Reflections on the Family, the Problem of Abortion, and New Evangelization

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
Document Publication: Priests for Life, Titusville, FL

The Rights of the Family and the Right to Life

At the heart and foundation of the defense of the rights of the family is the defense of the right to life. At the very soul of the promotion, celebration, and service of the family is the promotion, celebration, and service of life itself. 

In Article 4 of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, we read, "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception."

In the foundational encyclical Evangelium Vitae, moreover, we read the reasons for which Blessed John Paul II, who throughout his pontificate addressed the numerous threats to human life and dignity in our world, nonetheless concentrated his attention in that document on the evils of abortion and euthanasia. He wrote, 

"Here though we shall concentrate particular attention on another category of attacks, affecting life in its earliest and in its final stages, attacks which present new characteristics with respect to the past and which raise questions of extraordinary seriousness. It is not only that in generalized opinion these attacks tend no longer to be considered as "crimes"; paradoxically they assume the nature of "rights", to the point that the State is called upon to give them legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of health-care personnel. Such attacks strike human life at the time of its greatest frailty, when it lacks any means of self-defence. Even more serious is the fact that, most often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the family—the family which by its nature is called to be the "sanctuary of life"." (n. 11)

Five years after the Holy See issued the Charter of the Rights of the Family, Blessed John Paul II issued the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, and reminded us that our integrity and credibility in defending the rights of the family depends on the determination we have to defend the underlying right to life. He writes,

"[T]he common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination." (n. 38)

Why is this the case? 

First of all, it is clear from logic that the loss of the foundation implies the loss of the house. The destruction of the right to life contains within itself the destruction of the rights of the family, religious liberty, and every other human right.

This is also evident from the psychological sciences. The damage abortion does to the entire family is being revealed through the research of psychologists and psychiatrists. Perhaps no person in the world has done more research on the impact of abortion than Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Ney. He declares without reservation that there is nothing more damaging to the family than abortion. He points out that an abortion distorts the mother’s ability – and indeed the ability of the human species – to respond properly to the helpless cry of its own young. Having met that helpless cry with the violence of abortion, we are less able to respond to that cry the next time, not only in regard to the unborn child, but to other members of the human family. 

The foundational importance of defending life is also clear from a consideration of nature of the state itself. As Evangelium Vitae declares, when the state legitimizes abortion or euthanasia, it no longer is the common home where all can be safe. Instead, it becomes a tyrant state, all rights become negotiable, and the disintegration of the state itself begins. In such a climate, the family and its rights cannot be either secure or even intelligible. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta declared, "the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

Healing and witness

The accompanying documentation gives some insight as to some of the dynamics we find as our Rachel's Vineyard healing program ministers to families around the world who have been harmed by abortion.

Moreover, the very voices that abortion supporters have told us to listen to for decades -- the voices of women -- are saying now that they regret their abortions. A tidal wave of personal experience is being heard across the globe, experience that says abortion did not solve a problem but only created new ones, that abortion does not spring from freedom of choice but rather from the feeling that one has no freedom and no choice, that abortion did not help but hurt.

These women, as well as fathers of the aborted children, have now organized themselves to speak out more loudly and clearly.

The worldwide emergence of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign shows the intersection between abortion, ministry to the family, and new evangelization. This campaign, an interdenominational effort with its Catholic roots in Priests for Life, is the largest mobilization in history of women and men who have had their children killed by abortion, have found forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and now share publicly the testimony of the pain of abortion and the healing that followed. 

Thousands of such individuals have spoken at hundreds of gatherings in countries around the world. These gatherings occur on public streets and sidewalks in major cities; these individuals also speak in Churches on various media broadcasts. The testimonies they give have several primary results. First, they alert people that abortion doesn't solve any problems, but only creates new ones. This dissuades others from resorting to abortion. Second, these testimonies inspire hope in others who suffer silently from the pain of abortion. Such people learn that healing and forgiveness are available, and that the Church does not reject those who have abortions. And third, for those hearing these testimonies who may not have been involved in abortion but who are alienated from God and the Church because of other sins, the testimonies proclaim to them the invitation of the Gospel to embrace the Savior, who can raise them from a multitude of sins. 

Others, who regret their abortion but do not feel called to speak publicly, are nevertheless letting themselves be counted by registering anonymously with the Campaign. This can be done online at

Many of those who are sharing these testimonies found their healing from abortion through the ministry of Rachel's Vineyard. Conducting about a thousand healing retreats in dozens of countries, often through the sponsorship of local dioceses, this ministry, which is a project of Priests for Life, uses the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer as the means by which, in conjunction with the latest insights of the psychology of trauma relative to abortion, these individuals find emotional and spiritual healing. This is a key need which is being met by yet another form of the new evangelization.

Let me conclude by presenting you with the vision to which we are moving closer each day. Through the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, we have women sharing their testimonies of pain and healing after abortion. These are powerful to watch. But even more powerful is when the man joins her, publicly repenting of his failure to protect both her and her child. We also have the child's grandparents coming for healing, repenting of having pressured their daughter to abort. Imagine them joining the baby's mom and dad, together repenting and giving witness. And then, we can bring along with them the friend of that mom and dad, repenting of his or her failure to give them the hope and strength to choose life. And finally, imagine, joining all of these repentant individuals at a podium or on a stage, the former abortionist, the Centurion, expressing his or her repentance for having brought to that family the single most devastating wound it can receive, the abortion of its youngest, weakest member. 

This is the vision of the family, the sanctuary of life, united in life-giving repentance and life-giving witness to the Lord of Life.

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