A friend had taken a perilous road trip, to save a family in danger of being killed. My friend’s a pro-life activist, who stands outside abortion clinics and talks to people in a friendly way. If expectant mothers going into the clinic are willing, she befriends them, and she gets them what they need so they won’t feel the need for an abortion anymore. Sometimes this is a matter of a baby shower with lots of supplies, or helping them apply for assistance, or finding them housing.
But she also does more dangerous things. She helps spirit people away from domestic violence or even gang violence. The pregnant woman she drove across state lines last week had been targeted by a gang and was going to be shot. My friend took her and her four-year-old to a safe house several states away.
She’s back home now, but she didn’t skip a beat. I saw online that she’d been arrested committing civil disobedience at a protest. When she was released from the police station, she got to work on a new project, helping another mother arrange an open adoption.
She is Christian. She is doing what we all ought to do. Looking at her, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve got it all wrong. “Pro-life” isn’t about what you oppose, it’s about what you do.
What We Fail to Do
When we go to Mass we confess that we have sinned “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” We sin in what we fail to do, as much as we sin in what we do. In fact, I think we sin in what we fail to do even more than in what we do. In a way, we’re always sinning in what we fail to do.
My friend looks at the sin of abortion, a grave, ugly, unthinkably unjust violation of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” She knows that the opposite of a violation of a commandment is the fulfillment of that commandment. The fulfillment of that commandment is not merely declining to kill or feeling a strong aversion to killing. It’s not merely to push to make all forms of killing illegal.
The fulfillment of that commandment is to act in reverence for life. To be pro-life is to act in reverence for life.
And this is much more difficult than just being against abortion, feeling aversion to abortion, praying loudly at people getting abortions, or even trying to pass laws to punish abortionists. It means standing in opposition to a culture that has decided that human life is expendable, and actively doing the things that that culture won’t do. And that is what my friend does.
Fulfilling the Commandment
Homelessness leads to abortion, as my friend the activist can readily tell you. It’s a lot easier to give a homeless woman a pill to make the baby go away than to get her into safe housing. And homelessness leads to a lot of other terrible kinds of death and suffering as well. So my friend helps homeless people.
Among the many ways it kills, racism causes abortion. A lot of people will quote you the statistics about most aborted babies being people of color, but they don’t take the next step and look at the history of sterilization and coerced abortion committed against women of color. So my friend actively protests racism.
Gun violence causes abortion. That woman my friend rescued was seeking an abortion because she was terrified to be pregnant in a place where she was in danger of being shot. So my friend rescued her and both of her children, the born one and the unborn, and drove them to safety.
The Beauty and the Sin
When you and I look at the world around us, I hope we see all the beauty and rightness that’s there. But I hope we also notice the sin, the injustice and injury, around us. Instead of just getting angry at sin and wanting to punish it, we must recognize sin for what it is: the consequence of something we’ve failed to do.
Where people are hungry, feed them instead of just being dismayed at their hunger.
Where people are lonely, befriend them instead of cursing loneliness.
Where people are ignorant, teach them.
Where people are marginalized, bring them into the center, and listen to them.
And as we do this, recognize the underlying injustices that led to these terrible things, and work to correct them as well. We have all sinned in what we failed to do. We can all do what we’ve failed to do. The Communion of Saints gives us many wonderful examples. In my friend I have found another.