Family values

I do not know whether my mother would have supported Proposal 5 in Vermont, which would enshrine reproductive rights in our state constitution. But she would not have liked a man or a state telling her what to do.

WEST BRATTLEBORO — I was raised a Catholic, as was my father before me and I believe his father before him.

While I did not attend parochial elementary or high schools, I did matriculate at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. I have not, though, been a practicing Catholic since the age of 25, more than four and a half decades ago.

One of the primary reasons I left the Church was because of its paternalistic nature. There are still aspects of the Church I admire, including the service that many of its religious and lay members provide others.

I certainly got an excellent education at Holy Cross, where the faculty- especially the one-third who were Jesuit priests - challenged the religious beliefs we brought with us when we arrived.

Though Holy Cross College was not co-ed when I attended from 1967 to 1971 (and the movement for LGBTQ+ rights was still a distant development), you could not easily be in college in those years and not be affected by the quickly expanding women's movement.

I credit my parents for my great respect for women, my wonder about them, my curiosity regarding what motivates them, my admiration for their humanity toward others.

At home, my mother and father had a great love for each other, and I truly remember only one time hearing either even raise their voice to the other. They also taught me and my brother and sister a real sense of fairness toward others.

* * *

All this speaks to why I strongly believe in a person's right to make their own reproductive choices. I am a supporter of Vermont's Proposal 5, which would ensure such freedom by putting it into our state constitution.

I fully realize that this measure includes the right of those who can bear children to choose to end their pregnancies.

I certainly believe that it is highly unfair that it is primarily males - including male Supreme Court justices and male politicians - who are in a position elsewhere to decide this question.

The Catholic tradition I grew up in believes differently about making such a choice and about the competing rights of the unborn child, and in some ways I am still a product of that tradition. I can be more or less questioning of the necessity of different cases I hear about.

An abortion, however, is not the outcome one ever initially wishes for, and I suspect that all who have had one would have preferred to have avoided it altogether. Many of those same people subsequently have gone on to become great mothers.

I agree that education and support can help reduce the need for abortions, as can economic benefits for mothers, and money and energy have been and should be put into those efforts.

I also have no problem with various religions teaching their children to consider premarital celibacy or about the many positive aspects of good family life and of having children.

* * *

Abortion was never, to my knowledge, part of my mother's life, never something she had to even consider. She converted to Catholicism to marry my father. She met him at the right time in her life, and they had three kids who all grew into responsible adults, and she and he would remain married for 49 years, until her death at age 73.

Also not part of her life, however, was a man or a state telling her what to do, controlling her life.

She would not have liked that.

She would not have wanted that.

I do not honestly know whether my mother would have supported Proposal 5 in Vermont. She never lived here, and we never had conversations about the topic.

What I do know for sure is that she was one of the two major influences on who I am today - and that the person they raised believes strongly in personal reproductive freedom.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates