In a novel response to Pope Francis’ decision to allow all Catholic priests to absolve women from the sin of abortion during the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, a writer in New York Times accuses Pope Francis of “cruelty,” saying his offer of mercy is evidence of condescension toward women.
The Times op-ed by Jill Filipovic states that in this case “mercy may actually be worse” than condemnation, since it implies that women who have had an abortion have done something wrong that needs forgiveness.
Offering forgiveness, Filipovic writes, is a “softer version” of the judgment that “the millions of women around the world who have abortions every year are sinners.”
This is condescending, she argues, because “instead of treating women as adults who make their own decisions,” the pope makes excuses for them, in this case saying he is “well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision.”
Filipovic believes that women who have abortions do so willingly and unrepentantly, and that they should not be made to feel bad about their freely-chosen decision to terminate their pregnancies.
“Inviting women to feel shame and guilt for their abortions isn’t a mercy,” she writes, “it’s cruelty.”
If indeed some women feel guilty after aborting their children, Filipovic contends, it’s only because people like Pope Francis make them feel bad by suggesting that they have done something wrong. It would be kinder to offer unconditional approval of their choice.
“Women,” she writes, “primarily feel guilty when they experience stigma and a lack of support for their choice. In telling women that they can be forgiven during this one year, the pope plays on the ambivalence and embarrassment that can come from silence around abortion.”
The New York Times op-ed comes right in the midst of a congressional hearing examining the activities of abortion giant Planned Parenthood, that has come under fire for the sale of the body parts of aborted fetuses on the open market.
On Wednesday two women who survived botched abortions during the 1970s testified before the House Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices.
“If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine?” asked Gianna Jessen, who suffers from cerebral palsy resulting from a lack of oxygen during her mother’s attempt to abort her.
“I’m here today to share a story not only to highlight the war of abortion taking place at Planned Parenthood, but to give a voice to other survivors like me,” added Melissa Ohden, who said that her mother attempted to abort her when she weighed less than three pounds.
In early August, Jill Filipovic wrote an impassioned article for Cosmopolitan defending Planned Parenthood and its operations. She even went so far as to suggest that the movement to defund Planned Parenthood “isn’t about abortion but about hostility to women having sex.”
Filipovic does admit that “the conversations captured on video are graphic, and the anti-abortion right is enraged,” but this is no reason to stop funding an organization that does so much good for women.
After all, it isn’t cruel to take the lives of innocent children in the womb. It’s cruel to remind women that there just might be something wrong with that, and to offer them a chance for redemption.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome