Every October Catholics throughout the United States observe Respect Life Month. This year, there is good news, there is bad news, and there is more bad news.
First, the good news: studies show that the numbers of abortions in the United States are at their lowest since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Abortion numbers are not always as accurate as we would like, due to the fact that the reporting of abortions varies throughout the country. The Guttmacher Institute reported that, in 2017, there were 862,320 abortions in the United States — down from roughly 1.4 million 20 years earlier. These numbers are similar to those published by the Centers for Disease Control.
Surveys also show that fewer and fewer Americans are inclined to view abortion as a “right” or even as an acceptable option. If this way of thinking continues, we may see the end of legalized abortion in our country. The prayers and the work of the pro-life community in our country are bearing fruit. Thanks be to God!
Advances in medical science have provided us with an ever clearer picture of life in the womb. When pregnant mothers have the opportunity to see their unborn children by means of ultra-sound, they are often convinced that these are indeed real human beings. Is it any wonder that those who are involved with the abortion industry in our country will do anything to make sure that a woman with an unplanned pregnancy never sees her unborn child?
Now the bad news: abortion on demand continues to be the law of the land. Unborn babies continue to be killed. More and more mothers and fathers, the living victims of abortion, continue to grieve the loss of their children. How did we get to the point of killing our own children? I am convinced that we started on this course more than 40 years ago when most American Catholics began to reject the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. When the world was crying for the Church to “catch up with the times” in the 1960’s, and when even many Catholics were expecting the Church to change her teaching on contraception, Pope Paul VI courageously reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching when he declared that the Church has never and will never condone contraception, which is always a denial of life.
The widespread practice of contraception has served to convince many people that sexual intercourse and pregnancy need not have anything to do with each other. When contraceptives are used, life is prevented. But it is precisely the contraceptive mentality that has given rise to the holocaust of abortion. If unwanted life can be prevented by contraception, it is a small step to end unwanted life by abortion. It is a fact that most abortions take place in the same month as a pregnancy occurs.
The words of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” are ominous: “Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality . . . It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion” (no. 17).
What was dismissed by many in 1968 as the pope’s fanatical prediction has come to be commonplace. The denigration of women as means of sexual pleasure for men is so taken for granted now that it has become the stuff of which television and movie comedies are made.
And now . . . more bad news. We have now entered the age of infanticide in our country. Who can forget the obscene celebration of babies in New York who were born and left to die because they were unwanted? Peter Singer, a tenured professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has argued for a number years that “human babies are not born self-aware or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons.” But, says Singer, animals are self-aware, and therefore “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee” (cf. “Practical Ethics’). In that same book, Singer suggested that “a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant in accepted as having the same right to live as others.”
Having already begun a new voting cycle, please remember that Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principle we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being.