It took just about an hour for Americans United for Life, a pro-life lobbying outfit, to denounce the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. "Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy undermines common ground," the group said in a press release. "She is a radical pick that divides America."
I watched the press conference when President Obama introduced Judge Sotomayor as his choice for the high court. What struck me most was that both the President and his nominee were largely raised by single Moms. Sotomayor’s father died when she was nine and the President’s father was in absentia for most of his life. Sotomayor spoke movingly about the sacrifices her mother made so that she and her brother could achieve all that they have.
One of the most disconcerting things about the pro-life movement has been its unwillingness to embrace the heroic role of single Moms. I do not know how many pregnant women decide to procure an abortion because the thought of raising a child alone is so daunting. In the 1980s, the perception of "welfare Moms" as a drain on society and a source of criminality was fostered by the Republican Party as a thinly veiled racist wedge issue. This never cohered with their pro-life agenda which ultimately entailed convincing pregnant single women to carry their child to term.
No Western democracy has ever repealed liberal abortion laws once adopted. I believe that we can only change the laws regarding abortion once we have first changed the culture’s views of the horrific procedure. But, that means that as a culture we must be willing to move heaven and earth to help single women who find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy.
It is telling that the Americans United for Life could not spare a sentence in their press release to note the phenomenon that was so obvious watching the press conference in the East Room of the White House this morning: Single motherhood is certainly no one’s ideal, but neither is it an insuperable impediment to their children leading meaningful lives. It is not a good reason to procure an abortion. Just ask Judge Sotomayor or President Obama.