Pro Life Ohioans: Now is Our Time
By now, almost everyone has heard about the leaked first-draft copy of the majority opinion U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case. While the text has been authenticated, it is not the final decision, and it is subject to change (and may have been changed before the draft was leaked). There is much speculation on the leak, but to date nothing substantial. The draft opinion is extremely well-written. It says that there is no national Constitutional right to abortion and clarifies that states can set policies for the protection of unborn children, the regulation of abortion and abortion clinics, and enact full abolition of abortion. While some may wish that the decision had gone further in declaring the personhood status of the child, that question was not before the court.
It will be tempting, given the situation and the circumstances of this leak, to give way to excitement over a victory, fret about procedure and efforts to influence the Court, decry the decision as not going far enough, or spend hours reacting to public sentiment via social or conventional media. My encouragement, however, is that while each of these things has a place in our response, we should continue to always pray and never give up, never lose heart, and never grow weary in our efforts, because Pro-Life Ohioans: now is our time.
Now is our time to redouble efforts to support vulnerable women, children, and families in need. Returning abortion regulation to the states will not immediately amend the brokenness of our culture and its detrimental impact on families and openness to life. Instead, let us take up the mandate to put our hearts where our mouths have been and to use them to proclaim the absolute dignity of human life with our every word, action, and effort. Let us be vocal advocates that while government programs may have a place, it is also our responsibility to engage and act at an individual level.
Now is our time to respond with compassion and mercy to the generations of women and men who are scared, hurt, and angry because they believe that the success and equality of women can only be bought by blood – and not the blood of the Lamb, but by the blood of their own children. For those who believe that the path of success is paved with the remains of aborted children, we have an opportunity to show that this is a lie. Abortion is often an attempt to respond to very real problems faced by women and families. Instead of mocking them, inciting tensions, or amplifying their rage, let us work to end injustice and inequality by tearing down the structures that deny women and families flexibility and accommodation. Abortion props up a system that pits women against their unborn children and often makes them choose between their babies’ lives and their educations, jobs, and overall chances at success.
Now is our time to speak and act with clear-headedness, truth, and gentleness at the misguided notion that abortion is the compassionate answer to crimes like rape and incest. Rape is without a doubt a violent assault, and we do not turn a blind eye to its severity and consequences. However, pregnancy is not a punishment for women who engage in sexual activity without “permission” of the culture. To say that a woman who is the victim of rape “deserves” an abortion but the woman who is the victim of domestic violence or who engaged in a one-night stand does not ignores the absolute humanity of the child. It fails to consider that most victims of rape are assaulted by someone they know. Especially in the case of minors or victims of offenses such as incest and human trafficking, abortion can be used to cover-up repeated crimes. Even today, women who report sexual assault have abortions in roughly the same percentages as women who have abortions for other types of unplanned pregnancy: pushing abortion exceptions and calling for abortion for women who have been sexually assaulted does not consider their actual feelings, emotions, and needs after violence. It perpetuates the lie that women need only “put behind them” violence to heal from it. It is more likely to subject women who chose life and the children conceived in rape or incest to judgement, ridicule, and dehumanization. Instead of diminishing the egregious nature of violence and sexual assault, let us come together to demand justice for victims of sexual assault, access to healing, and support for those who struggle.
Now is the time to speak out against the ableism that says children with possible or likely medical needs have lives that are not worth living. Let us reject the idea that the parental instinct to protect a child is best met by euthanizing that child. Instead, let us have honest conversations about prenatal hospice and maternal care and recognize the sorrow families feel at miscarriage rather than place the emotional burden of taking direct action to end the life of a child on the parents’ shoulders. Let’s put an end to the increasingly prevalent idea that children and adults with profound health and medical needs have lives that are not worth living and extend compassion and humanity to those who are aged, infirm, and otherwise vulnerable.
Now is the time to recognize that the American Church has its greatest challenge and opportunity to engage in the new evangelism by persisting in the loving truth that we are stewards and not owners of the lives God has entrusted to us. Let us proclaim that everyone who has ever been or will ever be was known, beloved, and made in the image of God; that Jesus Christ has conquered all death and sin because of that love; and that we may not understand all of the trials and sufferings that have entered into this world and we may not know that time or the place or the way that it will happen, but that God has and will overcome all of the sufferings of this world. Let us speak clearly that our concern for the unborn child comes from a genuine regard for the dignity of the human person.
When I look at the pro-life movement, I see people who are worn and weary from five decades of activism. I see new faces full of ideas and enthusiasm. I see people of diverse backgrounds and faiths and of no faith whatsoever. I see people who want to join us, but who are afraid that their gender or their beliefs disqualify them. I hear from people repulsed by abortion but who believe it is the only compassionate position. I see the walking wounded hurting from past abortions. Let us unite in the churches and in the public square and recruit others to our cause.
Now is our time, pro-life Ohioans, to acknowledge that while we want nothing more than this fight to be over it is time to lovingly persist. In the words of the inimitable Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “We know the justice of our cause, we trust in the faithfulness of his promise, and therefore we shall not weary, we shall not rest.”
This article was originally printed in The Catholic Times.