Friday, March 12, 2010

The Wailing of the Women

I was commenting to a friend the other night about this latest fad in the pro-life movement.

There is a big sub-movement in the pro-life world now of lending pity to women who have had abortions. The latest manifestation of it can be seen here.

He argued for it, saying that things like this, Silent No More, and what not, are effective. That people react to emotions more than they do to reasoned argument.

Well, perhaps, but there is still something in all this that strikes a deeply false note for me.

I call it, the "Crying into the microphone" strategy, and there is just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's just the English in me (I'm only 1/4 English, genetically, so it isn't exactly dominant), maybe it is just that I recoil culturally from this kind of public display of personal misery. A previous generation would simply call it "shameless". And that I think is the clew as to what bothers me about it.

These are women who have done something terrible, and now they are attempting to elicit my sympathy because they feel badly about it.

There is something about it that brings to mind the noisesome cringing and wheedling self-pity of Gollum.

More rationally, I don't think it is, in the long run, a good thing to do. I think it is playing to the culture's deadliest weaknesses. We cannot use the enemy's ring.

The abortion movement was started by using wailing women standing in front of microphones telling the world how their lives had been ruined by having children, and the only solution was to make it legal to kill them so they could be free of the evils of motherhood. It used emotions, and emotive slogans, to get the law changed and to create a culture that, when it hears the word "abortion" can think of nothing more than "Women's rights".

The abortion movement succeeded in changing the law based on the pain and suffering of their Wailing Women because, by the late 1960s and early 1970s when these laws were being put in place, we had already shifted the culture away from a concern, in law and public policy, with Things As They Really Are, towards a culture based primarily on concern for feelings. Roe v. Wade was a triumph of the supremacy of Feelings over the Real. The law as it is in the US now, in Canada and Britain, is schizophrenic. It has kept its eyes determinedly shut, stopped its ears as hard as it can, to the inescapable fact that we all know where babies come from. It has said, in effect, that reality does not matter, as long as women feel badly about motherhood.

I think I have two objections to this trend in the pro-life movement to have more Wailing Women sobbing into microphones and telling gymnasiums full of high school students that their abortions have ruined their lives.

How does it help us to have more Wailing Women? If the world has decided, which is emphatically has, that the bigger problem for women is enforced motherhood, and if it has decided this because of the Wailing of the Women, then how are we winning by setting up a few Wailing Women to weep in the other direction? When we are just using emotions, how do our Wailing Women trump their Wailing Women? Why should the pain of the anti-abortion movement's weepers overrule the pro-abort weepers? If we now, as we clearly do, make laws according to these kinds of rules, if subjective emotions are the foundation, then it simply becomes a question of who can weep the loudest and the longest. And they have a 40 year head start. The Wailing Women strategy is merely playing along with a legal and legislative culture that bases itself on feelings. When we are there, we have nothing objective, nothing Real, to base our laws on, which means we are left only with force. Either the force of our feelings or the force of their fists.

If I were in the abortion movement, my response to these displays would be, well, precisely what it has been in fact. "I'm awfully sorry your abortion didn't work out for you, but your individual, personal experience, however painful it might be for you, does not mean that abortion should be outlawed for all the millions for whom it has been necessary and who don't feel badly about it."

In other words, "Suck it up sweetheart, life is full of disappointments".

Admittedly this is what should have been said to the pro-aborts 40 years ago by the Supreme Court and the world's legislatures, but those bodies had already been corrupted by the Feelings Culture and were incapable of a forthright, manly defence of The Real. But now that they have the upper hand in law, in media, in education and in every other cultural field, they would be fools not to use that response. Indeed, we have seen that they are not fools.

The other objection I have is a little less friendly.

The pro-lifers are, naturally, fed up with being called mean and nasty. We don't like being screeched at when we go and hold our placards, and called Nazis and all that.

No no! we protest. We're perfectly nice people. We love women. Most of us are women. We feel so terribly deeply for their pain...

Well, hold on there a second.

Isn't there something about this that seems just a wee bit self-serving?

And more than a little like pandering?

I am wholly on side with the idea of crisis pregnancy centres. Offering women concrete material assistance, particularly assistance that does not come from the state, is probably the ideal solution. There should be more of it. A lot more.

But when we start pulling long faces when confronted with women who have already had abortions, when we start furrowing our brows and nodding and saying, "Oh yes, there there dear. I understand that you've had a terrible time after your abortion. I feel your pain," aren't we playing the game of the other side.

Aren't we conceding that the issue is all about "women's rights"? Or worse, women's feelings.

These post-abortion "counselling" centres have always given me the creeps, honestly.

This rhetoric that we like to trot out at rallies, "Oh yes, the woman is a victim too..."

Hang on a second.

I think we need to make something clear.

When a Christian goes to a prison to visit the inmates, it is not with the attitude that what has happened to a criminal, the punishment he is enduring, is a bad thing. We don't go in saying, "Oh there there dear, I'm sure your feelings of repentance are so great that you don't deserve to be incarcerated as punishment for your crime." If we do that, we are failing to serve the criminal.

This has been the "liberal" approach to wrongdoing that has created the disaster of Britain's current, laughably named "criminal justice system". It has resulted in the criminals deciding that it is perfectly acceptable to go on being criminals.

It is all of a piece with the trendy psychologising of badness, of sin, that we have indulged in since the 1960s. The theory goes, "A person isn't ever really bad, he doesn't ever really do bad things. If he does something that looks bad, it is because of some pain or trauma in his past, and he is therefore as much a victim of someone else, as is the victim of his crime. Criminals need a cure, not punishment. Indeed, criminals are, by definition, victims."

This mindset is so ubiquitous in our culture now that we find it nearly impossible forthrightly to face the fact that people do evil, and that evil merits punishment. That punishing the evildoer is a just act. It is the proper response to evil.

The trendy weeping over and consoling of women who have had abortions, who have (perhaps it needs to be said) killed their children, stinks of this corruption. Reeks of it. It is the same moral and intellectual corruption that has allowed the euthanasia movement to gain so much ground in Britain. Women who murder or "assist the suicide" of their disabled daughters, are lauded in the press and in court as heroes who have "suffered terribly".

I think we make a grave error, and one which our enemies can see is a sign of weakness, when we trot out our Wailing Women to talk about their pain and suffering from abortion. It is an error, moreover, that does nothing, objectively, to help the women who have done this terrible thing.

It is a sign that we are trying to make friends, to be liked by our opponents. That we fear their name-calling more than we fear the evil we are fighting. It means the other side is winning a major part of the battle.

I have seen, as I have related here more than once, that pro-lifers are often deeply intimidated by the position they feel compelled to take. They see that their position is vilified and hated. They see that they will themselves be hated if they hold it. They see that the other side has taken the appearance of the moral high ground by setting themselves up as "champions of women's rights" and that they are cast universally as knuckle-dragging troglodytes who want to ruin all the freedom and progress achieved in the 20th century.

I have seen that the pro-lifers who suffer from this weakness are, in general, adherents of this "freedom and progress". They think that the society we live in is generally a great improvement over what went before, that the restructuring of the western Christian world into the modern globalist society has been a good thing overall. They think that the presence of abortion and euthanasia and the Culture of Death, is some kind of accident, and one that can be corrected by changing a few laws. It is a mistake, in an otherwise glorious new world.

These are the people who hate to be called 'retrograde' and 'fascists'. It wounds their feelings of solidarity with the modern world. They protest that they are just like everyone else, that they believe in progress and modernity as much as the next man, but with this one little adjustment.

It is this kind of pro-liferism that is so susceptible to what I have called Pro-lifer Stockholm Syndrome. It produces the kind of pro-lifer that I heard years ago at a meeting of the (diocesan funded) Nova Scotians United for Life in Halifax, where I was told that it was wrong to try to change the law, that women did indeed have a "right to choose" and that it is merely the work of the pro-life movement to try to persuade her, gently, to choose something other than abortion. They have gone over to the other side in the desire to be loved and accepted by our enemies.

So, I think my response to the "Silent no More" campaign, to the Project Rachel people, is, please tell these women that they have done something terrible, and shameful and that they ought to feel badly about it for the rest of their lives.

That there is a difference between a perpetrator and a victim. That the person who is dead is properly understood as the victim of a crime, and that the person who does the killing is the criminal. The perpetrator of a crime ought to be punished, and if the law will not do so because it has become corrupt, it is not the place of the Christian community to tell that perpetrator that she should stop feeling badly about her crime.

My response to the women is, "Yes, you have done something terrible. Something foul and unspeakable. You have committed a crime that "cries to heaven" and you will have to live with it for the rest of your life. Abortion does indeed change you, as committing murder should.

It is right and just that you suffer for that crime and it might be a good idea for you to think about penance, more than is currently fashionable in the Church."


Anonymous said...

Excellent insights. We are so entrenched in the supremacy of feelings that I find myself being suckered by it and need an occasional firm slap in the face. Kinda like the fish in a pond that says, "Water? What water?"

Scott W.

PattyinCT said...

Have you ever seen or been part of a "Silent No More" campaign? I doubt it from the patronizing "touchy feely" spin you put to it. Women and men both say they REGRET their actions. How could they regret that which they are supposedly being told "don't matter as much" as their feelings?
I'm not a member of Silent No More, but I have met and talked with several of its members. You are way off mark with this line of reasoning, and would like you to go and do more in-depth analysis before being so critical of a great ministry.

BillyHW said...

I'm only 1/4 English, genetically

What's the other 3/4?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Fighty Celt.

Irish, Welsh, Scot.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

...yep, right on cue.

out come the harpies...

Puckpan said...

Very well thought-out. A bit over-written (but that's becuase you are making many points - not just one). If you could make the point more with 1/3 or the words it would be a great editorial. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

I'm retrograde and fascist but I like modern technology. Where does that leave me? Cause it's all about meeeeeeeeee.

Also I don't care about Wailing Women, but I think it's horrible that people bring their children to those things. - Karen

Martial Artist said...

Dear Miss White,

I think you have valid concerns. However, I also think it is important to publicly acknowledge and confront the fact that having an abortion has long-term negative consequences on the physical, emotional and spiritual health of each woman who has had one. Women who have realized those effects in their own lives are among the best qualified to testify to their reality.

It is, I think, a very delicate balance to be struck.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Well, "Puckpan", it's also overwritten because I like to overwrite. I tend to work out my thoughts as I go along, which makes things longer than they need to be.

If I were writing this for publication somewhere other than a blog, I'd be a lot more concise.

Blog writing is bad writing, as a rule.

By the way, you may want to look at the commbox rules that are posted to the sidebar, particularly the ones about using obvious pseudonyms.

Your next post with an obviously false name will be deleted. No matter how true.

Dymphna said...

Whenever I see the Silent No More ads I always think, Well okay, you feel bad but your baby got burnt, dismembered or had a pair of scissors jammed in his head. I think the baby got the worst part of the deal.

David said...

I agree with you---this trend of "the public confessional" is not a good thing. "I had an abortion," "I was an alcoholic," whatever. As the kids used to say "too much information."

liberanos said...

Excellent. I think we want to build a more rational approach based upon principles. In the long run, we do no one any good to pander to the changing and malleable emotional appeal.

At any rate, it is a bad therapeutic approach. This belongs in the confessional where true compassion is found.

Then again, this is the generation which has no problem broadcasting every last intimate detail of life to all and sundry on the bus, in stores, on the sidewalk...

liberanos said...

Sorry, liberanos is Joanne.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Hilary Jane!

Good blog, over written or not. I agree womem who have had abortions need to remember that what happened to their babies were CRIMES. And to face up to that.

I do think ministries like Project Rachel serve a real need. But they need, perhaps, to be more frank about how EVIL abortion is. I would suggest they do so in a firm, calm way. As other commenters have said, the confessional is where we should go for compassion.

I hate how liberals and their icky sicky sentimentality have corrupted us!

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Felix said...

HJM, you're 110% correct.

I suppose we should be sympathetic to any human suffering (even, say, where it is self-caused).

But the key point about abortion is that it's murder. Not that it can lead to suffering for the mother.

If we refuse to make this key point, we're basically surrendering the pass.

And, unfortunately, a lot of Vatican II clergy are suckers for this line, including some guys in the Vatican.

(Fits in well with their sentimentalist theology.)

By contrast, we may be shrill, we may come across as heartless. But, like Puddlegum, we're speaking the truth.

Puckpan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Ah, I can see that you didn't take me seriously.

A helpful rule of thumb for getting along as a regular commenter at O's P is to learn the difference between my joking face and my not joking face.

The rules are there for everyone's safety. Had you read them, you would have noted that whining about the rules is one of the things that is banned here.

Anonymous said...

FYI: Lydia McGrew has made a substantial response to this at the blog What's Wrong With the World:

Anonymous said...

D'oh! Forgot to sign my name. Sorry.

Scott W.

Anonymous said...

To the extent that a woman (and particularly a girl) has been coerced into the abortion, she is something of a victim.

But of course, not all women are coerced.

I liked Lydia McGrew's critique. She touches upon "proper sentiments" by stating that it is improper to bewail not being able to have an abortion but perfectly proper to bewail having had one.

Having said that, I do think your point about Stockholm Syndrome is a good and important one.

The wailing, however, may not be so convincing as a tactic precisely b/c of what you state - that there are wailing women on both sides.