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Anna Paone: Pro-life 102

BY ANNA PAONE

Published July 25, 2010

She is a she. It doesn’t change what she feels. She can imagine, in the throes of a vivid daydream, the anguish and worry of an unexpected pregnancy, even if others might say that she’s so sheltered and naïve she can’t possibly imagine it. She’s a college student, after all, and she knows how complicated it would get were she to unexpectedly expect. And beyond that, she wants to act, and she has heard of actresses lined up for lucrative roles who were forced to forfeit them after they become pregnant.

She also knows many brilliant men who hold the same ideals, and she feels the pain they brush off when opponents disregard their opinion because of their gender. But she has no problem being one of the many intelligent female faces of the pro-life movement. This is the path she has chosen.

There’s that word again — choice. In a way, she did not have any herself, because if she did she surely would go for a less controversial position. She was under the impression that it didn’t matter how many people hated her. But she discovered that it’s a whole lot harder than it looks, especially in the halls of academia she inhabits. She has a terrible foreboding that any future potential employer will Google her and find her published pro-life statements, photos of her at rallies and breakfasts, and revoke the kindly hand of hiring.

But she can’t stop. It’s her own little inside joke now because she, too, won’t cease her oft-maligned activities. She has read through scientific studies and philosophy, she has reflected on it herself as people on both sides always encourage one another to do and she has seen the pictures and videos. But shock value was not what got her. Reason was what got her, along with the belief that there is a prevailing morally correct answer no matter what the circumstance.

Okay — yes, she’s “religious.” She’s Catholic, naturally. But like nearly every other young Catholic in America today, there was a time when she was not so pious. It was a time when the unpopular social teachings of Rome didn’t seem worth the strain that would come with defending them. But then she circumnavigated her way back both liturgically and hagiographically — the saints, the tradition, the beauty and the truth of the path to holiness called her back. Eventually she figured out that she could and would understand the social teaching. But that’s not what turned her into the “dreaded” pro-lifer.

Of course, the pro-life movement is always figuring out how much, if any, emphasis it should put on its religious roots. She could be of the mind that it cannot abandon its Christian supporters and those of other faiths — that encouraging a more secular attitude is tantamount to a minor apostasy. Or she could believe that Bible verses on protest signs and ostentatious displays of prayer will merely alienate the people they are trying to help. She is inclined to hold to the latter, but it’s too blurry a picture to say for certain if the girl is just one person, or if she is representative of most pro-lifers.

For she is not a clinic bomber. She can be a fiery speaker, but she does not attack. She knows that such actions are contrary to the argument that life is the greatest good, and she’s mortified when misguided people wreak destruction and give the other side a reason to believe that they are not in it for the right reasons.

Because they are — the majority of them, at least. She knows those who disagree will read over her story, listen to her debate and walk away disgusted for whatever reason. She knows anger at her stance will blind many to the point where they will not investigate its many erudite defenses. She considers herself a pro-life feminist, but she knows that many equate such a person with the Tooth Fairy or, amongst atheists, with God. (For that matter, she would likely side with a pro-life atheist over a pro-choice Catholic.) She is going to be a filmmaker some day, and maybe a novelist too, if she doesn’t allow opposition to beat her down first. But even if it does, it’s still not about her. It’s about babies, people and dignity.

Anna Paone can be reached at apaone@umich.edu.