The Same Mistake
By Fr. Frank A. Pavone
March 6, 1857, was a very dark day in American history. By a 7-2 vote, the United
States Supreme Court declared Blacks were not legal persons. Rather, they were property.
They could be used, sold, beaten, even killed. Slavery was upheld. Fortunately, in 1868
the 14th Amendment to the Constitution secured the rights of blacks to full personhood.
Slavery was now overturned, and the equality of all people before the law was upheld.
Notice, the law did not GIVE blacks this equality. They always had it! God made them
equal. What happened with the 14th Amendment was that the law recognized the rights the
slaves had from God; human law was brought into line with God's law.
But another dark day came on January 22, 1973. By another 7-2 vote, the United States
Supreme Court said that this 14th Amendment DOES NOT APPLY to children in the first nine
months of life; that is, the nine months they live in their mother's wombs. Therefore,
during this time - - that is, during ALL the nine months of pregnancy - - the court said a
mother may end the life of her child by abortion. By this "Roe vs. Wade"
decision, abortion was made legal in all 50 states. This was never requested or approved
by the American people. It was decided by seven men and imposed on the American people.
These seven men declared that the pre-born child is not a person, and therefore is not
entitled to have his/her life protected by law! A whole category of human beings was once
again denied protection, just as in the previous century another category of human beings,
the slaves, were denied protection.
Why do we keep making the same mistake? The fact is that babies in the womb have just
as much right to live as the rest of us, and are just as much "persons" as the
rest of us. Everyone knows this instinctively. We see it, for example, in the language
that is sometimes used to refer to pregnancy. We say a woman is "with child". We
speak about going to a "baby shower". This common knowledge is confirmed by
modern biology and genetics. At the moment of conception a new being is formed which has
the exact number of chromosomes that any human being has in each cell: forty-six. Encoded
on these chromosomes is all the genetic information for the new individual. There has
never been a person with exactly the same code before, and there never will be one again;
that person is unique from the very first instant. When was it decided that you would be
male or female? When was the color of your skin or eyes decided? All at the moment of
conception! This is not religious dogma; these are not quotes from the Bible or the
Catholic Church. These are scientific facts that can be found in any biology book in the
Yet when we stand up and say that these babies should be protected from abortion, we
are told it's just our opinion and that we are imposing our religion on others!
Since when is common biology a religious doctrine? Since when is it a matter of
"opinion" to say that you may not kill a baby? Since when do we throw the rights
of others up for grabs? Since when is "killing" a respectable choice?
Suppose I stood here today and told you at the end of Mass that I will take the
collection and use it tonight to have a good time? (Please note, I'm not really going to
do this. But just suppose?) What would you say? You would object to it, I presume. But
then suppose I told you that it is MY OPINION that I can use the collection in whatever
way I want, and that you should not interfere with MY PERSONAL CHOICE! Then what? Is that
supposed to end all argument? Would that be right?
It would NOT be right, precisely because that money belongs to the Church. For me to
use it for my personal pleasure is to violate the rights of the Church. My personal
"freedom of choice" in this case is limited by the rights of others.
Why, then, should it be legitimate for a woman to kill her baby? The claim that this is
her "personal choice" no more makes it right than my "personal choice"
makes it right to misuse the collection. The baby has rights. The baby is a human being.
Neither the Court nor the mother gives that baby his/her rights, nor can the Court or the
mother or anyone else take them away. "Choice" does not justify the action, and
isn't even the issue.
The issue is that it is wrong to kill babies. You and I, as Christians and simply as
decent human beings, have an obligation to do something about this, for the sake of the
babies AND FOR THE SAKE OF THE MOTHERS. They, too, are victims of abortion; they suffer,
too, and we are called to love them.
We are being told by those who support abortion that to respect women we must give them
the "choice" to kill their babies. This does not respect women. If we really
respect them, we will come to their assistance if they are in a difficult situation, and
see to it that they have what they need to give life to their child. If a woman is in a
"crisis pregnancy", let's help her by eliminating the crisis, not by eliminating
the pregnancy. The question she faces at that point is NOT, "Shall I have the child
or not"? The fact is that if she's pregnant, she ALREADY HAS the child. The real
choice at issue is, "Shall I carry the child to birth or shall I kill him/her"?
Clearly, the choice to kill is not an option. Our country has taken a seriously wrong turn
by making this option legal. It is time for Christians to love these women and their
babies so much that the so called "option" of abortion will be unthinkable.