While doing research for another project, I stumbled upon this article on forced abortions in China from last month’s USA Today. For those of you not familiar with what business as usual looks like when the government gets to tell you how many children you can have, it’s a worthy read.
As my current roommate actually spent seven years in China caring for the victims of its one-child policy—pregnant women fleeing from the population police and babies abandoned in the streets because they weren’t perfect enough to be “the one”—the story didn’t shock me. Around my house, all that’s old news.
But what did shock me were some of the comments accompanying the story. You had, of course, your requisite “Abortion bad”/”Population control good” comments that you can expect whenever China’s one-child policy comes up. But the ones that really set me to wondering were those which expressed outrage at the forced abortions but had no problem with regular old abortion.
“The government forcing abortions, and women having the right to choose, are a little different,” wrote one pro-abortion commenter.
“You seriously don’t see any difference between a woman making a decision and the government making it for her?” asked another.
The commenters are right: There is a difference between a woman making the decision to take the life of her child and the government making it for her. But it’s not the difference they think. There is everything natural about the second. And there is nothing natural about the first.
What’s natural is a pregnant woman resting her hand on her stomach, soothing the unknown anxieties of the little one she carries.
What’s natural is a mother talking to her unborn child, humming and singing and speaking words of love.
What’s natural is a mother caring for her own body with greater solicitude—feeding it, moving it, and resting it so that the fragile life within can grow healthy and strong.
Above all, what’s natural is the planning, the hoping, and the dreaming of dreams; the longing to hold one’s child and kiss him and see his face; the ache to know who this precious, unseen, unborn baby will grow up to be and the absolute terror at the thought of never getting to discover that, of losing the baby before he makes his way into the world or any day thereafter.
That’s what’s natural. That’s what’s normal. That’s what mothers do and feel and think.
And we all know that, even those who pretend otherwise. If any of us, regardless of how we feel about abortion, see a woman with child smoking or lifting heavy objects or drinking to excess, we look at her askance, wondering how she can play so fast and loose with the life of her child. The same holds true if we see a woman not planning, not dreaming, not hoping. When we see that, we don’t think something is right. We think something is wrong.
In that, all of us instinctively know what many of us refuse to admit: that the mother’s greatest task, before and after birth, is to nourish and nurture the life of her child. That’s her call. That’s her responsibility. That’s what she was built, body and soul, to do.
And to not do it, to not cherish and protect and love the life she helped create, is to betray the deepest truth of her nature. No “right to choose” can change that. Hence why the frightened or troubled or misguided women who exercise that “right” are shattered to the core, becoming as much the victims of abortion as the children whom they let go.
As for “The Government”? Well, people who think of The Government as some benevolent uncle, bestowing riches and services with great liberality on his happy wards, have a frighteningly short view of history.
It takes only a bit of historical knowledge to know that The Government in its many forms (empire, monarchy, republic, perverted theocracy, or tribe) has long been killing its people’s young—pressing them into navies, conscripting them into armies, and sending them off to fight and die in wars of some despot’s making. The Government has ripped boys from their mother’s arms to build Great Walls and majestic pyramids, and The Government has sent them off to factories where the light of day never shines. The Government has sacrificed babies on bloody altars and fiery pyres, sent virgin daughters into the dankest of temples to perform the vilest of acts, and sold the innocent into slavery, all in the hopes of securing a good profit or crop.
In the many, many millenia that have passed since Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, a government that has been anything but the enemy of the young—at least in some ways—has also been a historical oddity. From the Mayans and Mesopotamians right on through the Greeks and Romans, to the Nazis and Soviets and beyond—the story of The Government has almost always been the same. The Government gets to decide who lives and who dies, who grows up strong and who gets sacrificed to whatever gods it worships: Baal, the collective, or, yes, population control.
We in the West live in historically strange times. The governments which govern us may not be exactly to our liking, but for now, they’re also not indiscriminately ripping our babies from our wombs, arms, and homes. The absoluteness of their power and reach have been checked: by an educated people, by the family, and by a Faith that proclaims the dignity of the human person, that believes all men are made in the image of God.
This interlude, however, can only last as long as those checks stand. Lose them, and we’re back to bloody altars and fiery pyres. It’s already happening in China. It can happen here too. That’s the natural course of things in a fallen world where fallen people rule and power corrupts. And those who can’t see that, those who trust The Government to protect what they will not, are aiding and abetting that process. They’re also in for a grave disappointment.
Emily Stimpson is a Contributing Editor to “Our Sunday Visitor” and the author of “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years,” where she dishes on the Church’s teachings about women, marriage, sex, work, beauty, suffering, and more.