About a month ago, activist Amelia Bonow ignited an Internet frenzy by posting this on her Facebook page:
Hi guys! Like a year ago I had an abortion at the Planned Parenthood on Madison Ave, and I remember this experience with a nearly inexpressible level of gratitude. I would tell you all about the exceptional level of care I received from every single woman at the clinic on that day, but I’m going to wait… I am telling you this today because the narrative of those working to defund Planned Parenthood relies on the assumption that abortion is still something to be whispered about. Plenty of people still believe that on some level—if you are a good woman—abortion is a choice which should be accompanied by some level of sadness, shame, or regret. But you know what? I have a good heart and having an abortion made me happy in a totally unqualified way. Why wouldn’t I be happy that I was not forced to become a mother? #ShoutYourAbortion
The viral #ShoutYourAbortion campaign is worth revisiting because it’s an example of the ultimate failure of the pro-choice argument. It’s easy for those on the pro-life side to assume that Bonow and anyone that shares her view must be calloused or even cruel. Perhaps on occasion that’s true, but the most universal flaw of the pro-choice movement is that is deeply and dangerously confused.
In interviews with Bonow following her post, she explained that she believes the problem with the culture is that we are dominated by an intolerant patriarchy which we could be freed from by creating communities of support and approval for women who have had abortions. She wants to see the culture move from a state of captivity to a state of freedom. Such a world would require mutual tolerance, sexual liberty, and bodily autonomy – women wouldn’t be compelled to become mothers merely because they had sex. In this society, all women would have the chance to “have a good heart” and be “happy.” They could walk into clinics and end pregnancies as casually as they might get a flu shot.
The point here is choice – I can choose to be a mother or I can choose not to be, and I can be happy and whole either way.
The biggest problem with such a world is that it assumes all the rewards of keeping a moral code — having a good heart, happiness with oneself, freedom from shame or reprobation — without actually possessing a sexual ethic. It denies any kind of created order. The only obligation you have is to yourself and your own happiness. This is what Aldous Huxley would call “Christianity without tears.” And it is impossible.
As we see in Huxley’s classic dystopia, Brave New World, a society that values happiness and bodily autonomy will ultimately abandon motherhood entirely. Any world “freed” from the created sexual order will find mothers repulsive. This is because motherhood is the chief symbol of the facts of sexuality.
Motherhood reminds us of the beauty and importance of monogamy. It reminds us of the sweetness of dependence. It reminds us that actions have consequences. Motherhood necessitates sacrifice and selflessness, as one body sustains the life of another. Even when a child is conceived in sinful or unfortunate circumstances, motherhood reminds us that redemption is real — that life comes forth out of the most unlikely places. Motherhood reminds us of grace and restoration.
To ask for “choice” is to abandon motherhood entirely. We cannot have both. Charles Williams, a member of the “Inklings” and close friend of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, writes in his novel,Descent Into Hell, of the sin of “Gomorrah,” which he identifies as self-love.
“But don’t you know how quiet the streets of Gomorrah are? Haven’t you seen the pools that everlastingly reflect the faces of those who walk with their own phantasms, but the phantasms aren’t reflected and can’t be. The lovers of Gomorrah are quite contented, Periel; they don’t have to put up with our difficulties… They’re monogamous enough! And they’ve no children – no cherubim breaking into being or babies as tiresome as ours; there’s no distinction between lover and beloved; they beget themselves and they live and feed and starve on themselves, and by themselves too, for creation… is the mercy of God, and they won’t have the facts of creation.”
Amelia Bonow is blindly denying the facts of creation. The fact that love begets life which ought in turn to beget love. Love means selflessness. We cannot be free to choose or reject motherhood without ultimately giving up on the mothers and babies entirely. A world of true sexual freedom will only know the self-love of Gomorrah.
In Huxley’s world they took “a holiday from the facts.” In Gomorrah they denied them. Our world is perfectly capable of doing the same, but the cost will be great. The created sexual order is beautiful, and if we abandon it, we abandon love entirely. Love may bring hardship, but love overcomes – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” – as demonstrated to us by the Savior. To Amelia Bonow – there is no Christianity without tears. And if there were, we would not want it.