The Fashion of Abortion

Straining for liberation, modern women for decades have bought into the fashionable belief that our last frontier is the masculine world

Planned Parenthood President and CEO Cecile Richards, testifying before the House Oversight Committee this week, finally admitted that not one of organization’s some 700 clinics is outfitted with a mammogram machine. This means, hopefully, the mantra that those clinics are providing life-saving mammogram services will end—and maybe the Susan G. Komen Foundation can finally withdraw its grants to promote breast cancer screening from the abortion giant once and for all.

There are, however, lingering questions about the women seen in the Center for Medical Progress videos haggling over prices for baby parts. Many people are asking “How did these women get to be so callous? How can they so glibly discuss the butchering of babies over salad? Have they lost every shred of their humanity?”

Christians have known for centuries of the deep distortions sin brings upon a soul: it clouds the mind, makes one forget truths she knew, and distorts good to look like evil. When weighing a decision, it used to be commonplace for Christians to consider what a vicious action would do to their soul and not simply the external consequences. For example, something like infanticide would be easily rejected because of the awareness of how a mortal sin deforms an individual (in addition to killing the infant).

St. Ignatius of Loyola, a master of spiritual direction, makes clear there is a pronounced interior difference between the soul living in a state of grace and one who is not. The soul who is seeking God is motivated by interior joys, consolations, and encouragements, while the one who is moving away from God skips from mortal sin to mortal sin. And despite the built-in struggles that come from living in mortal sin (e.g., difficult relationships, self-defeating activities), a turnaround generally doesn’t happen until one hits rock bottom and realizes something has to change, only then raising her eyes to God.

It is no secret that women are slaves to fashion. This is nothing new. For 1000 years, for example, Chinese girls were subjected to the agonizing process of footbinding. The rite of passage first started when a girl was 5 or 6: any younger and it was too painful, any older and the foot was too long. The practice was first a sign of allurement for the opposite sex and later took on a sort of national pride when outsiders tried to ban the grisly practice.

In a similar but even more horrifying way, abortion takes what had been a healthy heart and distorts it into something almost unrecognizable. This was made most clear when Wendy Davis— to national acclaim—sported her pink sneakers to filibuster a bill that would block late term abortions. When nearly the entire media class and a large portion of the population think it is permissible to kill a viable baby for any reason whatsoever, what is fashionable has definitely trumped what is rational.

Straining for liberation, modern women for decades have bought into the fashionable belief that our last frontier is the masculine world. This carrot of competing with and besting men has been dangled in front of nearly every Western woman since the 1960s. Today, the mantra has changed slightly: “Not only are we as good as men, we are in fact better at being men than they are.” Most any commercial confirms this: poor men, they wouldn’t be able to do anything without us – diaper a baby, make a meal, purchase a new car. Meanwhile, living in a world without women who know how to be women, men are left without the calming, ordering, and steady support that women from time immemorial have provided their husbands.

Essential to this cultural fashion, however, is the free and easy access to abortion. For women cannot be man-like if they have to be women—that is, mothers. And so the women of Planned Parenthood thrive off of the myth that women must be like men and that our children are often the enemy who stifle and undermine our pursuit of happiness. So they carefully craft a message of compassion, empowerment, and “the sky will fall if we don’t have this” rhetoric, slowly leading us to believe in the power of their kind of pink.

So, the independent woman who finds herself pregnant will think: “This baby cannot be for it isn’t who I am.” The young women without means or pressure from others will think: “This baby cannot be for it isn’t who I am allowed to be.” And the mother of the less than perfect baby (or the baby who isn’t the right sex) will think: “This baby cannot be, for he isn’t who I want him to be.” The power of pink.

At some point our culture will hit rock bottom and there will be a shift in fashion. Until then, women need to fill in the vacuum that has been created about what it truly means to be a woman—not a woman striving to be a man, but a woman at heart. On Sunday during his press conference on the return flight to Rome, Pope Francis called again for a deeper understanding of women’s vocation. “I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women,” he said, “We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.” This is not simple pandering to women, but a recognition shared by his predecessors, that we are living in a crisis of womanhood.

As the German philosopher Edith Stein (later St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross) made clear, at the heart of every woman is the desire to bring wellness into her own life, and then pass that gift along to those around her. As the Center for Media Progress videos have made clear, that impulse can become deeply disordered and misdirected.

Like abortion, footbinding was foisted upon women by other women. “The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women.” It did, however, finally come to an end. “Though utterly rejected in China now … it survived for a thousand years in part because of women’s emotional investment in the practice.”

We pray that someday soon something similar will be said about abortion: it was finally defeated when women realized that they didn’t need to maintain the emotional (or financial) investment in the practice. Until then, the cultural chaos that has been sown because of the rejection of motherhood will continue to leave everyone confused about how to live and who to be. As every woman knows, fashion always has a price.

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About Carrie Gress, Ph.D. 54 Articles
Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She is the editor at the Catholic Women's online magazine Theology of Home. She is the author of several books including The Anti-Mary Exposed, Theology of Home, and . Theology of Home II: The Spiritual Art of Homemaking. Visit her online at