This week, my state passed a bill which would require Medicaid to pay for abortions. Taxpayers in Maine will now be funding Planned Parenthood. We’re not alone; there are fifteen other states which spend public money on abortion but I don’t live in those states. Until Tuesday, my state taxes were, if not clean, at least not drenched in the blood of children.
It’s a devastating feeling. According to the Portland Press Herald, there were over 1800 abortions performed in Maine in 2015. Over 1800 children. Next year, with the help of my tax dollars, that number could rise. It still feels pretty staggering. My wages and my work ethic is being exploited to fund abortions. It’s a heartbreaking situation. We’re waiting to see if the new bill will hold up in court, but with 15 other states demanding tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, there isn’t a lot of hope.
It’s been estimated that Mainer’s will pay about $375,000 a year for abortions through Medicaid, and private insurance plans in the state will be required to cover abortions if they cover prenatal care.
“Maine’s people should not be forced to have their hard-earned tax dollars used to take the life of a living, pre-born child,” said Senator Lisa Keim, arguing against the bill. She’s right but against her voice and the voices of other pro-life senators were other senators murmuring about healthcare and tossing out the word ‘discrimination’.
If Mainer’s don’t pay for elective abortions for women on Medicaid, they say, we’ll be denying them the right to choose. The language is always so very soft and indirect. It’s mushy and insubstantial, intentionally denying us a look beneath the surface.
What Are Catholics Fighting Against?
Sometimes I think we pro-life Catholics forget what exactly we are fighting against. We use the correct terms: abortion, pro-life, pro-choice, healthcare, reproductive rights – and after a while, it all blurs together in our minds. There is our side, and there is the other side.
However, in between the two there is something more, “the reality concealed beneath the great formulas that ordinarily serve to mask it.” Between us there are bodies.
Between us, there are thousands of people whose faces we’ll never see. Thousands of cries we never got to hear.
Between us and our indirect words, there are hands stained in blood, washed clean at the end of a long day of work. We never see the blood. We rarely mention the blood. When bills like this are debated, we don’t welcome abortionists into the stateroom to show slides of his work. We don’t want to watch a tiny, trembling body recoil in terror from those searching hands.
Like all executions, society works to protect us from nightmares we’ve created: “Decent folks must be allowed to sleep easy o’nights, mustn’t they? Really it would be shockingly bad taste to linger on such details”. So as we debate, no one lingers on the broken bodies of children – bought and sold, bundled into hospital waste bags and dumped behind buildings to be picked up with the trash.
However in abortion, as in all executions, there is more than an idea at stake. There is a person. More than one person, each made in the image of God.
There is a person whose blood stains gloves and clothes, and there is a person who’ll always wonder what that broken body might have become. There’s a person who is forever washing blood off of his hands, and a person who will never wipe blood from a fellow man or kiss a bruised knee or count the stars in the sky.
It’s hard to think of them this way, in all their flesh and bone and shattered potential. When the bodies are tucked safely out of sight, “what are a hundred million deaths?… a hundred million corpses broadcast throughout history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination.” We have at least a hundred million. So many corpses. So much death.
There are plenty of people rejoicing this week. They tell me it is right and just to pay for healthcare for women who can’t afford it. They tell me other states are far ahead of us in funding women’s reproductive choices. I can hear their words, and I can understand what they’re saying. But their words don’t mean anything at the end of the day. They paint a picture of a woman in a white room, chatting with a doctor about nutrition or supplements. Their words are sterile and empty when compared with the life and death of a tiny, trapped person whose terror is drowned in blood and pain.
What I Can Do
I know there are options for me in this new state of affairs. I can stand against this.
We live a simple, slow life in the woods. I can make it simpler. I can live a humbler life and fall below the taxable income: “the house of the poor is like an altar” writes the poet Rilke. I can make a poor life into a true altar on which to pray for the dead and dying.
I can pray and fast, recommit to daily rosaries and entrust all these aching hearts to our Mother, Mary. This is essential. More than civil disobedience, more than voluntary poverty, this is a necessary step.
I can avoid the language of ideas which seeks to dehumanize the dead, even as we argue to save them. I can remember that my concern is more than ideals and arguments. My concern is with the little child, and “with the foul procedure,” and the people who “scientifically arranged things so that he should die.”
If you live in one of the 15 states that, along with Maine, use your tax dollars to fund abortion. I’d encourage you to be vocal. If your state doesn’t yet fund abortions, be on the defensive.
However much we may be mourning the hundred million corpses that abortion has produced, there are those who celebrate it. Right now, they’re making the rules but we have an opportunity to
go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power…trusting in the divine goodness even as to the deaths of little children, and not seeking personal respite.
(All uncited quotations are from Albert Camus’ The Plague)