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The Soul of the Pro-life Movement

El Alma Del Movimiento Pro-Vida

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

August 11, 2014

More pro-life legislation has been enacted on the state level in recent years than at any time since Roe vs. Wade, and even at the federal level, legislation has been introduced that would put the abortion limit in the United States at 20 weeks rather than at birth.

Yet there are those who will insist that banning only some abortions is not the right approach, given that every abortion is equally wrong from a moral standpoint, and that no law can ever justify a single abortion. Some in the movement, in fact, hold that the only public policy initiatives we should support are those that protect every unborn child without exception. The movement to advance such initiatives has been gaining more strength and attracting more attention, but that movement is not at all incompatible with more incremental measures.

First of all, the very truth of personhood, the very urgency of recognizing and protecting the personhood of every child from conception forward, starts us and keeps us on the path of protecting life. This principle is not only true, but it is also the only acceptable goal of the pro-life movement. The work of this movement is not done unless and until every life is protected absolutely and without exception. And this principle is not only the goal of the pro-life movement; it is its fuel, its soul, its daily imperative.

The incremental nature of our activities - the fact that at the present time we might pass a ban on abortions after twenty weeks but not before - is justified only as long as that limitation is not chosen by us but imposed on us by circumstances beyond our control. In other words, if I work to pass a law to protect children at twenty weeks and later, the failure to protect them earlier, must be totally beyond the scope of what I can decide. As a goal, I can never decide, choose, will, or agree to make even a single abortion acceptable or legal. But if the legislative support for protecting babies before twenty weeks does not yet exist in a particular legislative body - if, in other words, the votes just aren’t there - then I can support that ban precisely because I’m doing everything I can at the moment.

The very principle of personhood, in fact, prevents me from sitting back and not protecting the lives I am able to protect right now. It is not by conceding an exception to their personhood that I protect them, but precisely because I embrace their personhood. And that very conviction, that adherence to this unchangeable principle, is what keeps us going beyond our current goal to the next and to the next. All the while we seek to change the circumstances so that the steps are not so incremental. Ultimately, we move to one, irreducible, final goal of total, exception-free protection, and we get there through explicit acknowledgment that the child in the womb is just as much a person as the adult.

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