America is broken because it is haunted.
We all agree that something has gone very wrong with our nation, but we all blame different villains, which is itself a symptom of our brokenness. There have been insightful efforts at diagnosis, but too many explanations have remained superficial, presuming that we are just an election away from happy days being here again.
To understand what ails our nation, we must see the things that haunt us — the things that we don’t like to talk about or even think of. We must look at the ghosts we don’t want to see, but are tormenting us. Among the foremost of these spirits is the ghost in the cradle.
It is the week of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision requiring states to permit abortion on demand. At the time, it might have been said: forgive them, for they know not what they do. For most people in 1973, the womb was a black box; few knew much about fetal development.
But we know. We excitedly share ultrasound photos via text and social media, and we stick the printouts on our fridges or display them in picture frames with “sneak peek” emblazoned on the border. We know. We have seen the moving limbs and the tiny fingers and the beating hearts.
The advocates for our regime of elective abortion know, which is why they hide behind euphemisms — preferring to speak of reproductive freedom and choice, without mentioning the “A” word. Most people’s consciousnesses are not as seared as those of the zealots of “Shout Your Abortion” and similar campaigns, so, for the majority of abortion supporters, any rhetorical dodge will do if it avoids invoking the violent reality of abortion. They prefer to cover abortion in the moral haze of a necessary evil in an imperfect world, and then not think about it.
They justify abortion as the distasteful protector of the individual autonomy, personal achievement, material riches, and sexual satisfaction that our culture glorifies. But the effects of abortion are not so easily ignored. It is, of course, obvious how abortion has broken our politics.
Because the Supreme Court invented a constitutional right to abortion on demand, the pro-life movement has been compelled to try to take control of the federal courts, lest these courts strike down all democratically enacted abortion restrictions. Faced with a Democratic Party that is now committed to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand until birth, many good men and women held their noses and voted Trump for the judges.
The corruption of abortion goes far beyond unpalatable political choices, however; making abortion-on-demand part of the culture changes the culture. Its evil effects are systemic, as well as individual, and they do not end with the violent killing of the unborn.
Our nation is haunted by what abortion does to the living. Trying to solve our problems by killing developing human beings makes us worse, individually and socially. If elective abortion seems necessary, it is because our sexual appetites exceed our willingness to care for the children who are the natural result of sex. Elective abortion is a violent form of birth control, which is used either instead of, or as a backup to, the proliferating array of modern contraceptives.
Abortion thus damages the fundamental relationships of our humanity, shattering the primeval union of mother, father, and child. Instead of the family solidarity that is foundational to human society, the begetting and bearing of new human life become a battleground of competing interests.
Abortion, even as a possibility, separates mothers and fathers from their children, and each other. A regime of abortion on demand affirms a view of human sexuality as essentially selfish, and of relations between men, women, and children as fundamentally contentious. It replaces love and responsibility with selfishness and violence.
America’s abortion culture sets men and women against each other. Even the justification of abortion as a private matter of female freedom implicitly relieves men of their responsibilities: why should a woman’s choice be a man’s problem? He signed up for a good time, not diapers and a minivan.
Similarly, women’s workplace equality often advanced on the tacit assumption that female fertility would be suppressed to require little or no accommodation from employers. Children are considered to be a lifestyle choice, and those are not an employer’s responsibility. In each case, abortion provides a failsafe that allows men to get what they want from women with a minimum of commitment and responsibility.
The effects of abortion pervade our culture, from dating and marriage to business and education. Instead of building a better culture, that encourages us to be more virtuous, abortion enables us to be more vicious and exploitative of each other.
It should not surprise us, therefore, that after decades of abortion on demand, we live in a nation with cratering marriage and birth rates, and an epidemic of deadly loneliness. Abortion is not solely responsible for this, but the ghosts in the empty cradles undoubtedly haunt us. Many want to look away. But, if we are to understand the ills of our nation, then we must face them.
There is a further, more dreadful, possibility, which is that the choice is between looking now or looking later. If the dead rise again for a judgment in which all secrets are revealed, then the aborted children of this nation will be waiting for us to face them. And when we look at them, and when they look at us, what excuse could we offer?
Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.