Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health … [because] this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams (President Obama, January 22, 2014).
Another year of “choice” has passed, and the number of victims continues to grow—victims who include the children lost through abortion, their parents, their extended families, and the entire society now bereft of their myriad talents. While the younger generation clearly predominated this year’s March for Life in Washington, DC—indeed, polls show that the majority of younger Americans are prolife—they have yet to consider the wider implications of ignoring how we define the families into which these children will be born.
The prolife contingent finds itself sandwiched between two other key human rights struggles, and each of the three mass movements affect the others at their very core. This reminds us that truth is an integrated whole that the “father of lies” seeks to eviscerate from every angle. The three movements are the battles for civil rights, the right to life, and the defense of traditional marriage. Each promotes the dignity of the human person and safeguards that which he needs in order to thrive.
The civil rights movement was necessary to conquer the lie that some persons have more value than others, because slavery in America depended on the premise that some persons were commodities and others were consumers. The prolife moment picked up where the previous movement left off, because in 1973 personhood—which had previously included everyone—was suddenly stripped from those in utero. The third contest has just begun and is contingent on the lie that the traditional family is simply a human construct which can be reworked; this presents us with the battle that could shred what is left of the Republic.
Just as our civil rights work has borne much fruit yet stands incomplete, respect for the personhood of the unborn is growing but has yet to be translated into legal protection. While prolife arguments have convinced many of our young people, the confusion on the next front has engulfed the bulk of the population—especially the young. They have yet to connect the dots: not only do all persons share equal dignity, not only do all persons have the inherent right to life, but all persons subsequently have a right to the security of a stable family so that they can be formed by a mother and a father. That truth is founded in the same natural law that undergirds the first two, and goes hand-in-hand with them for the good of each person and wider society.
When President Obama speaks of a pregnant woman in isolation, he is ignoring the fact that there are two other persons involved: the child within and that child’s father. And when he suggests that America’s “guiding principles” presume that a woman’s pregnancy will interrupt her dreams, he perpetuates the lie that one person’s aspirations are more important than another’s—meaning the very dreams of the child she carries.
And finally, when a mother dreams that she can construct a family of her own choosing—regardless of the needs of her child—then even if she chooses life, she has robbed him of his surest means of emotional security, healthy formation, and an understanding of his place in the universe—for the domestic church is the springboard into divine realities. When a child knows the love of a father and a mother, he understands more readily the God who made him and the Church that stands ready to nurture him.
All three movements are critical, and the losses on any front impact the others. It remains for us to weave the arguments for each into a sturdy and integrated whole, so that authentic respect for all persons is never short-changed.