The foundational importance of defending life is also clear from a consideration of nature of the state itself. As Evangelium Vitae declares, when the state legitimizes abortion or euthanasia, it no longer is the common home where all can be safe. Instead, it becomes a tyrant state, all rights become negotiable, and the disintegration of the state itself begins. In such a climate, the family and its rights cannot be either secure or even intelligible. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta declared, "the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
Signs and Strategies for Progress
As someone who has worked against abortion since 1976 and has done so fulltime since 1993, I can tell you today that I have never been more confident that the days of legal abortion are numbered. The signs of progress and the motives for this confidence are too numerous to even mention in our limited time, but let me trace two dynamics for you briefly that begin to tell the story. You might call them a dual collision course, and they are working themselves out in the courts as well as in public opinion.
This twofold collision course is based on the twofold lie behind legal abortion, namely, that
a) what is destroyed in abortion is not a child, and
b) abortion carries a benefit for women.
The Destruction of the Child
Former United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once famously said that the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973 was "on a collision course with itself." On the one hand, the decision gave the states the right to protect unborn children after viability while insisting on the right to abort in all cases in the first two trimesters. On the other hand, the age of viability, thanks to modern science, continues to move earlier and earlier.
Ironically, it is in the decades during which we have learned more about the unborn child than at any other time in human history that we have seen the abandonment of legal protection of that child. Yet now, a massive cognitive dissonance is developing, as medical science calls the unborn our "newest patient," as fetal therapy and surgery continue to develop, as the imaging of the unborn is perfected and even their psychology and learning patterns are better understood. And in the law itself, we see an embryonic moment emerging. In the United States, for instance, federal law now protects children born alive at any stage, even as a result of a failed abortion, protects the unborn from the specific procedure of partial-birth abortion, and recognizes unborn children as victims if they are killed in the commission of a federal crime. This latter law is also in place in numerous states, leading to the curious contradiction that if a pregnant woman in a car on her way to an abortion clinic to have her child killed is struck by a drunk driver and the baby dies as a result, that drunk driver can be charged with the death of that same child whom she was about to have legally killed.
The public is awakening to the fact that when we allow the killing of one group of human beings, we endanger all the rest. The recent trial and conviction of abortionist Kermit Gosnell has focused new attention on late term abortion and on the killing of babies outside the womb in abortion clinics.
Along with various members of our Priests for Life team, I was present in the courtroom for the Gosnell trial. He is now serving three life sentences for having killed three children who were born alive. Never in the courtroom was there a doubt raised that these were human children and that he killed them. The argument was all about where they were located when they were killed. The absurdity of this was profound, as if a trial were underway for a man who killed his wife, and the sole point of the argument was whether he killed her in their house or out on the street.