“There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every person’s dignity and without respect for his or her rights. Nor can there be true peace unless life is defended and promoted.” – St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 101
If St. John Paul II was right in Evangelium Vitae (and he most assuredly was), this has been a most remarkable week not just for life, but also for democracy, in the United States.
There were, of course, the hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers who showed up in D.C. to march in the bitter cold to defend the right to life of the unborn – one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen. (Watch an astonishing time-lapse video of the march here.) But while their presence was expected (pro-lifers have been doing it for 45 years after all) there were a series of additional, and wholly welcome, surprises.
One such was the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives on the same day as the March to pass H.R. 4712, also known as the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, by a vote of 241-183. The bill clarifies that any baby that survives a botched abortion must be given the same care as any other baby that is born alive.
Sadly, such a law is still needed. Too few people know that President Obama repeatedly and unapologetically voted against a similar bill when he was a senator in Illinois. This was despite eye-witness testimony from a nurse in Illinois that living, born babies were in fact being abandoned to die. And even now, gruesome reports routinely emerge of similar instances happening in abortion facilities across the country.
Then, of course, there was President Trump’s extremely encouraging speech to the March for Life. Not only did Trump urge Congress to pass another crucial pro-life bill – the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act – and put it on his desk, but he powerfully affirmed the fundamental goodness of the pro-life cause. “We are protecting the sanctity of life and the family as the foundation of our society,” Trump said, “but this movement can only succeed with the heart and the soul and the prayer of the people.”
Speaking directly to the pro-lifers gathered on the Mall, Trump stated: “Because of you tens of thousands of Americans have been born and reached their full God-given potential, because of you. You’re living witnesses of this year’s March for life theme, and that theme is, ‘Love Saves Lives.’”
On the same day, in another thoroughly pro-life statement, Trump declared January 22 – the tragic anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision – National Sanctity of Human Life Day. Trump lamented that “much of the greatest suffering in our Nation’s history” is due to “disgracefully misguided attempts to dehumanize whole classes of people…” Calling attention to the “irrefutable evidence” of the humanity of the unborn child, he stated: “We cannot let this shameful history repeat itself in new forms, and we must be particularly vigilant to safeguard the most vulnerable lives among us.”
Rounding off the week was Congress’ decision to confirm Alex Azar, Trump’s nominee for Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services. Pro-life groups welcomed the appointment of Azar, who defended the conscience rights of Christians during his confirmation hearing, while pro-abortion organizations like NARAL slammed him as “anti-choice.”
We Must Go Deeper: Abortion and the Unholy Trinity
Yes, it has been a remarkable week for life, and hopefully the beginning of much more to come.
However, this past week I was also sent something that reminded me just how far we have yet to go…how much deeper we must dig if we are to strike at the heart of this infernal invention called abortion.
What I was sent was one pro-life activist’s recollection of a conversation he once had with the dynamic and uncompromising founder of the March for Life, Nellie Gray. This person recounted how Gray told him abortion would not end, “Until the pro-life movement is 100% pro-life: that is, 100% against contraception, 100% against same-sex marriage, 100% supportive of showing abortion images…”
It is good that so many Americans have awoken to the reality of abortion. But, then again, how could they not? In this day of ubiquitous ultrasounds, in utero photography, and advanced embryology, how can anyone still defend abortion? When the living, moving human person in the womb is right in front of our eyes, available for the world to see, how can so many still be blind to the inhuman violence of abortion?
Alas, even though polls show the number of people who describe themselves as “pro-life” is increasing, when pressed, many of those “pro-life” people still support abortion in some cases. The person who spoke with Gray recalled her saying, “You’d be surprised by the number of people who say they are pro-life but support using contraception; support abortion in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother!”
The reason we still have abortion isn’t because the Supreme Court has refused to overturn Roe v. Wade; it isn’t because our president isn’t pro-life enough; it isn’t because the media is overwhelmingly pro-abortion. It goes way deeper than that. It goes to the very heart of our culture. It goes to the individualistic selfishness that so many of us have unthinkingly accepted as our most fundamental value, and which we mistakenly call “freedom”: a self-centeredness that has manifested itself most perniciously in the total inversion of sexual values since the sexual revolution.
Abortion is only one member of an unholy Trinity –– perverse sex-education, contraception and abortion. In order to end abortion, we must pluck it up by the root. That means we must address the primordial self-centeredness on which it feeds; we must put sexuality back on a firm footing, oriented not towards selfish, empty pleasure, but towards creating new life and building strong, faithful, and fruitful marriages.
“[T]he more you sow contraception, the more you reap sexual sins, family and social disorders, venereal diseases, and deadly AIDS,” said HLI Founder Father Paul Marx, “and the more you must make available ‘abortion services’ to take care of the ‘contraceptive failures’.”
Abortion: a threat to democracy and peace
Unless our country concertedly does this, we can only expect the gradual dissolution of our democracy, a gradual descent into disorder and even tyranny: for what social order can possibly survive the violent dehumanization of so many of its members? Such, at least, is what the popes have so clearly affirmed.
“Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people,” stated Blessed Pope Paul VI. “But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society.”
St. John Paul stated categorically that it is impossible to promote the common good if the right to life is not recognized. “Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace,” he said.
Or, as Mother Teresa put it so succinctly, “The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
To his credit, in his speech to the March for Life, President Trump echoed these sentiments. Speaking of the “gift of life,” Trump said, “That it is why we march. That is why we pray. And that is why we declare that America’s future will be filled with goodness, peace, joy, dignity, and life for every child of God.”
That, certainly, is a goal worth fighting for.