Two sisters from Iowa recently won a poster contest for their slogan “Abortion rights are Iowa Nice,” which belies the tragic consequences of abortion for the unborn child, mother, father and other kin. The slogan becomes a cruel oxymoron. How does the term “abortion rights” convey the “Iowa nice” concept of kindness and helpfulness? Our faith compels us to publicly reject this and other euphemisms that abortion rights activists use to render nascent life meaningless. We must demonstrate through our words and actions that “Iowa nice” means embracing life from conception to natural death.
The war on words in this life and death issue has divided our nation for a half-century. “In recent years,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says, “pro-abortion groups have radically altered their messaging strategy, abandoning the slogan of ‘choice’ to claim instead that abortion is simply essential health care for women. References to abortion or abortion ‘services’ have been replaced in pro-abortion literature by the euphemism ‘abortion care’” (usccb.org/resources/abortion-not-healthcare).
Case in point, this passage from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists:
“The language we use when discussing reproductive health has a profound impact on what people hear and learn. Much of the language that is colloquially used to describe abortion or discuss health policies that impact abortion has a basis in anti-choice rhetoric and is inherently biased and inaccurate — and at the very least, is not medically appropriate.” … The ACOG “uses clinically accurate language when discussing abortion. We encourage people writing about reproductive health to use language that is medically appropriate, clinically accurate, and without bias.”
That strident advice fails to put a human face on the issue. Abortion “does not improve (and can even jeopardize) women’s life and health; and American law has recognized for decades that it is not ‘just another medical procedure,’” the U.S. bishops say. “God loves each human life from the instant of his or her conception and entrusts this gift to the protection of a mother and father. Abortion ends the life of a child and offends God. It also deeply wounds the women and men involved.”
On May 11, the National Public Radio program “1A” broadcast “Remaking America: Crossing State Lines for Abortion Care,” which featured interviews with abortion access advocates. The guests included a married Oklahoma woman who had an abortion out of state, the founder of a volunteer network of pilots who fly women to states where abortion is legal, an author, and a representative of Midwest Access Coalition.
Host Jenn White’s voice oozed sympathy for the Oklahoma woman — not over the loss of her unborn child — but for the hassles and costs she experienced to obtain her pill-based abortion. The Oklahoman said something striking that seemed secondary to the host — the regret over the loss of nascent life and the physical pain endured during the abortion. The host focused on what she believed should be a basic right to “care” — securing an abortion conveniently.
A year after her abortion, the Oklahoma woman said she still struggles with the aftermath. She thinks about “what if” she had opted not to have an abortion. She said she would love to have children with her husband someday but the timing wasn’t right. Despite her regrets, she vigorously supports abortion as a “right” and says women who choose the procedure should be affirmed in their decision and know that no one, including God, can judge them. Her righteousness underscores the need for perseverance and diplomacy in changing hearts and minds about abortion — it is not a solution to life’s challenges; it is a slippery slope to dehumanization.
Abortion rights are not Iowa nice. Consider the story of an Iowa woman with a family and a career carrying a heavy burden of guilt for an abortion she had years earlier. Her eyes teared up as she shared her story with a faith-based group. We need women and men willing to share their stories, the words of which speak the truth about abortion and remind us that the procedure takes victims and has lifelong consequences. We need to write letters to the editor and use social media to correct euphemisms about abortion.
Finally, if you or someone you know needs help dealing with the aftermath of abortion, Project Rachel is ready to help. This confidential, post-abortion healing ministry of the Catholic Church offers hope and healing to women and men hurting from past abortions. Call the dedicated helpline at (563) 333-4107 or email email@example.com. That’s how we demonstrate “Iowa nice.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor