For years, the abortion industry has warned us of legislative actions that would restrict access to the so-called “right” to abortion. Their arguments for such rights have revolved around images attached to certain words: coat-hangers, choice, and back alleys. Through their lexicon, we have been encouraged to never go backwards to a time when unplanned pregnancies were dealt with in crude and unsophisticated ways. We are told that coat-hangers are tools not associated with hanging clothing; but rather, are meant to serve as a sort of “do-it-yourself” abortion technique. On the other hand, choice has been a word held up to represent our deepest and most evolved American principle; chiefly, that we have the right to do just about anything regardless of the cost (in this case, death inflicted upon another person). And given that two generations have passed since the United States Supreme Court declared that it was legal to kill another human being, there doesn’t appear to be much constitutional mustard left in blocking any other course or pathway that is suggested- despite the obvious moral objections.
Given our exploration of coat-hangers and choice, what then are we to make of back alleys? What is it about them that should frighten us? Growing up, I remember spending a great deal of time with my grandparents who lived in the city of Detroit. In those years, Detroit was a beautifully manicured city, filled with vast tracts of post-World War II brick bungalow homes; each with impeccably manicured lawns, shrubbery, beautiful trees, and back alleys. As a young child, I recall running through the alley behind my grandparent’s home and chasing a dog or watching while the garbage men placed what was then known as rubbish in their large trucks. For me, back alleys weren’t something to be feared; rather, they were places for exploration and discovery. For me, at least, the abortion industry’s image of back alleys just doesn’t ring true.
Perhaps, however, the image of coat-hangers and back alleys is not what those who earn a living doing evil are worried about. While some might challenge me, I believe that many Americans may be on the cusp of returning to a time when family life mattered. To echo Clint Eastwood’s classic line from Dirty Harry, “I know what you’re thinking…” And rightly, you add, “but we can’t go back, and, frankly, the past had it’s own unique problems, too.” True enough. But we can go forward with some lessons that we have learned from the past; lessons that I believe are being spoken about, discussed, and remembered even by the mainstream media.
Some time ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an essay by author Kay Hymowitz entitled, Where Have The Good Men Gone? In her reflection, she noted the reality of young men today, a reality in stark contrast with the attitudes of young men just a few generations ago.
“Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men’s attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.”
So, how does this represent a turnaround? I suggest that given that these observations are even being bandied about provide some evidence of an uncertainty, or queasiness, over where we have landed as a culture. As the father of four daughters myself, my hope is that each of them (alongside other women) will begin to ask pointed questions of their potential male suitors: “Is this man’s lack of commitment to the important questions of life consistent with my heart’s desire? Does this man’s lifestyle respect my dignity as a human person?” Asking similar questions, Thomas Addis, a fellow Catholic Journal contributor and board chair of a Michigan-based crisis pregnancy center, has considered the seeming inability of some women to distinguish between “good” and “bad” men. In an essay, “He’s a Good Father,” he notes:
“As disturbing as this situation is, this is not the first time one of our clients has described a boyfriend as being a good father, even though he has had one or more children with numerous women. In fact, we hear it far too often. But what does this say about the wisdom and self-worth of a woman who cannot distinguish between a responsible man looking for commitment and a despicable womanizer? At the very least, it says that she is another victim of a culture that is hellbent on self-destruction.”
Given the aforementioned, what has all this to do with back alleys? Everything. Years ago, it was more common than not for boys who played in back alleys to grow up and become responsible members of society: to respect women, to marry, to raise families, and accept responsibility for their choices. Today, while noting that boys continue to play in back alleys; for an increasing lot- and unlike their predecessors from years ago, a different life outcome has resulted. For them, when faced with the reality that they have cooperated in the creation of a new life; rather than accepting responsibility for their choices, their first reaction is to drive their partners to “constitutionally created” back alleys— where abortionists practice their trade.
Despite the tragedy, is there hope on the horizon? Absolutely! As St. Paul begins his Letter to Timothy (1:1), he boldly declares:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope…
To quote American rocker Bob Dylan, “…the times, they are a-changin.” Let us hope and pray they do.