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It has taken me the better part of 30 years to know again what I knew when I was 10. That is: when it comes to right and wrong, there is no gray area. "Thou shall not kill," for example, is a simple command. Yet, we make it hard.
When I was a girl, my parents took me to Mass each week. There, I once found in the pew a brochure that made a case against abortion. I recall not the words, but the mesmerizing picture of a baby in the womb. I studied that picture for a long time. Because since then I have seen ultrasound photos of babies in the womb, I realize that I must have been looking at an artist's rendition. I remember it in color, this picture of an exquisitely tiny and beautiful baby, complete with perfect fingers and toes, and mermaid's white hair that swirled around her head in her amniotic bath.
I don't know now how much I understood then about abortion and the debate that must have been raging in those years before Roe v. Wade. But, I understood that the child in the womb is a human life, created by God in concert with the human parents. When I was 20 years old, away at college and far from my Catholic upbringing, a friend confided to me that she was pregnant by a student she had met at a party. I am not sure she knew this young man's name. I suspect she did not, although she pointed him out to me once.
I was struck by his hair. It was blond, short in the front and long in the back, giving the effect of a lion's mane. He was a handsome enough fellow with his shock of yellow hair. And my friend was beautiful with her dark hair and eyes, and perfect unblemished skin. I wonder now what characteristics their child would have inherited. Boy or girl? For the sake of simplicity, I'll say boy. Surely, he would have been beautiful, as all babies are, especially to their parents. But would he have been favored with his mother's dark hair and eyes, or his father's fair complexion? I imagine a child who as he grew would sprout a lion's mane of dark hair, thus giving testimony to the beauty of both parents.
Imagination is all I have. When my friend told me that she was planning an abortion, I asked, "Are you sure?" She was sure, end of conversation. I didn't have the wisdom or courage to confront her, to suggest the obvious alternatives. Our federal courts had given this frightened 20-year-old the option to do away with the result of her one-night stand. God's law had taken a back seat to man's law.
Had he survived to infancy, that baby likely would have made it strong and healthy to adulthood in this land of plenty. Potential adoptive parents would have lined up by the hundreds to beg the honor of raising him. But I don't believe it would have gotten to that point. Once over the initial shock at the sudden change in plans, his educated, middle-class parents and grandparents would have cherished and doted on him. He would have had a good life.
This child now would be the age of his mother at the time she conceived him. Surely, if he carried on a shred of her fierceness, he would have opinions about the events of our times. Would he be pro-choice, believing that a mother has a right to flush her child out after a few peaceful weeks in the womb? Or, might he defend the notion that all babies deserve a go at life? Were he in the position of the fellow with the lion's mane, would he expect to be informed and given a say in the decision for or against bringing the baby to term? Or, would he prefer to go blithely on his way, as if no seed had been planted, no life started?
Maybe he would be like I was at age 20 and still at 30, wobbling uncomfortably on the middle of the fence. He might see all sides, empathize with all, and become so influenced by the views and emotions of the individual players that he could no longer comprehend the simple commands of our Creator.
Through God's grace, I again can see the truth. Life begins at conception. God has a plan for each life. To stop a human life at any point is murder. To stop the life of the helpless unborn is especially heinous.
My heart still goes out to those who for whatever reason do not welcome news of a pregnancy, especially when the pregnancy results from the horrible crimes of rape or incest. But now I know beyond doubt that the right to life supercedes all others. Abortion is not a solution. Support, understanding, kindness, sharing: these are solutions.
I let down a helpless babe 20 years ago when I did not fight for his right to live. I cannot undo the harm done. Sadly, the slaughter continues. The death toll for the six years of World War II was 65 million. The annual death toll for abortion world wide is an estimated 50 million. In the past 18 months, we have done away with more babies than all the people killed in that war. Over 18 months, some 2.1 million abortions take place in our own country. If these aborted children were provided the dignity of a funeral, the sad processions through our cities would be unending.
If you are pro-choice, or if you are on the fence, I appeal to you to wash away the muddy streaks of emotionalism and humanism that color your decision making, or lack thereof. Know God's law and defend it.
Act on your understanding in your daily life. Expectant mothers, cherish and nurture the life within you. Parents, even as you teach your daughters and sons that sex is a sacred act reserved for married couples, also teach them that should they ever face an unplanned pregnancy, you will support them as best you can, emotionally and financially. A sacred life is a sacred life, no matter the circumstances of conception.
Support your local emergency pregnancy services to lighten the load for those who do choose life. Do not begrudge the taxes you pay to support the education of the young. They will support you in your old age. Be an informed consumer. Know who supports the abortion clinics in your community. If you suspect your dollar will go back to support abortions, then buy elsewhere. Tell your elected representatives where you stand on this issue, or you share their guilt when they vote for partial birth abortion and other crimes against life.
Pray that this slaughter be stopped, especially in our own country. Ours is a merciful, patient, and all-knowing God. He sees the blood of these innocents on our hands, on our U.S. Congress, on our world. One day, in this life or the next, we will account to Him for our crimes against the unborn.
January 4, 1999