Roe has fallen. After nearly 50 years, the United States Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade, perhaps the most infamous Supreme Court case in U.S. history.
I can’t quite remember when I first heard the name of this case from January 1973, but I believe it was my freshman year of high school. I went to a Catholic high school, which had a vibrant pro-life club. The school was in South Florida, yet every year, a group of students would trek to Washington, DC in the cold of January for the March for Life. The trip was over 1,000 miles. I remember my sophomore-year theology teacher led the club and trips.
I joined the school pro-life club on a few Saturdays to pray the rosary outside of an abortion “clinic.” At the time, I hardly knew how to pray the rosary and rarely, if ever, did so. These brief occasions planted seeds within me. I remember writing a letter to a teacher at my high school whom I knew was pro-choice to try to persuade her to change her mind. But my knowledge of these things was very limited and my opinions more vitriolic than compassionate, more political than loving.
Over the the years, I learned more about my Catholic faith and about abortion. Today I do not view it primarily as a political issue, though I know lawmakers debate it as one of the most divisive political issues there is. I view it, first and foremost, as a moral issue.
Throughout The Shadows of Freedom Series, readers will find a number of characters labeled as the “Unfit.” The Unfit are those whom the society of the series rejects for various reasons: some are developmentally disabled, others are terminally ill, still others are homeless or “unproductive” in the eyes of the ruling party. I created the name Unfit several years ago not knowing that it was, in fact, used by none other than Margaret Sanger, the disgraced, early twentieth century eugenicist and founder of Planned Parenthood. In her 1922 work, The Pivot of Civilization, she proclaimed:
“The lack of balance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. The example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken, should not be held up for emulation.”
We wrote this series to include the Unfit and their maltreatment, in part, to show the end game of treating human life as expendable, unwanted, unwelcome, and deserving of death because of who they are or what challenges they present to individuals or society.
This is what abortion is at its heart: it is the taking of innocent human life, whether those perpetrating the abortion realize it is human life or not. I know there are cases of rape, incest, or otherwise violent conceptions of children. But those represent approximately 2% of all abortions and, regardless, two wrongs don’t make a right. 98% of abortions are because of bad choices one or more of the parents made and we’ve all been tempted to commit travesties on this scale in one way or another.
There are other situations, ever increasing in our society, of married parents having abortions for various reasons. One reason is that the child may have little chance (according to doctors) of surviving after birth. In some cases, the life and health of the mother may be legitimately at risk. Yet even in these difficult circumstances, it is better to risk the life of the mother to save the child than to kill the child because of some possible risk to the mother. Some things are just non-negotiables and always wrong under all circumstances. Abortion is one of those things.
The Lord’s Teaching
In Christianity, we can date teaching about abortion to, at latest, the Didache or “The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations,” from the first century. One translation of this foundational Christian teaching document puts it this way: “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” According to Christianity, the teaching is black and white, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
One need only look to the life and death of Gianna Beretta Molla, the Italian pediatrician who was informed of potential complications with the birth of her fourth child, which did indeed lead to her death while sacrificially saving the life of the child. Today, this heroic woman is revered as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church and medical miracles involving complications with pregnancies have been attributed to her intercession.
A Cold Civil War
Roe may have fallen, but the culture of death remains. Abortion is really a form of contraception, after the fact: a catch-all solution to enable a culture of free love and promiscuity. People demand abortion in order to live in all manners of unchastity. That is the ultimate lie behind so many challenges we face as a society: that sexual relations and activity can and should be divorced from marital love and the welcoming of new life.
We are in the midst of a cold civil war (as one friend called it). Yet the only people we can fully influence and control are ourselves. Do we let our position on this polarizing issue prevent us from being charitable (no matter which side we’re on)? Do we do everything we can to help real people in real situations to choose life and also to foster a culture of life in all its stages? Do we guard our eyes and live the joyful affirmation of full and complete purity, knowing there really is no other way?
Roe has fallen, but we must get up. We must transform this culture from within, like the leaven within the dough. That begins with the people we know, the people we deal with, and the friendships and relationships we foster. Maybe in another 50 years, this barbarous practice, this slaughter of the innocents, will finally be behind us. But that starts with you and with me. We can change the laws, but we need to change the people first and foremost. May our children’s children live in a new age of justice, peace, and joy, free from this horror. That is what we’re praying and working toward.