MTV: Call It What You Want, It’s Still Abortion

Opinion   |   Father Frank Pavone   |   Dec 31, 2010   |   4:25PM   |   Washington, DC

Watching “No Easy Decision” was very much like watching a typical day in my life, because in my full time pro-life ministry, my team and I minister around the world to men and women who are struggling with their pregnancy, and also with men and women who have been through the abortion experience.

It is certainly no secret to us, to the Church, or to those who work in the pro-life movement that these decisions are not easy. It is also no secret that women do not get abortions because of freedom of choice. As this program illustrated, they get abortions because they feel they have no freedom and no choice. They do not celebrate abortion as an advance of freedom.

Those who present themselves as fighting “for choice” can succeed in making themselves appear quite noble, but their efforts are not directed at the real problem. Those who target the real problem are the ones who receive the phone call that wasn’t shown on the program: the call to the pregnancy centers, which outnumber the abortion clinics in America by a three to one ratio and which, on a daily basis, bring hope to those who despair of the possibility of raising the child they carry within them. The stories of these centers can be seen at

Why, in the end, is it “no easy decision” to struggle with abortion? Simply put, it is the struggle between accepting truth vs. manipulating it, and the struggle between hope and despair.

In this program, James and Markai argue about the language they used in describing the baby in the womb. They point out that thinking of the child as “a little ball of cells” makes it easier to go through with the abortion. Notice that the reason is not that it is true, but that it makes it easier. Yet the manipulation of truth goes too far for Markai when James calls the baby a “thing.” That offends her.

The question here is bigger than abortion. How far in any life question can we go in manipulating the truth with language that makes our challenges easier rather than facing those challenges for what they are?

Then there is the struggle between hope and despair. “I know I can do it,” Markai declares to her mom in the face of the odds of how difficult it will be to get through college while raising two children. Markai had hope. But eventually, despair took over, because both she and James thought they were doomed to making their second child suffer deprivations that they could not bear to think of.

Of course these situations are difficult. So are most situations in life that matter. People involved in all types of moral compromises struggle with the difficulty of their situation. But the difficulty of a situation does not determine the morality of that situation. No matter how difficult someone finds it not to kill you, is there any doubt in your mind about what the right course of action is? Markai was right when she said that God doesn’t give us situations we cannot handle.

I commend the participants in this program for their courage and honesty in sharing their experiences. We need more of that, and in fact in our ministry we foster that very kind of sharing through

But there was one major way in which the program contradicted itself. It claimed, with a certain pride, to “show the choice” that many people are afraid of. But it in fact did not show the choice, and this remains the big gap in the abortion debate. If we are going to pride ourselves in being unashamed to face up to this difficult choice and talk about it openly, then let’s go all the way and actually describe and see the procedure. Nobody shared in this program the simple fact about the suction abortion procedure that Markai underwent, in the way, for instance, that abortion doctor Harlan Raymond Giles did when he gave sworn testimony in US District Court as follows:

“Question: Can the heart of a fetus or embryo still be beating during a suction curettage abortion as the fetus or embryo comes down the cannula?

Answer: For a few seconds to a minute, yes.” (Western District of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, May 27, 1999, Case No. 98-C-0305-S).

We will make progress in our nation’s abortion debate when we actually start talking about abortion. No easy decision? You haven’t seen anything yet. Note: Father Frank Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life, the largest Catholic, pro-life organization in the country, with offices in New York City and Washington.