Co-authored with Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
January 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - For seven days every year, in January, we experience elation quickly followed by an almost unbearable sadness.
On January 16, this year’s national observance of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we sat together in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, as we have done for many years, and were uplifted, inspired, and renewed by anointed preaching about the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and about how there is unfinished business to be accomplished today to fulfill that dream. We heard - as we all must - that we are to oppose violence, eradicate racism, eliminate crime, work to get more young black men into college rather than prison, and stand up for the oppressed in every circumstance.
And we will agree with all our hearts.
Yet as we have also done for many years, arising in our hearts and on our lips, will be a simple question, “What about the babies in the womb? Include the children, who are victims of oppression, discrimination, inequality, and violence?” Although it stands to reason that opposing all inequality, discrimination, and violence means that nobody should be excluded or forgotten, the children in the womb are never mentioned at this otherwise inspiring and uplifting service.
A week later, close to a half million Americans gathered for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., where saving children in the womb was on everyone’s mind. As energizing and uplifting as this March is every year, it is nothing short of tragic that we must keep making this sojourn up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court. After thirty-nine years of the government-sanctioned killing of children, we still have much work to do to put it behind us and to restore our nation.
There is reason for hope. Awareness is growing in America about the personal reality of the unborn child. Look, for example, at the laws passed this past year in states including Nebraska, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas and Oklahoma, that protect unborn children from being dismembered by abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy precisely because scientific evidence shows that they feel pain at that point. A similar bill introduced last week in Congress would ban abortion after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia.
Or look again at the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, a ban upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 to prohibit a procedure in which children are killed in the very process of being delivered.
What does this have to do with Dr. King’s dream? Everything. Nonviolence is not nonviolence if some violence is still permitted; equality is not equality if some are still not afforded equal protection.
This past October, a new monument honoring Dr. King was dedicated in Washington, DC. Members of the King family placed beneath the monument a time capsule, and among the items in that capsule was a statement called “The Beloved Community and the Unborn Child.”
Joining the two of us in signing the statement were, among others, Mrs. Naomi Ruth Barber King, the widow of civil rights strategist Rev. A. D. King and sister-in-law of Martin Luther King; Rev. Derek King, nephew of Martin Luther King; Gloria Jackson, the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, and Lynn Jackson, great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott.
The statement reads, in part,
“We cannot ignore the discrimination, injustice, and violence that are being inflicted on the youngest and smallest members of the human family, the children in the womb. Thousands of these children are killed every day in America by abortion, throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
“We declare today that these children too are members of the Beloved Community, that our destiny is linked with theirs, and that therefore they deserve justice, equality, and protection.”
It is no accident that descendants of those who fought for freedom and justice recognize that the same battle is reincarnated today in the pro-life struggle. In addition to those who signed the statement above, it is noteworthy that Rev. Gerard Wilberforce, a Catholic priest in Exeter, who is the great-grandson of William Wilberforce, wrote,
“I am often asked what would be the campaigns Wilberforce would be fighting if he were alive in 21st century Britain. I believe that … at the top of the list, would be the issue of abortion.”
We have no doubt, either.
Father Frank Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Dr. Alveda King is the director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life.