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Holly Taylor CoolmanDecember 03, 2021
A young woman is seen with her child during the annual March for Life rally in Washington Jan. 24, 2020. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

The United States seems to be moving toward a moment when the availability of abortion will be significantly decreased. In many places, the availability of abortion already has been reduced when compared to what it once was. But if the Supreme Court chooses to overturn Roe V. Wade in its ruling on Mississppi’s 15-week abortion ban, it still would be a major event. Of course, upholding Roe is not the same thing as preserving the availability of abortion, and overturning Roe is not the same thing as eliminating abortion.

If you believe, as I do, that elective abortion is an unacceptable form of violence against an unborn child, and especially if you have been, as I have been, vocal about this position, I believe that you now have an increasingly urgent call to exercise solidarity with those who will find themselves more desperate in the face of an unexpected pregnancy and lacking the option of abortion.

You now have an increasingly urgent call to exercise solidarity with those who will find themselves more desperate in the face of an unexpected pregnancy and lacking the option of abortion.

Over the past 50 years, we have repeatedly heard the phrase “My body, my choice.” Unfortunately, there has been a troubling corollary in American policy, often tacitly expressed but now firmly entrenched: “Your baby, your problem.” It is more important than ever that we challenge that assumption head-on. Here are a few things you can do.

1. Be very clear about the distinction (once widely recognized) between “abortion” and “termination of a pregnancy.” Abortion is never necessary to save the life of a mother. However, a procedure that does not “directly target the life of the unborn child” but results in the termination of a pregnancy sometimes is. (If that does not make sense to you, please watch this.) Advocate for policies and laws that allow for termination of a pregnancy when necessary.

2. Take note of the way in which anti-abortion policies and laws can sometimes result in unjust suspicion toward, and even possible prosecution of, women who have miscarried. Advocate for policies and laws that account for this and would prevent it.

Advocate for laws and policies that support families, including (but not limited to) mandatory family leave and child tax credits.

3. Refuse to support laws and policies that punish women who seek an abortion. The only reasonable option is to return to the pre-Roe norm: Abortion laws held liable those who performed the abortion, not those who sought them.

4. Advocate for laws and policies that support families, including (but not limited to) mandatory family leave and child tax credits.

[Related: America’s child care crisis and Catholic social teaching]

5. Note especially the Pregnant Women Support Act, introduced in Congress in 2006 and in 2009, which includes provisions like free home visits by registered nurses for teenage or first-time mothers and support for pregnant and parenting college students. It also prevents discrimination against pregnant women in health care by banning description of pregnancy as a “pre-existing condition,” and more.

6. Work to understand poverty in the United States, and support laws and policies that will help to fight poverty. About 40 percent of women who seek an abortion cite economic pressures as a motivation. My own policy preferences are found in a list like this one. If you cannot support these strategies, then find ones you can. What is not an option: indifference.

7. Give your own time, energy and money to support those facing an unexpected pregnancy or those parenting in a challenging situation. Reach out to those around you. Especially consider single parents. If you are a deeply committed pro-lifer, I would encourage you to begin by giving 1 percent of your net income to this cause. (In the Christian tradition, one especially appropriate habit would be to donate all the basics for a new baby to someone in need at Christmas.)

Refuse to support laws and policies that punish women who seek an abortion.

8. Commit to understanding and supporting respectful and connected practices of foster care and adoption.

9. Become a foster parent, working (as all foster parents must) for the reunification of children with their families whenever possible.

10. Support foster youth in other ways, like mentoring a teen, providing respite care for foster families or collecting items for welcome boxes for children arriving in new foster homes.

11. Support foster parents in other ways, like organizing a meal train or helping with everyday tasks.

12. Adopt children—especially some of the roughly 170,000 children who are currently in foster care, waiting to be adopted.

The work of the pro-life community is not over if Roe is overturned. Some of the most important work lies ahead.

Holly Taylor Coolman is an assistant professor of theology at Providence College in Rhode Island.

This article has been updated.

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