting hard. I looked around for the mother. She was no where to be found.

I picked up the baby. I don’t remember it crying, but I do remember it bleeding, profusely from the back of its head. As I looked down to see the blood pooling on the ground, I was hysterical. I couldn’t find the mother anywhere.

Then somehow, as dreams go, I was all of the sudden in a hospital with the baby, frantically searching up and down the hallways for a doctor or someone to help. Doctors and nurses loitered and moved around the hospital completely unmoved by my frantic requests for help. Though I would speak loudly, and with tears thrust the child right in front of them they’d stare with blank and glassy eyes or simply calmly go about their business. No one helped. The infant continued to bleed in my arms. And I knew the child would soon bleed to death.

Obviously, I awoke from the dream quite disturbed. Somehow, today on the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I can’t help but think that dream is symbolic of the public malaise on the issue of abortion. As I frantically searched for help and saw a helpless infant bleeding to death before my eyes, the real eeriness of the dream was in the absolute non-responsiveness of the crowd, the normalcy with which they continued to carry on their business.

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Katharine Eastvold

Wow, thank you so much for those vivid and disturbing images. I think your dream accurately portrays the attitude of much of society toward the unborn victims (and potential victims) of abortion.

I'd like to offer my own meditations on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. To make the problem of abortion even worse, unborn children are not the only victims whose plight society has too-often ignored since abortion was "normalized" in 1973. Women, too, are the victims. Pro-lifers have too often made their point by referring to abortions of "convenience" - i.e., a woman finds a child (or another child) merely inconvenient and so discards it without a second thought, like an out-of-style shoe. Surely such abortions happen, and the law allows them (at least in the first and second trimesters). But most abortions are not of this type. Huge numbers of anonymous women feel forced to have abortions: by boyfriends, husbands, abusive parents or step-parents, poverty, lack of health insurance, severe psychological problems, the trauma of rape, and other dire circumstances. I have known women who became pregnant unexpectedly and courageously chose to have the baby; they were able to continue their education and get decent jobs while their mothers cared for the babies. Certainly this is a hard road, and such girls and women are to be commended for their persistance. But many girls and women in these circumstances don't have reliable relatives to provide free childcare. For them, giving birth will mean giving up on any further education and thus giving up on having a job that will allow them to care for themselves and their children.

When weighed against the life of a child, life ought to win out. But we should be concerned with making sure as few women as possible face this terrible choice. I've read numerous interviews of poor, usually young women who went to abortion clinics not with a throw-away mentality, but with real anguish. Those who did decide to have abortions did so because they thought the life they could give their children would be worse than no life at all. I disagree with that reasoning. But that's a harrowing choice to make - and there's much, much more that the government, individuals, and the church can do to make sure women have better alternatives.

After college, I attended law school for one semester. My school happened to be a real hotbed of pro-choice activism. One day, I saw a sign on a bulletin board arguing in favor of abortion rights on the basis that they were needed to ensure that women are able to go to law schools like ours and have legal careers without being forced by a pregnancy to drop out. Ironically, I was pregnant at the time, and I did drop out to stay home with my child. There were many reasons I made that decision, and I don't regret it, but it was also true that the administration was less-than-sympathetic about helping me figure out a way to finish the program while raising a child.

The point of this story is that if the only way to make sure women can pursue their professional dreams is to give them them opportunity to have their unborn children murdered, then something has gone drastically awry with the feminist movement. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions, we ought to be looking into ways women with young children can be educated, join the workforce (if they need or want to), support themselves and their children, and live secure and hopeful lives. The government alone can't make this happen, but wise policies can help. Something the government can't legislate is the availability of couples willing to adopt unwanted children, including children with special needs. I think it would be wonderful if churches would more vocally pledge that when someone in the congregation adopts a child, the whole church will surround that family with support and nurture and help raise that child.

All that to say, getting Roe v. Wade overturned will only be the first step. Before 1973, plenty of abortions were performed illegally, and many women used risky methods in attempts to cause an abortion. This will happen again once Roe v. Wade is overturned, unless we establish the kind of preconditions that will encourage women to choose life and make it more possible for them to do so. The coat hanger is not an empty threat.

So, let's continue to fight for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and bans on abortion in the states. But that can't be the only front in the battle for the lives of the unborn.


Wow Miss Katherine, I have to say, I've found your comment to be one of the more insightful thoughts about abortion I've read in a while, because it offers some direction that we as a Church Body can help to make an alternative to abortion much easier for mothers in that situation. Thanks for that.

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