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In a world of counterfeits, real choice is known by what it costs

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Day of the Unborn. Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2023

On its website, the Reserve Bank of Australia has a series of training videos showing people how to detect counterfeit notes. What’s interesting about these videos is that at no point is a counterfeit note presented. Instead, the videos and accompanying fact sheets highlight the key features of authentic notes, presumably with the rationale that if a viewer understands what a real note looks like, they will easily spot a fake. The tagline at the end of each video is the same: “Remember, a counterfeit has no value.” 

I was thinking about these videos and that tagline this past weekend as I had the privilege of travelling to Albury to witness some of the wonderful work of the Escencia Life Centre. One of Australia’s 39 pregnancy help centres, Escencia offers counselling for women with unplanned pregnancies, couples counselling, ultrasounds, baby goods and more. 

In a culture where people don’t know the difference between what is real and counterfeit, particularly when it comes to things like love and freedom and choice, Escencia offers a training ground that puts the key features of true love and freedom and choice on display. It does so in a way that will be the marker of the pro-life movement in the years to come.  

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Abortion up until birth is now possible anywhere in Australia, and the ACT Legislative Assembly this week passed Australia’s most extreme euthanasia laws, with only the Northern Territory left to join the death squad. While we will still need to highlight the problem with these laws and hold their proponents and our politicians accountable, it is unlikely that any of these laws will be changed in the short term. Because of this, it is not enough to simply point to the counterfeits and tell people why they’re bad, we need to commit ourselves to continuously offering real love and real choice until people can identify the key features for themselves and quickly spot a fake. 

The first key feature of real love and real choice is that it costs. It requires us to give of ourselves and our resources. If someone is offering “love” or “choice” it costs them nothing, then it’s a fake.  

what is real love? - The Catholic weekly
Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Consider the abortion industry. While its advocates say it is all about giving women options, a woman who presents for an abortion has no detailed interview about her home life or housing situation, whether she is being coerced into a decision she does not want, whether she is a victim of physical or sexual violence, whether she has adequate financial means, or appropriate physical and mental health support. The questions aren’t asked because dealing with the answer would cost. 

The same goes for euthanasia. The NSW Government slashed funding to palliative care in its most recent state budget, while the Victorian Government did the same for medical research funding, halving the amount invested in finding cures for disease and cutting a whopping 70 per cent of funding from the Victorian Cancer Centre. 

Caring for a person at the end of their life costs carers and it costs the government. To the extent that accompany people in their final months and weeks, we show what authentic love and choice look like. True care is clearly distinguished from those who offer a counterfeit choice in the form of a drug that relieves everyone of their obligations. 

The next key feature of authentic choice is that it binds us to other people. This might sound counterintuitive, because we tend to relate freedom with being unbound. But the opposite is true. 

St John Paul II told us that if freedom was the same as absolute autonomy, society would be no more than “a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds.” Without something that binds us together, everything is up for grabs and dependent only on the will of whoever is in the strongest position. The sainted pope pointed out that this would pave the way for totalitarianism, which is the exact opposite of freedom. 

As we continue to demonstrate the hallmarks of true love and choice, we will do so in a way that binds us to others. We will be clearly distinguished from the counterfeits that attempt to offer freedom in a way that prioritises individual autonomy at the expense of all else. 

Real love and real choice are also steadfast and persevering in the face of setbacks and opposition. Just because the laws and the culture are now operating against life, it does not mean we do not continue to build a civilisation of life and love.  

Like Escencia and other great pro-life initiatives out there, we need to persevere as witnesses to authentic love and choice in a world of fakes. We need to offer a love that costs our time and of our resources, that binds people together, that is rooted in relationship and obligation to one another rather than individual autonomy and that is steadfast and persevering. 

If we keep doing this, if we keep putting the authentic in front of people who are swimming in a world of counterfeits, then things will change. I’m certain of it.  

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