I seem to recall that the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s website used to post the addresses of abortion clinics in the metro Atlanta area so Catholics could go pray the rosary outside of them. Nothing more radical was recommended, presumably to avoid any legal liabilities or charges of stalking, but there was a general idea that a near-constant Catholic presence at abortion clinics would somehow be a positive influence on those entering and leaving the facilities in question. I couldn’t find that page on the Archdiocese site today, but I’m sure that the practice of saying the rosary in front of abortion clinics is still being encouraged.
Something I didn’t see on the Archdiocese’s “Respect Life” was any information about how to fight against the other “crimes” against life: contraception, IVF, and end of life wishes that don’t conform to Catholic dogma. It was all abortion, all the time. I guess that the Archdiocese feels that abortion is THE issue that its “Respect Life” office needs to focus on, but given that the Catechism of the Catholic church and various conservotrad media outlets routinely report that contraception and IVF devalue life as much as abortion, consistency would demand that the faithful receive their marching orders to go protest in front of IVF clinics, drug stores and supermarkets that sell condoms and dispense oral birth control bills, and doctors’ offices where IUDs are inserted. But pro-life activists aren’t told to protest at these other venues. If Catholics are supposed to be advocating for a “culture of life,” why limit their protests to just abortion?
The most obvious answer is that while a third of women will have an abortion at some point in their lives, about 98 percent of women will use some form of contraception. Consequently, many more people are affected by contraception use than abortion. The fact that abortion is seldom talked about in polite society makes it easier to talk about “those other people” who get abortions, rather than as a common medical procedure. Many women who accept birth control as a normal part of life have no problem demonizing abortion, and I suspect that this is what’s going on with many pro-life women in Catholic and Protestant communities (that poor women are color are more likely to get abortions than their wealthier, whiter peers must make this demonization process that much easier).
About 60,000 babies are born through IVF every year in the United States. To get those 60,000 babies requires fertilizing and throwing away many unused embryos that are at varying stages of development, not unlike what happens at an abortion clinic; it make take as many as sixty embryos to yield one live infant. But one hardly hears of any protests about the cavalier way in which “pre-born life” is disposed of at IVF clinics. Neither are women who have conceived via IVF shamed into silence like women who have had abortions. What accounts for the difference? Is some “pre-born life” more valuable than others?
Because of the expense, IVF is only an option for the well-heeled middle and upper classes. It’s probably safe to assume that most IVF users are white for this very reason as well. The class and the race difference alone makes IVF more acceptable to social conservatives. Plus, women seeking IVF tend to be embracing their traditional roles as wife and mother, whereas women seeking abortions are subverting it. The sexual and gender politics involved in IVF support the status quo and thus are not seen as being destructive in the same way that abortion is, even if dozens of embryos are destroyed in the process. Once again, women who have abortions are “those other people” but women who get IVF are the proverbial mom/wife/woman next door.
Despite the constant rhetoric about how abortion is The Worst Thing Ever, Catholic women have a higher abortion rate that is 29 percent higher than Protestant women:
The above link also notes that one in five women who have abortions are evangelical Christians, another group that is constantly being told that abortion is The Worst Thing Ever. As with many things, just expression disapproval of a thing doesn’t do anything to make it less common. Would anti-abortion culture wars change their fiery rhetoric if they knew that a third or more of the women in their audiences had had abortions? Probably not, since the high teen pregnancy rates and high STD infection rates have yet to dampen the enthusiasm for abstinence-only sex education. If anything, knowing that even conservative women get abortions would only further convince male religious leaders of the natural “sluttiness” of women and the need to keep them and their sexuality under control.
While the Catholic church claims that birth control, abortion, and IVF are all morally abhorrent, only one of these is fought tooth and nail. As with many, or maybe even all things in the United States, how we view abortion is tinged with racial, class, and gender overtones. “Good” upper-middle class white women get IVF and use birth control (which they pay for themselves, no government funded birth control like women of color), while “bad” lower class women of color get abortions. The debate about abortion has never been about “the babies” but about sex, misogyny, and what the “proper place” of a woman should be. When the Archdiocese tells parishioners to go protest at some tony IVF clinic in Buckhead, maybe I’ll believe that the hierarchy actually cares about “pre-born life.”