Kathryn Lopez: Here’s to life in the new year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 3, 2021

By Kathryn Lopez

The current president of Planned Parenthood is unafraid to use the word “abortion.”

In a Christmas-season interview with The Washington Post, Alexis McGill Johnson scolded those who would downplay the importance of abortion in her organization’s work. She says it is “stigmatizing” to do so.

For those who oppose abortion, this is a cause for gratitude. For decades, abortion has been subject to euphemisms from its advocates. “Choice,” “freedom,” “health,” are all used to avoid saying the actual word “abortion.” Which makes sense: Polls consistently suggest Americans don’t like abortion. And why should we? We know in our hearts that severing a child from its mother isn’t natural, isn’t ideal, isn’t good. But life is difficult. People want to know that women in need have options.

As it happens, Johnson’s short-tenured predecessor tried to minimize the importance of abortion to Planned Parenthood. But honesty is best. It’s the only way to make progress. “I think abortion is health care,” Johnson says.

At the same time the interview with Johnson was published, activists were celebrating abortion in the streets of Buenos Aires, as abortion became legal in Argentina. A Reuters story quoted someone from Human Rights Watch encouraging the prospect of an abortion-legalization domino effect throughout South America.

It’s not in fashion for those innocent, most vulnerable humans in the womb to have rights. Headlines about the Argentinian senate vote had abortion proponents pitted against the Catholic Church — which included the former cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, the current Pope Francis. It’s not unusual for people who support abortion to embrace the pope’s views on other issues, like climate change. But he talks about the environment in the context of a broader plight — that we are a throwaway society. Shouting about abortion being health care and freedom helps this to be conveniently ignored. But taking a look at how there’s a consistency to caring for both the human person and the rest of creation would get us somewhere better.

Jan. 22 is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in all three trimesters here in the United States. We’ve seen what kind of “domino effect” that decision has had on our society and body politic. What has law been teaching people for almost a half-century now? That the vulnerable don’t have rights. That we can end the lives of those who don’t fit into our plans.

There’s a sobering documentary now streaming called “Divided Hearts of America,” featuring former NFL player Benjamin Watson, who engages numerous people in conversation about abortion. It’s clearly coming from a pro-life perspective — Watkins himself is a father of seven and is active in pro-life and family evangelical advocacy circles, but he does talk to both sides. Everyone should watch it. Perhaps it would help us get beyond the knee-jerk partisan reactions that have been miring down the country for years.

Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York took founder Margaret Sanger’s name off its building due to her support of eugenics. While the truth about the origins of Planned Parenthood should have been confronted long ago, taking her name off the building only whitewashes history.

Let’s do better for life in this new year — by having honest, open, humane debates, finding meeting ground where we can. And absolutely coming together for the best for children who are alive and do not have homes, and protecting faith-based resources even as we may disagree about some fundamentals of family life. And we should celebrate courageous birth mothers who aren’t ready to raise a child, but are willing to do the hard work of bringing one into the world. With our help, the world will be ready to care for that child, and all the others as well.

Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review magazine. Email her at klopez@nationalreview.com.