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Thursday, November 11, 2004

The October 2004 edition of the Rachel's Vineyard newsletter had a longish article about the professional ethics of political activism.

The article, by Rachel's Vineyard founder Theresa Burke, takes exception to the idea that those who are involved in post-abortion ministry should not be politically active in the pro-life movement. I'm not clear on who, in their audience, might think otherwise, or who says otherwise.

The piece quotes Kevin Burke, a licensed social worker and co-director of Rachel's Vineyard:

In my profession of social work, a person who has worked in the trenches with a population that has been denied a voice for their pain would be encouraged to look at other ways to advocate for this population. It would be considered quite natural that we would take our vast experience in journeying with persons through their experience of pain and injustice and bring that to light in any context that could empower persons and prevent suffering. We would lobby our legislatures, encourage legal efforts, educate about the problem, work to inform the public about this issue, encourage individuals when they are willing to speak out about their pain/experience, media efforts etc. etc. To say that the work of healing is incompatible with activist efforts to effect change seems to me as a social worker to be an absurd notion and misinformed. Certainly different strategies and sensitivities are necessary for various efforts. Some persons are called by their gifts and vocation to be only healers, and others only activists. However there is certainly a broad area where persons can effectively be engaged in a variety of venues to effect change and where their various efforts are complementary and are mutually empowering.

Theresa Burke concludes:

It is a gross misunderstanding of the helping profession to assume that those involved in the work of healing should not be involved in efforts which seek to relieve human suffering and death. As a professional, I have an ethical responsibility to educate others regarding the harm that I have witnessed that has been inflicted by abortion...The reality of coerced abortions and domestic violence against pregnant women is a grave abuse of human rights and dignity. Professionals who learn the sad unspoken secrets of women, who felt they had no choice but abortion, need to advocate for those being victimized and traumatized by this procedure.

Post-abortion ministry was once--and is now a little less so--a socially and professionally marginalized activity. I suppose that early supporters of post-abortion ministry might have feared that it would become even more marginalized if it was known that those involved in this work had political opinions of the pro-life variety.

The argument the Burkes are putting out there seems like an important argument to start making. God knows, there's a tight connection right now between prochoice political activism and therapists who deny the idea that abortion hurts women.

That said, I think it's really important to keep politics out of the counseling room (or the retreat or Bible study or what-have-you).

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