Edie Adams died about eighteen months ago. The thought of her takes me back. She was married to Ernie Kovacs, perhaps television’s original comic genius. Talented in her own rite, Adams may be best remembered for hawking the cigars that Kovacs smoked on the air. Muriel Cigars probably made a mint off guys drooling as the sultry Adams sang, “Why don’t you pick one up and smoke it some time.”
We associate cigars with men. And power. Cigars have been the staple of robber barons and politicians, sport bars and gentlemen’s clubs. But cigars are not just for men anymore. Women smoke them, and yes, it’s a power thing. As one cigar seller claims, “just holding this power prop . . . gives women a certain sense of Freedom, Power & Moxy. . ..” Of course, that power prop also makes them stink and causes cancer. It goes to show that women can be exploited just as easily as men.
The desire for power comes with our humanity. In our culture men have traditionally held the reins of power, but women are increasingly taking hold. And that desire for power explains why as a group, women are so unwilling to end legal abortion. They have come to believe that legal abortion is all about power, the power to control their bodies and so control their destiny.
But does legal abortion empower women? In Kovacs/Adams’ day, Hugh Hefner was building a pornography empire on the backs of women, or more precisely, with women on their backs. Playboy Enterprises is grounded on Hefner’s philosophy that sex should be free and easy. Hefner claims to have slept with, a.k.a., liberated thousands of women. Hef recently ended a fling with 22-year old identical twins. At 84, he is enjoying the power more than the sex. Hefner helped fund Roe v. Wade and even submitted a brief to the Supreme Court. Why would a man jump into a case about women? For Hefner, it was a no-brainer: if sex is to be free and easy, it should not come with a child. A playboy will gladly pay for an abortion. The woman pays for its aftermath.
Then there is the politics of abortion. As evidenced by the health care vote, abortion is the elephant in the closet of American politics. Sadly, the post-Roe Democratic Party has made legal abortion its sacred elephant. The Democrats draw power through voting blocs, and the women’s vote is a huge bloc. So politicians, male and female, have passed around the kool-aid that a woman’s “right” to kill her child is in her best interests. Many women drink. It’s a case of been-down-so-long, looks-like-up-to-me-now. While women continue to suffer, politicians tighten their grip on power to further their own agendas. As do those who vote for them.
Does abortion empower women? It can’t. Abortion is a sin, and sin spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically enslaves its victims. It strips women of dignity and self-respect for having surrendered their birthright. That’s why the original feminists were ardent opponents of abortion. Alice Paul, author of the first proposed equal rights amendment, said it best: “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”
Abortion doesn’t give power, but there really are power women. They come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, colors, and creeds, hold all sorts of outside jobs or none at all. A common thread binds them: the willingness to say yes to God’s gift of life. They are the mothers of the world. Mothers have a unique role in Creation. God, the Author of life, has made them life’s cradle. Their birthright is to bear the next generation. The honor comes with a price. Mothers must often shelve other plans, sometimes even forever. They must put themselves in last place, their needs falling well behind those of their children. Motherhood is the polar opposite of abortion, and not just physically. For abortion is about self. Motherhood is about the other.
Mothers have the incredible power to shape the next generation, for they are the world’s best teachers. It is through her mother that a child learns about God and begins to grow in faith. A mother teaches her children about sacrifice, patience, perseverance, firmness, flexibility, decency, thrift, compassion, and forgiveness, virtues she lives every day. Any child who has taken her first step, said her first word, overcome the smallest obstacle, or given the simplest gift has learned from her mother the meaning of unbridled joy. A child learns from her mother how to parent. She learns from her mother how to love.
That lifetime of giving creates a lifelong bond between mother and child. Hurt children will run to their mothers for comfort. Dying soldiers call to their mothers for safety. A mother’s love is cherished, and the thought of disappointing her can be dreadful. When we’re tempted to do wrong, we will stay on the straight-and-narrow just by remembering that our mothers might hear what we did. That’s power.
Our Church dedicates the month of May to our Blessed Mother, the model of all mothers and the patroness of life. The poor young girl who said “yes” to God’s gift of life raised a Savior and now sits on a throne next to Him. She didn’t seek power. Mothers never do. But mothers are all about power.
The power of love.
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.
© Paul V. Esposito 2010. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments? Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/