Redirecting Our Culture’s Priorities
In seeking the deepest roots of the struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death … we have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, typical of a social and cultural climate dominated by secularism.
― Evangelium Vitae, no. 21
In the days since Roe was overturned, various American companies have put out statements, offering to pay for employees in states where abortion is illegal to travel to pro-abortion states to have their unborn children killed. Among these companies are huge multi-national corporations like Microsoft, Nike, Netflix, Disney, and Tesla. These hugely wealthy businesses are presenting this as a “generous” offer, showing they are willing to go the extra mile for their employees.
However, even the hyper-liberal NPR noted in one article that this “generous” offer may, in fact, have a nakedly selfish motivation.
Paying employees to travel for abortions is “certainly cheaper than having to pay for pregnancy care and for delivery of the child and then to support the child for 26 years,” Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, told NPR. “So employers might do a cost-benefit analysis and say if the woman really doesn’t want to have a child, it’s cheaper for us as well.”
Well put, and surprising to find on NPR. For huge, impersonal corporations, whose sole focus is on delivering greater return for their shareholders, paying for abortion is a no-brainer. After all, pregnancy, childbirth, and family are not only costly in the short term, but also are huge distractions for their employees from the business of making money.
It’s ironic that many of the same progressives who are against Big Business and unbridled capitalism, are applauding these pro-abortion policies. Somehow, they fail to see that offering to pay for abortions is the epitome of grasping, amoral, profit-motive-only capitalism.
At the same time, I am pleased to see that one American company is taking a radically different approach. A few days ago, the Texas-based company Buffer Insurance put out a statement, vowing to do everything in their power to support parents who want to give birth.
“Secular companies are paying the travel costs for employees to abort babies out-of state,” the company wrote in a Facebook post. “Today we are announcing that Buffer will pay the costs for our employees who birth babies.”
The company promised to help in three ways: a) paying for the medical costs involved in birth, b) offering paid paternity and maternity leave for new parents, c) paying for medical costs associated with adoption.
The Insidious Impact of Legal Abortion
As abortion becomes illegal across more and more states, more and more women with unplanned pregnancies will face the prospect of giving birth. For some women this will be difficult, even terrifying.
It goes without saying that there is never a good excuse for killing an innocent unborn child. Abortion is always morally wrong and never the solution. However, we must not underestimate the extent to which decades of legalized abortion has altered the fundamental structures of our society in ways that incentivize abortion, while making it more and more difficult to give birth.
Most people who are alive today have never known a world in which abortion was anything other than easy-to-obtain, often supported by generous, fungible government-funded abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, or paid for by insurance.
Few of us are even aware of all the thousands of ways everything from business, law, taxes, media, religious beliefs, social standards and expectations, and personal priorities have insidiously rearranged themselves around the reality that, at any point, a woman could choose, for a few hundred dollars, to have the life of her unborn child terminated – killed.
The fact is that we are fundamentally social beings, and our beliefs and behaviors are often, even without our knowing it, shaped and directed by the broader culture in which we live, for better or for worse.
In the past, almost all the social structures promoted and incentivized faith, family, and parenthood. It was easier to go to church on Sunday, when all your neighbors were going to church on Sunday. It was easier to get married and stay married, when everything from your parents’ example, to the tax breaks in the U.S. tax code, to divorce law, all sent the message, “Marriage is good. And it is forever.”
And it was easier to welcome children joyfully, when practically everyone agreed that becoming a mother or a father was one of the most important, meaningful, and rewarding things a human being could do. When employers understood and respected the fact that at any time their female employees might leave work for the greater calling of motherhood. When there was a common culture of parenthood, with support networks of grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and neighborhoods full of mothers helping one another out and doling out advice. When the whole economy, and everyone’s financial expectations, were not built around the supposition of two, full-time working parents.
For five decades all of this has been so profoundly eroded that, now, many young people cannot even imagine wanting to get married and become parents, governments throw vast amounts of money at organizations dedicated to preventing parenthood, and companies think nothing of offering to pay for their employees to have their unborn children killed.
A Culture of Life
What Buffer Insurance is showing us is a way forward in a post-Roe world. They are showing us that, in the face of a culture steeped in the impact of decades of legal abortion (one consequence of the deceptive and insidious sexual revolution), we must find new, more creative, more generous ways to promote and incentivize life, even if that comes at significant cost.
This is why Pope St. John Paul II so often spoke of a “culture of life.” Not simply a society in which abortion is illegal. This is only the bare minimum! But an authentic culture, in which everything from community, to work, to tax law, faith, and family, is suffused with a certain understanding of the value of human life, and which collectively supports and promotes the protection of life.
In which the messages on the front pages of our newspapers, in our movies, novels, TV shows, plays, schools, churches, and everything else, proclaim that “life is good!”, not necessarily because the people behind these things are consciously promoting a certain “message,” but simply because these things will naturally and holistically reflect our culture’s bedrock principles and priorities.
As Pope St. John Paul II exhorted the media in Evangelium Vitae, it is crucial that they present “noble models of life and make room for instances of people’s positive and sometimes heroic love for others,” as well as “the positive values of sexuality and human love” while refraining “from emphasizing anything that suggests or fosters feelings or attitudes of indifference, contempt or rejection in relation to life” (no. 98).
From this perspective, we still have a very long way to go! Our cultural values are so skewed. Our entertainment industry so corrupt. Our business culture so grasping. Our faith communities so lukewarm. Our priorities so out of whack.
But the Dobbs decision, and the demise of Roe, have radically changed the situation. Now is our chance to get creative in finding new ways to build support structures for life. Based on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, each member of society has a role to play in the support of family life – communities, churches, businesses, government, schools, etc.
Every business owned or run by pro-life individuals should take note of what Buffer Insurance is doing. After all, can we rightly call ourselves “pro-life” if our own businesses have policies that do not promote and support motherhood (and fatherhood), even at the expense of some of our profits?
Texas is one state that is showing leadership, having set up their $100 million “Alternatives to Abortion” program. This program is dedicated to ensuring that mothers and fathers who are in need have access to counseling, training, material assistance, housing, and other forms of support. Every year, our federal government sends over half a billion dollars to Planned Parenthood, at a time when we are suffering a catastrophic collapse in birth rates. This situation needs to be turned on its head. My hope is that other states will follow Texas’ lead.
Wherever possible, the incentives should be rejigged in ways that support family and life. Tax law should promote marriage over divorce, and having children over sterility, offering generous tax breaks to parents, particularly those who need the help the most. Policies surrounding maternity and paternity leave should also be revisited, ensuring that mothers and fathers never need to choose between welcoming life and paying their bills or caring for the physical and mental health of the mother and child.
And of course, we should all dig deeper in our support for the many pro-life organizations that are offering concrete practical help to so many women in crisis pregnancies.
Invest in Life and Family
Without question, there is a growing conflict in society, and marriage and family are at its epicenter. In response, Pope St. John Paul II appeals to each and every one of us to “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!”, emphasizing that “only in this direction will you [we] find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” (Evangelium Vitae, no. 5)
Building a Culture of Life requires taking the long view, recognizing that there is nothing that pays off more in the long run than investing in marriage (as God designed), families, and our children.
Even secular economists are now raising the alarm as our nation enters a demographic winter. Millions of the children that we need, now, to keep our economy healthy and strong, are not there, because we pushed women towards the abortion clinics with unexamined, short-sighted social pressures and economic incentives that prioritized immediate gain over the long-term health of our society.
These situations are more complex than in previous decades due to the erroneous and ill-formed consciences and false understandings of human sexuality, the dignity of the human person, and marriage instantiated throughout our culture, causing significant damage to human flourishing and the well-being of marriage and family life.
This is exacerbated by a growth in secular values, supported by a mindset that elevates ego and desires above the natural moral law, which not only leads to a loss of the sense of God, but also inevitably leads individuals and society to choose, accept, promote, and defend what is offensive and contrary to human dignity and the respect owed to human persons – i.e., murder, promiscuity, fornication, cohabitation, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, etc.
Unfortunately, many fail to comprehend the mutually dependent relationship between marriage and family and the general good of society: any attempt to undermine the former not only poses a grave harm to these natural institutions, but also to society itself. In response to these challenges and the ethical dilemmas they raise, we must seek new forms of creativity and evangelization to mend these wounds, beginning in marriage and family life, which will in turn foster healing and renewal in our global societies and cultures.
After all, God’s plan for marriage and family corresponds to the deepest desires of men and women for lasting happiness and true joy, even though this understanding may not always be welcomed or appreciated. With the repeal of Roe (and Casey), our society has expunged a demon in our midst, one that has whispered lies in our ears for years. With its spell broken we can now begin re-examining the way we do things from top to bottom, restoring old wisdom, and finding new ways to promote the common good.
It is an exciting time to be pro-life!
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.