A few days ago we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. and his movement to grant rights and dignity to all people in all places. Racial inequality was undoubtedly one of the greatest civil rights issues of the twentieth century.
In my opinion, the greatest civil rights issue of today, the one that all future generations will judge us on, is the issue of abortion. Today marks the 37th anniversary of the controversial Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion during the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy and opened the floodgates to abortion in our country. Ever since then, a fight has been raging to close them back again.
With the understanding that life begins at conception, abortion becomes nothing short of the taking of a life. The Catholic Church has been the largest opponent of abortion--especially in the last century but also throughout the last 2,000 years--claiming it to be a "grave evil" in all cases and situations. The intentional killing of an unborn child should not be pursued for any reason.
This is far more than a political issue; this is an issue of life or death--an issue of the "pursuit of life" or a "culture of death"--and its acceptance or rejection is a measuring stick of authentic communal faith. Many people shy away from this polarizing topic out of fear or discomfort, while others--especially Christians--criticize pro-life supporters for neglecting other issues of justice and life such as poverty, war, torture, and care of the elderly and the environment. The latter are correct, at least in their claim that people who vehemently oppose abortion should also oppose any system of oppression or marginalization, and should be fully "whole-life". This is what being truly pro-life means after all.
But the honoring of the dignity of life is the fundamental base of all other issues of social justice; Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have both stressed again and again that society cannot be rightly ordered--care for the poor and environment cannot be fully realized--until the dignity of the most vulnerable in our midst, the unborn child, is recognized. The issue of abortion is at the core of all other issues of humanity; how you feel and act towards the killing of the unborn reflects your orientation towards all other issues of justice.
The past history of abortion is terribly sobering. Abortion statistics sink into the deepest depths of anguish: since Roe v. Wade, over one-billion children have been aborted in the world, with a current worldwide average of about one abortion per woman. In America, 22% of all pregnancies end in abortion. Some estimate that one-third of my generation have been killed before being born, as have one-third of the African American population (making it the single largest killer among the black community). Many of the largest and most outspoken proponents of abortion and the whole "pro-choice" movement--namely the late eugenicist Margaret Sanger and the organization she founded, Planned Parenthood--profit tremendously by performing abortions; they trade morality for a "bag of coins", specifically targeting the poor and minorities through the locations of their abortion clinics. Finally, we have the most pro-abortion President in the history of our country, coupled with the most pro-abortion Congress.
Through all of this, though, there is still hope. There is always hope, for ours is a God of hope. We believe in a God who has time and time again raised cultures of life out of the darkest depths of human history. For the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision, the majority of American citizens recognize themselves as pro-life. The March for Life today, in Washington D.C., will be the largest mass protest in the history of our country. People all over the world are recognizing the evil of abortion and are taking steps to care for pregnant women before, during, and after pregnancy. Adoption is becoming a huge movement within American Christian churches. Scientific studies and technology--particularly ultrasounds--have enlightened many to the obvious realities of the personhood of the unborn. The tide is finally turning, and many lives are being saved everyday through peaceful, non-violent prayer vigils outside of abortion sites.
And so I pray. I pray alongside the groans of my thousands of brothers and sisters around the world who fight the culture of death. I pray with the groans of the hundreds of millions of children whose groans were not heard. I pray that we cultivate a culture of life in our country; that we recognize the dignity and worth of every person, born or unborn. And I pray that the Spirit moves within us, and moves among us to bring this change about. May the same Spirit of God that moved through Martin Luther King Jr and those who fought for the rights of African-Americans inspire our entire country to stand-up, confront this "grave evil", and to its face proclaim, "We shall overcome!"
(If you are a Christian, especially if you are Catholic, I strongly, strongly urge you to read "The Gospel of Life", the monumental encyclical written by Pope John Paul II in 1995. You can find the full text online here, or you can purchase it in booklet form for less than $5 here.
Also, if you have a few minutes, read these words on the issue of abortion and personhood from Boston College philosophy professor and writer Peter Kreeft, who I believe to be our generation's C.S. Lewis in terms of philosophy, logic, and wit. He explains the illogic of this injustice quite clearly.
Finally, if you've been through the experience of an abortion, there are many great organizations that offer help, compassion, and love to help you through the healing of emotional wounds and the regret that naturally follow. Check out "Rachel's Vineyard" here or "Project Rachel" here. As a country, we need to especially recognize that many, many women have experienced the ordeal of an abortion, many of whom through pressure from family or the father of the child. The compassion and love that we extend to the unborn must also be extended to these women, with an additional overflow of forgiveness. I fear that many pro-life advocates "hate" the politicians who support abortion and the women who procure them, but in the fight to quell abortions, love needs to be the battle-cry, not hate. This battle is a direct opportunity to truly "love our enemies".)