Mother’s Day should be an occasion for the celebration of our mothers, a day to venerate the office of motherhood with all the tenderness and reverence that this high calling inspires. But in 2024, this annual feast now raises an inevitable question: what is a mother? Such a question, of course, only imposes itself because of the depravity of our age. When the newest United States Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, couldn’t render a meaningful response when she was asked, “what is a woman?” we learned a painful lesson about how many basic categories have been distorted by the radical ideology of norm-destroying activists. If the idea of motherhood has not been explicitly contested in the same way that womanhood has in recent years, it is only because the concept has actually been exposed to the corrosive pressure of our culture’s pathologies and perversions for much longer. Indeed, the question, “What is a woman?” can only be raised in a society when the structure of the family, the meaning of fertility, and the mystery of motherhood have already been fatally confused.

Since the 1960s, this is precisely what has transpired in the West. The Progressive Era radicals of the early 20th century aspired to nothing short of a wholesale reconfiguration of the family—an aim they shared with both the extreme left-wing and right-wing movements that would wreak havoc in Europe and Asia in that same century. Although the Second World War had disastrous consequences and the Cold War raised dire threats, they had the effect of impeding the transformational agenda of radical progressives. Despite this temporary setback, their extreme vision—which eradicated the distinction between man and woman and profaned the sanctity of sexuality—was eventually smuggled into the West by appealing to its deepest values. Under the auspices of equality and liberation, the social movements of the 1960s gave ideological cover for the introduction of the novel medical and pharmacological interventions that would allow the experimental, utopian theories of the radical thinkers who animated these movements to be inflicted on society as a whole.

Abortion was, of course, one of the “medical” interventions introduced through their efforts. Although the practice of infanticide, before or after birth—via abortifacients or infant exposure—is well-attested in ancient pagan cultures, the legal toleration of these barbaric practices was without obvious precedent after the rise of Christianity. Oral contraceptives, however, were entirely new. The ability to suppress the very rhythms of female fertility gave radical activists a way to make the material, physiological facts of humanity resemble their extreme vision of a sexless society. Indeed, in retrospect, the pill now looks like the first advent of a transgender intervention. Fertility was then—just as puberty is now—a healthy state which they pretended could be suspended without pain or serious consequences. But the false promise of this technology—namely, that fertility and femininity can be totally manipulated by drugs and pills—is of a piece with a more general disruption and distortion of what womanhood and motherhood alike really mean.

Perhaps the most obvious symptom of the mentality, which reduces motherhood to biological functions and mechanical acts, is the practice of in vitro fertilization. On its face, it resembles both the pill and abortion in that it exploits our compassionate instincts, insofar as it presents itself to women as a remedy for infertility, a solution for those who dearly want to be mothers but who cannot conceive. But motherhood is not simply about the implantation of a human embryo—nor, for that matter is IVF primarily a therapy for fertility.

The practice of IVF holds out the promise to women—much like the pill and the practice of abortion did in the 1960s—that medical interventions can enable a greater range of choices: pregnancies can be terminated, fertility can simply be paused, and infertility can be outmaneuvered simply by the artificial commingling of gametes and the implantation of a fertilized egg. But none of these promises can actually be kept. The horrific consequences of prenatal infanticide are ever more apparent in a world with rising violence, dwindling innovation, and death-spiral demographics. So too are those of the pill: suspending the female body at one point in a sinusoidal cycle by means of powerful synthetic hormones is an artificial state that cannot be sustained without profound consequences. As the physiological and psychological effects of oral contraceptives slowly emerge—in scientific studies and by word-of-mouth—these revelations will accelerate the trend away from them that we already see in a generation which is ever more concerned with pharmaceutical interventions. How could consumers who are increasingly leery of seed oils, microplastics, and GMOs be sanguine about powerful drugs prolonging disruption of a natural female state?

IVF, too, is emerging as something other than the harmless therapy which it pretended to be. To say nothing of the embryonic human life destroyed in the normal course of this process, it is also becoming more obviously akin to questionable practices that circumvent normal and natural biological realities. Surrogate pregnancies are one obvious example. Just as this perverse phenomenon cannot but draw parallels with prostitution—the one is exploiting the female body for pleasure, the other establishing a similar (but longer-term) arrangement for the purpose of fertility—so too does it show that insemination and gestation are essential facts which cannot be substituted. Rented bodies and charted wombs are no less troubling than the manipulation, creation, insertion, and destruction of human life in its earliest, germinal form.

Our social attitudes bear this out: instead of settling into an accepted norm, the artificial alternatives to normal human sexuality are only becoming more unnerving and disturbing. These are also practices which throw the physical and spiritual reality of mother into clearer relief. The idea of human love producing, in the context of a permanently bonded pair, a human being who will be welcomed and loved is incommensurate with any elaborate set of ingenious work-arounds that medical science might devise. Women, therefore, must repudiate the lies surrounding contraception, IVF, and abortion, and see them for what they really are: unnatural interventions which preempt and disrupt the healthy, human processes on which our society ultimately depends.

The medical, pharmacological, and ideological experiments imposed on our society have gone on for too long: it is well past time that we close this sad and damaging chapter of our history, and inaugurate one which recognizes that the realities and limitations of embodied human life cannot be supplied for, supplanted, or otherwise augmented by artificial means. To do so, we need to have the courage to be nothing more than what we are—but nothing less.