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Simcha FisherJune 18, 2018

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find more resources from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention here.

I have finally learned to say someone “died by suicide” rather than “committed suicide.” While the Catholic Church does teach that taking one’s own life is grave matter, we now recognize that those who die by suicide are often in such an altered mental state, they may not capable of acting with deliberate consent. Therefore, it is our obligation to pray and hope for those who died by suicide, just as we may hope for the salvation of all the dead.

But that only speaks to the culpability of the dead. Can we not also hope that fewer people will die?

The cliché is true: Depression lies. Despair lies. They tell you that your dark ruminations are insights, not delusions: that life is good, but you are not worthy of it, or that life is meaningless, and you are the only one willing to admit it.

Depression and despair tell you that every day you wake up and decide to live, you perpetuate the pain and peril of those you love. Depression and despair tell you that your troubles will not and cannot end, and the only escape is death.

It is our obligation to pray and hope for those who died by suicide, just as we may hope for the salvation of all the dead.

It is like being in the bottom of a hole. Stay down there long enough, and you stop craving fresh air and sunlight. Instead, you doubt that such things exist; and if they do, you cannot ever have them. Depression tells you that death is the only answer, and death feeds on those lies.

Those looking from the outside can readily see that severely depressed people do not actually need or deserve death, no matter what they say. Instead, they need and deserve to be rescued from the dark lies that call death their only choice.

There is no easy answer to intense human suffering, but one thing is sure: We do not show love by enabling despair, by affirming the lies that make death attractive, by keeping other humans in a dark hole. Love is truth, even painful truth. Love never affirms lies.

But if we see this so clearly in the case of senseless, tragic suicides, why do we hedge when it comes to abortion?

Choosing death only seems like the answer to those mired in lies.

I know what it sounds like when I say that. I am weary of the knee-jerk “but abortion!” response that comes like an involuntary reflex from some quarters of the Catholic world. If I say we should worry about immigrants or gun violence, someone pops up to yelp, “Worry about abortion!” If I show concern at the suffering of the poor, someone hollers, “What about the suffering of the unborn?” It is a counterproductive bit of rhetoric that makes it too easy to dismiss pro-lifers as shallow and manipulative.

But at some point, we really do have to think about abortion. We really do. We cannot always say, “Not now.” We cannot always say, “This issue is nuanced.” We cannot always stuff uncomfortable truths back down in the hole where the light cannot reach them because someday the Light of the World will come again, and that Light will reach down into every dark hole, and the secret thoughts of many—and their lies—will be laid bare.

Choosing death only seems like the answer to those mired in lies. Suicide seems reasonable to those who have been deceived by despair, and abortion seems reasonable to those who have been deceived by a systemic derangement of the heart.

Abortion and suicide join hands in the dark, feeding off the lie that some lives are not worth living.

If it is a tragedy when panic, fear and despair lead to suicide, then how can we twist ourselves into contorted forgeries of compassion when panic, fear and despair lead to abortion? We must excoriate our own hearts and search out the dark holes where lies find shelter. We must not allow ourselves to make cover for death. If we reject suicide as an answer to sorrow but cannot bring ourselves to always reject abortion, then we must ask ourselves why. Why?

Don’t all lives matter?

Every abortion signifies that some woman was not rescued from the dark hole of lies—lies that insist the tiny spark of life in her is worthless. That she and her baby are nothing but a burden, that she is not worthy to bring life into the world. That she is unlovable while pregnant; that her child is unlovable altogether. That her worth lies in productivity. That her child’s worth lies in self-sufficiency. That the power to bear humanity is something to be ashamed of. That her child is not good enough to live.

There are times when we must accept death. There are times when we must make peace with it and allow it to come. But to chase after it, to deliberately court death and take it as our own, to call it good, necessary, even compassionate—this choice only makes sense after we abandon ourselves to lies.

If we have read the headlines and felt the heavy sadness of brilliant lives lost to the lies of depression and despair, then we must challenge ourselves to be consistent. We must think thoughts that can withstand the light. Choosing death is choosing death, and that choice always comes from within a dark hole. Abortion and suicide join hands in the dark, feeding off the lie that some lives are not worth living.

But all lives matter. If it is true for some, it is true for all.

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Lisa Fullam
6 years 1 month ago

The author asserts: "Every abortion signifies that some woman was not rescued from the dark hole of lies—lies that insist the tiny spark of life in her is worthless. That she and her baby are nothing but a burden, that she is not worthy to bring life into the world. That she is unlovable while pregnant; that her child is unlovable altogether. That her worth lies in productivity. That her child’s worth lies in self-sufficiency." The catch is that these are not the reasons women have abortions: in fact, women seek abortion for reasons including the need to stay in school or keep a job, to pay for other dependents. A 2007 study noted: "The themes of responsibility to others and resource limitations, such as financial constraints and lack of partner support, recurred throughout the study." So women considering abortion don't need to be "rescued." They need to be listened to. And maybe a little help with their actual situation would help. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1931-2393.2005.tb00045.x

Crystal Watson
6 years 1 month ago

Agree. And a couple of recent studies show that over 90% of women choose abortions do not regret that or feel depressed about it but instead feel a sense of relief.

Lauren Bergier
6 years 1 month ago

The mother fears for her own future and the future of her other dependents. This is, I believe, what Mrs. Fisher, a Harvard graduate and beloved writer who is raising 10 children with brio and good humor, means when she mentions fear, panic, and despair. Yes, these women need help—the life of that unborn child is worth living, just as much as the depressed person’s.

Crystal Watson
6 years 1 month ago

I think the writer is overestimating the angst factor. For many women, abortion is just another medical procedure chosen for practical reasons.

Stephanie Barrett
6 years 1 month ago

If you read who the author of this article is, it changes the whole perspective.
Wrote a book on Natural Family Panning
Mother of 10 children
This is sadly a one sided comparison of
suicide to abortion.
I have known people in both situations.
Sadly we might wish that they had not
done these things.
I was told by a psychiatist years ago, that if a person was determined to kill themselves. There is nothing you can do to stop them. They are sick and in the depths of some horrible issues.
God knows their problems, how dare anybody use such moralistic strict statements.
They are not God, He is a God of love and
compassion. This person (author)is confused.
America I am really surprised by your printing this sad commentary.

rose-ellen caminer
6 years 1 month ago

The author does not contradict what you are saying about how "sick" people are who kill themselves. The author expressed how people who die at their own hands are victims indeed of a "sickness" , using other words.[ the lies one believes]. There was no moralistic judgement of them, There was a moralistic judgment that one should not kill; oneself, or others in the womb. But that was not the point of the article; the point was that the choice to abort should be seen as we tend to see the taking of ones own life; as a skewed "choice"; resulting from a "sickness".

Gay Timothy O'Dreary
6 years 1 month ago

Beautiful article, Ms. Fischer. You are a godly woman, wife and mother.
How we need women like the BVM who believe “with God all things are possible”.

“Nulliparity was the most important correlate of reporting interference with education or work as a reason for choosing abortion, after other variables were controlled for. Women who had children were less likely than women with no children to give these reasons (odds ratios, 0.2–0.3). In addition, women aged 30 and older were much less likely than those aged 17 and younger to cite educational or career interference (0.1). Having no children was also the key predictor of reporting unreadiness for a child or another child: Women with children had reduced odds of citing this reason“

“Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives”

Tim Donovan
6 years 1 month ago

Although I was raised by living parents (my late Dad was a life-long Catholic, my Mom became a Catholic after being a Methodist for some years; she was denied Communion by her Presbyterian church and also disowned by her bigoted father who despised Catholics, though he never attended any church services) I was taught that both abortion was an act of violence and suicide was also a denial of respect for human life. However, growing up I was often taunted with a painful slur because I was gay. My orientation led me to experience severe depression, and though I was active in the pro-life movement in various capacities, I didn't see the value of my life and attempted suicide. Shortly thereafter, my best friend (age 19) told me that his 17 year old girlfriend who was a Senior in high school was pregnant. She gave birth to their son one month after graduation at age 18. I found new meaning to life by helping my friends who married nine months after their son was born raise their previous son. I might add that while I firmly oppose legal abortion, I know several women who've made that unfortunate choice. One was the older sister of my friend who gave birth while unmarried. Her sister was also unmarried, and saw the violence of abortion as the only available option. I certainly didn't harbor any I'll feelings towards her. In fact, we both were happy to babysit my friend's son. Some years later she gave birth to a daughter as a single parent. I support as often as I'm financially able two crisis pregnancy centers. One is in my county in Pennsylvania and shelters homeless pregnant women and their children and provides other compassionate, practical services. The other is Mom's House, a network of about six homes in several states that provides free day care to single pregnant women so that they can complete their education. I believe in a consistent ethic of life vision, as does Pope Francis. However, despite the urgency in moral terms of many matters (including opposing capital punishment, favoring stringent gun control laws, reasonable laws to protect our environment, reasonable laws to assist the millions of Americans in need, and respecting the values of people of different faiths, plus working to keep immigrant families intact rather than forcibly separating children from their parents) I do believe that at the present moment Catholics must. Join with people of other faiths to work to restore legal protection to the innocent unborn. Finally, some years ago a good friend and co-worker deliberately ended her life. So I think I can appreciate both the pain I caused my loved ones by attempting suicide as well as understand the pain as one whose good friend deliberately ended her life. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in recent years the number of people who've committed suicide has greatly increased, making death by suicide far greater in number than death by murder. Sadly, the data demonstrates that men and young people are especially apt to commit suicide. As someone who years ago spent time in a quality Catholic psychiatric hospital, I support increased access to mental health services for people in need.

Tim O'Leary
6 years 1 month ago

Abortion and suicide seem associated with a loss of one or more of the 3 theological virtues: faith, hope and love. Comparing the CDC and Pew surveys, it appears suicides (death by self) are rising in close parallel with the rise of secularism and the “nones.” According to the CDC, adjusted for age, the annual US suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014 (from 10.5 to 13 per 100,000). Belief in God went from 94% to 86%. http://time.com/4283975/god-belief-religion-americans.
Loss of faith --> loss of hope --> loss of love of others --> loss of love of self.

rose-ellen caminer
6 years 1 month ago

Thank you Simcha Fisher, for posting this insightful article. You hit the nail on the head[IMO] recognizing how there is a disconnect in our ethic expressed through our narratives, around the extreme choice to kill oneself vs., the the extreme choice to kill the unborn. When if we had a consistent ethic of valuing human life there would no such disconnect. The pervasive support for the extreme choice of killing the unborn is the result of propaganda and indoctrination.

Crystal Watson
6 years 1 month ago

Abortion and suicide don't seem related at all. People may commit suicide because they have lost hope of their conditions ever getting better, but most people don't choose abortion out of despair or a lack of hope. They choose abortion because they don't want to be a parent, for a number of reasons. Recent studies have shown that the vast majority of people who get abortions are not depressed. or in despair - they are making a practical decision about their future.

rose-ellen caminer
6 years 1 month ago

No one is saying that people who choose abortion do so because they are depressed. The connection to those who choose to kill themselves is in the "going to the extreme" of killing. We find it disturbing when someone goes to the extreme of killing themselves, for we value human life, and out of empathy, don't want people to be in such states of despair.The choice of taking the life of the unborn ,is likewise "going to the extreme";seeing the taking of life as a solution.

Crystal Watson
6 years 1 month ago

Maybe the commonality is the idea that a person should be able to decide for themselves about their own lives, whether that means ending their lives or getting an abortion. What conservatives seem to want to do is to take that choice away from people.

Tim Donovan
6 years ago

I know several women who've had abortions, including a close friend from years ago whose older sister chose abortion. Although I firmly disagree with her act of violence against her unborn human life, I do sympathize with women who have unplanned or difficult pregnancies. My friend at age 17 became pregnant by my best friend who was 19 and attending college. She was a senior in high school, and despite the difficulty they faced, in my opinion it was admirable that she chose life for their son, and got married nine months later. I felt privileged to often care for their son as he was growing up, (as well as assisting in caring for their three additional children) and she was able to attend college and become a pharmacist, and my other friend (her eventual husband) finished college and became a mechanical engineer. My friend's sister who aborted her unborn baby also was very pleased to help care for their son and other children, and in time have birth to a daughter, despite being unmarried. I certainly didn't have feelings of hatred towards her because of her earlier abortion. Also, I know a woman who became pregnant after having being raped, and courageously have birth and released her child for adoption. She and her physician husband were truly a loving cpuple. He founded the first alternative -to-abortion center in our county in the early 19980's. Also, he and his wife opened their home to shelter pregnant women of different races for some time, in addition to raising their own children. Finally, this loving couple adopted an infant who was severely disabled whom they knew wasn't going to live long after birth, yet they have their all and lovingly cared for their disabled son while he luved. I must admit that I'm very much saddened to hear that you believe it's a moral choice to kill an innocent unborn human being (and I respectfully submit that the science of biology as well as reason confirms that a new human being comes into existence at the moment of fertilization). After all, with due respect, it's undeniable that each one of us was a fetus (Latin for "young one" ) and before that any embryo who developed from a zygote. It's true that many human embryos die naturally, but that doesn't change the fact that they at one time existed. After all, it's also true that in many Third World nations that many newborn infants die, but that doesn't mean that they weren't living human beings. Regarding suicide, I attempted suicide several times because of depression. However, I'm glad that with the love and support of my family, friends, and the care of an excellent compassionate psychiatrist that I chose life. I might add that I gained a sense of life being worthwhile by helping to care for my friends children, as well as helping to care for my three nieces and nephew (now adults). I also chose as my vocation in life being a Special Education teacher (now retired) for children who were brain damaged and/or physically disabled with behavior disorders. Finally, I don't believe that I am a conservative (not that I think it's wholly wrong to be a political conswrvative). I not only oppose the violence of legal abortion (which to me is a violation of human rights--after all, in 1959, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed unanimously the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, in which it was affirmed (and I'm paraphrasing) that the child, because of his physical and intellectual immaturity, deserves appropriate legal protection, both before as well as after birth. Unfortunately, the United Nations (which I believe does some crucial work to provide humanitarian assistance to impoverished nations as well as provides peacekeeping forces to help resolve conflicts) has for years reversed it's opposition to the violence of legal abortion. I oppose capital punishment, support stringent gun control laws, support reasonable laws to protect our environment, support reasonable laws to assist the millions of Americans in need, support efforts to combat human trafficking, support a path to citizenship for immigrants (I worked years ago caring for disabled men in a group home and several of my co-workers were immigrants from Liberia who had fled from a brutal civil war seeking a better life in our nation).. As a teacher and caregiver for more than thirty years (I'm now 56) the great majority of my co-workers were African-Americans, specifically black women, and despite natural differences in personalities I got along well with almost everyone regardless of their race or sex. I also support war only as a last resort when diplomatic relations have been exhausted. Civilians must never be deliberately targeted, and in my view nuclear weapons must never be used. However, I do believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that the Supreme Court ruled erroneously in its 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage. I believe that gay people must be treated with compassion and respect, and shouldn't be targets of violence. I do understand the difficulty experienced by many gay people, as I'm gay, and many years ago I had sex with men. However, I realized the error of my behavior, and received forgiveness and consolation from a compassionate priest through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I do have a gay friend, and we get along well despite differences in our viewpoint. Also, my brother-in-law whom I certainly love has a niece who is gay, and we also have a respectful, pleasant relationship. I must admit, however, that my sister has a gay friend (who I went to elementary school with) who I treat in a pleasant manner but try to avoid as much as possible during holidays and family gatherings to whom my sister(as is her right) typically invites her. Why do I keep her at a distance while treating her in a pleasant manner? Because she often makes remarks that are very critical of our Church's teachings. Of course, she has a right to her opinions, but as I do as well, I believe it's reasonable for me to keep her at a distance while not expressing my objections to her views.

JacobH181 .
6 years 1 month ago

I respectfully disagree with the premise of the author, and I would suggest that prior to writing such articles, she should consult with psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers who actually deal with the issue of suicide not as a concept, but in actual, practical terms. Suicide has absolutely no relationship in the world to abortion; we are not dealing with rational choices, but steep depression and sometimes mental illness. Thoughts of suicide are not controllable, are not a choice, and certainly not a sin. These are matters for mental health professionals, not for people playing theological chess.

Luis Gutierrez
6 years ago

Canon 1024 assumes that some vocations don't matter: "A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly." This canon is an artificial contraceptive and abortifacient of female priestly vocations. We are not fully pro-life as long as this patriarchal law is the law of the Church.

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