Imagine you are talking with a few close friends in a casual setting when somehow the conversation turns to abortion. It only takes a few remarks before you realize at least one or two of these friends believe abortion should be legally available to any woman who wants one. Do you respond? Do you keep silent? Or do you try to change the subject? Depending on who the friends were, I might have been the kind who would at least meekly make my disagreement known before trying to steer the conversation to safer and easier topics. I believe without reservation that abortion is wrong, but I'm not sure I was so articulate that I could have debated it well.
That was before…before I heard Father Frank A. Pavone talk about abortion and make it crystal clear not only that abortion is wrong, but why it is wrong and what we should do about it.
Father Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life, an organization of priests who are committed to teaching and up holding a consistent ethic for life, with particular emphasis on abortion. Based in New York, Father Pavone visited the area recently as the guest of the Pro Life office of the Diocese of Cleveland. He makes it his fulltime ministry to travel, speak, preach and write about the grave injustices of abortion.
Borrowing heavily from Father Pavone, I know now precisely how I would respond to a so-called pro-choice argument for abortion. The conversation might go something like this:
"It's my body. I should have the right to choose."
To choose death for an innocent, defenseless person? To decide your feelings, your time or your convenience are more important than another person's right to exist? Why should your rights be regarded as more important than another person's?
"You can't really call it a person until it can exist outside the womb."
All babies, born or unborn, require care and protection. An infant is no more capable than a fetus of defending its rights feeding itself or keeping itself warm and clean. Why should the infant after birth be regarded as any more alive or worthy of protection?
We are called by God to believe in things we cannot see, to find Christ present in the Eucharist even tough the physical appearance of the bread does not resemble Jesus himself. We can do no less for the unborn baby, who we do not see, but who we know is alive and present and completely at the mercy of its mother for care and protection.
"Well even if I wouldn't get an abortion, I still think it's a moral issue and should be left to each woman to decide for herself."
Do we apply this logic to any other moral principle?
"I wouldn't rape anyone because I think it is wrong, but I can't judge whether rape is wrong for you."
"I wouldn't rob a bank because I think stealing is wrong, but I can't judge whether stealing is wrong for you."
As a civilized society we decide as a whole what is right and what is wrong We establish rules based on our discernment of right from wrong Then we live to the best of our ability by those rules, and we enforce them on everyone equally. It is the most pronounced distinction between civilization (where the weak are protected from the strong because all are deemed equal) and the jungle (where survival of the fittest prevails).
Father Pavone points to two other periods in modern history in which the word "person" has been redefined. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1857 that black people were not legal persons, and so could be enslaved. Then the German Supreme Court decided in 1936 that Jews in Germany were not legal persons, and could be killed.
As people of God, our reflection on these two travesties is universal…horrifying injustices remembered so as never to be repeated. What will the history books say of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on demand for all nine months of pregnancy?
Regardless of the circumstances an unprepared new mother may face, abortion is not the answer. There are alternatives. Our contemporary society is all too willing to offer it as a quick fix, but the consequences are unacceptable and irreversible.
Whether for better or worse, our society does not harbor the grudge toward pregnant single women that was common in earlier generations. Carrying an unwanted baby to term and entrusting its care to willing and able parents is not only a loving response to an unexpected pregnancy -- it is just action.
This is not a problem solely for women, or solely for unwilling or unable expectant mothers. It is a problem for anyone who calls himself or herself a person of God, committed to the teachings of Christ.
That means it's our problem. Yours and mine. Prayerfully consider what you can do to answer God's call for compassion and justice for all his people -- born and unborn alike.