By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
This past May, I attended the annual meeting of the Western Association of Women Historians, which is one of my favorite history conferences (I’m pretty sure there is no other history organization that concludes its awards banquet with a sing-a-long). Usually I hate to miss any of the sessions. But this year, I snuck off with Cheryl Lemus and another historian (I’ll call her L) to do a little “mentoring” in the shops of Berkeley. This isn’t totally facetious, as we were on a mission: to find me a properly fitted sports bra. I had started running a few months earlier, and while I had great shoes and a snazzy outfit, certain other areas of my anatomy were feeling less well-equipped. Cheryl and L are seasoned runners, and they were appalled by my bounce. So, we headed to the only place where any self-respecting women’s historian would go for such things: Title IX Sports.
I have recently experienced a good deal of (mostly good) healthcare services here in Northern Illinois. For the last three and a half years I have been a patient in and out of various hospitals, undergoing small and large “procedures,” experiencing rehabilitation and a large number of outpatient services. It wasn’t always this way. I am/was a nurse. I was the one giving the care, staying calm in emergencies, answering those difficult questions and doling out reassurance like sandwiches at a picnic. My recent experiences as a patient have brought back a lot of memories and the sudden realization that I am a living, historical artifact. The apprentice-style nurse training I received in Britain in the early 1980s is now defunct and has been replaced by a University degree, higher wages and a level of professionalism even Florence Nightingale could only dream of in 1860 when she established her training school for nurses in London.Britain, the whole world now knows, reveres the National Health Service as a national icon (remember the opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympics in London–dancing nurses in archaic-looking uniforms and nimble-footed doctors prancing around the stadium with their bedded patients?). I think it was watching the NHS tableau that triggered the memory of the time I first met death.
About two weeks ago, Nicholas P. Carfardi of the National Catholic Reporter, wrote a brief opinion piece and asked who was more pro-life, Obama or Romney? He argued that although Obama is clearly pro-choice, he is actually more pro-life than Romney, because Romney profits from abortions and supports cuts in federal spending that might actually increase the abortion rate. Carfardi did not go further to redefine the term pro-life or call on Catholics and other anti-abortion groups to address this term in a more nuanced and complex manner. I wish he had, because he may have addressed the hypocrisy that lies beneath the term. Look, as a self-exiled Catholic, I am very well aware of the Church’s stance on abortion. I am also familiar with the history of abortion. But that is not what I want to focus on today. The term “pro-life” needs a new definition. There is much more to being pro-life than just praying, preaching, marching, and legislating for the rights of the fetus. Being pro-life means supporting the rights of babies, children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. If you are going to claim you are pro-life, then you must support the life outside the womb, not just the one attached to the umbilical cord. So, are you really pro-life?