It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. (This inversion of Dickens seems right for a conservative in February 2009.)
We live at a point in history when a hardworking girl taking a 15-minute train ride from New York City to Hoboken can see an ad promoting cash rewards for donated eggs, and seriously consider taking up the offer. Not only would that put her future fertility in jeopardy, her eggs could also produce multiple embryos in their host mother, embryos that would ultimately need to be "selectively reduced" (i.e. aborted) to a more manageable number.
We live in times when doctors can perform lifesaving surgeries on fetuses. But we're also part of an era when, while one couple frames their sonograms, their neighbor could legally end the life of her child of the exact same age.
We live in times when "choice" often means death -- but even with a president who supports the most radical anti-life legislation, the pro-life crowd that recently thronged the Mall in Washington, D.C. didn't seem to despair.
Clues about the nature of that optimism might be found in the current issue of Glamour magazine, of all places. An article near the back of the March issue treats abortion with a level of honesty rarely found in such venues. "I am still filled with regret ... that I will never meet (my) child," one Virginia woman announces, one of many similar stories of desolation, all told in disturbing detail. Abortion isn't a clean choice; it's a life-changing (and life-ending) decision with traumatic repercussions, a wrenching and frequently lonely ordeal that one can never be adequately prepared for, not that our institutions and culture spend much time trying prepare anyone. The staff at Glamour will never be mistaken for pro-life propagandists, but they didn't shy away from these truths. This is refreshing.
In the same issue, a sidebar asks, "Why is the abortion rate so high?" The sidebar is devoted to contraception as a way to lower the rate, which isn't the solution I'd jump to, but just asking the question is a start. We'll never restore a sane and respectful view of our fertility and dignity, however, until we reach deeper. Are we treating the intimate gift of sex recklessly? Sex possesses an awesome power, not just in regard to procreation, but also in opening ourselves to a total physical surrender to another.