By Caty Burke
The words from the book of Jeremiah are familiar; they are printed on planners for new college graduates and scripted across greeting cards sent to friends going through a hard time.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11)
They are repeated so often because this is a reassurance people always need, of hope in all seasons of life. This supernatural hope is what Christians hold onto even in the bleakest circumstances.
Yet that hope can be shaken when face to face with the darkness of sin encountered in the world. Take the news surrounding the investigation into Ulrich Klopfer, the infamous abortionist who operated in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for decades. As the situation unfolds with new horrors, the reality of evil seems ever more apparent.
The more clearly evil shows itself, the deeper the deceit. This culture of death, so called by St. John Paul II, deceives constantly. It lies when it asserts that a woman’s freedom and agency is over because of an untimely or unexpected pregnancy. It lies when it tells frightened women that abortion is their only option, the best “solution” to remedy their situation, or a procedure safer than childbirth. It paints a picture of loss and ruin: “If you have this baby, abandon your hopes of independence, financial stability, career goals and a fulfilling life.”
Not only are such messages devoid of truth, they’re devoid of hope. And a woman facing a crisis or unexpected pregnancy — especially in difficult health or financial situations — is more likely to hear negative messages than positive ones.
For every voice speaking of the beauty of the gift of life and her capacity to build a fulfilling life with her child, the voices of despair shout out all the louder. Telling women that they are only “empowered” through access to abortion is a falsehood that preys on vulnerable women who often find themselves alone, abandoned and terrified.
We know that these words are lies crafted by the father of lies himself. Perhaps the most powerful and most radical thing that can be done for women in difficult situations is to expose the lies and offer hope: the hope of a future, the hope provided by a strong community, the hope provided by a God who became man to transform people’s suffering.
It is Catholics’ job as a pro-life people to offer love, support and resources to the women who are desperate for a better life. The futures of these women and their babies are full of hope because they are not alone in their present circumstances: They are loved by the Lord and their communities.
One needn’t look far to see how many organizations are walking alongside pregnant and parenting women to support them in the truth that they are indeed strong, courageous and able to thrive with their child.
Students for Life and Feminists for Life have outreach programs to pregnant students on campus, providing resources and support for both pregnant women and parents in school. Both supply information on housing, child care, financial aid and health care for these students. Women Deserve Better provides information for working parents, including information on workers’ rights and maternity leave, and parents who may have difficulty providing for their families.
One national beacon of hope are the Women’s Care Centers. Women’s Care Centers provide free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, parenting classes, literacy programs, counselors, diapers and other necessities, and helps mothers further their education. Numerous women have walked through their doors discouraged and despairing, and walked back out into the world bravely — still anxious, but strengthened with the knowledge that they are not alone in the journey to motherhood.
Not only do these organizations and movements provide physical support, they also provide hope — the very welfare the Lord promises His people in Jeremiah.
As pro-life people, Catholics can help to bring the hope of new life and a future to those caught by the web of lies spun by a culture of death. The help will look different from person to person. Some may share their own story of an unexpected pregnancy with a woman in a similar situation. Some may be called to provide sidewalk counseling at the South Bend abortion clinic or give silent, prayerful witness to women coming for their appointments. Some may be asked to share the Gospel and crisis pregnancy resources with a woman considering abortion, or even accompanying her in a special way as she chooses life for her child.
Perhaps everyone is called to generously donate time and treasure to one of the Women’s Care Centers in their area, or to consider the words used when talking about pro-life issues and speak more compassionately.
One thing that everyone can do is pray. Pray fervently for those involved in abortions, physicians, women, children and men included. Pray for those who work and volunteer to provide support to pregnant women who are scared. And pray that the truth of “a future and a hope” may be presented to every woman in her time of need.
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