October invites us to respect the lives of the unborn Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Oct. 01, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

Gianna Jessen appreciates God's precious gift of life more than most persons because she survived an abortion. A toxic saline solution was injected into the womb of her frightened 17-year-old mother in order to induce a chemical abortion intended to end Gianna's life.

The abortion failed. Eighteen hours later, she was born. Gianna had severe injuries that led to cerebral palsy. But she was alive. A startled, compassionate nurse called an ambulance that sped her to a hospital. Since she weighed only two pounds, the hospital placed her in an incubator. Eventually Penny, the generous mother of 56 foster children, adopted her. Gianna credits Penny and Jesus with saving her life.

Jessica Shaver wrote a book about her entitled Gianna. Today Gianna is a grateful, productive, vivacious, highly principled 32-year-old lady. She is a Christian who like Mary is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She who was never supposed to walk runs marathons and is a popular pro-life speaker who uses her gifts of singing and witnessing to promote respect for life. One admirer calls her a patron saint of pro-life.

Respecting all life

The Church teaches us to respect all aspects of life. But she has always defended the unborn who cannot speak for themselves. In number 2271 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is stated, "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion." In number 2270 of the same Catechism, it says, "From the first moment of existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person . . . among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."

This is why Pope John Paul II placed under Our Lady of Guadalupe's motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially those in danger of not being born. The Church's position is supported by natural law which defends the individual's dignity from conception until death.

Psalm 139:13-14 and other Bible passages describe God's miracle of life in the womb, "You formed my inmost being, you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me, wonderful are your works."

Life begins at conception

Medical science supports Catholic teaching that human life begins at conception. Technology enables the pregnant couple to see pictures of their unborn baby. They can also listen to their baby's heartbeat. When doctors treat the unborn infant, they recognize him or her as a human being.

At conception a new human being begins complete with his or her own unique set of DNA, present from the first day of life. The little person's sex is also determined from the beginning.

Eighteen days after conception the baby's heart beats. At 11 weeks the baby has fingerprints and fingernails. At 12 weeks the baby's lips open and close. He or she can smile or frown. At 16 weeks, the infant reacts to sound and may get hiccups. At 20 weeks the baby sleeps, wakes, and hears. There are other signs of life too numerous to mention here.

Support rights of pre-born

Because of easy access to abortion, we need to teach and support the rights of the unborn. We can teach the young that human life begins at conception. We can urge clergy, parents, teachers, and other educators to teach or preach Respect for Life. We can thank them when they do.

During my 20 years at Beloit Catholic High, I often invited pro-life groups to visit my classes. They witnessed to their commitment to the unborn through fetal models, medical evidence, and inspiring talks. The precious feet pins which were the size of an unborn baby's feet especially moved the students.

Moved by grace, we can also share with others why we are pro-life. Recently I heard a girl tell her friend that she is a Catholic and Catholics don't believe in abortion.

When we minister to the unborn, we minister to Jesus. We can urge our elected representatives to support legislation that protects the rights of the unborn. We can pray for the unborn and encourage the unborn's mother to receive counseling, give birth, and keep the baby or offer him or her for adoption. The Holy Spirit will show us other ways to support the unborn if we ask.

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. Though abortions have decreased in recent years, there are still too many. The battle for the rights of the unborn will be long and hard. But the lives of the unborn who cannot speak for themselves are worth it. Gianna Jessen agrees.

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