Frank Pavone, Rev.
National Director/ Priests for Life
January 31, 2001

Whether it's from a legislator opposing restrictions on abortion, or a pro–abortion activist at a demonstration, one of the most common objections voiced against those who would eliminate abortion is, “Who are you to tell this woman she can't have an abortion? You do not know what it's like to be pregnant, nor can you judge her personal experience in the midst of this crisis. Only she knows what she is going through, and therefore only she can decide.”

Here are a few suggested ways to respond.

First of all, those who advocate against abortion are mostly women, vast numbers of whom have been through the very experiences of crisis pregnancy that pro–abortion activists claim pro–life people don't know. Moreover, many of them also know the experience of having an abortion — the very bitter experience which, if experience is an argument at all, is one of the strongest arguments against abortion that there can ever be. One of the many blind spots of the pro–abortion movement is precisely that it downplays the experience of those who suffer from abortion, even decades after they have had the “simple” procedure.

Secondly, it is noteworthy that the ability to experience pregnancy only seems to be required for those who speak against abortion, not for those who speak for it. Among the latter would be the men who are former Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, legislators and activists who fight hard and speak loud about “upholding the right to choose.” And, of course, don't forget the fathers and boyfriends who tell the girl that she has to have an abortion, even over her objections, because they “know what is best” in that situation.

Thirdly, experience is not the only factor to consider in evaluating whether a particular activity should be allowed or prohibited in society and law. I have never experienced the personal pressures a crisis pregnancy brings. But neither have I experienced the personal pressures which would lead a parent to abuse her children, nor the psychological twists and turns of the drug addict, or of the latest person to rob a bank. What is going on within them, to lead them to such actions? I have not experienced it.

Am I therefore to be silent about their actions?

Some choices have victims, and when somebody's choice destroys somebody else's life, the experience of the chooser is not the most relevant factor. The most relevant factor is the protection of the lives and rights of those around him or her. The fact that we do not have the same experience should make us compassionate, and motivate us to strive to understand the person. But it brings no obligation to permit destructive activity.

A final word on experience. With more and more studies showing the likelihood of fetal pain, and with greater awareness of the brutality of abortion procedures, is it not appropriate to also consider the experience of the baby who is aborted? Experience, indeed, cuts both ways.