Early miscarriages are, sadly, a fairly common occurrence. Living in an age of accurate, over-the-counter pregnancy tests, we’re more aware of this than ever, and anecdotally, it seems to me that a majority of my Catholic mom friends have at one time or another experienced a miscarriage. Now, obviously, miscarriages are not intended, and there’s rarely much we can do to prevent them. In the great majority of cases, a miscarriage is no one’s fault. The sad reality is that embryonic life is fragile, and pregnancies can be unviable for a whole variety of reasons. So it would clearly be cruel and brutally unfair to call a pro-life woman a hypocrite simply for losing a pregnancy.
But how do we deal with miscarriage? Certainly it can cause real grief, and unsurprisingly, it is usually the mother who suffers most intensely. Still, in the interests of fairness, we should face up to the uncomfortable pro-choicer’s question: Do we respond to miscarriage in the same way that we would respond to the death of an already-born child? Do we hold funerals for these children, or dedicate park benches in their memory? Is miscarriage, even for mothers, a trauma comparable to, say, the death of a toddler?
I think the answer to all of these questions is “no.” We do mourn miscarried babies, and many Catholic churches hold annual prayer services or erect memorials for those souls. (I am told that some Protestants also make efforts along these lines.) That is fitting, and often a comfort to parents coping with a lost pregnancy. But I do not think it would be particularly fitting to hold a public funeral for an eight-week-old embryo, and I have very occasionally been pained to hear someone claim insight into the experience of a grieving parent (of an older child) on the basis of an early miscarriage. This doesn’t seem right. Both experiences are painful, but on a different scale.
In admitting this, am I revealing my own hypocrisy in claiming to be pro-life?