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Mercy Plea

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August 2019

Clark Stanley thought he had it all figured out. And he nearly did. Clark worked as a cowboy in Texas for years before realizing that there were better ways to make money. Having studied with a Hopi Indian medicine man, he discovered the “secret of snake oil.” With the help of a Boston druggist, he gained fame at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He’d cut open and boil a snake so its fat would float to the top. Whether it was due to the floating fat or the dead snake, he made lots of sales. Clark became known as The Rattlesnake King.

There was only one teensy-weensy problem: his snake oil didn’t contain snake oil. In 1917, federal investigators discovered that it was made out of mineral oil from cows, red pepper, and turpentine. Clark was fined $20, a relatively modest cost for coining a phrase we still use today. A snake oil salesman is a person with a real knack for marketing fraud.

Medicine has come a long way from those “patent” medicine days. And so has medical marketing. Spending on advertising reached $4.5 billion in 2014, and it hasn’t declined since then. Advertisers realize that the best way to get doctors to prescribe their products is to go directly to the consumers. Words that in the past would only be heard in a doctor’s office are now heard on TV at all hours of the day and night. Who doesn’t know about Cialis and its competitor Viagra, Lyrica, Eliquis, Xeljanz, and Celebrex. The people taking them on those commercials seem pretty happy—at least that’s the message. Fortunately, the FDA has highly regulated the pharmaceutical industry to ensure consumer safety.

But unfortunately, the snake oil salesmen are still around. And who’s the biggest of all? It’s Planned Parenthood. For years now, it has been trying to sell the snake oil that abortion is actually “healthcare.” It makes millions upon millions annually pushing that line. But here’s the question: healthcare for whom? Sure can’t be for the baby. Every unborn baby’s death is horrifying. Babies are either vacuumed into a jar, or scalded, or beheaded and pulled apart limb by limb, or robbed of their brains. We wouldn’t do that to a dog. We’ve legally done it to the defenseless unborn over 62 million times—and counting.

Neither can abortion be “healthcare” for women. Because abortion is meant to kill, it’s hardly surprising that the women often suffer collateral damage. Tools perforate women’s uteruses, causing immediate and intense bleeding. Women go into shock, lapse into comas, and even die. Hundreds have already died in the U.S. from complications due to legal, supposedly safe abortions. Abortion pills do not make the procedure any safer. The problem is that when women deliver the babies at home without any medical attention, they may not realize in some cases that they are actually hemorrhaging. Some women are damaged so badly from abortions that they cannot bear children. Imagine the terrible irony. Women having abortions because it’s not the “right time” later learn that an abortion took away their right time forever.

Mental health problems are also part of a woman’s suffering. Studies have shown that women suffer severe mental health effects from abortions. Abortion has caused depression so deep that it leads to suicide. Post-abortive women are four times more likely to turn to abusing drugs and alcohol. Abortion leads to divorce and broken relationships of all kinds. If a prescription heart drug or a consumer product could do all that physical and emotion damage, don’t you think those in Congress would be tripping all over themselves to ban them?

And don’t you think that women would be at the forefront of a crusade to protect themselves and their babies from harm? A friend told the story of her start in the pro-life movement. As Roe v. Wade was about to be decided, people were expecting the worst. Her husband tried to reassure her: “Don’t worry. American women will never kill their own children!” But they have, over 62 million times. They’ve done it for many reasons: ideological, political, economic, social, and emotional. And for another, one we refuse to admit.

They do it because we have not shown them mercy. A few years ago, we celebrated a “year of mercy” in the Catholic Church. It was all about knowing God’s forgiveness and showing others the same. But in a very real sense, we missed the fullness of the mercy we are called to show. It’s more than a nice thought or word. It’s definitely not silence. It is an action that calls us to put ourselves at risk for others. Think of Christ’s life. He spoke openly to all who would listen. Many wouldn’t, but He kept on speaking. Some wanted to throw Him out of a synagogue or even off a cliff. He persisted. And in he end, He willingly performed the supreme act of mercy: He hung on a cross to rescue a bunch of sinners. Us.

So let’s be honest. How merciful were we to those 62 million unborn by our refusal talk about them in our homes and churches, to publicly fight for their rights, to vote for those people willing to legally protect them? How merciful were we in failing to give them a second thought? And to never think about those who will come after them?

And how merciful have we been, then and now, to the women who fall prey to abortion? Good parents are called to lead their children in the right ways, difficult as that may be. Not correcting children for small errors will only lead to more serious, even fatal errors later. It is never merciful to allow bad behaviors to continue. We cannot allow our silence about the utter immorality of abortion to masquerade as mercy to women. We need to speak up for their sakes, not to be silent for our own. The women having abortions now are the women who did not hear the truth when they were younger. They needed more than one Sunday, if that, a year. Teaching respect for God’s children requires a steady drumbeat. Ask any parent.

Millions of women and unborn are pleading for our mercy. It’s time we gave it.


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.

© Paul V. Esposito 2019. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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