By Glenn Leach
Abortion is the taking of innocent life. A woman may undergo an abortion for a variety of reasons, but the result is the same.
Before the Roe v. Wade decision Catholic bishops were the principal opposition to abortion, and nearly all the right-to-life movement consisted of Catholics. Today, the majority of mainstream churches oppose abortion.
The abhorrence of abortion stems theologically from the commandment prohibiting killing, emotionally from the ugliness and pain of abortion for the fetus, particularly in later stages of gestation, and the innate concern of a race for its survival.
What divides the Church and fuels political fires are strategies for combating this evil. Some see legal prohibition of abortion as the only solution, thus avoiding anyone or any party that does not make legal prohibition of abortion their priority. Others look at the various factors that might lead to abortion and attempt to change social mechanisms that impact these factors. Still others react to the millions of children who die of hunger or disease and civilian lives lost in warfare as also the taking of innocent life. Despite the fervor with which the groups work, no group alone is likely to succeed.
Changing social mechanisms to reduce poverty and assuring access to health care and decent housing for families may reduce the number of women who seek abortion, but other reasons for abortions exist. Eliminating the starvation deaths of over a million children a year or preventing the loss of innocent civilians in war will not have a direct impact on abortion. Few if any politicians have legal prohibition of abortion as a priority, even if they identify themselves as pro-life.
The great barrier to eliminating abortion is the minds and hearts of Americans. Until the overwhelming majority considers abortion terribly wrong, it will not go away. Politicians reflect what they believe is public sentiment, rarely do they lead it. In changing minds and hearts, we have a problem. Surveys report a growing percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation, and dropping attendance at churches among those who do. Within the Catholic Church, it is hardly news that the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life are at an all-time low.
A hymn we sing says “all of our danger is discord.” It is critical that we embrace lives of discipleship and evangelization, living our faith, and daily following the commandments of Jesus to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. If we are seen as unable to love one another within the Church, if beyond the Church we are unable to work for the protection of life and the dignity of the human person against all assaults, our fellow Americans will note our divisions and failures. That will prevent them from accepting any pro-life message. As another hymn says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
(Glenn Leach is a volunteer with the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Department and a member of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove.)