by John Whitehead
The Ukraine-Russia war recently passed its 100-day mark. In those 100 days, the war has killed huge numbers of people (precise numbers are unclear) and displaced millions. The war also still threatens to cause harm beyond Ukraine’s borders, whether through a broader conflict between Russia and the west or through an international food crisis. Yet as the fighting between Ukrainians and Russians moves towards a possible stalemate, an opportunity to stop the war might be appearing. Policymakers on both sides should seize such an opportunity.
To date, the Ukrainians have successfully prevented the Russians from seizing Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, while inflicting what seem to be grievous casualties on the invaders. However, the Russians still have made slow but notable gains, occupying large areas of Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as well as part of the country’s southern coast. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently described the Russians as occupying about a fifth of his country.
Meanwhile, Russia is using its naval forces in the Black Sea to blockade Ukraine’s trade. This blockade has slowed the export of Ukrainian grain to other countries, raising the possibility of food crises in certain parts of the world.
African nations receive roughly 40 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine. The blockade poses a threat to their food security. Macky Sall, the president of Senegal and also of the African Union, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that “our countries, even if they are far from the theatre [of action], are victims of this economic crisis.” Amin Awad, the United Nations’ crisis coordinator, has warned “Failure to open those ports will result in famine.”
The current situation is a bitterly tragic one. However, a possibility to end the fighting, even if temporarily, may be in sight. The major parties to the conflict may now be in a better position to pursue diplomacy leading to a cease-fire.
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian policymakers have the same strong incentive to stop the fighting that they always did. A cease-fire means at least a temporary end to Ukrainian troops and civilians dying from Russian aggression and no Russian occupation of more Ukrainian territory. A cease-fire now would also stop the fighting with the Ukrainian government still in control of most of the country.
Putin and other Russian policymakers currently have their own incentive to stop the fighting. A cease-fire means at least a temporary end to Russian troops dying in what has proved a costly military adventure for Russia. Russian territorial gains, especially in eastern Ukraine, offer Putin the opportunity to declare a face-saving victory: Putin can claim that Russia has liberated the peoples of Donetsk and Luhansk (or at least most of them) or otherwise improved Russia’s position in the world.
Policymakers in the United States and other NATO members also currently have an incentive to stop the fighting. A cease-fire means at least a temporary end to the fighting with Ukraine still largely free of Russian occupation and without direct conflict between NATO and Russia. Western policymakers thus can achieve a face-saving victory of their own: they checked Russian aggression in Ukraine without falling into a wider war.
The world’s peoples also have an incentive to stop the fighting, the same incentive we have always had. A cease-fire means at least a temporary end to our fellow human beings dying in war and a diminished risk of the conflict escalating into World War III.
Despite these incentives for a cease-fire, I acknowledge that a cease-fire also has major disadvantages. As I have emphasized, a cease-fire is only a temporary end to the fighting. Without a larger political settlement, the fighting could begin again, whether because of renewed Russian aggression or for some other reason. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and accompanying Ukrainian civil war of 2014, for example, diminished but never truly ended, eventually flaring up again this year.
Also, a cease-fire does not address the larger injustice: Russia’s aggressive occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine and the various human rights violations committed by Russian forces. A far better resolution to the current war would be for all Russian forces to withdraw from Ukraine and for the Ukrainians to resolve their internal political conflicts without foreign military intervention.
While a more stable resolution to the conflict that restores Ukrainian independence would be preferable to freezing the conflict with a cease-fire, such a scenario might not be realistic at this stage. Continuing the war in the hopes that the Ukrainians will eventually push the Russians out of all their territory risks the many dangers that have loomed over the war from the start.
Consider some alternative scenarios for a continued war. Both sides might continue to fight, with neither one able to prevail, and the war will continue to grind up lives in a bloody stalemate. The Russians might gain the upper hand and occupy still more Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainians might gain the upper hand, causing the Russians to resort to some extreme escalation—in the worst-case scenario, the use of nuclear weapons. Any of these scenarios, or some other chain of events, might also lead to NATO intervention, with all the dangers that includes.
Despite its disadvantages, a cease-fire is preferable to many other alternatives. Seeking a cease-fire provides a stop, however temporary, to the fighting and also provides time for policymakers to negotiate. As Zelenskyy has commented, the war will “only definitively end through diplomacy.”
Italy has already proposed the outlines for a possible diplomatic resolution. The proposal includes a cease-fire, plans for a guarantee of both Ukrainian security and Ukraine’s neutrality toward NATO, talks about certain Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine receiving future autonomy within the country; and withdrawal of Russian troops in return for lifting of sanctions on Russia.
I admit to being skeptical about whether the different sides will agree to this proposed solution—Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has spoken dismissively of it, and I don’t think other parties are willing to make the necessary concessions either. Still, at least some type of resolution may become possible with a cease-fire. Even if finding a political settlement takes years, a frozen conflict is better than a hot one.
Besides stopping the fighting, the other urgent problem that needs to be addressed is the possible food crisis caused by the Russian blockade. Ukraine and its western allies should consider a two-fold response to the blockade.
First, they should make an all-out push to bypass the blockade and transport Ukrainian grain to other countries or areas outside the blockade’s reach so they can be properly exported abroad. Efforts to ship Ukrainian grain out through Romania, Poland, and Germany are already underway. These and similar efforts should be accelerated. The United States has already invested considerable money and energy into providing Ukraine with weapons and other aid. Making a comparable investment of resources in getting Ukrainian food exports to those who need them should be a still greater priority.
Second, diplomats should pursue negotiations with the Russians (whether as part of larger talks to resolve the conflict or separately) to allow food exports through the blockade. Unpleasant though it may be, such negotiations might require some concessions to Russia. Perhaps lifting sanctions on Russian food exports—an approach recommended by President Sall—would be an appropriate offer in exchange for allowing Ukrainian food exports.
These are some of the steps policymakers and diplomats can take to check the Ukraine war’s violence. Ukrainians at the grassroots can also potentially make a contribution to achieving a just peace in this conflict.
Ukrainians in areas occupied by Russia might wish to consider pursuing a campaign of nonviolent resistance to the occupiers’ rule. The recent call by Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk for teachers in the occupied territories to leave their jobs and for parents in those territories not to send their children to school reflects the basic idea of what such a campaign might look like.
Consistent noncooperation with the Russian occupiers may contribute to undermining their control of eastern Ukraine. Those living in the occupied territories must of course decide for themselves what is a prudent and appropriate path to take. Yet nonviolent resistance could prove a better, less bloody way of weakening Russian influence in Ukraine.
An end to the Ukraine war still seems far off. Also, even ending the war today cannot restore the lives already lost or undo the other harm caused. Moving the war closer to a peaceful resolution may be possible, though, and is well worth trying.
For more of our posts on war policy, see:
Russia and Ukraine:
A Hidden Cost of the Ukraine War: How Russia’s Invasion Encourages the Spread of Nuclear Weapons
Seeing War’s Victims: The New York Times Investigation of Civilian Casualties in Iraq and Syria
by John Whitehead
A commitment to the consistent life ethic is a commitment to protect people’s lives against violence or other threats. This essential commitment is present among all varieties of consistent life advocates and their different approaches to the ethic.
Sometimes, though, consistent life advocacy can involve a more personal, concrete, and emotional type of commitment. People can be moved to protect life because they encounter a specific case of violence or suffering that is especially vivid. They might hear someone tell their story of being affected by violence or hear the story of a victim of violence recounted by someone else. They might see a photograph or watch a video showing an act of violence and its victims.
These presentations of specific people and how violence affects them are immensely important. They can put a human face on those killed or otherwise harmed by abortion, executions, suicide, war, or other forms of violence. They make the horror of violence apparent, free of euphemisms or other methods that distance people from violence’s reality. They can awaken empathy and motivate action.
For all their importance, these powerful presentations of violence and the emotions they evoke also have significant limitations. They provide motivation but not necessarily guidance. They can sometimes leave out or obscure certain types of violence and those threatened by it. Stories and depictions of violence can strengthen a larger consistent commitment to protecting people’s lives, but they are not identical to such a commitment.
Sometimes a commitment to protecting people from violence requires detachment. Sometimes consistent life advocates need to step back from presentations of specific victims and consider other factors, which may be more abstract and less emotionally gripping. When trying to protect life, distance can sometimes help.
What to Do?
Although they can take a variety of forms, presentations of victims of violence share a very obvious limitation. They can show us the reality of an injustice and make us want to do something about it, but they don’t tell us what to do. Finding a prudent and just way of protecting lives from abortion, the death penalty, war, and other forms of violence may require taking a broader, more dispassionate look at these issues.
This limitation becomes especially apparent if we consider that people on the other sides of these issues can also invoke presentations of violence to support their positions. Consistent life advocates can point to pictures or stories of the children killed by abortion and the women harmed by it; but advocates of abortion access can point to their own presentations of women killed by illegal abortions or life-threatening pregnancies. Consistent life advocates can provide examples of the horrors of execution or other aspects of legal punishment; but advocates of a more punitive type of law enforcement can provide examples of the horrors of violent crime. Consistent lifers can invoke the many victims of waging war; but hawks can invoke the victims of tyranny or aggression who allegedly will be saved by waging war. And so on.
Opposing presentations of violence and its victims can end up cancelling each other out. Resolving different views on these issues and identifying an effective response to violence often requires analyzing larger questions that specific human stories cannot address.
A Tilted Playing Field?
Presentations of violence’s victims has another, perhaps less obvious, limitation: an emphasis on specific cases of people harmed by violence tends to favor certain victims of violence over others. Not everyone harmed or threatened by violence has an equal opportunity to have their situations recognized.
Sometimes distance plays a role. People are more likely to see and hear about acts and victims of violence in their own country than victims of violence in other countries. Victims of war are thus often at a disadvantage compared to victims of violence closer to home.
Also, not all victims of war receive equal attention: in the United States, for example, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine received more air time on network newscasts during a single month (March 2022) than the Syrian Civil War received in all 2012, its year of highest network news coverage. The brutal war in Yemen received less network attention in roughly the first five years it was waged than the Ukraine war received in March of this year.
Sometimes the nature of the victim plays a role. People who can tell their own stories of being threatened or harmed by violence, or who have family and friends to tell their stories, are more likely to be recognized than those who cannot. One group of victims obscured as a result are victims of abortion, as children in the womb by definition cannot speak for themselves and never had people who knew them in the same way as already-born victims of violence did. This same situation presents an obstacle in defending the rights of animals, another cause important to many consistent life ethic advocates. While many people with disabilities are very eloquent self-advocates, some people with certain disabilities may not be able to tell their own stories and advocate for themselves.
Sometimes scale plays a role. As many have noted, violence becomes less emotionally affecting as the number of victims increases. If violence claims a relatively small number of lives, the victims’ names and photos can be seen and remembered. If violence claims thousands or tens of thousands or millions of lives, the victims quickly become an abstraction. An emphasis on representing specific victims of violence may paradoxically obscure the violence that claims the greatest number of victims.
Sometimes the nature of the violence plays a role. Arguably the greatest threat to human lives today is nuclear war, which would kill untold millions and possibly wipe out humanity. Yet this colossal threat is also a somewhat shadowy one, since, as long as it’s a concern for consistent life advocates, the threat must always remain a hypothetical and future one. If nuclear war ever becomes real and vivid, it will be quite definitively too late to do anything about it. Opponents of nuclear war can tell the stories of those harmed by specific instances of nuclear weapons’ use (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear testing), but most of the victims they are concerned with must always (we hope) be only potential victims.
The Value of Different Approaches
In summary, stories and other representations of specific victims of violence are vital tools in protecting life against threats. Such representations are not the only tools, however, and they may not always be the most useful tools. Consistent life ethic advocacy can also benefit from taking a broader, more abstract view of violence and its victims. A certain degree of detachment can coexist with, and sometimes strengthen, the commitment to protecting people’s lives that is at the heart of the consistent life ethic.
For more of our posts with philosophical takes on the consistent life ethic, see:
More than Double the Trouble: Another Way of Connecting [intersectionality]
by Rachel MacNair
Now that Roe’s overturn looks like a real possibility, I want to suggest some ideas for legislation. When the Biden administration started, I wrote My Ideas for 2021 Legislation, detailing what I would advise if I were asked, knowing I wouldn’t be asked. I still hold to ratifying the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to abolish the death penalty, along with a whole host of legislation to prevent killing.
Here I’m going to focus entirely on abortion in what we hope will be a post-Roe world – state and federal legislation. As usual, these are my own thoughts, not official positions of the Consistent Life Network.
Point 1: Taking Care of Everybody
Several things should have been done all along that, in addition to their own merits, work as abortion prevention – whether abortion’s legal or not. But the idea that states banning abortion have all the more responsibility to pass these has come up in several media spots. For those states insisting on keeping abortion legal, these are some of the things that will be all the more important.
Henry Hyde made a good pro-life case for parental leave; see Paid Family and Medical Leave for the speech and more. The parental leave bill passed, but it’s unpaid, making it unworkable for many.
Raising the minimum wage, by reducing poverty, reduces abortion.
Bolstering Community Health Centers in general – and especially in the vicinity of Planned Parenthood centers that don’t have any nearby – will bring greater access to health care. Even a gridlocked Congress may be able to do this, because both Republicans and Democrats support Community Health Centers. It’s already in the CHC’s legal definition that they don’t do abortions.
The idea of a child allowance was originally proposed to be done through Social Security, but ended up as an expanded tax credit. It was wildly successful in reducing childhood poverty. But then it ended. My opinion is that Social Security payments make a better fit: being a parent is work, and work we need people to do. Sharing in the cost of that makes as much sense as sharing for people with disabilities and retirees. Social security might be more permanent than a tax credit.
One year the National Right to Life Committee and the National Organization for Women had their national conventions in Denver on the same weekend, so I went to major chunks of both. One button popular in both: “Every mother is a working mother.”
There should never family caps on any kind of poverty-relief payments; those have been shown to increase abortions.
Finding better solutions to crime that don’t involve mass incarceration, which can break up families and other support systems for children. Cash bail for those safe enough to be let out can threaten jobs and make pregnancy harder. The exception to the abolition of slavery for those convicted of a crime encourages mistreatment of prisoners.
We need to find ways to make the Hyde amendment permanent. The Hyde Amendment bars federal Medicaid dollars from paying for most abortions. It’s a rider every year. It’s a life-saving measure, as shown in studies. It’s helpful to low-income women, since it removes some of the pressures to abort. Democrats have recently made its passage much more precarious than it used to be.
Point 2: A Horse Trade
I propose a bill that would expand Medicare to cover everyone from conception up to age 18, plus all obstetric care for pregnancies, plus include that the Hyde amendment is permanent and covers all federal programs.
Why Medicare? Because an age-based set of benefits is already established and doesn’t mark the recipient as poor. It has a better reputation with doctors, is more stable, and doesn’t rely on state governments who cut Medicaid.
Children as a whole aren’t the most expensive health care group. Medicaid and CHIP dollars could go into the Medicare budget to cover the same people. Medicare already covers children with disabilities (although that could be better done), so the most expensive children are already in the budget.
For Republicans, having the Hyde amendment permanent, and having conception be the beginning point – would that be so very valuable as to let them swallow their aversion to expanding Medicare?
For Democrats, having a substantial expansion of Medicare – would that be so very valuable as to let them swallow their aversion to the Hyde amendment?
Actually, I doubt it. I fear this is fantasy; positions are so entrenched. But if either one of the parties did decide to propose it, it would surely put the party in a spot, wouldn’t it?
In the meantime, those who follow Catholic and Mennonite doctrine, a large hunk of evangelicals, and us pro-life feminists and consistent lifers would all regard it as a win-win. We like both parts of the deal and wouldn’t regard it as a horse trade at all.
Point 3: Laws Directly on Abortion
Comedian Stephen Colbert noted (at 3:13-3:34) Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s remark, “We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. They’re going to violate murder laws, they’re not going to follow gun laws. I never understood that argument.” Colbert responded, “I’ve got to say – ‘Laws are pointless’ is a bold position for the attorney general.” Having heard arguments recently that laws against abortion won’t stop all abortions, I apply the same point: for both guns and abortions, laws won’t stop the problem entirely, but they’ll have a substantial impact, and that’s life-saving. You don’t avoid saving some lives just because you can’t save them all.
Suggestions we’ve already made for referendums can also apply to legislation, once allowed:
On stopping late-term abortions, where the best public support is: cast the proposal not in terms of restriction, but protection – it gets the same result, but frames it better. And it will be far more effective and persuasive if other protections of late-term babies are added. Say, health coverage and other supports for the mother, the unborn child, and for children born with disabilities. (We have a list of possibilities and would like to add to it if anyone has suggestions.)
Conscientious objection on state tax dollars could apply to both abortion and the death penalty, and military-related expenditures where that’s in state budgets.
Meanwhile, what’s the impact of laws that ban abortion outright, or after heartbeat detection? We all know women will travel to other states eager to receive them. But there’s a continuum of how much women actually want to do this:
Those who are being pressured or are unsure obviously benefit from having the ready availability of abortion removed. Those who only need a small obstacle or information on alternatives will mostly make their way to birth just fine.
Sidewalk counselors find a steady stream of such women in the most unlikely of places – namely, walking into the facility with an abortion appointment. There are far more such women elsewhere.
When the media report an upsurge of women trying to get appointments in neighboring states, they don’t notice those are only the women on one extreme of the continuum. Pro-lifers encounter women on the other parts all the time.
Also, couples will take more care about getting pregnant when getting un-pregnant is so hard. More women won’t get themselves on that continuum.
In any event, the major impact of abortion-banning legislation will be to close abortion facilities, or the abortion-performing part of some medical clinics. Shutting down the assembly lines of current abortion practice will have a major impact on abortion numbers.
We don’t have to do draconian things to make sure each and every abortion doesn’t happen. Numbers will drop precipitously (they already have in Texas) simply with the passage of the law alone.
At which point, all the things mentioned in Point 1 above, along with more prenatal justice education, become all the more crucial.
For more of our posts on similar topics, see:
Quotations compiled in PowerPoint by Rachel MacNair
Feel free to copy and paste any you find suitable in your social media.
“Why an Heiress Spent Her Fortune Trying to Keep Immigrants Out”, The New York Times
For more of our posts on racism, see:
The May 2 article in Politico has caused quite a stir: a leaked February 10 draft of a proposed opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson. The draft says that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” and explicitly overturns Roe v. Wade and Casey. Here we offer a variety of responses.
The Work Ahead
Excerpt from Statement of Democrats for Life of America, a CLN member group
Kristen Day, Executive Director
The Court clearly made a mistake 50 years ago when it took away these decisions from the people, and now we as a nation are so polarized that we forget that there are real people involved. This should not be about the next election. This should be about women, their families, and their children.
Many states have chosen to eliminate health and safety regulations governing abortion in response to the possibility that the Supreme Court might overturn Roe. They have voted to allow non-doctors to perform abortions on women. They have lowered their regulatory oversight of chemical abortions. Mail-order abortion pills have inflicted significant trauma on many women who used them and even sent them to emergency rooms.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have states limiting abortion from 6 weeks to 20 weeks. Still, some of those states lack the infrastructure to connect pregnant women with available resources to help them stay in school, continue their careers or have essential resources to support their growing families. More needs to be done in this regard.
Excerpt from Statement of Feminists for Life of America, a CLN member group
Serrin Foster, President
Angry voices are masking so much pain. Efforts by big corporations to pay employees to travel to “abortion destination states” will only create a new generation of women who mourn or mask their pain.
And using poor women and women of color to defend abortion is unacceptable. Nothing is more racist than abortion. Their children are just as precious as any other.
Economic justice does not come from women laying their bodies down for brutal procedures or taking a series of poisonous pills to accommodate unsupportive administrators, bosses, or partners.
On the Streets
Excerpt from Response from Rehumanize International, a CLN member group
Herb Geraghty, Executive Director
Since the news broke, our team has been a presence outside the court nearly nonstop — staying out until past 2 AM and heading back at 8 AM the next morning. As a result, our secular, nonpartisan, and consistently pro-life message has been shared by media to millions of viewers. In this moment it is more critical than ever that our paradigm-shifting ideas are heard far and wide . . .
At many points, our small group were the only pro-life voices present outside the court — that means if we weren’t there, the media would only be able to report on the desperate talking points of the profit-hungry abortion industrial complex. The Supreme Court’s decision is not yet final — and the pro-abortion movement is working very hard to manufacture enough public pressure on key justices to intimidate them into changing their minds.
We must not allow the abortion industrial complex to take control of the narrative. We must use this time to lend our voices to the cause of justice for the unborn.
This witness has not been easy. We have faced more violence from pro-abortion protesters outside the court than ever before. I have been intentionally elbowed, pushed, shoved, hit on the head with signs, and had water thrown at me. I have had multiple signs ripped out of my hands and ripped up in front of my face or thrown far away into a crowd. I have seen my fellow activists punched, slammed in the head with megaphones, pulled to the ground, and even groped. Of course, as always, we have responded with nothing but nonviolence and de-escalation tactics.
Blog post – After Roe: A World beyond Abortion?
Aimee Murphy, Rehumanize International founder
I encourage my pro-life friends and colleagues to share a bold proposal for holistic, human-centered restorative justice after abortion with their communities, legislators, and leaders. Punitive, dehumanizing, and vengeful justice within our current retributive model is incongruous with human dignity. As pro-lifers we should understand that our retributive justice system — which only compounds and multiplies trauma and harm — can never be a human-centered, healing response to the communal pain and trauma of abortion. Instead, we need to see holistic, comprehensive community-based care for pregnant people, their prenatal children, and their families. Let’s build a world beyond abortion: protect the preborn in the law, and ensure families have the food, housing, childcare, healthcare, living wage, and paid leave to choose life and parent confidently.
I support restorative justice after abortion. I want to see healing for all who have suffered at the hands of the abortion industrial complex and their dehumanizing lies. I want to see healing for those who have chosen abortion and suffered the loss of their own child, or for those who mourn lost siblings, cousins, or other family members. I want to see healing for the clinic workers, the abortionists, and the corporations who participated in abortions, who should be given the space to come to terms with their complicity and openly grieve the children killed and missing today due to the violence of abortion. I want to see a justice system that acknowledges the loss of countless preborn children, helps offenders make restitution for the harm done, and more than anything that works together with families and communities to heal and make abortion unthinkable by providing the resources that will end the “demand” for this violent procedure.
Kevin D. Williamson
National Review, May 5, 2022
Kevin is not a consistent-lifer, but makes good points here. National Review accounts itself conservative in the William F. Buckley tradition.
The desire to punish is distinct from the desire to protect — it is rooted in an entirely different psychology and it produces very different policy prescriptions. If, as seems likely, Roe v. Wade is vacated and the matter of abortion regulation is properly returned to the state legislatures, we should be mindful of that difference and emphasize protection over punishment when crafting our statutes . . .
As I often observe, we Americans are not the Swiss — or even the Germans or the Dutch. We are not an especially ruly or easily governed people, as witnessed by our unusually high homicide rates . . . So it is unlikely that we will achieve 100 percent compliance with any abortion prohibitions we enact.
. . . even if we assume that every single one of the abortions that happen in the United States in a typical year (estimates vary, but probably around 850,000) would otherwise result in a pregnancy subsidized by Medicaid or another government program, this would not add up to a great deal of money — probably less than half a day’s worth of Social Security spending. If additional support for vulnerable mothers is required, then that is a bearable cost. As with practically every other welfare initiative, our problem there is going to be program design and administration, not resources.
Where There’s Value to the Leak
Excerpt from There’s an upside to the Alito draft leak
Mercatornet, May 6, 2022
Richard Stith, CLN Board member
If a snarky, plotting, election-related draft had been revealed, that would have truly delegitimated the court. But in the draft one only finds very solid scholarship . . .
Why should close reading, historical insight and an abundance of footnotes delegitimate the Court?
As a pro-life writer, I actually was a bit disappointed in the draft’s content. It contains no mention of the horror of abortion . . . it doesn’t mention any of the arguments that abortion hurts women . . .
[T]he leak has a silver lining. People will read through the draft opinion with greater care than they would ordinarily lavish on an actual Supreme Court opinion, where only the final result matters . . . And people find it plain exciting to read stuff that’s supposed to be secret.
Here is some evidence for my silver lining. The Washington Post yesterday published an annotated albeit somewhat simplified version of the text. I thought that both the abridgment and the textual comments were remarkably fair-minded, really devoted only to explicating Alito’s reasoning, not to unfairly debunking it.
Others are no doubt doing what the Washington Post did. This will soften support for Roe. If more and more people learn what an unfounded opinion it was, they will have less reverence for it . . .
But maybe advance titillation is slightly better than a done-and-dusted announcement in June.
If Roe Is Overturned, Where Should the Pro-Life Movement Go Next? – in this New York Times article, Tish Harrison Warren does another excellent roundup of several viewpoints.
The Price of Roe – our website showing how Roe has sabotaged peace and justice and equality goals.
Our blog posts:
by Julia Smucker
The primary focus of pro-life advocacy (as conventionally understood in reference to the defense of prenatal human lives) is on opposing abortion – and rightly so, since the legalized killing of the unborn claims thousands of lives daily and is at the root of their dehumanization. Consistent life ethicists, while advocating strongly against abortion, also apply the term “pro-life” to the entire natural lifespan – again rightly so, reflecting the principle that all human life is inherently valuable and worthy of protection. Additionally, applying pro-life principles consistently means expanding our concern for the unborn to include all circumstances that endanger them, even when abortion isn’t considered, of which there are all too many.
Lack of Adequate Nutrition and Health Care
As an interpreter, I regularly encounter immigrant families starting new life chapters in the U.S., many of whom are refugees or asylum-seekers. When these families expand, so does their need for care, including essential prenatal checks and sometimes nutritional services such as WIC. Of course, immigrant families are far from the only people needing these services, but that’s the context in which I observe them. When I do, I’m often struck by the thought that, without even mentioning abortion, these service providers’ work could hardly be more pro-life. The very purpose of programs like WIC is to ensure born and unborn children get the nutrition they need at vital stages of development. Seeing these services in action brings home to me how essential they are from a pro-life perspective: when mothers are at risk of food insecurity during or after pregnancy, their developing children become even more at risk.
The negative health effects of poverty are easily passed from mother to child, not only directly by undernourishment, but also through the effects of stress on the body. Research has increasingly shown how toxic stress, which happens when stress hormones are released constantly over time, affects fetal development when those stress hormones are passed from mother to baby through the bloodstream. A 2019 documentary focused this research on poverty-related stresses to explain how they can “essentially handicap a baby for life literally before birth.” On a more hopeful note, the research also indicates “that the imprint of poverty and its toxic stressors can actually be reversed — just by making some radical shifts in prenatal care for poor moms, through programs that provide consistent, empathic one-on-one coaching with the mother while she is pregnant, and continuing through early childhood.”
Numerous studies focusing on race-related stress have come to similar conclusions, finding correlations between day-to-day experiences of racial prejudice and consistently high levels of stress hormones in the body, leading to multiple health risks that can be passed on to babies in the womb. Some studies have linked the stress caused by lifelong experiences of racial prejudice to low birth weight in babies. Others have found that, across multiple levels of education and financial status, Black women are disproportionately at risk of preterm labor and/or losing their babies within the first year after birth.
A more immediate threat to life occurs with direct incidents of racialized violence. In 2020, Sarah Terzo compiled several news reports of such violence against pregnant Black women by police – which of course also gravely endangered their unborn children. Two of the five incidents Terzo cites involve Black women giving birth prematurely after experiencing excessive force at the hands of police officers. In the other three incidents, in which pregnant Black women were beaten or kicked, their babies died. All the above incidents, as reported, easily fit the categories of police brutality and excessive force; in most of them, the women who experienced the violence weren’t charged with any crimes. Even when a crime has been committed, it would be impossible for an unborn child to bear any responsibility for it. Therefore any use of police force that knowingly endangers an unborn child is reckless at best.
The world recently watched in horror as Russia’s military bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, killing at least one pregnant mother and baby. This was an especially egregious example of the callous disregard for vulnerable human lives that occurs in war, but sadly, it’s not as anomalous as some might think. In fact, Rehumanize International author Samuel Parker noticed parallels between the Mariupol hospital bombing and a 2015 U.S. airstrike on a trauma hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
Just as it would be naïve to assume the only people harmed in war are armed combatants, it would be naïve to assume unborn children aren’t among the innocent victims of war too frequently dismissed as “collateral damage.” As the nonprofit Fields of Peace noted in a recent statement, “Today’s wars are fought in cities – the bombing of neighborhoods, apartments, schools, and hospitals. In modern war, for every one combatant killed, nine civilians are killed, the majority of them children…. War has become primarily the killing of children.”
Exposure to Toxins
Risks to babies in the womb from alcohol and other substances are well-established, and their avoidance during pregnancy is routinely advised. Developing babies may be exposed to harmful substances in additional ways, including the types of direct violence described above. Some evidence has suggested that tear gas – used in international conflict and by hypermilitarized police forces against protestors in multiple countries, including the U.S. – may be linked to miscarriages.
Another culprit: corporate carelessness with pollutants. To name one example, the 2019 film Dark Waters (summarized here) was based on the true story of a corporate lawyer who chose to represent his grandmother’s community, whose water supply was tainted by a company’s production of a chemical compound found to cause health problems in cows and humans – including birth defects. Multiple studies have also linked serious and sometimes life-threatening birth defects to air pollution.
A 2017 court battle in which an undocumented teenager sought and obtained an abortion was tragic on multiple levels. Among the several tragedies compounding the situation was the fact that the girl’s parents had previously forced her sister to miscarry – a grossly abusive act that not only killed one child but also contributed to the killing of another.
That domestic violence increases the risk of miscarriage, along with other health risks for mothers and babies who do survive to term, is well documented. This is a sadly global problem, borne out by studies in various countries including Egypt, Bangladesh, the U.S., New Zealand, Turkey, India, and Ethiopia.
When interpersonal violence involves a deadly weapon, the situation becomes even more dangerous. And in a country with more civilian-owned guns than people, reports of shootings of pregnant women are shockingly numerous, whether by current or former partners, as innocent bystanders, or in unknown circumstances. Even if a pregnant woman is fatally shot in an altercation for which she may bear some responsibility, her death is still needless and tragic, and her baby is certainly blameless.
Mistreatment of Pregnant Inmates & Detainees
Babies of incarcerated mothers have similarly committed no crime, yet it’s their lives that are most endangered when their mothers are mistreated or neglected. In the worst cases, babies have died after being born prematurely in prisons or jails where they and their mothers were denied urgent medical care.
Similarly dangerous conditions have been reported for pregnant women in immigration custody, whose babies are innocent regardless of whether their parents have broken any laws. A fact sheet by Physicians for Human Rights reported multiple cases of severe neglect of detained women with pregnancy complications, and a total of 28 miscarriages experienced in ICE custody, between 2016 and 2018. Fortunately, more recent ICE policy imposed stricter limits on detention of pregnant and postpartum women, although the same limits don’t apply to Customs and Border Protection.
To be sure, abortion is the most direct attack on the lives of prenatal humans. Still, the examples above show that even if one focuses solely on protecting unborn lives, a purely single-issue focus only on opposing abortion is inadequate to the task. If we’re truly motivated by concern for the well-being of the unborn, this should naturally lead us to oppose any threats to them – and to their mothers – wherever such threats occur.
On the other side of the same coin, there’s a revealingly uncontroversial concern that arises instinctively in response to actual or potential harm to babies in the womb when it occurs outside the abortion debate – including among those who don’t take a strong position on abortion or even some who identify as pro-choice. If unborn children are so easily recognized as vulnerable human beings worthy of protection in those contexts, why should they be considered any less human or less worthy of life when their lives are deliberately and directly taken in medical settings?
Concern for the unborn, then, cannot exclude any injustices that endanger them. And concern for those made vulnerable by injustice cannot exclude the unborn.
For more of our posts from Julia Smucker, see:
by Rachel MacNair
Among the insights of the consistent life ethic are:
- When we perceive human beings as potential targets and therefore dehumanize them, this is an outrage. It’s also inaccurate. All human beings should be respected and free from violence.
- When people perpetrate violence, it’s mentally unhealthy for them.
- Committing violence in one area leads to committing violence in other areas. The dynamics of violence have been set in motion.
But what if we subtract that first point? In some situations, it’s not inaccurate to say beings aren’t human, because they aren’t. If we consider non-human animals, do the other two points still apply?
The Consistent Life Network as a group opposes the killing human beings specifically, so we’re now discussing my own opinion. I offer some examples to illustrate why those remaining two insights still apply.
Violence and Mental Health
Experiments that Harm Animals
Researcher Harold Herzog reports his own experience: “My stomach turned queasy, I began to sweat, and my hands shook when I dropped it into the near-boiling water . . . More shaky hands, a sweaty brow, a queasy stomach . . . my response was purely visceral, a physical nausea akin to the body’s involuntary shudder in response to the odor of putrification.”
The euthanizing of animals in shelters has been reported as a trauma for staff in Psychology Today: “Shelter workers who have to euthanize animals as a regular part of their jobs suffer a wide range of distressing reactions, including grief, anger, nightmares and depression, according to a study I conducted with a fellow social worker . . . .[comments include] ‘ I have a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of crying’ . . . ‘I’ve had breakdowns in the euthanasia room because I feel so helpless’”
In a report of the American television newsmagazine, 60 Minutes (air date January 11, 1998) a Spanish bullfighter is reported as saying that he dreams of bullfighting every night – a possible post-trauma symptom. Another symptom is intrusive imagery: “You know every – each bull that I – that I fight and kill him, he’s a — he’s a part of you for the rest of your life. You understand that?”
Jennifer Dillard wrote A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees. From the abstract: “to the slaughterhouse workers, the cost of a hamburger includes the financial and physical hardships of the slaughterhouse work itself . . . Not only do the employees face serious physical health hazards, but they also view, on a daily basis, large-scale violence and death that most of the American population will never have to encounter.”
Violence Leading to More Violence
Studies show a strong connection between children being cruel to pets as a pattern that builds up to a pattern of violence against other human beings. See for example the book Cruelty to Animals and Interpersonal Violence. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is quoted in that book: “investigation and prosecution of crimes against animals is an important tool for identifying people who are, or may become, perpetrators of violent crimes against people” (p. 211).
Reasons for this may include:
- the priming effect of violence – that is, when it happens, you think of it more
- the lack of empathy necessary to be cruel
- habit and conditioning (in academic talk, systematic desensitization)
Systematic desensitization is used well by behavioral therapists in clients with phobias. Clients gradually get used to small things and then things closer to what they are afraid of. They relax themselves as a practice, and eventually the phobia is gone. In this case, however, if children are cruel to pets and this is not regarded as a serious problem, then they can become quite used to what would be repulsive to most people. The step to cruelty against people is not so large a step.
That’s likely to apply beyond children and pets. Desensitization spreads.
Solutions: Everyday Peace Actions
The good news is that, unlike so many other issues, we can all take actions that help promote nonviolence in our daily lives. We don’t depend entirely on persuading others to act.
The bad news is, changing life-long habits is not an easy thing to do.
But again, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be done all at once. In fact, I propose it shouldn’t be. In the case of a vegetarian or vegan diet, for example, I did a survey several years ago at vegetarian events to discover the experience of successful vegetarians. I found their transition period was mainly from 6 months to 3 years. I took about a year on the transition to vegetarianism myself, finishing back in 1975.
Try a vegan dish or a vegan restaurant. If you like it, add it into your diet more frequently. If you don’t, drop it and go to the next one. There are all kinds of veggie burgers, and vegan pizzas, yogurt, ice cream, sausages, hot dogs, and possibilities within all kinds of different ethnic foods. Nowadays, the abundance of options in many places is quite large. That’s sometimes even the case in regular grocery stores, not necessarily specialty shops. Your nearest vegetarian and vegan restaurants can be found world-wide at happycow.net.
That’s the psychology, but biology also says a transition over time is best. While a high-fiber diet is usually ideal, going from low-fiber to high-fiber suddenly can make the body rebel with flatulence and digestive problems. A sudden upsurge in fruit or cruciferous vegetables can bring on diarrhea in some people.
Overall, however, the American Dietetic Association’s position is that appropriately planned vegetarian and vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
Currently, it’s impossible to be 100% vegan. But in many places it’s easy to be 99% vegan; I’ve done it for decades. Yet people who have no intention of ever becoming vegetarian are still making a contribution to nonviolence by experimenting with dishes and restaurants and using the ones they like.
Expanding Personal Nonviolence
Of course the nonviolent diet goes beyond what happens to the animals. Are the workers who produced the food well treated? Was the production environmentally sound? Are the corporations who produce it doing nasty things, or did it come straight from the farmer?
Buying fair trade in bananas, coffee, and chocolate – tropical products – is especially important. Those that aren’t fair trade generally have some horrific treatment of workers involved. For chocolate, that includes child slavery.
Then again, nonviolence in purchases goes well beyond food. See for example the Better World Shopper, which grades companies on these criteria:
Expanding What “Voting” Means
The way I see it is that spending a dollar is like casting a vote. Every dollar you spend is casting a vote for something.
I remember one election day, when after casting my ballot I went to eat lunch in a vegan restaurant. Candidate voting for us consistent lifers is pretty bleak. So later, I cast votes that vegan restaurants should be readily available. Those dollars spent there were a way of voting for that. I had a strong sense that visit had more impact than what marks I put on that piece of paper.
None of us can be pure on how we buy, of course – large corporations run by those of callous heart are too widespread. Boycott everything with a taint, and you have very little left to live on.
But I take the approach of a “tight wallet” and a “loose wallet.” My expenditures will be limited with large corporations. I’m much looser in spending when it’s such things as a mom-and-pop shop, local, employee-owned, small business, and especially if it’s oriented to charity or nonviolent advocacy.
I go to all kinds of demonstrations to protest war, the death penalty, abortion, police brutality, etc. I’ll keep at it, but when I do, I’m trying to influence the behavior of other people. I do find it gratifying to also have things I can do myself that will have a positive impact for nonviolence.
For more of our posts on nonviolence in personal practice, see:
Suffering and Injustice Concern Us All / Vasu Murti
Parallels of Veganism and Prolife-ism / Kristin Monahan
My Personal Journey on Veganism, War, and Abortion / Frank Lane
by John Whitehead
The Russian war against Ukraine is nearing its two-month mark with no clear end in sight. The human suffering caused by the war, including reported human rights violations by Russian forces, is terrible to contemplate. Further, the ongoing US confrontation with Russia over Ukraine carries its own set of dangers: a more uncompromising stance toward the opposing side and the risk of escalation to a wider war.
No Room for Compromise?
US President Joe Biden has made several statements that a negotiated solution to the war less likely. He has repeatedly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and also referred to the Russian president as a “butcher.”
Other US policymakers have made similar statements. The State Department announced that it formally judged Russian forces guilty of war crimes in Ukraine. Both the Democratic and Republican ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have indicated Putin must face consequences for such crimes. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said, “Putin must be held accountable for this tragic and barbaric assault on innocent civilians.” Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) said, “The international community must also take concrete steps to hold Putin and his cronies accountable for their war crimes.”
In a more just world order than the present one, world leaders who violate international law—whether Putin or anyone else—would indeed be held accountable for their crimes. That is regrettably not the current situation, however.
The United States doesn’t currently have jurisdiction to try Russian policymakers for war crimes and Russia isn’t a party to the International Criminal Court (and neither is the United States). Also, Russia’s status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council would likely allow it to block effective prosecution of Russian war crimes. Most important, as long as Putin and his associates remain in power, they remain effectively immune from prosecution by a foreign or international court.
Calling Putin a war criminal is unlikely to lead to the Russian president being brought to justice. However, such statements are likely to make Putin more committed to waging war against Ukraine and less willing to negotiate.
The war has created a dire political situation for Putin. For all the death and devastation they have caused to date, Russian forces have not succeeded in seizing the Ukrainian capital of Kiev or otherwise decisively defeating the Ukrainians. The war might well end in a Russian defeat. Wartime defeat could threaten Russian President Vladimir Putin’s legitimacy and hold on power, which means he has strong incentive to do whatever is required to win. If a fall from power also means probable prosecution for war crimes, then that incentive to win becomes even stronger.
If US policymakers are effectively saying that Putin must be removed from power—a step that Biden has explicitly advocated, although he later walked back that statement—then that leaves little room for Putin to make any concession or negotiate an end to the Ukraine war. Russian officials have responded to condemnatory American statements by calling them “absolutely unacceptable and inexcusable” and warning of a “collapse” in US-Russian relations.
In the absence of a negotiated solution, the Ukraine war continues and threatens to expand. The United States has provided an estimated $2.6 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the February 2022 Russian invasion (and was providing military assistance to the Ukrainians for years before that point). Most recently, the Biden administration decided to send $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including military equipment previously not provided to that country.
Whatever else one might think of such assistance, US support to Ukraine’s war fighting carries with it the danger that the United States will be drawn into a direct conflict with Russia. If US military personnel train Ukrainian military personnel—as is apparently planned under the most recent military aid package—that opens the possibility of US troops being caught up in combat. Great caution is necessary.
The Biden administration has at least so far refrained from committing US troops directly to the war. In particular, the administration has not embraced the policy of a “no-fly-zone” over Ukraine, despite repeated requests for such a policy from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A no-fly-zone would effectively require US or other NATO forces to shoot down Russian aircraft, if necessary. This would turn the Ukraine war into a full-fledged world war between Russia and the west.
The administration has also to date rejected the notion of giving Ukraine fighter jets. While not as extreme as imposing a no-fly-zone, flying jets from NATO nations into Ukraine so Ukrainians can use them against Russians could still be interpreted by Russia as an escalation.
Nevertheless, various voices within the United States have called for giving Ukraine fighter jets or even imposing the no-fly-zone. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) has questioned the fighter jet decision, saying “President Biden should explain exactly why he vetoed fighter jets for Ukraine.” Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican House minority leader, has said the United States should “provide [the Ukrainians] the planes where they can create a no-fly-zone,” a stance seconded by House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) has released a statement expressing support either for supplying jets or imposing a no-fly-zone (and also calling for measures to “further devastate the Russian economy”). We must hope the Biden administration continues to avoid such escalations.
Escalation on the Russian side is also a real danger, especially if the war continues to go badly and Putin gets desperate. What this might entail was recently spelled out by CIA Director William Burns: “a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapon” While such a drastic step does not seem likely at present, what the future holds is unknown.
The Diplomatic Path
As long as the war continues without a diplomatic resolution, more people will die and the risk of some terrible escalation continues. All parties need to seek a cease-fire and some kind of negotiated settlement. The settlement’s precise form will no doubt depend on how the situation on the ground changes, but it will probably require an agreement of Ukrainian neutrality between Russia and NATO as well as concessions by all sides.
The idea of negotiations with and concessions to Putin and the current Russian leadership undoubtedly seems a bitter pill to swallow after the events of the past two months. However, a diplomatic resolution will ultimately not be bitter to the untold numbers of people whose lives will be saved by the war ending—not to speak of the still greater number of people who will spared if further escalation can be prevented.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev urged President John F. Kennedy that they “ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war . . . a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it.” After that, the only option would be to “cut the knot”—that is, wage world war. Now as then, leaders on both sides should not “pull the knot tighter” through further verbal and military escalation. They should seek to untie the knot and end the war.
For more of our posts on Ukraine, see:
by Sonja Morin
Content warning: physical assault, medical malpractice, and brutality against pre-born children are discussed in this article. Reader discretion is advised, especially for those who have experienced pregnancy loss.
“What?”… “what?”… “what?”
I did not realize how bad my hearing loss was until the four of us arrived in Boston’s North End. We had just counter-protested Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR) and their violent messaging in the “free speech zone” at the Boston Common this past Saturday, April 9. One of the organizers had come up behind me, and – after both taking my sign and practically hurdling over me to place one of RU4AR’s stickers on my megaphone – she whistled into my ears at a high pitch so as to disrupt my hearing for a sustained ten minutes.
As I write this, I am still dealing with the effects of that assault, ears still ringing and all. In reliving that moment again and again in my own mind, it brought my attention back to the intended topic of this week’s blog post: the situation of the 115 pre-born bodies recovered in Washington, DC by members of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.
As the sole abortionist at Washington Surgi-Clinic, Dr. Cesare Santangelo knew what he was doing. His track record reveals countless incidences of malpractice, dehumanization, and absolute disregard for his parental and pre-born patients. He has admitted on camera that he would refuse care for pre-born children delivered alive after botched abortions. His errors have sent several women to the hospital after complications, one of whom died (see more details and the wrongful death lawsuit complaint). If the 115 babies’ bodies had not been intercepted, they would have faced a far more morbid fate even after death: immolation in the furnaces of Curtis Medical Waste to generate energy for the D.C/Maryland/Virginia metro area. Who knows how many bodies have been immolated prior to this discovery.
Conflicts about the manner in which these bodies were retrieved, as well as the release of information to the public, have ensued in the weeks following the recovery of the babies. This is the first time we are dealing with a situation to this degree and with this many bodies. Confusion, questions, and concerns are absolutely understandable as we embark into uncharted territory. Personally, I welcome this discussion as we seek to learn how best to grieve and call for justice.
But in the midst of all the dialogue about this situation, what we are missing is the fact that we would not have this situation to deal with had it not been for the initial brutality at the hands of Dr. Cesare Santangelo. We’ve let our own fears and confusion take rein. We forget that – at the time of writing this post – five bodies are still waiting in the DC medical examiner’s office, awaiting the moment of truth when their cause of death will be revealed. We forget that Dr. Cesare Santangelo and his complicit staff are still practicing in Washington, DC, regardless of the harm they’ve caused.
And if we ignore this situation, if we let our own preferences interrupt our work, how much more violence will occur? The people who assaulted the four of us counter-protestors in Boston this past Saturday give such an example. While our experience is in no way comparable to the gruesome death of these five babies, we saw a glimpse of the consequences of violent rhetoric. We cannot let violence and dehumanization conquer the frightened minds of all of us observers.
While we cannot undo the violence that has already happened, we can use our voices collectively to demand justice for all who have been harmed. We must expose the horrors happening in our own communities, starting with Dr. Santangelo’s office. We couldn’t give these 115 babies a chance at life; the least we could do is honor them in death, and ensure no more lives experience the same fate they did.
For more of our posts from Sonja Morin, see:
We need works of art that convey
the radical horror of abortion
The US Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) stated in support of abortion that the “ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
But laws are not the only impediment to a woman’s choice to abort.
The negation of social as well as legal constraints on abortion is necessary for abortion freedom. Moral qualms (and consequent mental health worries) could stop the choice of abortion. These, too, must be negated in order for women to feel free to abort. Abortion must become a normal part of a decent life.
Women must be made ready and willing to choose abortion if they are to “participate equally in . . . economic and social life” with their male colleagues. Abortion must become ordinary.
To this end, women are being encouraged to speak loudly about their abortions.
Shout Your Abortion is a movement working “to normalize abortion through art, media, and community events all over the country,” according to its mission statement. It’s a kind of shame-shaming in which women are exhorted to normalize “terminations,” to see them as an everyday part of life.
Its Twitter feed is full of messages like:
- “Abortion is normal. Our stories are ours to tell. This is not a debate.”
- “I aid and abet abortion and will do so proudly and constantly for the rest of my life.”
- “Happy #CelebrateAbortionProviders Appreciation Day!”
- “It seems incredibly damaging to label folks who choose abortion as naïve or uneducated or selfish. Or victims.”
From the beginning, as in the basic training of soldiers, shouting was going to be needed to make humans feel good about killing other humans.
Words can go only so far in combating this purposeful hardening of hearts. Closely reasoned arguments and statistics may fail to pierce the defiance of its “iron dome.” There is a thick layer of pain, abuse, fear, loneliness, and anger shielding abortion supporters from the truth.
Perhaps the best way to dissolve this coating is with art. Recall Picasso’s great painting of the carpet bombing of a town in northern Spain, Guérnica (now Gernika). It is a more radical revelation of the horror of war than any textbook.
Where is the art radically uncovering the horror of abortion?
I’d like to nominate the sculpture below: “Triumph,” by Rosemarie Tischer Stith (1973)
Artist Stith, herself a child refugee from the WWII firebombing obliterating Dessau, Germany, foresaw the great shout for abortion way back in 1973, the year a right to abortion was first proclaimed by the US Supreme Court.
Her 36-inch ceramic sculpture, “Triumph,” depicts a woman — standing tall in victory — her left hand on her hip and her right fist thrust into the air. Her head and hair are back. Her eyes are closed. Her mouth is open in a cry of triumph. Her chest swells in exultation, while her peculiarly elongated legs raise her pridefully high.
Under her feet lies her vanquished baby.
Here we see a mother’s contemporary assertion of dominion over her unborn child, but with her triumphal shout she dehumanizes herself rather than her child.
Indeed, the child is still intact, not yet aborted but only made available for abortion. The point of the sculpture is to depict not abortion itself but the new idea of motherhood that came with the US Supreme Court’s abortion proclamation.
This brief video reflects further upon old and new ideas of motherhood:
Richard Stith is a professor emeritus of law at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He is on the board of the Consistent Life Network. See selected works.
This is a slightly revised version of an article appearing in MercatorNet, 3/28/22
For more on art and the consistent life ethic, see:
For more of our posts from Richard Stith, see: