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On the Fourth of July, KJ Lopez at the National Review Online offered up what she calls “A Good Girl Role Model”. (One assumes, after reading the piece and being familiar with K-Lo’s work, that the adjective “good” modifies “girl” rather than “role model”. Lopez is from that school of social conservatives who wish fervently that there were more “good girls” — in the classic sense — running around. Or, better yet in the right-wing world, not running around.)
Lopez tells us the story of Agata Mroz, a former Polish volleyball star who died of leukemia shortly after giving birth.
When Agata was 17, she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a collection of disorders that prevent the bone marrow from producing sufficient blood cells. Some forms of MDS progress to leukemia, and Agataâ€™s did. In the prime of her sports career, Agata needed to take a sabbatical in 2007 to fight the disease. The first part of her treatment involved many blood transfusions. When her fans discovered that she needed blood, they formed a queue to be donors, giving 3,170 pints.
Her condition worsened as she was preparing to marry Jacek Olszewski on June 9, 2007, leaving her too ill to go on a honeymoon. Because of her illness, doctors cautioned her against getting pregnant, but she tried anyway. She was realistic about her slim prospects to beat the disease and, if she were going to die, she at least hoped to be able to give life.
She became pregnant soon after marrying. â€œThe news about the child made me feel lucky again,â€ she said in a February news interview. â€œI felt happy that I would know what it is to be a mother and that I would give my husband something good of myself.â€
A few weeks later, doctors discovered her cancer had progressed. They told her that she urgently needed a bone marrow transplant, but she opted to wait until after delivery to receive the transplant lest she imperil her childâ€™s life. She clearly knew the risk she was taking, but considered the reward worth the danger, putting her childâ€™s life above her own. She gave premature birth to a daughter, Lilliana, on April 4.
Agata died on June 4.
It’s a bittersweet story. Who among us would question Agata’s decision? She did what she wanted to do, making a conscious choice to get pregnant despite the huge risk and to forego lifesaving treatment in order to ensure her daughter’s well-being. I honor that choice as a good and valid one. I was moved reading the account Lopez shares.
But what is so infuriating is the clear sense that Agata’s decision wasn’t a choice, but a spiritual requirement for any woman who might find herself in a similar tragic predicament. For Lopez — and indeed, for many Catholics, a woman is required to put the life of her unborn child ahead of her own. It isn’t so much a “choice” as a divine mandate. Lopez’s piece concludes:
In his homily, the celebrant of the Mass, Bishop Marian Florczyk, said that Agataâ€™s life is a witness of â€œlove of life, motherhood, the desire to give life and the heroic love of an unborn child.”
It is all that. I’m not raining on Agata’s parade, of course. But Lopez doesn’t entitle her piece “A Mother’s Choice”. She calls it “A Good Girl Role Model”, driving home the point that young women ought to aspire to be as radically selfless as Agata to the point of de-valuing their own lives. Continue reading