If American Catholics want to see abortion illegal, they must be consistent in their view…
Being a life-giving force in the world
Thanks be to God that the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in lower Manhattan houses the Blessed Sacrament in its chapel. It’s a space for cultural engagement, and you can’t do such things in the spirit of the Gospel without Jesus. His physical presence means so much. It has a power beyond us.
The Sheen Center also happens to share a wall with Planned Parenthood. Just around the block is Margaret Sanger Place, where one of those undercover Live Action videos was recorded, revealing what a boon the building is to the abortion business.
Still, one recent Saturday morning, I was caught off guard. I happened to be by an open window at the Sheen Center. “Sing Alleluia to the Lord,” I heard people singing. I went downstairs and outside to take a look. I was curious as to how big the crowd was and what the age range looked like. I figured it was a 40 Days for Life prayer gathering. But what I saw were the singers and prayers across the street, penned in by police barricades. On the Planned Parenthood/Sheen Center side of Bleecker Street, there were escorts and sidewalk counselors patrolling, occasionally exchanging words (hostile ones, initiated by the abortion clinic representatives).
And suddenly I watched a young woman walk with her boyfriend in front of the Sheen Center, away from the clinic they just left. She must have just had an abortion. She looked half-dead, like her heart had been pierced and life had been sucked out of her, as if she had nothing left but a shell. Her boyfriend was almost propping her up to slowly walk. Two women — pro-life counselors — asked her if she wanted to talk. I think that was probably the last thing she wanted to do. She looked like she wanted to die.
I’d be surprised if she were 20. I wanted to take her into my arms and let her cry, to let her know that God loves her and will forgive her if she just gives him a chance. I wished she could see the possibility for hope in the midst of this death of her child and so much of her heart.
The boy, too. His face seemed to have the look of desperate regret like he didn’t know what to do — like he wished they had someone who could have helped them do anything other than what had just stolen life and love from their lives.
Abortion is such poison — on that block and in New York state, where a Catholic governor expanded abortion this year and celebrated it on the Freedom Tour, which rose in the ashes of the attack on the World Trade Center. It should be a symbol of life and even resurrection, in many ways. So many months after the governor’s abortion boost and boast, I felt like the prayers and hymns across the street were a little work of healing. I doubt that girl could hear them singing “Amazing Grace,” but I hope she knows it’s real and it’s for her.
The other detail that always amazes me about that block is how the police barricades were set up just a few doors down from Hatch, a high-end maternity clothes shop with pregnant mannequins in the window. It looks like one of those places where they give you a seat and offer you some water with lemon or cucumber in it so you will feel comfortable as you prepare to spend money. The few times I’ve walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic, that has not been the vibe. Again, life and death seem to be in 3-D on this particular block in Manhattan.
I went back into the Sheen Center chapel, feeling stunned and numb and a bit lifeless myself — like the death on the block was rubbing off on me. And in front of Jesus, I wept. I wondered if some of them were the tears of that girl.
So many of us need to do so much more to be a witness of love in the world so young people know they have alternatives to abortion. That includes prayer. That includes reparation. We need to be a life-giving force in this world. That Saturday morning seemed to cry out to us for a renewal of commitment from each one of us.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.