The telephone rang the other evening. Joey, who is nine, answered it. He listened in silence for a moment, then handed the phone to me: “It’s for you. It’s political.”
“Hello?”, I said.
A woman’s voice said “Good evening, sir. Could I ask you a few questions on the abortion issue?”
“Do you consider yourself prolife, prochoice, or undecided?”
Her relief was audible and she began talking about the Freedom of Choice Act. Now, while President Obama has said, contrary to his pre-election rhetoric, that promoting FOCA is not a priority for him there is little doubt that he would sign the bill should it make its way through Congress to his desk. “I agree that we must fight that legislation if it reappears”, I said, “But at the same time we should remember that any restrictions of abortion enacted by the Republicans have been symbolic or cosmetic.”
“What do you mean?”, she asked.
“Take the partial birth abortion ban. It did not save the life of a single baby.”
“Why yes it did”, she said.
“No, it did not ban late term abortions, only one way of doing them. It is still legal to inject saline solution into a mother’s womb, which is probably even more painful to the baby. Or take the ban on federal funding for overseas organizations that promote abortion. There were loopholes for rape, incest and the health of the mother. Now, if someone is evil enough to kill a baby would they really balk at lying about the circumstances of the conception or the health of the mother?”
“Oh”, she said, “I see you are not really prolife.”
“What?!” I said, “What on earth did I just say that could possibly lead you to that conclusion?” But there was only silence on the other end. She had hung up on me.
I have long felt alienated from the so-called prolife movement in this country, which too often seems blind to the value of any but embryonic American life. A few days before this conversation I heard Fr Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life, on EWTN radio denouncing “left wing kooks” who implied that Bush and Cheney were war criminals. And now here I was, being called proabortion because I didn’t think the Republicans were prolife enough. I shouldn’t be surprised; there is nothing new here. I have been a victim of mistaken identity more times than I can count, denounced as a liberal, a reactionary, an anti-Semite, a schismatic, a communist, an anarchist, and I don’t know what all. I’m sure anyone who attempts a consistent moral vision can say the same.
But what can we expect, striving for elusive wholeness in such a fractured world?