The way to really end--or at least make a dent in--abortion

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Now that voters in the most conservative state in the U.S. have roundy rejected a constitutional amendment defining any fertilized ovum as a legal person, I hope that Catholic and other Christian abortion activists will pause for reflection. The fact that such a substantial majority of otherwise conservative Mississippians rejected what is an article of faith to many Christians merits a thought.

First, it's time to admit that, in the eyes of most Americans, the belief in human personhood at conception is a religious rather than scientific one. Invoking the genetic uniqueness of each embryo has not proven compelling. I think that means that, even if activists win the judicial brass ring of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, women will still have abortions, as they do in places were it is illegal. Given that we live in a democratic country, I don't think that is ever going to change.

But I propose a solution that I think would both serve women and their unborn children and win hearts and minds in the process.

I propose that every Catholic parish pledge that any woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and in crisis will receive everything she needs from its members, with no judgment and no strings attached. If you are pregnant, your local parish is there. It will see that you get prenatal care and good nutrition, and pay for it if necessary. Someone will accompany you to doctor visits and birthing classes. The parish will support your decision to either raise your child or place it for adoption; it will support you as you work or stay in school. If you are a minor and your parents kick you out, your parish will make sure you and your child will have a home. If you have other children, your parish will help you take care of them.

If you choose to raise your child and still need support, your parish will provide it. Whatever you need, your parish will be there, because it is Catholic, and Catholics believe that every human life--yours and your child's--has infinite value. We promise to do this because this is who we are.

There is absolutely no reason a parish could not do this, and absolutely no reason every Catholic parish shouldn't be doing it. I refuse to accept that this is wishful thinking or bleeding-heart claptrap or that people will take advantage of us. Even if they do, so what? This is the gospel. The only think we lack is the will and the imagination. If we believe that every embryo is a person, I don't see that we have any other choice if we wish to be worthy of the appellation "pro-life."

If Catholics choose this path, women will still have abortions, as they have always have. But those women will have a real choice, and the Catholic witness to the sanctity of unborn life will be more powerful and convincing for it.

I dare us to do it.