Roe vs. Wade challenges us to protect the unborn Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 -- 1:00 AM

In 1925 Dorothy Day became pregnant. Because of a previous abortion, her pregnancy seemed a miracle. Now she had to make the toughest decision she ever made. If she gave birth, Forster Batterham, the child’s father, would probably leave her. He would stay with her if she aborted their baby.

On March 4, 1926, Dorothy gave birth to Tamar Teresa. She had her baptized and raised her as a Catholic. Later, Dorothy Day became a Catholic. Her decision caused her to lose the man she loved. But she gained salvation for herself and Tamara.

After her conversion, Dorothy met Peter Maurin and together they founded the Catholic Worker movement, which works on behalf of the poor and homeless. She was now a zealous Catholic who pleaded with others not to have abortions because of its devastating effects.

Human life is sacred

In no. 2258 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says “Human life is sacred because from its beginning, it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”

In no. 366 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says that ‘‘the Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God.” Physically we begin as a tiny fertilized egg within our mother’s womb. The color of our eyes, hair, and other characteristics were determined from the moment of conception.

The wonder of creation

In the July 22, 1966 issue of Life magazine, Eleanor Greaves described the wonder of our creation through an expectant mother’s eyes. She wrote, “Pregnancy is the most creative thing you will ever do — so hard to believe that at an already appointed hour, you will divide like some ancient cell, and suddenly it won’t be just you any longer. But you and some other human being to whom you will be tied by nerves, and tissue and chemistry all of your life.

“This being is already within you, shouting in a sometimes deafening voice, ‘Look out, stand back. Here comes a whole new person!’”

Pope John Paul II placed unborn children under Our Lady of Guadalupe’s motherly care, especially those in danger of not being born. This danger increased when the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe vs. Wade decision of January 22, 1973.

Pro-life efforts

In January 2010, the National Right to Life Committee estimated that more than 52 million abortions had been performed in the 37 years since Roe vs. Wade. However, the number of abortions in the U.S. declined from 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2005. Pro-life efforts, legislation, education, and outreach contributed to this decrease. But much more must be done.

Catholic teaching opposes abortion, but some Catholics choose abortion because of easy access, or not knowing or following Church teaching. As the Church, we must teach and remind Catholics, especially the young, that because human life begins at conception, abortion is wrong. This responsibility begins with parents and extends to teachers, pastors, religious educators, and others.

Often I invited pro-life groups to talk to my high school religion classes. One speaker wept as he spoke about abortion. This moved me deeply because to him, abortion was not an abstract statistic, but destruction of human life.

Person-to-person witnesses

Once I heard a girl tell a friend that she opposed abortion because she was Catholic. And Catholics do not believe in abortion. Such person-to-person witness is perhaps the best way we can protect the unborn.

We can also tell others about pro-life ministries that work with expectant mothers who are considering abortion and encourage them to choose life for their children. They also provide alternatives to abortion through pre-natal care, assistance in raising children, and adoption placement services.

We can tell women who grieve because of an abortion about Project Rachel, which helps them to heal through counseling, prayer, and forgiveness. Dorothy Day would have appreciated such support.

We can also participate in the 40-day Pro-Life Vigil in Madison, which consists of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and witness by volunteer pro-lifers. We can pray for or spiritually adopt unborn babies. We can urge our elected representatives to support legislation that protects the unborn and support a human life amendment. Our parish, diocese, Catholic newspaper, and the Holy Spirit invite us to support the pro-life cause in other ways.

Pope John Paul II stressed that children are the hope of the future. However, if their lives are snuffed out in the womb, unborn children have no earthly future. Since they cannot speak for themselves, we must defend their God-given right to be born. The battle for the rights of the unborn will be long and hard. But the unborn who cannot speak for themselves are worth it.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.