About 25 years ago a young friend of mine had an unwanted pregnancy. What should she do? This was New York City, so abortion was readily available with federal Medicaid funding. Adoption, private or through an agency, was another option—many people would want a healthy white newborn. But what if she wanted to have the baby and keep it?
She had very little money and her housing situation was untenable. Among many other unsuccessful inquiries, I tried the office of our top local Catholic, Cardinal John O’Connor, who was in the news at the time for his strong anti-abortion views. Did you know of a place my boyfriend could live while he is awaiting birth? Sorry I was told all eight beds were occupied.
Eight beds? The Catholic Church is an incredibly wealthy institution that owns vast amounts of real estate in New York City. She rejects abortion under any circumstances. And the best it could do for pregnant women in a traffic jam was eight beds? (The cardinal’s office didn’t tell me, but I’ve since found out that the church also has a program called Good Counsel Homes that serves a few hundred women a year. At the time, about 100,000 abortions were performed a year in New York City .)
I was thinking of my girlfriend as I read the latest round of anti-abortion promises about all the great things they will do for women who will be forced to endure unwanted pregnancies now that the Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. calf or at least allow greater restrictions on the right to vote. On the New York Times Opinion page Erika Bachiochi writes: “With Roe gone, the pro-life movement can pick up where it left off in 1973 and work to convince fellow citizens (especially in blue states like mine) that we have dependent and vulnerable unborn children owe what every human being is due: hospitality, respect and care.”
Sorry, but couldn’t the pro-life movement have always done this? There are already many women who are unable to get the abortions they want because of anti-abortion victories. The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding for abortion, has been in effect since 1976. Hundreds of clinics have been closed in the last 10 years; Six states have only one as of the writing of this article. And what about the women who would end pregnancies they would keep if they had a helping hand?
Bachiochi, a conservative Catholic activist, points to some resources: a network of crisis pregnancy centers and Mary’s Shelter, a Catholic home for pregnant and new mothers in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I do not wish to disparage the work of these organizations or the good intentions of those who work there – many CPCs are deceptive and blackmailing, but some offer useful services. In fact, some women who use them have no intention of having an abortion; They just want some diapers and a stroller. However, there is no way private charities can function at the scale required, any more than pantries can feed all the hungry. And here’s the thing: Grocery stocks don’t say, “Wow, if the government gets rid of food stamps, we’re really going to take action.” Real charities don’t spend their lives making a situation worse with promises to fix it later.