Abortion: Another Milestone for America

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Forty years ago this month, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down every law in the land protecting the right of any child simply to be born.   All at once, amid the sound and fury of imploding statutes, the most dangerous place in America became a mother’s womb.

Since Roe v. Wade authorized an almost unrestricted right to abortion, the lives of millions of innocent human beings have ended before their time.  And in the aftermath of the decision made on January 23, 1973, great and alarming numbers of our fellow citizens have come to terms with a culture of death.  What this means is that millions of people in this country are more or less culpably indifferent to the human status of the unborn child, ethically untroubled therefore by the gaping hole their absence has left in the larger human community.  Nor do their sensibilities appear to have been the least bit ruffled by the violence with which the abortion industry conducts its business.  People are not disturbed by what they choose not to see.

But for those who will not acquiesce in the killing of defenseless children, who remain haunted by the faces of so many unseen babies, their lives suddenly snuffed out by those who should love and care for them, the struggle continues despite the impacted complacencies of all those who will not defend them.  Yes, even despite the arrant institutionalization of a practice that, more and more, everyone, including those who both welcome and profit from it, acknowledge as the deliberate destruction of human life.

In other words, the Right to Life Movement simply will not go away.  Galvanized by the words of the eighteenth century British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, it persists in the conviction that “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  It is really quite astonishing the extent to which pro-lifers have remained totally resistant to the Spirit of the Age.  Why?  Because they know it to be evil.  And so, unwilling to give in to the counsels of despair, which everywhere argue the futility of all attempts to end the killing, they are resolved to redouble their efforts to stop it.  Because—so they believe—the iniquity of abortion will only go away when enough good people cease to do nothing about it.

It should not require any great leap of imagination to produce a snapshot of a world where wickedness is in retreat because of a few good souls determined on making a difference.  How vastly transformed the face of the last century, surely the most bloody on record, had only enough good people mobilized early on to oppose the evils of Hitler and Stalin!  The ultimate hideousness of the campaign to exterminate European Jewry, for instance, could hardly have succeeded in the face of early and vigorous opposition from even a handful of brave and honorable men.  Or put it this way:  but for the silence of so many of their neighbors, families and friends, the genocidal mania of one moral idiot could so easily have been thwarted.  Think of all that bitterness and hatred festering away in some fever swamp of private pathology; none of that larger megalomania left to engulf whole continents and peoples.

In the light of how things actually turned out, of course, how perfectly pathetic and irresolute were the politicians of that day.  Not to mention those millions of morally insensate souls on whom they depended for their support.  What happened to the soul of Christian Europe that kept it from upholding the ordinary decencies of the moral life?

Perhaps it had lost that “horrible moral squint,” of which a corrupt Cardinal Wolsey complained to Master More, when it became irritatingly clear to him that the latter would not bend to the King’s demands.  “You’re a constant regret to me Thomas.  If you could just see facts flat on, without that horrible moral squint; with a little common sense, you could have been a statesman.”

And how do we see things?  Have we too lost the squint?  Is our level of moral heroism any higher?  We like to think of ourselves as good and decent people, yet we allow an annual extermination of a million or more of our children, simply for want of an Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing their right to life.  Absent that guarantee, they continue to be sacrificed on the altar of reproductive freedom.  No other issue commands the moral high ground as this one does; for without the basic right of a child to be born, there can be no talk of any other right.  No one is safe so long as that right has been jettisoned for the sake of either ideology or convenience.  To paraphrase Mr. Lincoln, who, in the midst of a bloody Civil War well understood the urgency of the question:  “If you can kill some people, then you can kill any people.”

Certainly there is no other issue on the table of comparable importance to the Catholic Church in this country than the need to restore reverence for human life, most especially in its smallest and most vulnerable state.  It is, undeniably, the one teaching about which there can be no ambiguity as to where precisely the Church stands.  She is entirely on the side of life.  This is why the initiative taken by some bishops to withhold the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity, from those so-called Catholic politicians whose complicity with abortion breaks the bond of that unity, is both welcome and long overdue.

When professed Catholic politicians pass laws promoting the “abominable” practice of abortion (to use the language of the Second Vatican Council), they are not only dishonest in their exercise of bad faith regarding the truth about human life, that it possesses a dignity that they have cravenly refused to defend; but that, in addition, their egregious failure to champion the cause gives the gravest possible scandal to the faithful.  Lay Catholics are surely entitled to feel secure in the maintenance of the Church’s right to pass on The Gospel of Life, to recall the title of Blessed John Paul II’s beautiful and prophetic encyclical letter, which he issued in 1995, exactly ten years before returning home to God.

“When the Church speaks,” wrote St. Catherine of Siena, who did not hesitate to catechize princes and popes regarding their duties before God, “it is Jesus himself whom we hear.”  When Catholics in public office refuse to heed her voice, disdaining the sound of that voice even when it pronounces in the most apodictic way the truth of the moral law, then it is only fitting that certain consequences follow, chief of which is that they have disqualified themselves from fellowship with the People of God at the Altar of the Lord.  They have broken faith, in fact, with the very One who has most clearly and intimately identified himself with the least and the lost, namely, his and our own brothers and sisters in the womb.

The birth of a child, someone once said, is God’s opinion that life should go on. What a terrible blight we loose upon the world when, by the choices we make, we tell God that we are no longer interested in life.  That life should not go on.  Then Thanatos becomes our god, and we are no better than the Phoenicians, for whom the worship of Death, of Moloch, exacted a most terrible price: the sacrifice of their own children.   Without little ones, there can be no future.  Is that why the Phoenicians are no longer with us?

Editor’s note: The image above was obtained from Shutterstock.

Regis Martin

By

Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and, most recently, The Beggar's Banquet (Emmaus Road). He resides in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and ten children.

  • Bob

    The numbers themselves stand alone as absolutely staggering and bring great horror: over 50 million babies killed in the womb in our country over 40 years. Praying the rosary in front of my local Planned Parenthood on some Tuesdays (where on average 22 babies will be slaughtered that day) the anguish on the faces of the young women going in is palpable. I try not to judge (and maybe it’s wrong of me to say this), but I find the sometimes accompanying boyfriend that participated in the pregnancy a coward and weasel. if he were to “man up”, take control of the situation by possibly marrying the girl and raising the child, abortions would drop dramatically. But we are doing a lousy job in this country of raising boys to become responsible, mature men.

    • Wilson

      Ever wonder WHY?

    • Diogenes71

      Manliness, supported by catholic teaching is severely lacking in our ocuntry and the world. Responsibility and virtue are mocked and held in contempt in our country – look at the magazines on the checlout lines in the local supermarket – and vice is held up as glorious – look no further than your telelvision set during the seriously misnamed “family hour.” Our government is promoting abortion and homosexuality overseas tied to foreign aid. Men are seriouslky lacking in good role models.

    • Dominic Lahar

      How does praying the rosary outside of Planned Parenthood materially affect abortion rates? Abortion rates have been declining for years: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/nov/21/us-abortion-rate-fell-in-09-cdc-statistics-show/?page=all If you really want them to drop, why not make contraceptive birth control free for all reproductive age women?

      • Bob

        So you’re saying that my prays and rosaries ( and the rosaries of tens of thousands of other) are not helping the declining abortion rates?

        “For those with faith and believe,nno explanation is necessary. For this without faith and don’t believe, no explanation will ever be enough.”

        • Tracy

          What are prays?

          • Augustus

            “Prayers,” smart ass.

        • http://twitter.com/Patri0tic_Girl Jessica Sanchez

          Exactly. When have prayers ever helped anyone?

          • greg2318

            how do you know they havent

      • Bob
      • Jeannine

        Because access to contraception does NOT reduce the abortion rate: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/04/things_planned_parenthoods_tru.html

        The article includes a list of sources, including articles from medical journals. Just one specific item: “A study published earlier
        this year found that a 63 percent increase in the use of contraceptives
        in Spain over a ten-year period was accompanied by a 108 percent
        increase in the rate of elective abortions.” Source: J. Dueñas et al., “Trends
        in the Use of Contraceptive Methods and Voluntary Interruption of
        Pregnancy in the Spanish Population during 1997-2007,” 83 Contraception (2011): 82-87.

        • Tracy

          Maybe you’re not quite up to date. The aggregate statistics disagree with you. Here’s TED talk by Melinda Gates on the importance of birth control in the third world. In places without abundant access to contraception, abortion rates are far higher: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BOTS9GAjc4

          • 12Maria34

            Her talk is nice but not Catholic teaching. It is nice that the Gates are telling people to empower themselves and telling people what to do to better their lives. Contraception means better life and better future for the Gates … they play God … they have a lot of money, they should spend it on education and health care … if women die during birth, build a hospital and provide doctors, they have money. If there is too much sex, teach chastity … this is respect to personhood, they have money teachers.

  • Alecto

    The pro-life movement’s resoluteness over generations and some bleak times is a testament to the rightness of the cause. It is the abolition movement, the revolutionary call in action to witness that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, the first of which is life.

    Prayer is the most powerful force on Earth. Let’s all pray today for an end to abortion and a an epiphany in our country that all life is sacred from conception to natural death.

  • Ford Oxaal

    I have a hard time trying to think of a greater, more Satanic, evil than abortion. The womb is the sanctuary of life, and a sign of the most profound Divine love in every possible respect. The calculated, pinpoint assault on mothers and motherhood is purely Satanic. The neighborhood effect to society is a thick fog over the entire moral sense. Society now becomes the antithesis of its founding purpose which is to augment the well-being of family. We have dug ourselves a deep grave in America. We must trust in Divine Mercy with all our hearts. God has given us a great saint for these times: St. Faustina. We have all the spiritual ammunition we need to win this in spectacular fashion. Fall to your knees. Make the 3 p.m. devotion. Be part of the glory!

    • Wilson

      The Divine chastisement has only just begun; it will be horrible and well deserved. I thank my Saviour for mercifully letting me be likely too old to see its fullness.

  • JM Cabaniss

    If it is true that “there is no other issue on the table of comparable importance to the
    Catholic Church in this country” then why do half of the Catholics in this country support politicians who support abortion? Why is the bishop who withholds communion from a pro-abortion politician the exception rather than the rule? Catholics in general and the bishops in particular may oppose abortion with their words but their actions belie them – and I hold the bishops accountable for this.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Unfortunately there are many lukewarm souls in all walks of life, and Jesus tells St. Faustina that these lukewarm were the ones who caused Him to ask the Father to remove the cup (yet Thy Will be done). The fact remains that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is the only institution on Earth that has drawn a very bright and clear line on contraception, abortion, and sexual morality in general. For this, Pope Paul VI was of heroic virtue. Today, the Catholic clergy no longer have nearly as much benefit of the prayers of cloistered, consecrated virgins as they once did. Our job is to pray for the bishops we perceive as weak. But it is God who holds us all accountable. I remember the words of the Tridentine Mass “Let not the receiving of
      thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, all unworthy presume to take,
      turn to my judgement and damnation: but through thy loving-kindness
      may it avail me for a safeguard and remedy, both of soul and body.”

  • hombre111

    I have a Presbyterian friend who lost all his grandchildren in a house fire. This kind and moral man is pro-choice. But he is also absolutely against abortion. I asked him to explain all that and learned that, for many Americans, freedom is the highest moral value. And why not? We live in a country where somebody said, “give me liberty, or give me death.” Since it is the highest moral value for that man, he feels people have to have a choice, no matter the consequences. God,he told me, gives us the right to choose, even if we choose evil. Does that make God pro-abortion? Interesting argument. For, me, life is the highest value, but we need to understand that people of high moral integrity can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion.

    • Bob

      “God, he told me, gives us the right to choose, even if we choose evil.”

      But should choosing an evil such as abortion have the legal protection it does in the United States?

      I can choose the evil to steal from and rob a bank, but no one would say I should be legally protected to do so.

      • hombre111

        I am pro-life and I agree with you. But unfortunately, in this pluralistic society, abortion before a certain date is not a legal crime, while stealing from a bank always is. Read John Courtney Murray and then ponder this condundrum.

        • 12Maria34

          Stealing is a crime because you took it from somebody who can “talk”, a voice. Abortion is from a woman’s “choice”. The question is, how about the choice of the baby, his/her voice?

    • Ford Oxaal

      Your friend confuses liberty with freedom — a terrible mistake to make. Freedom is to do whatever *you* want. The greatest scope of freedom is anarchy. Liberty, however, is the greatest scope of freedom *within justice*. Liberty opposes freedom. The greatest attack on liberty is unjust deprivation of life. The greatest attack on the family is the destruction of the mother. The greatest attack on society is the destruction of the next generation. Abortion is the unholy trifecta. It is insane.

      • hombre111

        Then God espouses freedom, because he lets us do whatever “we” want.

        • Ford Oxaal

          One can abuse freedom. God does not desire that you should choose eternal damnation, but many do.

          • hombre111

            You do what we should have been doing all along: You use a moral, ethical argument. Instead of trying to force our legal solution on a pluralistic nation where people have been roughly divided on the subject for 40 years, we should hone our ethical arguments and change consciences.

            • Augustus

              You can do both at the same time. You won’t be able to overturn Roe v. Wade without electing enough pro-life members of Congress and a pro-life president who will change the composition of the Supreme Court. And even if you do overturn Roe v. Wade, you still have to effect the culture by convincing enough people to support pro-life legislation at the state level. All this involves public persuasion. Remember also, the law teaches. It’s a lot easier to get an abortion when it’s legal than when it’s not. The numbers of abortions before 1973 and after testify to that. Ultimately, the culture must be won over and that is a great challenge given the moral condition of the country.

              • hombre111

                This is a tired old argument. Reagan claimed to be pro-life, got elected, and did next to nothing. Under Bush, we had a Republican president, a Republican Congress, and a Republican Supreme Court. They managed to dodge the issue nicely. We still have a Republican Supreme Court but they are more interested in corporations as persons than the unborn child as persons. Again, they dodge the issue, year after year.

                • Anders13

                  Abortion is a bridge across a broader underlying issue: Does God own the person and life of a human or does a human being own the person and life of a human? On one side of that bridge is Christianity, freedom from bondage, and the culture of life; on the other side is the justification of suicide, abortion, slavery, murder, and lo and behold authoritarian rule. Glorious Leader wants to push this nation across that bridge and all he needs is acceptance/ nonresistance; pro-choice is sufficient. Once the bridge is crossed legalization of anything becomes just a technicality.

            • Ford Oxaal

              But the reason for law is to teach ethical behavior and to dissuade unethical behavior.

              • hombre111

                Law only works when there is a consensus. Way more than half of America does not want Roe repealed. That leaves us with the responsibility to fashion of convincing moral argument.

                • Ford Oxaal

                  Yes — this is true. I see what you are saying.

    • anon

      Moral people do not support abortion. There is nothing moral in allowing others to kill innocent people under cover of law.

      • hombre111

        He does not support abortion, if you read my comment. He supports choice. God also allows people to kill innocent people under cover of law. Presents an interesting problem in theodicy.

        • musicacre

          You’re playing with words, for some reason. We are in the 21st century and if you stand on a street corner ANYWHERE and say you are pro-choice, it will be understood universally to mean you are for abortion.

          • hombre111

            That is due to the mental laziness of many in the pro-life movement, and the success of their propaganda war. Many pro-choice people have tried to make this point. That said, I still stand on the pro-life side and wish the pro-choice people had a sense of the huge consequences of their support for “freedom.” At the same time, I abhor the way we keep trying to win this war on the legal front. Ain’t going to happen. America remains divided about 50/50 on this issue since the beginning. Notice how the Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives, keeps dodging the question? They have done it again, for yet another year.

            • 12Maria34

              Your friend is a Presbyterian. I am Catholic. For me, it is charity. God gave us free will, thus freedom, out of love and not the other way around.

  • anon

    hombre111,

    Pro choice is pro abortion. There is no logical way it can be anything else. If one supports legal murder then one is pro murder.

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  • Dominic Lahar

    How many of the commenters on her lamenting of the evil of abortion are women? And how many are men? How many are doctors and how many are not?

    • Bob

      Does it matter? Abortion is the killing of an unborn baby. Does gender or profession matter?

      Go to the March for Life this Friday in Washington where you’ll see the vast majority of the tens of thousands of marchers are women.

    • Jeannine

      I am a woman and, not coincidentally, I am a mother. And I am unalterably opposed to abortion. But Bob is right: it doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t take a doctor to know that the unborn baby is human.

    • Tracy

      Cruise through the posters on medical genetics sometime at ASHG and take a look at some posters of genetic disorders. There are some that make Down’s syndrome look like a walk in the park. Is it a child immediately on fertilization? When sperm and egg are mixed together in a dish? Can we screen it by PCR at the 40 cell stage before implantation? If we can reduce suffering in the world by early detection, why wouldn’t we?

      • Bob

        Dusting off some of my old med school textbooks, I always liked this quote from my Human Embryology textbook, “The Developing Human”. the authors are not imprecise and very clear on when human life begins: “Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to produce a single cell – a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of as a unique human individual.”

        The parents that I know that have a Down Syndrome Child always say the child lives a life of joy, and never say the child is “suffering.”

        So people with genetic disorders “suffer” and possibly should be aborted with early detection? I’m guessing Stephen Hawkings, Ludwig von Beethoven, Helen Keller (amongst many) might disagree with you.

        I’m guessing you Tracy are genetically perfect? Perhaps if your parents found out through prenatal testing that your IQ was not up to their expectations, they should have the choice of aborting you and eliminate suffering in the world?

      • musicacre

        What kind of suffering are you thinking?? We already are shifting into that kind of societal nightmare, as the definition keeps shifting, and the consensus media tries to stroke public intolerance of any imperfections but their own. As a psychiatric nursing student many years ago I noticed something playing out in several different long-term care facilities for handicapped children. In one hospital a young boy in a wheelchair (not suffering) from cerebral palsy seemed to be the light of the whole place! I would hear the nurses call him almost musically, constantly throughout the day and he had the biggest smile in response. I remember thinking, why is he so popular, why do they love him so much? They just did. The other place, which was very large, (and now closed down) had a person (no longer a child) laying all day in a cradle sort of wooden thing on wheels. I was in shock as a student to see how disproportionate his head was, about 1/3 of the size of his body! Extreme hydro cephalic not having had early detection and treatment. Anyway,I would have just walked past him but he noticed me; not even able to turn his head. He said he noticed me and wanted to know who I was! I was shocked. After a little conversation I realized he was a very witty, not to mention somewhat educated young man and had me struggling for answers. Not to mention charming. I could see why the nurses loved to banter with him. He was absolutely happy and appreciated by the people around him. What a hole would have been there had someone decided his life was not worth anything. What is it about our society that makes everyone mini-Hitlers? wanting to hold power over life and death? We should be asking ourselves that question. What gives us the audacity to think we have any right to decide someone else’s value? When one goes with the flow of this barbaric posturing, instead of thinking, we’re left with a selfish society of really warped people with raisin hearts. All dried up, shriveled, not wanting to have any reminders of why they should have compassion.

      • 12Maria34

        It seems to me that whatever imperfect or suffering must be eliminated to you. As a Catholic, my God gave me a chance by His suffering and death on the cross even I am so sinful and so imperfect. Who am I to take away life that is not mine?

  • John O’Neill

    Having grown up in America in the period after the end of the Second World War I remember many times hearing politicians and people berating the German Nation for not stopping Hitler in his tracks. Hollywood made millions portraying those dirty German killers who did not speak out to stop the concentration camp killings. Now the American State and the American people are looking at the number fifty million to account for the body count of forty years of American judicial jurisprudence. How dare the Americans continue to berate Germans when they are now morally much worse off. Too many American religious leaders have remained silent in the face of this abomination; including American Catholic bishops who are too busy defending their allegiance to the Kennedy faction of the American State that abetted this abortion slaughter. Silentia consentit.

  • Carl Albert

    This is a battle won with love and respect for life, not legislation or hate. I am glad the author makes the distinction that Catholic leaders in the public square who support pro-abortion initiatives are guilty of scandal. We should not be looking to political leaders to solve this for us. The only effective way to overcome the abortive mindset – and its flowery language (“a woman’s right to choose”) – is to demonstrate and support the sanctity of life. We here under the age of 40 are all happy our mothers, no matter their circumstance, chose life. A demonstrable and popular culture which respects life as our first freedom can eradicate this monstrous law.
    There simply is no understanding what human potential we have terminated in utero. Perhaps mothers who have chosen life, despite their child’s genetic makeup, can lend to this effort by telling their stories. I for one have been close to several families with mentally disabled children during my upbringing that reinforced the beauty of life to me. All life is beautiful, and capable of teaching or reinforcing lessons to us all. To deem life as anything else is to play God.

  • http://twitter.com/Patri0tic_Girl Jessica Sanchez

    A Professor of Theology criticizing abortions. Shocking. The church is against contraceptives yet, are aghast that abortions happen. Hypocrite much?

  • http://twitter.com/Patri0tic_Girl Jessica Sanchez

    A Professor of Theology criticizing abortions. Shocking. The church is against contraceptives yet, are aghast that abortions happen. Hypocrite much?

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