Paul Hill's execution yesterday for the murder of an abortion doctor has me thinking about pro-lifers who have a split attitude between women who obtain abortions versus the doctors who provide them.
It's a slight exaggeration to say that on this view, women who get abortions are passive victims--not to be judged and, if abortion were made illegal, not to be jailed. Meanwhile, abortion providers are Evil Incarnate. They are THE reason that abortion continues.
This view doesn't make any sense to me on a rational level, which makes me wonder what the psychological motivations might be for people to believe some version of this.
Most of us, including pro-lifers, know people who have had abortions....sisters, friends, mothers, aunts, college roommates, nieces. These women appear to be just like every other woman you know, except that they had an abortion. If you're pro-life, you believe that during that abortion, an innocent life was murderously violated. It's very hard to look at your niece, your sister, your best friend from college, and think, "Here is a woman who murderously violated the life of her own child."
But you do believe that a child was murdered. Who, then, murdered it? It must have been the abortionist.
If you can compartmentalize abortion that way--woman, passive victim; doctor, Evil Mad Man--you don't have to feel anger, disappointment, revulsion or any other strong negative feelings at any of these women that you know.
You also don't have to wonder about your own complicity, however distant it might have been.
How much easier to direct all that outrage at a few abortion providers, rather than to contemplate the possibility that -- if you are in your 40s -- roughly 40% of the women in your age range slid cash across the counter to pay someone to kill their child and, in many cases, their relatives or loved ones encouraged them to do so.
Another factor fuelling this split in perception between women who obtain abortions versus doctors who provide them is the belief that the woman at the time of an abortion doesn't really know that it is a baby, whereas the doctor, who can see the whole procedure and has already seen hundreds more, knows full well that in an abortion we are dealing with a very small child, not a blob of tissue.
The perception that the woman who obtains an abortion erroneously believes, at the time, that it isn't quite a baby is also fuelled by the many post-abortive women (especially those who aborted earlier on, in the 70s) who relate that they did think it was a blob of tissue...the women who report being shocked, traumatized, and devastated when decades later they came across a sonogram of a developing fetus.
There are good reasons to support the view that many, many women who obtain abortions don't quite, consciously, understand what is happening. (Side note, and I'm not sure where this thought would go, but...it is also the case that people who sexually molest children do not seem to realize that when they do this, they are deeply and profoundly wounding the child. Most molesters truly believe that the child is an equally avid participant in the sexual encounter, and that the child enjoys and benefits from it. Yet this fact about the state of mind of the child molester does not cause us to want to let child molesters off the hook. In abortion, contrarily, as I have been arguing, we do seem to have a real drive to want to let the woman 'off the hook.')
An additional factor that complicates the picture in very deep ways for men who are pro-life is the fact that they may have lost children to abortion.
If you were such a man, how might you react?
You might be furiously angry at the girlfriend or wife who chose an abortion. You might feel inadequate and rejected, because why did she choose an abortion instead of believing that you would be able to protect and care for her and the child? If you were raised in a family that shamed and denigrated you, this new and very deep rejection of your masculinity might trigger all those deeply-seated feelings of shamefulness. You might feel enormous amounts of guilt for the sexual encounters that led to the pregnancy. You might retroactively judge yourself for having adopted a passive "whatever you want" position during the crisis pregnancy.
Tough feelings to endure. Wouldn't it be easier to nurture a fierce, unremitting, intense hatred of abortion providers...to focus on the idea that their existence is the sole reason that your child was lost to abortion?
When Jesus talks about forgiving 70 x 7, He didn't say it would be easy. When He commanded us to love, He didn't say it would be easy. He said that we can ask for grace.
He said to forgive: Forgive Paul Hill. Forgive the abortion doctor Paul Hill murdered. Forgive Paul Hill's executioners. Forgive the women who sought abortions at that Pensacola clinic, and everywhere else. Forgive their lovers, and forgive their rapists Forgive their families. Forgive their friends, their pastors, their therapists. For what you have done and for what you have failed to do, forgive yourself.