Today is the anniversary of the most disgraceful Supreme Court decision in the history of the United States, Roe v. Wade, a decision which flies in the face of everything that this nation had previously claimed to stand for. That court case, along with it’s companion case Doe v. Bolton ultimately, in their time, would technically make abortion legal in all States and in all months of pregnancy. Subsequent court cases over the years would, thankfully, clarify that the States have the ability to regulate abortion but not yet outlaw it. In Washington and in places around the country, people rally, march, and worship to pray and hope that the day will come when the Right to Life is respected in America again from conception until natural death.
For many years, those who favor the continuation of the hidden holocaust of legalized abortion in America have accused people on the pro-life side of being callous to the needs of the poor. For a moment we will ignore the reality that it is the abortion industry that spends much of its time and energy looking for poor women to victimize through abortion. It cannot be ignored, however, that the leading provider of abortions in America was founded by a woman, Margaret Sanger, who believed that the poor, especially immigrant Catholics and black people (just to name a few) were inferior, particularly people who were not from white northern European backgrounds. One of the reasons that Sanger so strongly favored both abortion and contraception for poor women is because she wanted such people not to have children.
One of the most dangerous notions, however, of many of our well-meaning friends on the other side of the argument is the idea that whether an unborn child might have a good quality of life should impact whether it is allowed to live, or be aborted. In some places in the world, that same mentality is used to determine whether disabled or elderly people might live or die. Who determines “quality of life,” and who has the right to make that decision for another human being? Essentially, this argument says that some lives are worth more than others. That is an argument of a society that is totally centered on itself, where a crass materialism reigns supreme. Some people might argue that I, as a disabled person, don’t have a good quality of life. I’m thankful that these people have, as of yet, had no input on whether I live or die.
In his homily for last night’s National Vigil Mass for Life (in advance of today’s annual March for Life) Sean Cardinal O’ Malley of Boston rightly pointed out that as Catholics, we have been consistent in our ethic of life. We do not simply tell women not to abort their unborn children, we plead for them not to and we try to provide options so that a child can live and a mother can make the choice for life. Catholics and other people of faith help run crisis pregnancy centers all over America to provide loving support without judgment, many are right here in East Tennessee. Catholics have argued consistently in favor of a social safety net despite popular opinion in some quarters precisely because the Right to Life and the corollary to insure that life is valued and children are cared for demand that no one simply be allowed to fall through the cracks. In the words of another Catholic blogger who I greatly admire, Elizabeth Scalia (though she was writing about another topic), “Catholics don’t throw people away.”
Recently, Time ran a cover story which not only discussed people who consciously chose not to have children but the magazine seemed to celebrate and glorify this status. Those who are, in their words, “childless by choice” were actually complaining that the culture is too child-centered, with one woman saying that she no longer attended church because there were too many children there, while another person said that she could no longer maintain relationships with her old friends once they entered motherhood. Nasty children, they just get in the way! There are good reasons not to have children, which may include the fact that someone is incapable of conceiving, or they don’t feel called to married life. It is another thing, however, to glory in the lack of children and wish that more people had no children, it is a sad mark of deep self-centeredness. An acquaintance of mine, Middle Tennessee political writer Nancy French, wrote a response to the Time piece that appeared in National Review Online, among other places, in which she pointed out that the attitude behind selfishly choosing not to have children has consequences for society beyond just “me.” The sadness, however, is that such attitudes are not only tolerated but increasingly encouraged in a social order that is becoming perverse in its promotion of narcissism. It is a hallmark of what Blessed Pope John Paul II called the Culture of Death.
The Catholic view is different precisely because we understand that life is a gift, indeed all is gift, and the gift comes from God, not from us. Because we did not give ourselves life, our life is not about us, but is about what we can do for one another. All human life has the greatest dignity in the eyes of God, it does not matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, or a baby in the womb. If you think no one else loves you, we serve a God who created you, knows the hairs of your head, and loves you in a way that you cannot possibly imagine. Every person has the right to live, and that is why people are braving the cold to march today, to speak up for the unborn who have no voice to speak for them.
If you have an unplanned pregnancy or are considering abortion, please let us help you. We love you and love your baby, and we are ready to do what we can to help. Call the Pregnancy Help Center of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee 24 Hour helpline at 1-877-990-4673. God Love You.