Kristina Flathers, Staff Writer

For those of you who know me, you may be aware that I am the newly-elected co-secretary of Notre Dame Right to Life; however, you may not be aware that I am not Catholic.

It surprises an unexpected number of people—especially my close friends—that I am pro-life but not Catholic. Two Thanksgivings ago, I stayed with my best friend who holds political beliefs on the opposite side of the spectrum from me. Even less like me, she avoids discussing politics and religion with people who hold different viewpoints.

Thus, I had not really had the opportunity to share my beliefs with her in general, and for the two years that we were friends prior to this visit, she had assumed that I was Catholic. Side note: In keeping with her personality, she did not actually ask me if I was Catholic. Actually, it was her mom who asked.

Once I think about it, I guess this assumption is not that odd. I have gone to Catholic school since the sixth grade, can defend the Catholic faith as if it were my own, freely chose to attend the University of Notre Dame and am passionately pro-life.

However, when I ask my friends why they assume that I am Catholic, they overwhelmingly reply that it is not because I go to Notre Dame but because I am pro-life. This assumption begs the question of why being pro-life carries a Catholic connotation.

I honestly do not know the reason, but here are some ideas. Perhaps it is because the Catholic Church is by far the largest social service agency in the world, lobbying for all of its causes, including the pro-life one, from Washington DC to the UN headquarters.

Maybe it is because different iterations of the Catholic pro-life voice speak through many different Catholic and pro-life groups—including new ones which are constantly being formed. Is it because the media likes to paint all pro-lifers as religious zealots? Do pro-lifers too often argue from the standpoint of religion?

Now for the elephant in the room: How am I pro-life if I have no “religious background on which people could claim that my brain was morphed into a non-thinking pile of jelly?” Well, besides having some dramatic moments in my own life regarding abortion, which I will not describe here, I approach the issue as I would most anything else—rationally.

I mix rationality with my being avidly pro-woman. I surprise a lot of my pro-choice friends when I tell them that I am pro-life because being pro-life is a more rational stance to take on the issue of women’s rights than being pro-choice. Yes, you read that right! I am pro-life because I am pro-woman.

Quick disclaimer: The arguments for either side are certainly more complicated than what I portray here. I could write an entire newspaper about the different nuances of each point I make in this article, but space is rather limited, so please understand.

Let me clarify that I am pro-woman because I believe in what the original suffragists did: We women are not just sexual beings. We are also intellectual and emotional. We possess the utmost dignity, as well as to have our basic human rights respected.

Those rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson, a natural rhetorician, ordered the rights in this precise way for a reason. We cannot have liberty or a chance at happiness without first having life, which obviously applies to everyone.

Many of the original feminists echo this sentiment. For example, Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment [ERA] (1923), opposed the later trend of linking the ERA with abortion by asking, “How can one protect and help women by killing them as babies?”

I posit that there are two types of people in the world: those who alleviate the symptom, and those who address the root problem. Fancying myself as one of the latter, I think that abortion is merely a symptom of, and not a solution to, a bigger issue: society misleading women.

Society promises women there is a way to have “safe” sex; however, the truth is that pregnancy still can and does happen despite the use of contraception. According to the Feminists for Life, one in 10 college women becomes pregnant each year.

From listening to the surrounding debate and reading viewpoints, it seems to me that pro-lifers are actually the ones who respect a woman’s dignity enough to give her the cold, hard truth, which I have grown to appreciate as a sign of respect and love.

Along with this truth, pro-lifers also offer a plethora of information and resources. Much of the rhetoric of the pro-choice lobby claims that abortion is a safe procedure with no everlasting consequences, no physical or emotional side effects.

Wanting facts, I present many statistics proving overwhelmingly otherwise. A study of 1,800 women appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (1994) found that women having abortions increased their risk of getting breast cancer before age 45 by 50 percent, not to mention the 200 who have died directly from legal abortions since 1973.

A Christchurch Health and Development study (2006), a secular study performed at the University of Otago, New Zealand that has been in existence for 35 years, showed 42 percent percent of post-abortive women suffer from depression within four years of their abortions. Planned Parenthood has begun to acknowledge this and offers its own version of post-abortive support.

The side effects are much greater and more numerous than what I discuss here, but I hope this shows that abortion hurts women. As  the original feminist Susan B. Anthony wrote in The Revolution (1896), “[Abortion] will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!”

Being pro-life and pro-woman, I want to help heal society so that abortion will no longer be prevalent. Most who hold the pro-choice viewpoint would agree with this goal, but I cannot remember the last time I heard a pro-choice advocate addressing the root problems of society that lead to abortion.

Rather, those who are pro-choice advocate contraception and abortion, which are ways to change women in order to fit the mold that society has set for them. On the other hand, I want to change society to fit the needs of women, and not the vice-versa.

Thus, I think that the pro-life position is more concerned about the well-being of women and has a better vision in the long-run. This includes first recognizing that abortion is not the way to combat the subjugation of women.

Rather, we must empower women by building a culture of life and respect that affirms the dignity and worth of each individual. Most people immediately think that I am talking about the child, but I am also including women in this statement, and even men.

Empowering women involves reshaping society so that husbands and boyfriends see male examples everywhere of those who respect their women enough to stay by their side and support them during pregnancy and parenthood. It also requires us to accept the idea that mothers can balance their education and career plans with parenting.

Is this not true progress? This security and respect embodies the true empowerment of women. Telling women that abortion makes women happy because it gives them control over their bodies—and thus every other aspect of their lives—is simply a lie with disastrous consequences. Perhaps it is told because we as a society do not want to change the way we treat women. After all, change is difficult.

Women deserve better than abortion. You do not have to be Catholic to agree.

Kristina is a sophomore economics major from Monterey, CA, and she cannot wait to see her three-month old nephew when she gets home. Contact her at