Violence against Women -- a Cause for Pro-Life Activists

By Martinez, Demetria | National Catholic Reporter, April 21, 2000 | Go to article overview

Violence against Women -- a Cause for Pro-Life Activists


Martinez, Demetria, National Catholic Reporter


Today we are witnessing the opening up of political space in what has been the subject of a hopelessly polarized debate, namely abortion. This, thanks to the vision of the Seamless Garment Network (NCR, Jan. 21). The organization opposes not only abortion but also the death penalty, the arms race and other threats to life's sanctity.

What makes the Seamless Garment Network truly unique, however, is that it is a coalition of activists who disagree on whether to criminalize abortion -- and who therefore champion a more inclusive and, I believe, revolutionary cause.

The network's goal is not to expend its resources trying to make abortion illegal. Its goal is to "make abortion unthinkable," according to the network's executive director, Mary Rider.

It's an idea whose time has come. The network must seize the moment to reach out to people who have grown numb to the predictable discourse of both pro-life and pro-choice advocates; to win their trust by showing that people on both sides of the issue can work together.

I am convinced that the pro-life movement has not been ambitious enough. Pro-life activists have largely failed to analyze and to publicize various forms of violence perpetrated against the unborn.

Take the epidemic of domestic violence as an example.

What if activists loudly and consistently spoke out for the millions of women whose desires for healthy pregnancies are thwarted by violence -- violence that takes place not at abortion clinics but in the so-called sanctity of the home? Where the deadly weapon is not an abortionist's syringe but the fist of a man who claims to love the woman he's beating up.

There's a new study out on women's health titled, "Ending Violence Against Women." It was released by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Center for Health and Gender Equity.

One of every three women worldwide has been beaten, raped or somehow mistreated, according to the report. Besides immediate physical injuries, such treatment of women has been linked to problem pregnancies. The report states that studies have linked abuse of women to miscarriages, premature labor and fetal distress.

This global perspective reflects what we know about the United States in particular: Violence against women is as American as apple pie.

In this country, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. The Justice department estimates that each year 3 to 4 million women are beaten in their homes.

According to the Center for Disease Control, three-quarters of women over the age of 18 who are raped or assaulted are victimized by husbands or ex-husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends, the person they live with or a date.

Pregnant women and those who don't yet know they are pregnant pay a heavy price, according to Lorena Howard.

"It happens all the time. Women have told me about losing two or more babies because they were beaten," she said. …

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