When a ranking member of the Catholic Church hierarchy stands up to talk abortion, it's usually to condemn it. So why should America's pro-choice contingent get behind Archbishop Timothy Dolan? Because he didn't.
Well, not exactly. Dolan, the archbishop of New York and one of the most powerful Catholics in the U.S., stood up to decry new statistics that estimate 39 percent of pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion in 2009. It's a startling statistic, even if you're pro-choice. It means 39 percent of pregnant women had some cause to seek an abortion. Even more startling was Dolan's response.
Says CBS News, Dolan wants to see abortion become "rare." Not disappear. Become rare. In essence, he's acknowledged there are times where a woman's right to choose is necessary. It's almost as if the church that I had to leave in part because of its habit of speaking broad generalities has begun to see that there are areas of grey in life's choices. To that end, I couldn't agree more.
Pro-lifers have long tried to make a case that anyone who is pro-choice is "pro-abortion." In fact, the pro-choice crowd has celebrated tumbling numbers of abortions in recent years alongside declining numbers of teen pregnancies and other triumphs of a woman's right to self-determination. We don't want women to feel like they have to get an abortion. We want them to be able to use condoms or the pill to protect themselves and still enjoy sex. We want them to never suffer at the hands of a rapist. We want them to have control of everything that happens to their own bodies -- including the filling of their wombs. If we can simply reduce unwanted pregnancies, abortion can truly become just what Dolan has called for: a rarity, saved for purely medical reasons.
To wit, it should be noted by both sides that in New York, the statistics fail to ascribe a reasoning for the abortion -- the statistics are laid out, but there is no description of the circumstances. Dilation and curettage, better known as a D&C and often done in cases of miscarriage, is one of the many means of "induced termination" grouped into the statistics -- although there's no accounting for whether that fetus was indeed alive at the time of the procedure. It's easy to jump at the numbers, but a more in-depth reading offers the true story.
In fact, although the numbers are so startling, the fact is, both pro-life and pro-choice groups have something to celebrate. The number of abortions is still down. In 2008, there were 89,469 "induced terminations." The year before that there were more than 90,000. In 2009, the year Dolan is talking about, there were 87,273.
I'm pro-choice. I'd like to see the numbers continue to drop. How about you?
Image via photoactionusa/Flickr