Thursday, January 22, 2015

On A Failure of Love: "Poor Baby: A Child of the Sixties Looks Back On Abortion"

As thousand march on Washington to protect human life in all its vulnerability, I wanted to share this piece from my archives. First published in March 2013....


Last night - Good Friday -  felt like the right time to download on my brand new Kindle a book - really more like a 50-plus page essay, by L.A.-based writer Heather Kingcalled "Poor Baby," a raw meditation on her three abortions.

No matter one's personal history, or one's political views on whether abortion should be legal, or one's moral belief as to whether abortion ever can be an ethical choice, this book is worth reading. In fact, I would say anyone with strong views about abortion should read this book with clear eyes and an open heart. We need King's voice in the conversation.

So much of the profoundly polarizing abortion "debate" in this country lacks nuance; this book does not.

"Even women, who will talk about anything, don’t talk about abortion. Women, who within five minutes of being introduced will know each others' career and relationship status, family situation, taste in clothing, food, movies, books, and men, don’t talk about abortion. I think this is because women, of all people, know that abortion is a failure of love. " 

King, who converted to the Catholic faith long after she terminated three pregnancies by three different men, has come to believe, as I do, that abortion is not an ethical act. But this book not a polemic. It is personal history written from a place of deep suffering lived out in the presence of overwhelming love.

In a sense, I could not relate to King's story. All four times in my life that I have been pregnant, I have wanted to be, and considered the fact that I was, miraculous. That is because during my childbearing years, I struggled with infertility, so much so that when Greg and I were talking about getting married, I let him know it was probable I could never have a child conceived in my womb and asked him: would he be open to adopting children? (Of course he was.)

King's meditation is raw and my only quibble with this book is that it feels as if she took a big breath and just started talking and never stopped. I would have liked some chapters, or some breaks in the text so I could breath a bit to better take in all her intensity, and honesty.

Here is an example of how powerful the work is. Before telling her own story, King takes equal aim at both sides of the abortion debate and meditates on what is truly at stake. She questions, for example, why abortion opponents always choose a blond-haired child as the one who was saved from abortion. In classic Heather King style, she takes that  observation and makes a still bigger point.

Why not choose as your pro-life poster child a 20-year-old with Down syndrome, or a flaming drag queen, or an abscessed meth freak? Why not acknowledge that a good percentage of the babies who are “saved” are going to become broken-down homeless people, illegal immigrants, and vicious criminals? That of course is no reason to promote abortion; in fact, that’s the very reason abortion is wrong.  

Let’s remember who we’re dealing with here, folks: the unfathomable human race. We’re all bothersome. We’re all, in our ways, broken.  Which somehow makes it all the more imperative that we not lose a single one.

King's book reads as incantation, as a sometimes angry, always honest, prayer, a pouring out of what it means to be human, to have suffered, to have lost and to be found. We need her witness.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Small Victories:" A Good Way to Celebrate Epiphany

I began reading essayist Anne Lamott's new book, Small Victories,  after  hearing her speak in November  at the Free Library of Philadelphia. My friend Shannon, an author and a  jail chaplain in Tacoma, suggested this would be a great book to read for Advent.

Well, even though it's under 300 pages, I just completed it today. Lamott's  is an authentic voice, one that does not sugar coat reality but which helps me find God in the smallest moments. Finishing the book is a good way to celebrate the Epiphany, that time when Jesus revealed himself to the world beyond his circumstances.

Lamott is a writer  we writers are supposed to love and one whose work I have not taken the time to read fully. While I have read bits and pieces of her illuminating work, this is the first full book of hers I have read from start to finish. She labels herself a "left wing" Christian and I suppose she is, but the label, as any political label does, reduces the value of her insights.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On New Year's Eve and That Holy Day Tomorrow


When I was a young adult, I was annoyed by the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, a Holy Day of Obligation that falls on New Year's Day. It felt to me as if the Church were acting like a scolding mother, insisting we show up bright and early New Year's Day for Mass. It felt as if the underlying strategy was to make sure we didn't drink too much the night before. Is this holy day really necessary?