In Let Us Dream, Pope Francis cuts through the partisanship and the ideologies in our world to offer a simple diagnosis of the sickness responsible for the decay and moral rot that infects our culture. He calls this illness the technocratic paradigm, which, Francis says “is a mindset that despises the limit that another’s value imposes” (p.34).

A mindset that despises the limit that another’s value imposes.

This mindset can be subtle. In my case, it often doesn’t reveal itself until another person’s needs and wants actually begin to impose themselves on me. Children have a way of bringing this mindset out into the light.

Children impose themselves on people’s lives in life-altering ways. Having children can derail career plans, force parents to stay in terrible jobs, or prevent a parent from going to work at all. Children from unexpected pregnancies can disrupt high school, delay college, or cause their parents to quit school altogether. Having children can make leaving abusive relationships more difficult for women. Children can rack up obscene medical bills. And they often do all this even before they are born. 

This brings me to last night’s news of the leaked draft of a majority ruling by the US Supreme Court that would overturn the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Assuming that this is indeed the majority opinion, and that the position of the court does not change between now and the official decision (expected sometime this summer), then there will no longer be a federal right to abortion that supersedes state-level abortion policies. In other words, the regulation of abortion goes back to state legislatures. 

I think reversing Roe v. Wade is absolutely essential. That decision undermined the basic rights of an entire class of people based on their level of development and functioning. It is grotesque ableism enshrined into law. Because it is a ruling of the nation’s highest court, any legal route to protecting these rights begins with a reversal by the court.

However, although reversing Roe v. Wade is essential, it is far from sufficient. By itself, this anticipated Supreme Court decision would simply place the imposition that accompanies children onto their mothers—women who are often already in vulnerable positions due to poverty, lack of medical or psychological support, or abusive situations. 

Last night, New Wave Feminists, a pro-life group led by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, released a statement in response to the news. It said, “Now is not the time to brag, or gloat, or celebrate. Now is the time to get to work and create a world that supports and protects not just the unborn person in the womb, but the equally as human and valuable people carrying them.”

It is not a solution to simply shift the serious imposition caused by children onto women. It is not pro-life. And it is not Christian. A nation shaped by Christianity would freely and gladly take on the imposition of children.

But we don’t. Ours is a nation that values profit over the flourishing of children and families. 

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches that families are owed a “family wage.” That is, “a wage sufficient to maintain a family and allow it to live decently. Such a wage must also allow for savings that will permit the acquisition of property as a guarantee of freedom” (CSDC 250).

Perhaps if the wages paid in our society to families were actually living wages, one might argue that the community was sufficiently fulfilling its obligation to safeguard the financial wellbeing of families. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s children are living in poverty (17%, according to recent data) and many more lack the educational and economic opportunities necessary for human development. 

Our society’s current economic structure and political system has continually refused to take up responsibility for the well-being of its most vulnerable members. As Christians, we have an obligation to support the common good of all. In light of this, the Church offers many ways for our society to support families, and even gives us suggestions: “There can be several different ways to make a family wage a concrete reality. Various forms of important social provisions help to bring it about, for example, family subsidies and other contributions for dependent family members, and also remuneration for the domestic work done in the home by one of the parents” (CSDC 250).

Unfortunately, in the US, we do not value paying laborers a just wage so they can provide for their families. We do not value maternity and paternity leave. We do not value a permanent extended child tax credit. Instead, it seems that we value the wealth of billionaires over the food, housing, healthcare, and education of families.

This is in stark contrast to how Scripture and the Church value workers and families. It also reflects a broader problem that Pope Francis regularly decries. In Fratelli Tutti, the pope says, “Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, ‘persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’ – like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed’ – like the elderly’” (FT 18). 

Combatting the “technocratic paradigm” by insisting on economic policies and social programs that do not despise the imposition of children, must be an essential part of the pro-life mission. Even more than that, not only must we not despise the imposition, we must welcome it. As the pope keeps reminding us, we must turn to the Good Samaritan as our model for welcoming the imposition that other people’s value place on our life. And we must welcome the imposition of children—not just on an individual level, but as a community, as a country. 

The New Wave Feminists remind us that going forward, our responsibility to love our neighbor and uphold human dignity continues:

“I don’t want the overturning of Roe to take anything away from women. I want this point in time to be the defining moment when we all, as a nation, realize we never actually needed abortion because we loved one another so well it became unthinkable and unnecessary.

We’ve had 49 years to create that type of world… and yet, we haven’t. So, I get why people are scared tonight and it breaks my heart. I hope with everything in my being we’re able to prove to them that their fears were unfounded by actually creating the support system they and their children will need. Have needed. And can finally have.

…Because if we don’t, mark my word, abortion on demand will be our future, and this small ‘victory’ prolifers are celebrating tonight will be incredibly short-lived… simply a footnote on the pages of history.”

If we fail to insist that the community has an obligation to bear even some of the imposition that children bring, if we allow that burden to fall on women who are already vulnerable, then reversing Roe v. Wade will only be a short-term victory. No—not even that. This decision will become the catalyst for more aggressive abortion deregulation in the future. That sobering reality must be at the forefront of our mind.

[Photo credit: Raspopova Marina on Unsplash]

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Paul Faheylives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.

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