On Monday, January 22nd, hundreds of thousands marched down Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the fateful Roe v. Wade decision that legalized elective abortion in our nation. This 1973 decision of the Court was an exercise of judicial “tyranny”. As Pope John Paul II stated in Evangelium Vitae: “Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law.” (EV #72) No human law can validly contradict the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.
In 1973 the Supreme Court ignored the facts of human life in the womb, as well as the facts about abortion’s negative effects on women, to find a constitutional “right” to abortion. Today, in the same way, powerful groups in our society still would like to ignore these basic facts to promote a narrow and divisive view of the human person – a view in which human life is a mere problem, or even an object of research and exploitation, rather than the divine mystery it truly is. An example of this attempt to ignore is the scant coverage our secular media give to this annual March that draws hundreds of thousands each year to Washington. But, even after 34 years, the abortion issue is not “settled” – to the great discomfort of political leaders who would wish it away. Abortion continues to be “unsettling” and America’s collective conscience will remain uneasy until Roe v. Wade is reversed and every human being– from the moment of conception till natural death – is welcomed in life and protected by law.
And while this American holocaust continues to claim too many innocent lives – more than 40 million since 1973 – there are signs of hope. And those signs of hope were very much in evidence during this year’s March for life. The first hopeful sign are the women have had abortions and now come forward to publicly say how they regret their abortions. They show great courage – but at the same time they show that the Pro-Life Movement, contrary to the claims of its detractors, is not anti-woman or narrowly condemnatory of these women who have been also victimized by this wrong choice. Through their active participation in the Pro-Life Movement, through Programs like Project Rachel and others, women who had abortions can find healing and reconciliation.
Another hopeful sign is the fact that young people are leading the way through their enthusiastic involvement in pro-life education and activism. As part of the many activities leading up to the March, thousands of young Catholics participated in Masses around the nation’s capital. These youth cheered enthusiastically calls for them to commit themselves to living chastely. (At the Verizon/MCI Arena, I and about 50 bishops participated in a Mass that brought together some 20,000 young men and women – including four bus loads of youth from the Diocese of Orlando.) The Pro-Life movement is very much alive – and it is very much young.
What a debt of gratitude our nation owes to those who help foster respect for life – in pregnancy care centers, hospices, legislative assemblies, homes, schools and workplaces. And what a debt of gratitude our Church owes to leaders like John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and to those bishops, priests, deacons and members of Christ faithful who have faithfully proclaimed the Gospel of Life. As Catholics, each of us must continue to participate in the public life of our nation as faithful citizens, so that the promise of freedom that has made our experiment in democracy so noble a venture may prevail over the forces promoting the tyranny of a culture of death.