Washington, D.C. — Finally, Pope Francis extends an olive branch to conservatives! Such was the tone of the ridiculous headlines and analysis in response to the pontiff’s first annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps. He happened to point out, in case you haven’t heard, that he’s opposed to abortion. “It is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” the pope said.
Rather than checking a political box — as if he were a political candidate meeting primary-scorecard prerequisites — the pope was simply reiterating Church teaching. Forty-one years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, we ought to weep for the lives lost and pain suffered, and resolve to do better to help build a culture of life — an alternative reality embracing the love that we owe one another as loved children of a generous Creator.
Eleanor McCullen does just this. She is the lead plaintiff in a Massachusetts case that the Supreme Court heard exactly one week before opponents of abortion would march on Washington, as we do every year on the anniversary of Roe.
As Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out time and again during oral arguments, McCullen’s is not a protest case. While the law that imposes a 35-foot buffer zone outside of abortion clinics in the Bay State is supposedly designed to stop women from being harassed or intimidated, McCullen stands outside a Planned Parenthood clinic to offer help. If you’re a woman who has made up your mind and have no interest in a stranger’s aid, she will not try to force you to listen to her. But if you were walking toward the clinic hoping for a sign to turn around, she may just be it. McCullen will walk with a struggling mother. She’ll drive you to a sonogram, she’ll drive you for food and diapers, she’ll stay with you — years later, she’s a part of the lives of the many mothers, fathers and children she’s helped.