How Are You Both?
Fr. Frank Pavone
Pontifical Council for the Family
One of the women who works here at the Pontifical Council for the Family is
currently pregnant. When I greet her, I say in Italian, "Come state voi?"
In English, there is no change in the word "you" when it refers to more than
one person…But in Italian, "voi" indicates more than one. She responds
appropriately, "We are fine today."
Indeed, there are two, and that is the simple truth at the basis of the
pro-life message. It is a truth which is either denied outright by some people,
or diluted by those who hold that though there are two, the two do not have
It s a good practical habit, however, to reflect in every way possible the
awareness that the child in the womb is present and in full possession of
his/her human rights. We can reflect that truth in our language and in our
When a woman is pregnant, people often say she is "expecting
a child" or is "going to have a baby" or is "going to be a mother." We all use
these expressions from force of habit, and using them has no reflection on the
strength of our pro-life convictions.
Nevertheless, they do not accurately describe what is
A woman who is pregnant is not "expecting" a child. She
already has one. The child exists, is living and growing in her womb. She is not
about to bring the child "into the world." The child is already in the world.
The mother s womb is as much in the world as the mother herself.
The pregnant woman is not "going to be" a mother. She already
is a mother. By saying she is "going to be" a mother, we inadvertently reinforce
the notion that motherhood begins at birth. This reinforces the idea that the
child really is a child only at birth.
A pregnant woman is fully a mother. She does not have "half"
a child, or a child "on the way." ("On the way" from where?) The child is here,
already in the world, fully unique and in possession of the same dignity as
every other person.
Our awareness of this truth can then be applied to ourselves,
and lead us to realize that our life did not begin on our birthday, but rather
some nine months earlier. If that is the case, why not celebrate our "Firstday"?
In fact, Firstday cards have been made and are used by people who want to
celebrate the actual beginning of someone s life.
Habits of language and culture like this in one sense seem small. But when we
see how hard they are to change, we realize that, after all, they are big. If we
can begin to change some big things about the way we speak of and celebrate
unborn life, we may begin to see some changes in the way that life is treated.
Priests for Life Columns