And so, we march
A message from Most Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., Bishop of Trenton
While standing in a grocery store checkout line recently, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the cover of Time magazine which read: “40 Years ago, abortion-rights activists won an epic victory with Roe v. Wade … they’ve been losing ever since.”
Wow! That certainly is good news in a battle that those of us committed to the pro-life cause have been waging ever since the Supreme Court’s tragic decision in 1973. I bought the magazine and read the article which pointed out the gradual but steady restrictions being introduced or enacted in various states to limit “abortion on demand.” May those efforts continue.
Usually, a 40th anniversary celebration is a happy occasion. Most unfortunately, this anniversary can only be remembered as one of the darkest days in our history. It not only calls to mind the destruction of human life at its earliest and most vulnerable point in the womb, but it underscores a pervasive disregard for the sacredness of human life at all stages that, sadly, has come to characterize the “culture of death” in contemporary society.
I just cannot understand the willful killing of a human being and most scientists today agree that life begins at conception. In cases of abortion, whatever the motivation, we are not dealing with a “potential human life” … we are dealing with a “human life with potential.” Since 1973, well over 54,559,615 abortions have been “committed” and I use that word deliberately in the same way I would refer to people who “commit” murder. That is what it is, regardless of how it may be spun under the banner of “choice” or “reproductive rights” or “privacy.” The “choice” in abortion is to end a life. The “right” being exercised ignores the “right” of the child within the womb, again, a human life. Privacy? What is private about taking another’s life.
In this country a baby is aborted every 26 seconds. Why? Research indicates that three-fourths of those who commit abortion do so because having a baby would interfere with work and other dimensions of a person’s life. That same number also claims they abort because they cannot afford to have a baby. Almost one-half of those who obtain abortions simply state that they do not want to be single parents or that their relationships with spouse or partner are troubled. Less than 2 percent of abortions occur because of rape or incest.
Those who are pro-choice and who support abortion will look at those motivations and will attempt to create sympathy, making “victims” of those who abort. And they succeed! I feel sorry for those who choose abortion but I cannot excuse it, I simply cannot condone the killing of innocent human life because of a job or finances or struggles in a relationship. At some point, people have to face the fact that abortion is murder, regardless of motive.
There is research indicating that the tide is turning and that is encouraging. Although over 1.2 million abortions are committed in the United States annually as of the latest recorded data, the number is slowly declining. The attitudes of citizens seem to be changing toward abortion on demand, with a 2011 Marist poll indicating that 79 percent of Americans do not support it.
As hopeful as that is, we cannot relax our efforts to step up and strengthen the pro-life cause, advocating for human life in the womb and at all stages until natural death. Although the Catholic Church, especially here in the United States, has been constant and unflagging in its proclamation of the sacredness of human life from “womb to tomb,” abortion is not simply a religious issue or “the Catholic Church’s thing,” as I hear it labeled. No Catholic can consider himself/herself truly Catholic if he/she supports or, worse, advocates for abortion. The issue, however, is fundamentally a human issue not merely a religious one, negatively affecting everyone in a culture that accepts, allows, legalizes, seeks and promotes it.
The pro-life cause is not simply our own as Catholics — and it is ours; the pro-life cause is or should be that of everyone God has created, everyone who has been given the chance to be born and live, everyone who has been given the gift of life to enjoy. There’s no “two sides” to this story, as hard as that is for a “pluralistic” — I might say, rather, “relativistic” — society to accept. When Christ said in John’s Gospel, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full,” he was speaking to everyone of every time and in every culture: born and unborn, healthy and sick, innocent and guilty, young and old, useful and inactive. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” For the person of faith, that is the only thing we need to know to be “pro-life.”
Let us consider these words:
This is our first task – caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change…
We can’t tolerate anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law – no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child… then surely we have an obligation to try.
These are not the words of some bishop, priest or preacher. They are not the words of the leadership of a pro-life group. They are not even the words of a pro-life person. They are the words of the President of the United States on the occasion of the tragic massacre of innocent children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, shortly before Christmas this year. Shouldn’t they also be spoken of children in the womb? Shouldn’t they be the start of a national examination of conscience regarding abortion? Shouldn’t they help convince us all that without love and respect for innocent, vulnerable children in the womb, all life is at risk?
By the age of 40, most of us accumulate the experience and maturity to understand and embrace our lives and to seek what is right and good not only for ourselves but for others. As Roe v. Wade turns 40, we realize that what may be true of individuals is not necessarily true for a nation. And, so, we pray and we march and we raise our voices in the unfailing hope that abortion will end and that respect for life from its beginning to natural death will become the law of the land and the legacy of its people.
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