It was just a shout, but in time it revolutionized an industry. In 490 B.C. at Marathon, a greatly outnumbered Athenian army had just defeated the invading Persians. Legend has it that a messenger, Pheidippides, ran 26 miles to Athens to shout the name “Nike!” – the Greek goddess of victory. Exhausted, he fell dead. Centuries later, some enterprising sort probably wondered, “What if poor Pheidippedes had worn a pair of running shoes?”
History records other victory cries, but the one we best recognize didn’t come from an actual battle. It’s the cry “Checkmate,” the cry of victory in chess. The game dates back to sixth century India. And though bloodless, chess is a battle of sorts won by superior strategy and tactics, the goal of which is to capture an opponent’s king. Each chess piece has a role. The king is most valuable; he is to be protected at all costs. The queen is most powerful. Rooks, bishops, and knights move in various directions in service of their king. Then there are the pawns. The most numerous pieces, pawns are also the weakest. Having little offensive power, pawns are often sacrificed to protect more powerful pieces.
Chess is modeled after feudal times, but it imitates life at all times. Those in power want to hold it. The upper hand is all-important, no matter who gets harmed in the process. The weakest people become the pawns of the most powerful. When husband and wife separate, powerless children must often bear the brunt both during and after the divorce. It can cause lifetime damage. In the radical Islamic jihad now waged worldwide, the weak often violently sacrifice their own lives in the name of misguided ideology.
The battle over legal abortion can be seen as a deadly and bloody chess game. There are different ways of looking at the struggle. Under one view, the king can be seen as Big Abortion, a multi-billion dollar industry that feeds on the flesh of the unborn. Under another view, especially in this presidential year, the king is Ultimate Power itself, a desire that has corrupted mankind since the Garden of Eden. But whatever the view, a king needs its protectors. And they are all there: political candidates, Planned Parenthood and other abortionists, the courts, legislators, business and even religious leaders. Whether wittingly or unwitting, all act in service of the king.
But who are the pawns in this battle, the ones who will be sacrificed to keep the powerful in power? Certainly the unborn are among them. They are killed without the least thought about their humanity and inherent dignity, and usually killed without regret. But they are not the only pawns. They probably aren’t even the biggest group—though it’s hard to ignore the 56+ million unborn already killed. The other pawns in the battle are women themselves, who have so often heard the lie equating killing with freedom and autonomy that far too many of them have fallen for it. And so they are exploited for their votes by the powerful.
The evidence is too overwhelming to be ignored. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that a Texas law imposing safety regulations on abortionists and abortion facilities was too burdensome on a woman’s so-called right to abortion. The regulations followed the discovery of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors,” where drugged post-abortive women laid in rooms filled with animal feces, dirty instruments, and dried blood. The Texas law would have required abortion facilities to meet the same standards as any other ambulatory surgical facility. Sounds reasonable, but not for the Supreme Court, which ruled that women would be required to travel too far for an abortion. For the Court, it is better that women have convenient access to substandard facilities than to be required to travel to safer ones. The Court did not even uphold the fire code regulations. As Justice Ruth Ginsburg later stated, no woman should be denied a right to abortion. Even if it means death. Minority women will be hit particularly hard. Planned Parenthood sees it as a victory for women. So does Hillary Clinton. But it has been anything but a victory for the dead or maimed women.
Another glaring example involves sex-selection abortions. Simply stated, it means that a girl baby can be killed for being a girl—a girl who would otherwise grow to be a woman. Can anything be more discriminatory? Same-sex abortions have nothing to do with a woman’s health, only with a gender preference for a child. Yet Planned Parenthood, which claims to work for women, opposes legislation that seeks to ban the abortion of girls because they are girls. Where does Hillary Clinton stand? When directly asked about sex-selection abortions during a February debate, Clinton stated: “Women should be able to have an abortion for whatever reason they choose. It’s a personal decision.” In 2009, she opposed sex-selection abortions. But that was then, and this is now, when she seeks to be president and curries Planned Parenthood’s favor and almost $20 million in financial support. For Clinton, protecting legal abortion—and so her chance for power—is more important than saving the lives of girl babies.
But worst of all is how the powerful and power-hungry have so willingly sacrificed the very souls of women for personal power and gain. God gave women a unique gift: the ability to bear His greatest creations. The sacred birthright of women is to bear the next generation, human beings made in God’s image and likeness. God has created a bond between mother and child that no man can ever hope to possess. But a woman can break that bond, and she does through abortion. Far from making her free and autonomous, abortion sentences a woman to the slavery of regret and guilt. Some women claim to not regret their abortions. But life doesn’t give guarantees for how they’ll feel tomorrow, when it is too late to go back.
Feminist Alice Paul called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women.” She was referring to exploitation by men. But exploitation is exploitation, whoever is guilty of it. Women should not be the pawns of the power thirsty. The Catholic vote can stop it. And it must.
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 and have six children.