“It is from the blood of Christ that all draw the strength to commit themselves to promoting life.” — Blessed John Paul II (1995)
John Paul’s statement was borne out in a poignant way this week, as men and women across my state, Colorado, spent Holy Week praying and fasting in response to a legislative bill aimed at sustained and unfettered legal protection for abortion.
Colorado SB-175 was designed to prohibit any local or state policy that “denies or interferes with an individual’s reproductive health care decisions.” By some measures, the bill was the most aggressive pro-choice legislation ever introduced in a state legislature. But the bill was ambiguous—its language was devoid of concrete policy initiative, and seemed instead intent on trumpeting the pro-abortion politics of Colorado’s increasingly aggressive secularists.
Of course, the bill’s rhetoric was self-righteously focused on the protection of women and the sanctity of freedom. But legislation that further entrenches legal access to abortion protects neither women nor freedom. John Paul observed that “no one can speak of a freedom … to dispose of things as one pleases.” Freedom is not the unhindered license to make unquestioned moral choices—freedom exists so that we can choose goodness. And in a just state, freedom exists for the common good. No policy which denies unborn women the right to life, or which cheapens the uniquely feminine gift of motherhood, can legitimately claim to aid women, or to support a reasonable conception of the common good.
The truth is that pro-abortion political maneuvers are inimical to the social welfare of women. Despite their claims to the contrary, secularists idolatrize the right to abortion in order to hide the natural consequences of sexual libertinism. Unchecked, unrestricted sexual license would leave in its wake a trail of single mothers and abandoned children. Cloaked in the language of choice, abortion forces women to betray their nature in order to protect men from the consequences of objectification and promiscuity. Regulating and restricting abortion, as state legislatures have increasingly worked to do, is the first step towards protecting women from a practice which is little better than predatory barbarism.
But the blood of Christ, which was poured out for all on Good Friday, is a reminder of our obligations to one another. Christ, sinless and unafraid, poured out his blood for us, assuring us victory over death. In kind, we must pour ourselves out for those who are most vulnerable: for women in crisis pregnancies, and for the unborn.
This week, in Colorado, that is precisely what happened. When SB 175 was moved to the floor of the state senate, Coloradans acted. Spurred on by the call of their bishops, Colorado’s Catholics, in union with Evangelicals and Orthodox Christians, prayed for hours on the steps of the Capitol. They lobbied, and made phone calls, and, most importantly, they joined their prayer, and fasting, and sufferings to those of Christ on the via dolorosa.
As he was 2,000 years ago, Christ was victorious. On “Spy Wednesday,” the night Judas Iscariot arranged to betray his savior, Senate Bill 175 was withdrawn from consideration in the Colorado legislature. The victory was a reminder of the eternal victory of life over death, of hope over despair.
The withdrawal of Senate Bill 175 was also instructive in the kind of culture war we’re now fighting. The bill was antagonistic, light on substance and heavy on grandstanding. It seemed designed to provoke the ire of Christians. But the winning response was neither polemical nor outrageous. In response to a kind of legislative persecution, Christians responded with prayer. With sacrifice. And with trust in Divine Providence. Ultimately, as the temporal influence of the Church is diminished, we’ll learn to turn more quickly to transcendent realities. The alternative, which is to fight the battle with the same vitriol of our adversaries, is untenable for disciples of Jesus Christ. Public life, and our participation in civil government, has never been more important. But the lesson of SB 175 is an ancient lesson: that the prayerful forbearance of persecution, which brought our Lord to Calvary, can conquer the scourge of sin. “The effectual prayer of the righteous man,” reflects St. James, “availeth much.”
The enemies of life have perpetrated a tremendous falsehood against women. The very idea that abortion protects the rights of women defies reason. It presents a picture of women cheapened and objectified, and a vision for government that ignores the basic obligation to support women, children, and families. Saddest of all is that women have been largely convinced that coercion is freedom, that slavery is choice. Women deserve better than abortion. Women deserve freedom.
In Colorado, at least this week, freedom has won a victory over slavery, and life has a won a victory over death. May it be a reminder that in the blood of Christ, life is the eternal victor.