Let’s talk about diapers: a newborn baby will need 2,500 diapers in the first year, and many more after that, but state-run programs like WIC and SNAP don’t address even basic needs like diapers. The fight to end abortion grabs headlines, but the press pays little attention to the mundane needs of the single mother who has beaten the odds and carried her crisis pregnancy to term. Saving the life of the child is only the beginning of the story. Being pro-life and pro-marriage also means being pro-mother. After decades of ineffectual welfare programs, there are more single mothers than ever and the state is failing them and their children, but we can do something about it.
Pro-life groups have limited resources, so we have to start small, but Project Manger in the Diocese of Arlington is an example of how quickly something like this can grow. In 2009 a crisis pregnancy center requested 75 cribs for mothers who could not afford them. Last year, the project provided 225 cribs. Crisis pregnancy counselors provide more than just cribs and car seats though. They also provide breastfeeding instruction, nutritional education, and many other services for new mothers. Mother’s Day is a celebration of the world’s toughest job, but pro-life volunteers across the nation are doing what they can to make that job just a little bit easier.
When we approach the mother with dignity and compassion, we have an opportunity to rescue a life, not just from the abortionist, but from poverty, abuse, crime, and a host of other social ills. Too many children are left on the streets to fend for themselves because their mothers abandoned them. By providing more than just pregnancy and adoption services, we can intervene in the beginning to help the mothers not only care for their children, but improve their own lives. Urban parishes provide tuition assistance for the children of low-income families. We can also provide day care and education and career development counseling for the mothers.
Pope Francis has spoken on numerous occasions about the importance of mothers:
“Many things can change and have changed in cultural and social evolution, but there remains the fact that it is the woman who conceives, carries and gives birth to the sons and daughters of men. And this is not simply a biological fact, but also gives rise to a wealth of implications both for the woman herself, for her way of being, and for her relationships, for the way in which she positions herself with regard to human life and life in general. In calling the woman to the role of maternity, God has in an entirely special way entrusted the human being to her.”
Especially relevant in this month of Mary and of mothers, are the Pope’s remarks from a year ago:
“…the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love.”
Mother’s Day is more than just a day to have brunch and mimosas. This is a day to contemplate the unique gifts and importance of women as the foundation of society. Without our mothers, we would not be here. This is the supreme power of women, to nurture and to shape the next generation and to decide what kind of world we will live in. Where the welfare state has so clearly and spectacularly failed as a substitute for a mother’s love, we see just how important mothers are in the project of civilization itself. Indeed, for women living in desperate poverty, becoming a mother is sometimes the only way that they can accomplish anything which gives them a sense of self-worth.
When liberal politicians talk about “women’s issues” they invariably are referring to the destruction of this gift through contraception, sterility, and abortion. As conservatives, we know that you do not elevate the dignity of women by destroying them. We also know that marriage—thus ensuring the presence of both the mother and the father—is the best way for children to avoid poverty and learn right from wrong. Despite this fact—or perhaps because of it, the defense for marriage is unfashionable and politically dangerous. It will take time to win this argument and it is one worth making, but in the meanwhile we must address the growing humanitarian disaster of decades of liberal social experimentation which is destroying families like never before.
Single mothers have long odds at every stage of their children’s development from aborted pregnancies to dismally low high school graduation rates. While we fight for the next generation to enjoy the fullness of the blessings of marriage, we must also fight for the generation being born today to be a culture of life that is open to marriage and fertility so this can be possible. Every life that is saved from abortion, from abuse, from abandonment, and from poverty is another person who will be more likely to grow up to be a mother or a father. This is how we will change our culture—and it all starts with diapers.