Human life: a precious gift to
love, defend in each one of its stages
By Bishop Michael Pfeifer
Diocese of San Angelo, TX
January 1, 2007
Pope John Paul II, in his Lenten Message 2005 affirmed that
"Human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its stages.
The Commandment, `You shall not kill!' obviously requires respecting and
promoting human life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is a command
that applies even in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces
the person's ability to be self-reliant."
In its 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe V. Bolton rulings, the U.S.
Supreme Court created a new "right" to abortion. The Court made abortion legal
nationwide throughout the full nine months of pregnancy with no meaningful
A Seismic Shift has occurred
Roe v. Wade was a watershed event. One day, we were a nation
that protected the lives of unborn human beings. The next day, seven justices of
the U.S. Supreme Court said that throughout pregnancy, abortion is a fundamental
Many people sensed that a seismic shift had occurred. The
Court had said, in essence, that we were a people who could not be expected to
commit to care for the children we helped to create. And we began quickly to
make that a self-fulfilling prophecy, as over the next decade the number of
abortions skyrocketed to 1.6 million a year.
Now, let us jump ahead some 27 years. Another major shift
occurred, as in June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the right to kill,
from children in the womb (Roe v. Wade) to children almost completely born
(Stenberg v. Carhart).
It is this, partial-birth abortion, that the U.S. Supreme
Court has now wrapped in the mantle of our nation's Constitution. The Court
overrode the judgment of the American Medical Association and respected
specialists that partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary.
With its decision in Carhart, the U.S. Supreme Court has
moved beyond abortion to near infanticide. And in doing so it has created a new
level of moral blindness and insensitivity. How much killing can we stand
without losing our humanity?
Thank God that our President, after listening to the
Congress, has proposed a ban on partial-birth abortion, but now this is being
challenged in the courts.
As the Supreme Court debates this issue, hopefully this
highest court of our land will take the high road of common sense and morality
and finally decide in favor of a ban of partial-birth abortion.
Since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, more than 45
million unborn children have lost their lives and untold numbers of women have
suffered the aftermath of abortion. The practice of medicine has been degraded
by those in the profession who participate in destroying life. And society as a
whole has been coarsened and degraded by the toleration and even acceptance of
the widespread taking of innocent human life. Roe v Wade has poisoned all it has
Legal and Moral Issue
As regards abortion, the moral issue is clear: human beings
deserve respect and protection from harm. The legal issue is clear: Roe v. Wade
is bad law. The effects are clear: bad medicine and bad social policy. No wonder
the vast majority of Americans believe that an unlimited right to abortion is
wrong. Science is clear that human life begins at conception when a new human
being is formed.
We who are Christian Americans believe in an anthropology
that views all persons as members of a community who are made in the image of
the Triune God and who have both rights and responsibilities. Therefore, we
cannot endorse a woman's right to abort an unborn child as a morally neutral
decision because we understand that the child also has a right to live and the
community has a responsibility to care for this child if the mother is unable to
Some people would want us to think that "legal abortion is
safe, and illegal abortions are dangerous." The fact is that abortion is more
dangerous to more women now than before it was legal. Former abortionist Bernard
Nathanson has admitted that he helped invent the story about back alley abortion
fatalities. Legal is not safe. Besides, the best doctors don't aspire to be
Some continue to dispute, in spite of scientific research,
that human life exists from the moment of conception. However, when there is any
doubt that there exists a human being's life to preserve and protect, such doubt
shall be resolved in favor of the existence of a human being, and when two or
more human beings are in a situation in which their lives are mutually
endangered, all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts shall be used to
preserve and protect the life of each and every human being endangered.
The Politician's Song
As regards abortion, the politician's song has been sung so
often for so long that it sounds quite logical – and sadly some pro-lifers
believe it. "I'm absolutely against abortion," they insist, "except, of course,
in the cases of rape and incest." They argue that it's somehow "compassionate"
to offer the woman victim the opportunity to eliminate the results of an attack.
The ultimate question, however, is: "What about the baby?"
In simple terms, two wrongs do not make a right. A second
wrong only makes a bad situation worse. Abortion for rape cases punishes the
innocent child more severely than the guilty rapist. An "innocent bystander," if
you will, is given the death sentence while the criminal has the opportunity to
amend his life.
The Greatest Human Rights Movement
The pro-life movement is the greatest human rights movement
on earth – a struggle founded on unconditional love - even for the
pro-abortionists - unconditional empathy for the victims, both the child and his
or her mother, and unconditional courage.
With each passing year, the horrific toll on women's lives
becomes more evident. And it's time the media stopped censuring this truth.
Women deserve better than abortion and the compelling stories of the brave
post-abortive women who are silent no more need to be heard. These very special
women bear witness not only to the agony and trauma of their own abortion but to
the hope of healing, reconciliation, and inner peace as well.
Now what can you and I do each day to help love and defend
human life that is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each and every
one of its stages? Here are some concrete recommendations that I present for
your reflection, and hopefully for your implementation.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Pray every day that our nation will again respect the
lives of every human being from the moment of conception to natural death. I
ask that at every Sunday Mass, prayers be offered for peace, for a new respect
for human life, and for an end to abortion.
Learn the facts about abortion. Read Catholic
magazines and the West Texas Angelus. The newsletter Life Insights, and other
educational materials are available from the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life
Activities. Also visit
Communicate with others. Believing in our hearts that
abortion and infanticide are evil and beneath us as a people is not enough. We
need to speak out when we
can. It is in speaking with others that we can help them to
understand and touch their hearts with a message of respect for human life.
Serve with your gifts. Programs that serve pregnant
women and children always need extra hands. Offer to help. Help for women and
men suffering because of abortion requires special expertise. You may want to
help financially, or in other ways.
Organize on behalf of life. The most effective vehicle
for building a community that respects each and every human life is to establish
a Parish Respect Life Committee or similar committee. Together parishioners can
encourage prayer, educational activities, and involvement in the public realm.
Through parish Respect Life Committees we can make a difference.