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Trump and Clinton and Politics Without Mercy

Marc Nozell CC/Gage Skidmore CC

Kathryn Jean Lopez - published on 04/11/16 - updated on 06/07/17

When it takes 9 abortions to get upset, something is wrong with our perceptions, our politics and our society

It’s the Jubilee of Mercy and Abby Johnson is talking about radical mercy. The former Planned Parenthood clinic director runs a ministry, And Then There Were None, devoted to helping abortion clinic workers leave. She believes no one is beyond the possibility of conversion, that even those who would seem to be most hardened can come to cultivate a culture of life.

After all, she did.

Johnson wants people to know just how poisonous, perverse and unnecessary it is to pit a mother against her child. I listen to the presidential candidates and pray this notion will catch on. That might be a prayer in search of a miracle, but it shouldn’t be.

Let’s focus on two candidates, only because they’re the ones who have been the subject of many headlines of late on the issue of abortion, Donald Trump, of course, being the most infamous.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Trump affirmed a caricature of the pro-life movement as promulgated from mainstream media by saying that, should Roe v. Wade ever be overturned, there would need to be punishment for women who obtain abortions.

As has been pointed out by many a pro-life leader, that answer has problems — chief among them being that the pro-life movement has long seen abortion itself as a punishment, an intimate violence that robs a woman of her motherhood and a child of its life, and poisons families and relationships. Yes, abortion is a grave evil. It is also, as is the nature of evil, a miserable rot that eats away at souls. The desire of every pro-lifer is to save lives and to spare women and men this pain.

While Trump has walked back his initial comment, he betrayed an unfamiliarity with the women and men who work everyday to give women in crisis situations an alternative to abortion, which can sometimes seem the preference of a throwaway culture of convenience.

Meanwhile, during an interview with Meet the Press (on Divine Mercy Sunday), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “I want to maintain that constitutional protection under Roe v. Wade. As you know, there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions …”

And after further questioning:

Well, under our laws currently … the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.

And about abortion, she made clear: “My view has always been this is a choice. It is not a mandate.”

Women have been known to feel mandate-like pressure from all sides when they walk into a clinic. Choice is a lie for many.

A few fascinating things about the interview: First, in her language, Hillary Clinton betrayed a cardinal rule of the abortion industry and its ideology. As Abby Johnson writes in her new book, The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories: “We must dehumanize the unborn in order to accept abortion.” She’s echoing the reflections of another former abortion clinic worker who has left the industry, and is working, like Johnson, to right their wrongs and expose what happens behind clinic walls.

But Hillary Clinton also said “unborn person” in that interview, and she conceded that there is such a thing as “reasonable restrictions.” Whether a slip-up or just smart politics, her remarks reflect the reality that most Americans do not support abortion-on-demand throughout three trimesters of pregnancy. This is proved quite clearly and consistently in Marist polling commissioned by the Knights of Columbus.

In her book Johnson relays the story of a woman who walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic with an over-the-top indifference for her ninth abortion. Even for clinic workers that was a jarring number. She even insisted on bypassing sedation, making small talk and joking on the table. The former clinic worker relays:

I remember wishing that she had opted for sedation. Her lack of remorse and shame made us all feel awkward. Over the years, I had consoled and held the hands of scores of women who approached that same table with much trepidation. Some would weep, their knuckles white as they gripped my hand until it ached. Others would clutch Bibles to their chests and mouth prayers begging for forgiveness, even before the abortionist had begun his work and when their babies were still safe in their wombs. Many times women would climb onto the table and remain limp and unresponsive during the procedure. Mentally, they were a million miles away.

After her ninth abortion was completed, the woman — called “Angie” in the book — asks  to “see it.” She says: “I mean, I’ve had it done so many times. I might as well know what it looks like.”

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