Book Review of Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for a Divided Nation
Rev. Paul Marx, O.S.B.
Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for a Divided Nation,
by David C. Reardon (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 1996)
ISBN 0-9648957-6-5 (paper) $14.95 ISBN 0-9648957-7-3 (cloth) $24.95
Making Abortion Rare is a brilliant and unique addition to the library of works on abortion. It is not a book about why abortion is wrong, or an exposÃ© of the pro-abortionists, the courts, or the media moguls who have fashioned our abortion society. Instead, it is a comprehensive plan for “making abortion not only illegal, but unthinkable.”
The strategy proposed in Making Abortion Rare is practical and realistic, yet free of moral compromise. It does not rely on political victories, though it will make such victories easier. Nor does it depend on gaining a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Instead, drawing on a large dose of compassion and an uncommonly good sense of social dynamics, Dr. Reardon shows pro-lifers how to win with the hand that we have been dealt.
In his previous landmark work, Aborted Women, Silent No More, Reardon documented how abortion is inherently injurious to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of women. In Making Abortion Rare, he argues that pro-lifers must draw on this knowledge of abortion’s effects to radically redefine the abortion debate to our advantage.
Reardon properly reminds us that “God has created a connection between a mother and her children that is so deeply personal and intimate that the welfare of each is dependent on the other…. It is simply impossible to rip a child from the womb of a mother without tearing out a part of the woman herself–a part of her heart, a part of her joy, a part of her maternity…. If there is a single principle, then, which lies at the heart of the pro-woman/pro-life agenda, it would have to be this: the best interests of the child and the mother are always joined. This is true even if the mother does not initially realize it, and even if she needs a tremendous amount of love and help to see it. Thus, the only way that we can help either the mother or her child is to help both. Conversely, if we hurt either, we hurt both.”
The abortion debate, then, is not about women’s rights versus the rights of the unborn, because the rights of mother and her child can never be truly opposed to each other. The real conflict in this debate is between women and children’s rights on one side, and on the other side, the social engineers and abortion profiteers who are seeking to exploit women so that they can destroy their children.
Following an astute analysis of the middle majority of Americans who tolerate abortion because they believe it is generally beneficial to women, Reardon lays out a three-pronged strategy for changing America’s widespread ambivalence about abortion into decisive rejection of it. The key to this transformation is (1) promotion of post-abortion healing which will free post-aborted women and men to talk about their suffering; (2) a research and education campaign to increase public awareness of how women are being devastated by abortion physically, psychologically, and spiritually; and (3) expansion of patients’ rights and the corresponding liability risks of abortionists.
Several chapters of the book are devoted to this last issue. Reardon shows that quick and cheap abortions on request cannot be reconciled with (1) the woman’s absolute right to full disclosure, nor (2) her physician’s duty to protect her from avoidable injuries. The abortion industry is currently able to thrive only because it enjoys the advantages of legal obstacles, such as short statutes of limitation, which prevent injured women from obtaining recovery. Another advantage abortionists enjoy is psychological; most women are so deeply shamed by their abortions that they do not have the nerve to confront their abortionists (much as rape victims are reluctant to confront their attackers). This point touches on an additional reason why we must promote post-abortion healing; women who are reconciled with God and their community are more likely to recover their courage to sue.
Despite these present advantages, abortionists remain very vulnerable to civil suits. Reardon shows that even a slight shift in favor of plaintiffs’ rights will transform the trickle of successful suits against abortionists into a devastating flood. To this end, Making Abortion Rare details a litigation strategy which cleverly turns the Supreme Court’s precedents favoring women’s rights against abortionists. There is also an intriguing chapter on legislative proposals to expand women’s rights in ways which will dramatically magnify abortionists’ liability risks. At every step of the way, Reardon shows how these proposals can be used to expose pro-abortion politicians who are more concerned about protecting abortion industry profits than protecting women.
There is far too much wonderful material in Making Abortion Rare to touch on it all. However, three chapters on post-abortion healing are especially moving. Reardon offers a convincing argument that post-abortion healing has a transforming power both individually and socially. But the burden of creating a more healing environment rests on pro-lifers and the Church. As more post-aborted women and men find hope and forgiveness, they and their loved ones will join us in our condemnation of abortion. Their firsthand witness to the horrible truth of abortion will in turn convert many more hearts.
Reardon gives concrete suggestions as to how each of us can help promote post-abortion healing. Before we can become instruments of God’s healing, however, we must first remove the “planks” from our own eyes. To this end he discusses how to replace prejudice against the post-aborted with a compassion and understanding which is rooted in an awareness of our own failures and weaknesses. From there he goes on to address specific ways in which the anxieties of post-aborted women and men can be addressed so that they can more easily find peace in God and their church communities.
In short, Making Abortion Rare provides pro-lifers with a lesson in “cultural judo.” Reardon shows how we can turn the momentum of “our society’s hypersensitivity to women’s rights” to our own advantage and thereby breach the barrier which has prevented the “middle majority” from taking a stand against abortion.
Making Abortion Rare will accomplish what its title claims–and much more. Every pro-lifer, and certainly everyone in a leadership position, needs to read this book. That the abortion industry is doomed to collapse is assured. How soon this will happen may depend upon how soon you read this book to find out how you can help to make abortion rare.
Rev. Paul Marx, O.S.B. is the Chairman and Founder of Human Life International. Reprinted with permission.