BOISE - "Apathy and resignation" are bigger challenges in the respect life battle than a small, vocal number of people who are fighting for abortion rights, Father Peter West of Priests for Life said at a Life Mass Jan. 27 at St. John's Cathedral, Boise.
Father West, Newark, N.J., celebrated the Mass just before the Right to Life of Idaho-sponsored March for Life and Rally in Boise at which he was the keynote speaker. About 500 people attended the Mass.
The march and rally attracted, over 900, many of whom came from around the state. Idaho Bishop Michael P. Driscoll and several other Idaho Catholic clergy participated in the march from Julia Davis Park to the Statehouse, and the bishop gave the opening prayer at the rally.
"Some people have resigned themselves mentally," said Father West in his homily. "They say, `We've always had abortion. It will always be with us.' The truth is... it doesn't have to be. We can change this. People said the same thing about slavery, but we have overcome slavery in the United States."
He said Martin Luther King once said that the greatest tragedy was not the bad people, but the "appalling silence" of the good people.
The laws that allow abortion or assisted suicide "are not somehow inevitable."
"We cannot accept them any more than we can accept that war or ethnic extermination is inevitable," Father West said.
People who believe in the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death need to remember St. Paul's words, "If God is with us, who can be against us?"
He said there are many positive signs that the work of pro-life people is paying off. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 1998 there was a 3 percent drop in the number of abortions nationwide and the number of abortion among college students has dropped 10 percent in the last five years.
He noted that President George Bush has said he wants every new life protected and there are many pro-life appointments in the new administration. Also voters recently defeated an assisted suicide referendum in Maine.
"For the sake of our culture, our nation and the next generation, we cannot give up," Father West said. "By the power of Jesus Christ, who stilled the wind and the waves, we can make a difference."
He passed out a flyer produced by his organization, Priests for Life, a national pro-life organization that works to unite, encourage and motivate priests and deacons to take a more vocal and active role in the pro-life movement. The flyer lists 55 legal, peaceful and effective activities people can pursue to help end abortion in the U.S.
A few of those suggestions are:
-Pray daily for an end to abortion, for women tempted to have abortions, for doctors and nurses, legislators, clergy and those who work in the pro-life movement, and for those who do not realize how wrong abortion is.
-Write letters to newspapers, elected officials and other persons and institutions regarding respect for life.
-Encourage your priest, minister or rabbi to speak out against abortion.
-Donate pro-life books to your local libraries, schools, colleges and churches. Request such books at your libraries and bookstores.
-Fly the flag at half staff in respect for the 4000 babies who die every day from abortion.
At the Idaho March for Life Rally on the Idaho Statehouse steps, Carrie Uhlenkott, a member of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Grangeville, and legislative chairman of Right to Life of Idaho, announced that her organization will support Idaho Chooses Life's proposed pro-life legislation that would end tax funding of Medicaid paid "health abortions" in Idaho. Sen. Bart David, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, are expected to introduce the legislation.
"We've learned that the health exception (for abortions) is a wide-open loophole and equals abortion on demand," said Uhlenkott. She said there are cases around the nation of Medicaid paid health abortions that were done for reasons like a mother not wanting to experience morning sickness or because a mother had a special affair coming up and was afraid she wouldn't look good in her swimsuit.
She said Idaho is one of only five states that require that tax monies be used to pay for abortions.
In his talk at the rally, Father West reminded the marchers that people who are working for protection of life are not seeking to impose their morality or religion on others.
"Sanctity of life is not just a religious doctrine," he said. "It is a law of the land, a fundamental civil right."
He said abortion is a "tragic solution" for women.
"We can do better for women," said Father West. "Abortion does not serve the needs of women nor promote women's health."