Homily delivered by Archbishop Thomas Wenski during a Mass Jan. 23, 2012 at St. Martha Church to pray for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and do penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through the act of abortion.
We are saddened that another year passes without our nation redressing the great wrong of Roe v. Wade, which 39 years ago made abortion legal at any time before birth. Today in Washington, D.C., thousands of people – a majority of them young people – will participate in the annual March for Life. And the Archdiocese of Miami is well represented there – a number of our seminarians have joined Joan Crown and another 100 or so faithful from our parishes.
That the Obama administration has been particularly hostile to the pro-life cause is frustrating. The recent decision of Health and Human Services, announced last Friday, to mandate that all of us purchase insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that induce abortion, is unprecedented. It is the first time, if this decision is allowed to stand, that the federal government will force citizens to purchase something in violation of their religious beliefs or rights of conscience.
Everyone deserves access to basic life-affirming health care, and health care reform is supposed to serve that goal. The effect of this mandate, which will take effect in one year, is just the opposite, as it pressures organizations to drop their health coverage for employees and others altogether if they have a moral or religious objection to these particular items.
Nevertheless, here in Florida we are encouraged by the actions of the 2011 Florida legislature that passed a record number of bills regulating abortion practices. For the fourth year in a row, the number of abortions in Florida has declined. These ongoing efforts of pro-life legislators have also been aided by the presence of men, women and children of faith praying in front of abortion clinics and assisting those who chose life as the result of these encounters.
Many crisis pregnancy centers now have ultrasound machines which reveal to a woman the truth and beauty of the unique individual created in her womb, a gift from God. As the woman in 2 Maccabees 7:1, 22, 23 eloquently speaks: "It was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. It is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything."
Throughout Florida, these centers are instrumental in providing physical and emotional support to vulnerable women who are counseled regarding their life situation and assisted whether they choose to parent or place their child for adoption. The Catholic Church continues its pledge of support to pregnant women and children in their time of need – and, I hope, in the very near future, thanks to a generous donor, to break ground for another office for our Respect Life ministry in the Opa Locka area, adjacent to the Marian Center – another ministry of our archdiocese dedicated to upholding the dignity of human life.
Those who have suffered because of the choices they regret should not despair because God's mercy heals all wounds. So called “freedom of choice” not only kills an unborn baby – it also wounds all those involved in the abortion: the mother, the father – and often their families. Through Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard, the Church in her pastoral care reaches out to these women – and to the men – who have participated in abortions. As much as we oppose abortion – for it is always a bad choice, a wrong choice, and an unnecessary choice - we also want those who carry within themselves this guilt to know that there is no sin that is unforgiveable.
Recent polling shows 50 percent favor a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to be shown an ultrasound image of her fetus at least 24 hours before the procedure. Legislation filed for 2012 includes a 24-hour waiting period and would be one more step toward providing women all the information necessary for an informed decision before committing to a decision that will not only change their life forever but will end a life as well.
Forcing us to pay for sterilization and chemical abortions, as HHS wants to do, violates our rights as citizens – for the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. But abortion in itself is not about religion – the natural law that is written on every human being’s heart prohibits us from taking innocent life. Killing the unborn baby in his or her mother’s womb violates that baby’s human right to life.
May we never rest until unjust laws violating the right to life are overturned or set aside. We ask people of good will to join us in prayer for the protection of all life from conception to natural death.