Please Finish the Sentence
'Choosing' Not to Say What They Mean
Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2000
By Roger Mahoney
(Cardinal Roger Mahony is the Archbishop of Los Angeles)
So often I hear candidates for political office proclaim their great
support for "a woman's right to choose." But choose what?
As the many political races begin to heat up across the country, I am
becoming confused and frustrated by candidates who seem unable to finish a
simple English sentence.
"Choice" in American history and culture has become a precious
heritage. But normally, when one speaks about choosing something, one
finishes the sentence. For example, after viewing the menu in a
restaurant, you don't say to the waiter, I think I will choose . . ." and
not tell the waiter whether you want the fried chicken or the meatloaf.
Some sleuthing of my own leads me to believe that what politicians
really mean is, "I support a woman's right to choose to terminate her
pregnancy, that is, to get an abortion." Why can't they just say that? Why
do the media allow political candidates to get away with this vague,
meaningless "choice" language when they should be demanding that
candidates finish the sentence?
I am vigorously pro-choice, because I believe in the individual's
right to make choices in life and in our society. But I sure want to
specify what that choice is all about, and as a church leader, to make
certain that one is supporting a moral good in that choice.
I personally support a woman's right to choose a number of moral
* The right to choose a religious faith, congregation or community.
* The right to choose what school she will attend.
* The right to choose her health care providers.
* The right to choose a husband.
* The right to choose a neighborhood in which to live.
* The right to choose a school to send her children, and if that
choice is really to be protected, to have a voucher to back it up.
These are just a few of the morally good choices that I fully support
for the women of our country. I'm not afraid to name the choice, to finish
If political leaders are proud of the fact that they support the
termination of a pregnancy, the taking of the life of an unborn baby, then
why can't they simply say so? What's with all the wishy-washy "choice"
I am increasingly suspicious that shadow language is used because
many political leaders either don't support abortion and are afraid to say
so or because they want to pretend that a moral evil is somehow a moral
good. And the only way to make evil into good is to disguise it. Bingo!
Don't finish the sentence.
No one in our country who is pro-abortion can deny that there is a
living being in the womb of the expectant mother. Otherwise, there would
be no reason to destroy that living being--just leave him or her alone.
But that living being is on his or her way to natural birth and to full
development as a human being created by God: something precious and alive,
not a choice.
So why are political leaders and abortion advocates afraid to speak
the truth? If they are so sure that their position is good and valid, why
can't they simply say aloud, "I support the right of a woman to destroy
her unborn baby"? Or "I support the right of a woman to have an abortion
and terminate her pregnancy"? I would have more respect for the politician
and abortion advocate who would finish the sentence and tell us the truth.
Maybe they don't tell us the truth because they are trying to hide
the reality of the inherent evil in abortion. Maybe they don't feel
comfortable with their position, but because it has become so politically
correct they are afraid to say out loud what they might feel in their
souls. Maybe they believe that they really need the votes of those who
relish the incomplete sentence, "a woman's right to choose." And maybe
they believe that no one will challenge them to finish the sentence.
I would hope that all of us could be more honest and open with our
beliefs and our language that confirms and proclaims those inner beliefs.
Maybe when we cast the light of truthfulness and honesty on what we speak
out loud, we will think through our positions more deeply and force
ourselves to identify and weigh the moral good and the moral evil in our
And maybe we won't be afraid to finish our sentences.
Cardinal Mahoney Prays for Unborn at Democratic Convention
From Sarah: "Do you
honestly believe that making abortion illegal will solve the problem?"
Should Health Care Plans Pay for Contraceptives?
The School Voucher Issue
Interview on Birth Control
Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)
Mary Bloom Center for Natural Family Planning
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Birth Control (by Protestants Against Birth Control)
The Preacher and the Pill (How the Church and feminism gave a woman control of her body)
Artificial birth control as a major root cause of poverty: Keynote Address to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Gathering, May 16, 1997.
What Every Catholic Couple Should Know
For more on the struggle between dissent and orthodoxy see my review of Flawed Expectations.
Why Humanae Vitae Was Right An excellent book on the Birth Control Debate edited by Dr. Janet Smith
Review of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right
A clear and concise Summary of Church Teaching on Contraception
Chemical Abortions (Interview with Dr. Thomas Hilgers, M.D.)
To plan or postpone pregnancy: Billings Method
Cukierski Family Apostolate
"Not Your Mother's Birth Control"
Infertile and Catholic: Help for Catholic couples who have been unable to have children.
The Moral Difference between NFP and Birth Control. (Response to letter from Ken Stuart.)
He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."
Surviving as a Catholic Family (Archbishop Charles Chaput reflects on the difference between Birth Control and Natural Family Planning)
Stem Cell Research: Teaching of Bible & Catholic Church
Germaine Greer on Birth Control
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