In an effort to erase “abortion stigma,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards penned an introspective article detailing her personal abortion for Elle Magazine titled “Ending the Silence That Fuels Abortion Stigma.” At glance, Richards’ article addresses the issue that she says women who obtain abortions face: shame and judgement from culture.
To tear down the ironclad walls of stigma, Richards contends that there must be a concerted effort to dialogue about abortion and the right of women to choose “reproductive health care” without backlash or criticism from the public. This stigma, as Richards describes, is a sting she experienced firsthand through an abortion that she obtained years prior. Though she says it wasn’t a “difficult decision,” the Planned Parenthood president says it is high time that a discussion on the benefits of abortion be brought to the table.
Richards is correct in part: a strong stigma exists against women in the United States; however, her analysis of the culture errors ever so slightly. True, there is a deeply entrenched stigma in this country that has permeated the fabric of society, soaking through media, through the school system, and through virtually every aspect of culture. Sadly, it is one that is fundamental to all humanity: a stigma against the conviction to uphold the value of each human life. The greater issue today is not an “abortion stigma,” but a stigma on human rights — the integrity of an individual to value human life regardless of one’s age, size, gender, physical capabilities, or race — and to uphold their right to life above every other human right.
This issue is something we as a culture need to address holistically. In our society, there exists a deep seated stigma against pregnant young women and single mothers. According to data, almost 50 percent of women who obtain abortions are college age students, and over 80 percent of unmarried women will seek an abortion. These statistics raise the question: Why?
Perhaps a young woman is fearful that she will not be able to remain in school if she decides to keep her child. Perhaps she is gripped with terror that her parents will reject her. Perhaps she is compelled by a boyfriend who threatens to leave her because he doesn’t wish to assume the responsibility of a father. Then there is the question of sustainability. Many single mothers who choose to keep their child battle poverty, and in an effort to support their child, they work around the clock, holding two to three jobs. The stigma and shame that surrounds pregnant young women compels them to feel that abortion is the only sensible solution.
Instead of promoting abortion, our society must be actively promoting life and empowering those who choose life. Instead of catering abortion to females with unplanned pregnancies as the first and only choice, our school systems should be empowering them with basic pregnancy and health care services. In the manner of pregnancy resource centers, our society should provide them the means to raise their child without abandoning their career goals and dreams.
As a culture, we need to work to rebuild our foundations at the roots in order to empower women to choose life. We need to rebuild the concept behind welfare, encourage adoption, and reconstruct government systems to empower women–and we need to start at the local level — in our high schools and on our college campuses.
As a woman, it is heartbreaking to watch a domino effect of cases arising in a culture that no longer cherishes or values human life. Like many, I cringed when I read a letter from a mother telling her unborn child that she is “sorry, but not sorry” that she will have an abortion.
I watched in shock as Emily Letts announced her surgical abortion to the world via the Internet, and I was equally disgusted when PBS chose to glorify late-term abortionists in “After Tiller” instead of giving voice to the preborn children they ruthlessly killed. I was also saddened at the sanitized words chosen by Richards in an effort to remove the “stigma of abortion.” These hygienic words selected by Richards shrouds abortion with sweet labels, such as “reproductive health care” and “medical procedure,” and positions the dialogue on abortion to be an emotionally charged argument.
Using terms that mask the truth and violence of abortion only ensures that the human rights of an entire people group continue to be violated day after day. The fact that thousands of babies are aborted every day in clinics across the country is something we cannot turn a blind eye to. Children up to nine months are being ripped apart in the womb through late-term abortion procedures –their limbs violently torn from their bodies. Others are injected with poison and left to die; countless others are being snuffed out during his or her earliest stages of life.
The conversations that promote abortion and belittle human life are ones that pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood, wish Americans to have– and it is tragic. These debates are what devalue life and desensitize citizens to the reality of abortion.
It is time to call a raw discussion on the fundamentals upon which medicine and health care were founded: to care for and cherish fellow man. Instead of demanding that pro-life individuals, advocates and legislators kowtow to a profit-driven agenda, let’s put aside politicking and once again encourage healthy dialogue about abortion. If we are to start a conversation, we must call for an open and honest discussion about abortion and the value of human life. We must tell the truth about the fetal heartbeat and how it starts 21 days after conception.
We must also have the audacity to affirm that every human life has value, and refuse to demonize those who uphold such ideals. Thankfully, I believe we are seeing a shifting tide rising among millennials who are increasing becoming pro-life. These individuals are ending the silence.
I am sincerely glad that Richards has the opportunity to live–that her mother chose to give her life to allow her the opportunity to pursue her human potential. Though we disagree on the issue of abortion, I fully support her ability to freely express her views– that is the beauty of this great country. But I pray that Richards would consider giving others that same choice.
If we are a people who passionately uphold human rights, may we never fail to ensure that the fundamental right to life of every human being is upheld as something sacred and inherent, endowed by our Creator and unalienable.