May 19, 2005

Is this the Culture of Life? Pregnant Alabama Teen Denied Graduation Ceremony

An earlier version of this essay appeared on my blog, Faith-Based Politics. But I’d like this story to reach a broader audience and maybe create a little mini-buzz. And, I feel strongly that this about justice. Justice for unwed mothers and justice for unborn children.

In Alabama yesterday, a pregnant teenager who had been barred from graduation defied the ban, walked through the line and announced her own name. Alysha Cosby was met with applause from her fellow students. Then she, her mother and her Aunt were escorted out by police.

Alabama right? Hypocritical backwater fundamentalists who don’t understand that we need to encourage women facing crisis pregnancies. Not like we enlightened Catholics with our “Choose Life” bumper stickers and our “Life: What a beautiful choice” commercials.

Except that the school that banned her from the ceremony was a Catholic school: The St. Jude Educational Institute in Montgomery Alabama.I’m not the kind of liberal who accuses opponents of racism and sexism at every opportunity. But the girl is African-American AND the father of the baby was allowed to participate in the ceremony.

Is it any wonder that so many people don’t take pro-life activists seriously? When the pro-life movement is so identified with the Catholic Church and Catholic institutions create situations that can only aggravate the circumstances that lead people to choose abortion rather than choosing life?There are powerful forces at work in our society that want not only to keep abortion legal, but to make it as easy and free of costs and consequences as possible. While we may oppose them, we also need to recognize that success will be partial and gradual. That means we need to support women who choose life by doing what we can to lower the emotional and financial burdens associated with that choice.

Single-mothers who decide for life need to be encouraged and assisted, not vilified. Perhaps school leadership was embrassed by the visible sign of sexual sin and didn’t want to be seen as rewarding it. But anybody who committs to a lifetime of parenthood, or who makes the difficult choice to give their child for adoption has more than done their penance. And, umm, their is this line in the Bible about sin and casting stones? But somewhow sexual sin always gets special treatment.

The Catholic Church has a lot of work to do if it wants to convince skeptics that pro-life activism really is about the sanctity of life and not about genital politics.You might want to visit the St. Jude homepage and click on the e-mail button on the bottom right to share your thoughts.