Respect Life. Respect Women.

The following column was published in The Observer on October 23, 2012.

“Hi, my name’s Chris. I know that today has been a long day, and I just want you to know that I’m out here because I care about you. I know this wasn’t an easy decision, and I want you to know that we’re here for you no matter what decisions you make. I’m with the Coalition for Life. Our building is right next door, and we’ll be right there if you ever need anything, today, tomorrow, in a week, in a month, in a year. We’ll be praying for you.”

I said these words to a girl following her abortion at my local Planned Parenthood. She looked young, about my age. She was crying as she and another woman, probably her mother, walked back to their car. Not all women came out crying. Many walked to their cars with a typical post-surgery gait. Most women enter the clinic expecting to feel regret after their abortions. Some later say they don’t feel any regret.

I am reminded of these experiences in the midst of October, Respect Life Month. I look back on years of “sidewalk counseling,” and I am also reminded of accusations made against me:
“You don’t care about women.”
“You’re just here to judge them.”
“You don’t know anything about this.”

As a naive high school sophomore, I used to think that these claims were ridiculous and unfounded. I was just some kid handing out brochures, trying to inform men and women about free resources available in the area.

I’ve been going out to that sidewalk for about seven years now. Much has changed. Years ago, a man used to stand outside the abortion clinic dressed as the Grim Reaper. Those were the latter parts of the days when being pro-life meant yelling at women and waving pictures of mangled fetuses. We spoke in terms of rights, particularly the right to life of the unborn.

Now the tone is changing, and the vocabulary is broadening. Today Notre Dame uses the language of “commitment,” “to offering students resources that support the choice of life.” Official university policy states that “students who become pregnant may stay at Notre Dame if they wish and will receive the full support of the University community.” We can no longer be content with protest. We must create a culture such that the unborn and their families enter into a world created for them. Now, the largest pregnancy resource centers in the world are run by those who identify as “pro-life.”Planned Parenthood offers ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, but the Women’s Care Center offers them for free.

In the past, developing artificial contraception was the preeminent work being done in fertility studies. Years ago, the rhythm method really was as ineffective as everyone said it was. Now, effectiveness of Natural Family Planning has risen to 99 percent, with no side effects (and it can cost under $10 a year), while the British Medical Journal has reported that some of the newest artificial contraceptives, including Yasmin and Yaz, more than double the risk of fatal blood clots.

The new promoters of Natural Family Planning are tweeting #iuseNFP “because a woman’s body isn’t broken.” Many men, rather than assuming women will manipulate their bodies through artificial hormones, now seek birth regulation methods that understand and seek to cooperate with what is natural to womanhood.

Continued research must be done to study the effects of new birth control drugs. Can the Ella pill cause an abortion? As the FDA label for the drug states, “There are no adequate and well controlled studies in pregnant women,” while“embryofetal loss was noted in all pregnant rats and in half of the pregnant rabbits following 12 and 13 days of dosing.”

The pro-life movement begins with the premise that no man or woman can be killed merely because he or she is different. It is a direct attack on human dignity to end a human life merely because of differences in physical or mental ability, religion, race, or stage in life. We fight the claim that a more developed human being has more dignity than a less developed human being. After all, every human body is composed of a “clump of tissues” and a “bunch of cells.”We fight for all of humanity: man, woman and child.

Hi, my name’s Chris. Pregnant? An unplanned pregnancy can be very daunting, and your choices may seem very limited. But I want you to know that you are not alone and that you do have choices. I care. Notre Dame cares. Feel free to contact me or to visit chooselife.nd.edu and click “Pregnancy Help.”

Christopher Damian is a sophomore. He can be reached at cdamian1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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