One of the Catholic church’s most famous tropes is the interference of women’s bodies and the sheer refusal to let women have agency over themselves. Given that the Bible’s teachings are mostly about peace, unconditional love, and turning the other cheek, one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe the church would have a fairly liberal take when it comes to abortion. Sadly, this isn’t the case, as religion has been used once again by Pope Francis himself to defend some patriarchal ideas. “Our defence of the innocent unborn … needs to be clear, firm and passionate,” writes the Pope in a brand new 103-page document, where he puts caring for migrants and opposing abortion on an equal footing. “Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned … We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue.”
In this document, he seems to be calling out the hypocrisy of so-called pro-lifers valuing the lives of aborted foetuses over the lives of children who are already alive. Potentially, this is a radical take for the Pope. He’s saying what the feminist community has been saying for ages; that you can’t call yourself pro-life if you’re not actually pro-life when it comes to everyone but yourself and a foetus. Yet it seems small fry to me, because at the end of the day, he’s still saying abortion is bad. He’s not exactly pro-choice. He’s not passing the mic to the women, he’s not telling people to leave people who need an abortion alone. No, he’s saying that not caring for migrant and refugee children is just as bad as getting an abortion.
But let’s give him benefit of the doubt and say that he is essentially telling pro-lifers to shut up about abortion until they prove they also care for children already alive. Kudos, Pope. That’s actually pretty neat coming from a bloke who leads an archaic institution. Though there’s a way to tell people to care about others without throwing women in need under the bus, too. Refusing to help migrants and refugees (who are often victims of war) is not comparable to getting an abortion. It just isn’t. It’s not the same at all. Yes, it should be noted that the so-called pro-life community is in practice very much not pro-life. It also should be noted that it is so irresponsible for a man of his power and stature to continue to have such backward and outdated ideas on what women can and cannot do with their own uteruses.
It’s tiring to constantly have to deal with people criticising abortion. Abortions have always happened, and they’ll always happen. You’re either for safe, legal abortions, or for unsafe, illegal abortions. Why can’t the Catholic church campaign for the safety of the women receiving the abortions as well as for the safety of migrant and refugee children? Don’t they fall into the category of the Pope’s “those already born, the abandoned”, as the law has historically abandoned women in need? The least we can do is make sure people are safe when they make difficult choices. Being pro-choice is being pro-life.
Choosing to have an abortion is so incredibly personal; it’s a choice no one takes lightly. The choice governments make to ignore the plight of migrants and refugees is a political choice, and it’s made from a seat of power, of ability to help and choosing not to. We could easily help refugees, by opening borders, re-distributing wealth, and, I don’t know, not selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. The choice to have an abortion is not so easily done, and it is not made in the same circumstances at all. As far as I’m concerned, the two issues the Pope compares are simply not on an equal footing morally, and while what the Pope has said may be “progressive” by his standards, those standards are very, very low.
And sure, only the Catholics are supposed to pay attention to the Pope. But I bet there are many Catholic women who want/need an abortion, and the Pope being the leader of the Catholic church doesn’t stop people who aren’t Catholic from listening to him. He has a position of influence and power, and frankly it would’ve been far more radical, for more Jesus-like, for him to come out and say that he’s pro-choice. It is such a shame that the church seems so rooted in patriarchy when the very foundations of the church are rooted in bringing about peace and comfort to those in need.
Mykki Blanco says that she wants a dyke for president. Similarly, in that spirit, I want a dyke for Pope (even though I know that would never happen, like, ever). I want someone who understands what it’s like to have to make that choice to be the one writing a 103-page document about caring for those in need. I want someone who understands that they could be in that position given the changing of just a few circumstances. Someone who’d be encouraging people everywhere to care for those around them, whatever state of need they may be in, even if that state is vastly different to your own. “Sowing peace all around us,” he writes in that document, “That is holiness.” I agree. It’s just a shame he doesn’t want to include women who need abortions in that peace.
Written by Rochelle Asquith