Editor’s Note: This piece discusses abortion — a topic that can bring up many emotions for people. No matter what your story is, or where you are in your journey, we want you to know that God loves you and the Church loves you. If you are dealing with anger, sadness, shame, fear— or are hurting in any way — resulting from a connection to abortion, Jesus desires healing, wholeness, and restoration for you. If you or someone you know needs help finding healing and hope after an abortion, please contact Rachel’s Vineyard at 877-467-3463 or the National Hotline for Abortion Recovery at 866-482-5433. Additional information is available at rachelsvineyard.org.
“I would like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed…do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope.” (EVANGELIUM VITAE, 99 – St. John Paul II)
October is Respect Life Month and this Sunday, October 3rd, is designated as Respect Life Sunday. The Catholic Church has always been a defender of the life of every human person from conception to natural death. The Church places the highest value on the dignity of every single unique and unrepeatable human life, from yours and mine, to the most vulnerable, weak, and ill among us. The Catechism begins its treatment of the 5th Commandment – you shall not kill – with the very reason for the high value of life:
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 circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (CCC #2258)
In other words, God is the Creator of every human life and, therefore, has a relationship with and authority over that life in its entirety. Any attempt on an individual’s part to undermine God as the author of life is committing a grave offense, as he or she determines the value or dignity of one life over another. Of course, all murder is wrong, but in this article I will deal with abortion. Next week I will address euthanasia and suicide. These are the three forms of murder with which our modern society struggles the most.
The Church has condemned abortion since her earliest days. In fact, the Catechism quotes the Didache – an ancient Christian manual dating back to the second century – saying, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish” (CCC #2271). When referencing a text from the second century, it is easy to be critical of the teaching, citing its social context and a lack of scientific sophistication. However, developments in science have only served to bolster the teaching. We now have technology that reveals a fetal heartbeat earlier than ever before and we have imaging that show babies in utero doing things like sucking their thumbs and sleeping in early stages of development. What’s more, we have technology that can determine whether a fetus is experiencing pain and distress. We also have pre-natal surgeons completing life-saving operations on babies in utero, then afterward, allowing them to complete their gestation within their mothers’ wombs. The popular pro-choice mantra of “my body, my choice” also does not hold water with modern scientific developments. It has become very clear that, despite being dependent on the mother for survival, a baby in utero is an autonomous, unique, and unrepeatable human being with his or her own separate body, and therefore, is worthy of the same dignity as any other autonomous human being. To willfully end a pregnancy is nothing less than the taking of a human life.
Other arguments in favor of abortion include overpopulation, poverty, disabilities, illness, and concern for the life of the mother. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) is arguably one of the most outspoken pro-life saints from our modern times. Here is just a little of what she had to say on these issues:
“How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.”
“I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today 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 can accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”
“By abortion the mother does not learn to love, but kills her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women to the same trouble. So abortion leads to more abortion. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.”
“Many people are concerned with children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today — abortion which brings people to such blindness.”
“How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts.”
You can see that Mother Teresa’s emphasis is always to put love of the other person over self, or, as she so beautifully states it, to love until it hurts. This means the possibility of suffering through the circumstances that come with choosing life for a baby. If you are not familiar with St. Gianna Beretta Molla, she is another modern Catholic saint who opted to forgo cancer treatment while she was pregnant in order to protect her unborn daughter’s life. As a result, she died shortly after giving birth and her daughter was named after her. I had the pleasure of attending an event where the daughter, Gianna, was speaking about how her mother gave her life for her. As she spoke, Gianna was filled with such joy, light, and appreciation for the sacrifice her mother had made for her in order that she might live her life. St. Gianna lived Mother Teresa’s words of loving the life inside of her until it hurt.
Mother Teresa asks us why we should be surprised by the amount of violence in our world today when we lack a very fundamental respect for life in its most vulnerable form. When the justifications for killing an innocent human baby are so easy to list off, what other hope do we have as a society to respect any life over another?
As Christians today, our response needs to be one of love. We need to love and help these mothers and fathers who feel as if they have no other option. Consider donating your time, talent, or treasure to assisting pro-life ministries that offer support and resources to pregnant women in need. If you know a woman who has had an abortion, offer her the utmost compassion for feeling as if she had no other option than to terminate her pregnancy. Be ready with resources, such as Rachel’s Vineyard, which provides healing services for women who have suffered through abortion. Of course, as always, pray. Pray for the unborn and pray for their parents. Abortion is an evil that has been sewn into the very fabric of our society. It can only be eradicated with dedication, perseverance, action, and much prayer.
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