My work can be very solitary. I might spend days alone in our firm’s library pouring over transcripts or researching law for legal briefs. I enjoy it. But when things get dry, my mind starts to dream. And I enjoy that, too. We all do. Dreams provide a healthy escape from boredom and drudgery. But our dreams also give us purpose, the reason to reach for something better. Everyone should have dreams.
It’s only natural that as parents, we have big dreams for our kids. Unfortunately, not all dreams come true. Stumping for votes, Barack Obama recently said that he plans to teach his girls about morals and values, “but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” A daughter pregnant before marriage — it’s every parent’s nightmare. The candidate’s comment tells us much about his views about the right to life. And it calls us to examine our own.
Until abortion was legalized, civilized society held sacred the belief that no child may be killed for the sins of her father (Deut 24:16). The reason is apparent. Children have no hand in their parents’ sins. A pre-born child does not choose to be involved in an act of rape, incest, or premarital or extramarital intercourse. So where is the justice in killing her? Abortion is capital punishment of the truly innocent. And what does our allowing abortion teach our children? It teaches them that they need not face their mistakes. They can kill them. That’s hardly a lesson in Christian morals and values.
Ironically, Obama’s desire to spare his children from “punishment” may inflict a punishment far more horrendous. Why? The one thing worse than making a mistake is compounding it. Abortion kills. Although an abortion ends a woman’s pregnancy, it does not erase the woman’s memories of her child or her action. They stay with mother, all the better to haunt her. That’s the devil’s way. It wants the worst for even those it lures into sin. Guilt and regret are abortion’s constant companions.
Ask Jo Woodgate. At age 27, she aborted her child. Now 67, she cannot shake the memory. Watching a niece cradle her newborn, tears filled Jo’s eyes. She found herself “being transported back in time almost 40 years.” She could still smell disinfectant and see disapproving hospital workers. Until recently, Jo was afraid to admit, “All I could think about was the baby I’d killed and what might have been.” The wound has festered, not healed, over time. “[W]ith each year that has passed I’ve only felt a growing sense of guilt and regret over my actions.” Jo now understands the problem. “Like so many young girls, I just saw it as an easy way out of a messy situation. With maturity, I’ve realized that life is complicated, and that getting rid of a baby to solve an immediate problem is not always the obvious solution it appears to be.”
Jo’s suffering is not unique. A study published in 2007 in BMC Pyschiatry found that post-abortive women experience high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder. About 20% of the women experienced PTSD symptoms within one month of their abortions. The number climbed 61% by the third month. These figures support a 25-year New Zealand study concluding that woman having abortions are more likely to become severely depressed. And a 2004 U.S. study found that post-abortive women were 30% more likely to suffer emotional problems than women who did not have an abortion.
What does it all mean? Subjecting anyone to an abortion exposes her to a possible lifetime of problems. It is a needless risk because adoption is always an alternative. Thousands of couples would love the chance to raise someone’s “mistake.” A woman is not “punished” by having a child. She is punished by having an abortion. Christian compassion calls us to give women something better than abortion.
Perhaps more than anything, Obama’s comment challenges us to examine our own beliefs about God’s power and love. As much as we’d like to think that we create children, we really don’t. Only God does. No child is ever conceived without God’s permission. None. We are here because He allows us to be here. Is he mistaken?
Strange as it may sometimes seem, God has His reasons. For God dreams, too. When He’s not smiling at our folly, He’s dreaming of our potential. To God, no child is a mistake or a punishment. Each and every child is a gift of His boundless love. And regardless of the circumstances of a child’s conception, God has given each one a purpose — to serve Him. Maybe it’s by sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, or healing the sick. Perhaps it’s by fighting for justice in a world gone nutty. Or maybe just being a needed friend. Imagine all the contributions to society made by the “mistakes” of the world, mistakes allowed by others to live. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). If we see each child through God’s eyes, we will realize that every child is the sweet dream of a loving Father. Punishment? Not on your life.
Our country will be far more Christian when those who seek to lead it truly appreciate that God doesn’t punish anyone by creating human life. And God doesn’t make mistakes. We do, when we try to play God. So maybe we should let God be God. He does a much better job of it.
And boy, can He dream!
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.
© 2008 Paul V. Esposito. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is freely granted.