The sound of school kids cheering caught my attention. I was in Manhattan for an event and, rounding a plaza bordering Central Park, I saw a cluster of 70 high school students surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. The young students, mostly girls, were chanting loudly: “Hey, ho! Abortion bans have got to go!” Bullhorns and lusty cheers are typically the stuff of football pep rallies, but not today.
With school backpacks slung over their shoulders, these teens — barely old enough to drive — were politically driven, hoisting signs with slogans like “My body, my choice” and “Reproductive rights.”
It was a sad sight. These teens came of age in a social media world filled with 4D images of the unborn, whose little eyes, noses and smiles testify from the womb to their humanity. And yet, the unborn were invisible to these newly minted activists. Their misguided teenage passion was captured for terrible political purposes.
Similar pro-abortion rallies occurred across the country last week. Organized by Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU, the rallies were triggered by new state laws restricting abortion. Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri passed laws prohibiting abortion once the baby’s heartbeat can be detected (six weeks). Alabama’s law strictly prohibits nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest. Legal challenges already have been filed in several states.
These restrictive laws have long been in the works after years of dedicated work by pro-life activists and state legislators. Their pro-life efforts took on a new urgency, however, in January 2019, as New York’s legislature cheered while their Catholic governor signed new statutes permitting unrestricted abortion up to the moment of birth. Both sides now are racing to pass new — diametrically opposed — abortion laws, amid growing anticipation that the Supreme Court will overturn the infamous Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand.
The teens’ pro-abortion rally is a vivid reminder that, even if Roe is overturned, it will take a huge effort to change the hearts and minds of all Americans on this issue. Sadly, millions of men and women have been affected by abortion. Their wounds must be acknowledged and healed.
In mid-May, responding to newly passed state restrictions on abortion, actress Busy Philipps began a Twitter campaign to support abortion rights — #YouKnowMe. She tweeted this message to her fans:
“1 in 4 women have had an abortion. Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme. So let’s do this: if you are also the 1 in 4, let’s share it and start to end the shame. Use #youknowme and share your truth.”
Sure enough, the hashtag caught on, heavily promoted by Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion celebrities and politicians. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recycled old feminist slogans to support the Philipps campaign, framing abortion as ultimately “about women’s power. When women are in control of their sexuality, it threatens a core element underpinning right-wing ideology: patriarchy. It’s a brutal form of oppression to seize control of the one essential thing a person should command: their own body.”
The “YouKnowMe” campaign urges women to “shout” their abortions. The aim? To normalize the experience, claiming abortion not only as a woman’s “right” but also as her “best choice,” in the words of Representative Jackie Speier.
The pro-choice activists may be right that abortion has touched the lives of one in four women, but the fact that some women have multiple abortions may skew the average. Abortion undeniably has also affected countless men, fathers of the unborn, as well as the parents who may have facilitated an abortion or later grieved the loss of their grandchild.
While it is true that many women have experienced abortion, it is not true that it is their “best choice.” The abortion lobby loathes to admit that a significant percentage of those “one in four” women regret their abortions. Many who share this experience are dedicated to helping other women avoid making the same mistake.
The same afternoon that I saw the high school girls cheering for the right to destroy their future children, I heard the voices of a different set of women willing to say “#YouKnowMe.” When I spoke with Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio on the recent surge in abortion legislation, the phone lines lit up with callers who spoke movingly and courageously about giving birth to children conceived in rape, or supporting a daughter who became pregnant by a sexual assault. Their message is “All life is good,” and God works unexpected miracles in the lives of those who embrace life, even those conceived in difficult circumstances. The #WeKnowYou women and men affected by abortion are indeed all around us, but many of them are stepping forward with an even more powerful message: “Life.”
Mary Rice Hasson is the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum and a Kate O’Beirne Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.