Promotional rape

In our zeal for principle, it's easy to forget real people

Issue: "Question of Faith," April 5, 1997

To sit and listen for an hour to Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano, you'd never guess how extraordinary these two very ordinary women are. You'd never guess, just listening to them, that they had once been at the legal epicenter of what will surely sometime be seen as this nation's defining social and cultural issue of the last half of the 20th century.

God has always chosen the simple things to confound the wise. It is not demeaning to Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano to say that he has done so in this case. Both women see themselves as totally usual people, and--except for the end of the story and God's grace in their lives--they are absolutely right.

Ms. McCorvey, especially, reminds you a great deal of the blind man in John 9 who, when questioned about some of the theological nuances associated with his healing, said quite simply: "I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see." Ms. McCorvey admits she gets confused when journalists throw hard questions at her. But then she looks them straight in the eye and says: "All I know is that I'm not the same person I used to be. I don't do drugs, I don't drink, I don't date other women. I am now a child of God, a new creature in Christ. I am forgiven and redeemed." Simple and emphatic.

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I suppose there really are two kinds of people active in the pro-abortion movement: Some are genuinely compassionate toward mothers with unwanted or inconvenient pregnancies. Others are crassly and selfishly focused on their own goals of freedom and convenience. There's probably no way to know the relative numbers in the two camps--but it has now become obvious which of the two traditionally speaks for the movement. It's not the nicer group.

Just ask Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano. Whatever the intentions of their would-be helpers 24 years ago, nothing that happened then set aside or even reduced the suffering these women would continue to endure for most of their adult lives. If that was the purpose of the folks who engineered the Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton Supreme Court decisions, they failed miserably.

When Norma McCorvey became a Christian last year, she explained how from the very beginning of her Supreme Court case she was manipulated, lied to, used, ignored, sidelined, and condescended to. All that in the name of "helping women." Now the emerging testimony of Sandra Cano in the other major Supreme Court case that set the stage for "abortion on demand" offers an even bleaker picture of cynicism on the part of abortion advocates. Ms. Cano says she thinks her name was forged on an affidavit that she thought had to do with gaining custody of her children--not aborting them. At the very least, her own legal counsel lied to her about what she was signing.

So in the name of women's rights, both of these women were launched onto a long course of lonely suffering. Consumed with their cause, pro-abortionists added promotional rape to their other sins and left two ordinary women lying bruised in the ditch along the superhighway to subsequent judicial, legislative, and public opinion victories.

But, of course, Christian pro-lifers can fall into the same trap. We can get so zealous for a righteous cause that we forget the people who need to be helped. We can state God's truth with such razor-sharp edges that those who need to hear that truth never hear God's grace.

God himself never makes that mistake. Even as he handed down his law from Mount Sinai, he reminded his people that he was the one who had earlier delivered them from bondage. God doesn't just tell us to "speak the truth in love"; he is the model for doing so.

That's why it was so appropriate last week to see Norma McCorvey and Sandra Cano participating in the formal dedication of the new National Memorial for the Unborn in Chattanooga, Tenn. The unusual facility, built on the site of a former "clinic" where 35,000 abortions were performed over an 18-year period, offers a gentle setting where mothers, fathers, and families who have lost children to abortion are encouraged to place plaques on a "wall of names" reminiscent of the Vietnam memorial in Washington. "A common need," says Pat Lindley, who has tirelessly promoted the memorial for the last several years, "is for a unique place of healing, where loss and grief can be shared with others who have suffered similarly, and where the unborn can be honored and remembered in a tangible way."

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