January 22nd marked the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. Legalized as a private act, abortion remains a very public and divisive issue. I understand that as a celibate male, my concerns and questions in regard to abortion can be easily dismissed by those who advocate abortion. I hope, though, that those who espouse a pro-abortion position would be open to dialoguing about some of the issues surrounding abortion. Below are five for your consideration.
1. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled a woman’s choice to have an abortion outweighed the states concern for prenatal life-up until the point of viability, which in 1973 was deemed 28 weeks. Since that time, however, there have been significant advances in medical science. Children have been born as young as 21 weeks of pregnancy. I believe we can’t ignore this fact. Why are we using outdated medical information regarding viability? This doesn’t make sense to me, and we need to talk about it.
2. We need to continue to look for ways we can support women and men who are experiencing a problematic pregnancy and/or who are concerned about having the necessary resources to raise a child. As people who are pro-life, it is not enough for us simply to be opposed to abortion. We also need to be concerned about the issues of health care and nutrition for infants. We need to be concerned about paid parental leave, childhood education and food security. And we need to be concerned about safe housing for children and families. We need to talk with those who support the choice of abortion about how we, as individuals and as a society, can protect and enhance life not just in the womb, but after birth as well.
3. Many times when people who are pro-abortion talk about this issue, they use words like “safe” “legal” and “rare.” The use of the word “rare” has always concerned me. It suggests one of two things. Either people are using that word as a cynical concession to those who are opposed to abortion, or deep down they recognize that there is something improper and/or wrong about the procedure. In the case of the former, people who are pro-abortion need to fess up and acknowledge that they use the word “rare” as a verbal contrivance and not in any meaningful way. In the latter case, when they use the word “rare” they must realize that at root there is something wrong with the practice of abortion. In either case, we need to talk about it.
4. Likewise, polls continually indicate that people believe too many abortions are occurring. We need to talk with each other about how we can reduce the number of abortions. A woman should never feel that she must choose between her well-being and her unborn child’s life. We need to provide concrete, specific and practical services and programs to help women and men in problematic pregnancies. While our Church, and particularly our Archdiocese, have done much in this area, imagine how much more could be done if we worked with those who advocate a pro-abortion position. Let’s talk about this.
5. We need to tone down the rhetoric and eliminate the inflammatory language that increasingly has been part of the discussion of the issue of abortion. I think those of us in the pro-life camp need to take the lead in doing this. It is too easy for people to dismiss our position on the basis of our often volatile language. We need to invite people into dialogue, to make our case and demonstrate the moral rightness of our position. In this regard, I believe we are far more apt to convince people than we are to coerce them. Using language that is simple, direct, non-inflammatory, and open to dialogue is a step in this direction.
The above are my suggestions as to how, on the 49th anniversary of Roe v Wade, we might proceed. I believe that if we are ever to come to a resolution in regard to the issue of abortion, this can only occur when we change the way, the manner, and the form in which we talk about this issue and seek new ways and means to engage each other in dialogue. As people committed to life, I think we need to be in the forefront of this activity. I believe that ultimately it is only in this way that we can help others come to understand the value, dignity and worth of every human life.