Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that in effect legalized abortion in the United States. The Church teaches us that abortion is a violation of the fifth commandment, which states: “Thou shall not kill.” Participation in an abortion – which includes having one, paying for one, encouraging one, performing one, and helping in the performance of one – is a mortal sin. Because we oppose abortion, we as a Church are committed to making alternatives to abortion more available, including adoption, financial assistance to parents and especially mothers in need, and education about the sanctity of life.
Since 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, our society has tumbled down the slippery slope of devaluing life and we are seeing the rotten fruits of it all over. War, violence, hatred, lack of concern for the poor and needy, lack of respect for the elderly and terminally ill, all of these things are symptoms of the culture of death that surrounds us. Far from liberating women and giving them choice over the use of their bodies, the legalization of abortion has driven many women to have an abortion simply because they thought that was their only option or because it was more convenient for family or the father.
And respecting life goes beyond merely opposing abortion. Our Church teaches us that we cannot claim to be Pro Life if we are in fact only anti-abortion. Our claim to righteousness has to be based on more than never having had the disastrous occasion of having to choose to participate in an abortion, or it’s not really righteousness at all. If we pray to end abortion and then do not attend to our obligation to the poor, or if we choose to support the death penalty, or if we feel like it’s okay to help a person die if they are sick, or if we engage in racial bigotry, then we are not in fact Pro Life. Every single life is sacred, no matter what we may think of it, purely because God created each life after his very own image and likeness.
And I say this not because I don’t think that abortion is anything short of a disaster: it most certainly is. Abortion ends the life of a child, it ruins the lives of everyone involved, it damages society in ways we may never fully know. I say this because it’s way too easy for us to oppose abortion and then call ourselves Pro Life and then go out and violate life in some other circumstance. We must be very careful of doing that, because not being completely Pro Life weakens our witness to the sanctity of life. The world is watching us closely. And we absolutely cannot be at all weak in our witness for life: our society needs our strength and passion for life so that there can be conversion and change and unity and peace.
And so today we pray for the sanctity of life, we pray for all whose lives are in danger, we pray for those who are in the sad position of ending human life. And most of all, we pray for an end to the culture of death that surrounds us.