ABORTION: WHAT YOU CAN DO
The Guttmacher Institute reports that there is no longer any
statistically significant difference between the abortion rate among professing
Catholics and the abortion rate in the population at large. We can quibble over
their definition of "Catholics" but intellectually honest clerics must also be
disturbed by the fact that over half of "professing Catholics" voted for the
pro-abortion candidate in the last presidential election. High levels of
involvement in and support for abortion in the church mock Humane Vitae.
What follows are practical suggestions to reduce the abortion rate among your
parishioners, minister to parishioners wounded by abortion, and empower the
church as a witness against abortion in the secular culture.
In 25th chapter of Matthew, Christ foretells His Second Coming
and reveals that He will judge mankind on the basis of our individual
willingness to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in strangers,
clothe the naked, comfort the sick and visit those in prison. This list of
obligations is representative rather than exhaustive and surely suggests a duty
to care for children orphaned (Jeremiah 22:3) by parents who abandon them to
abortion. If God hates the sacrifice of newborn children on the altar of Topheth
(Jeremiah 7:24-31), will He be less angered by the sacrifice, on the altar of
convenience, of a full-term fetus in the very process of being born? And if He
cares about the fetus, can He be indifferent to the plight of the embryo? Which
begs the question, are we taking child sacrifice as seriously as God takes it?
God said in Isaiah 59:15-16 that He " … looked and was displeased that there
was no justice …. He was appalled that there was no one to intervene." Injustice
displeases Him but ignored injustice leaves Him shocked and dismayed. Are we
essentially ignoring this most appalling injustice? How are we to intervene?
Something as simple as placing a pro-life bumper-sticker on your car can save
baby's lives. It not only changes the minds of some of the mothers who are
contemplating abortion but it forces us to take a public stand. The cause of the
unborn lacks credibility precisely because so few Catholics are willing to stand
up and be counted as a witness against this terrible evil. The two primary
reasons so many of us refuse to display bumper-stickers is that they make our
cars ugly and they invite persecution. But shouldn't we care more about the life
of a baby than the appearance of our cars? In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus said "Do not
lay up for yourselves treasures on earth … but in heaven …." And shouldn't we
care more what people think of abortion than what they think of us? In Luke
6:26, Christ said "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you for their fathers
did the same to the false prophets."
Another effective way to confront the culture of death is to ask your own
doctor whether he performs abortions or refers patients for pregnancy
termination. The advent of the RU-46 chemical abortion makes it even more
essential that individual Catholics identify and boycott doctors involved in
baby killing. For the convenience of patients who are forced to dump their
doctors, the parish should maintain a directory of physicians who don't have
blood on their hands. This "moment of truth" with your doctor can be awkward but
Catholics who value etiquette above justice can not fairly call themselves
pro-life. Now that we know a Chinese pharmaceutical firm is the mysterious
manufacturer of the RU-484 abortion drug that will be used to kill babies in the
US, a boycott of all products manufactured in China would send a powerful
message to the Chinese government and every other pharmaceutical manufacturer
that there will be a severe economic penalty imposed on any firm which enters
the abortion fray.
Programs to ensure that prenatal development videos and graphic abortion
videos are part of the CCD and parochial school curricula will help students
better appreciate the humanity of the unborn child and the inhumanity of
abortion. The written and spoken word are easily misunderstood and quickly
forgotten but startling pictures are instantly comprehensible and linger forever
in the human mind. We must stop merely stating conclusions to kids and start
proving the facts which compel those conclusions. This is a highly visual
generation and we must teach them that way. We ignore this fact to our and their
A recent CBS/New York Times poll suggests that public opinion on
abortion is unlikely to change until people are convinced that the first
trimester embryo and early fetus (when 90% of abortions are performed) are as
fully entitled to rights of personhood as a late-term baby. (They are not "blobs
of tissue.") They must also be convinced that a suction abortion is as
indefensible an act of violence as a partial-birth abortion (It is not the
"lesser of two evils.") Pictures are by far the most effective way of achieving
these dual objectives. It is high irony that many Catholics work harder than
Planned Parenthood to suppress the best evidence we have (horrifying pictures)
that abortion is savagery. They then wonder why the culture isn't horrified by
abortion. Parishioners won't be motivated to do much to stop abortion if they
aren't horrified by it.
Ensuring emphasis on the church's teaching on sexual purity is another
proactive way of addressing the fact that 4/5ths of all abortions are, according
to the Centers For Disease Control, performed on single women. The
obvious implication of this fact is that sex sin is the root cause of the vast
majority of pregnancies terminated by induced abortion. (Priests who have been
willing to show brief but graphic abortion videos -- e.g. Harder Truth --
during or immediately following Mass have probably changed more minds and saved
more babies than all other pro-life acts combined. Children can be taken out of
the Mass for the short time required to play the tape and sensitive viewers can
be invited to avert their gaze. It is also useful to explain such clinically
proven side-effects of abortion as its association with breast cancer, etc.).
Students should be urged to pray about vocations in full-time pro-life
ministry. We are losing this struggle largely because most pro-abortion
activists are full-time, paid staff, professionals. Most pro-life activists are
part-time, amateur, volunteers. This means that we are unable to undertake the
sophisticated, complex projects required to win this battle.
It is also important to help organize voter registration drives at the
parish level. These should be followed by the distribution of voter education
information. This means publishing and distributing pamphlets summarizing the
positions of candidates on issues of interest to the church. A key follow-up
aspect is working to get people to the polls after registering and educating
them. This can best be accomplished by setting up phone banks to operate on
Putting together a letter-writing committee can ensure that appropriate
letters-to-the-editors of local newspapers are regularly submitted to reflect
the pro-life prospective on current events. This same group can also express
pro-life concerns to elected officials as needed. None of these activities will
jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status if they are conducted in a
The US Census Bureau reports that the current population of the country is
about 276,000,000 people. At the time of the 1996 presidential election there
were about 194,000,000 people of voting age. Only 65.9% of the voting age
population (128,000,000 people) was registered to vote and only 54.2% of the
voting age population (105,000,000 people) actually voted. It takes only half of
this number or 53,000,000 people (plus one vote) to win a presidential election.
About 40% of the voting age population is already at least nominally pro-life (Wirthlin
research). Therefore, if we can change the minds of the additional 10% needed to
reach that one half of the voting population, we can consistently elect pro-life
candidates. That is an achievable goal.
For those who are reluctant to "politicize" the Gospel by associating the
church with electoral activity, it should be borne in mind that throughout the
Bible, God holds the governor accountable for the doing of justice. It was for
this reason that He punished King Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:17-18), Pharaoh (Exodus
3:19, 14:28), King Jabin (Judges 4:3, 23-24), King Ahab (1 Kings 22:34, 37-38),
King Herod (Luke 3:19-20 & Acts 12:21-23), etc. Because we are a self-governing
nation, He will just as surely hold each of us just as accountable. If God's
Word is a reliable guide, He cares greatly about justice as the first function
Time volunteered at a pregnancy help center is also time well spent.
These organizations need help with counseling, clerical support, fund-raising,
medical services, etc. Professionals in the parish can also provide in-kind
services to help with accounting, legal services and personal medical and dental
care to underpaid center staff members.
Parishioners should also be encouraged to take pregnant, homeless teens
into their own homes. Infertile couples might wish to consider the "adoption"
and implantation of one of the large number of human embryos which are killed
each year as "excess" and discarded. Disapproval of in vitro fertilization
doesn't relieve us of our obligation to protect these tiniest of babies.
Gifts of financial support to pro-life organizations can also be funded
by simply taking money which would have been spent on a Christmas present and
donating it to pro-life work in the name of a friend or family member. There can
be no better way of celebrating the birth of the Christ child than with a gift
which saves the lives of children whose abortions would have denied them any
birth at all. This gift-giving model de-commercializes Christmas by refocusing
its observation on the most basic need of the most helpless children.
The same can be done with the remembrance of birthdays. Instead of
trivializing the celebration of birth by offering a gift which the honoree may
neither need nor even want, you can transform the event into a true celebration
of life. The gift represents money you were going to spend anyway. But now the
expenditure will be given real meaning.
Special emphasis needs to be placed on the healing power of Project
Rachael as a means of restoring the huge and growing numbers of women and men
who have been complicit in the death of a baby. But the concept of restitution
should also be sensitively taught. In conclusion, here is what I mean.
During his college years, a friend of mine impregnated a coed whom he
regarded to be little more than a casual acquaintance. Because she mistakenly
imagined that he was taking their relationship as seriously as she, the young
woman was devastated by his declaration that he would neither marry her, nor
continue to see her, nor pay her a penny of child support. Adding insult to
injury, he refused even to absorb the cost of the abortion to which he insisted
she submit. He dismissively informed her that he would pay only half "her"
abortion. She somehow managed to scrape together "her" share of the fee and much
time passed before my friend’s guilt, born of an improbable conversion to
Christianity, drove him to seek her out and beg her forgiveness.
In the intervening years, his new-found faith eventually led him even more
improbably into pastoral ministry and as Providence would have it, an unwed
member of his congregation soon conceived a pregnancy which she carried to term
despite the desertion of the baby’s father. As my friend watched her struggle to
raise the child alone, it suddenly occurred to him that his education, his
income, his house, his car and every other material element of the comfortable
life-style he now enjoyed was obtained, in some measure, at the expense of his
baby's life. The abortion had relieved him of his obligation to pay child
support -- a legal duty which could have spanned twenty-two years had his child
grown up to go to college.
In addition to the time expenditure which child custody or visitation might
have cost him, the size of the financial "bullet" my friend’s abortion had
allowed him to dodge more nearly resembled an artillery round. According to
recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the average child support obligation incurred
over twenty-two years (assuming children’s continued dependency through college)
totals $72,424. This figure may relate to more than one child but many men pay
for more than one abortion. Is it any wonder that public opinion surveys
identify young, single men as the most rabidly pro-abortion segment of the
My friend’s description of his sickening realization that he now had time and
money he had killed to keep, reminded me of the desperate passage in Matthew
27:5. "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left." My friend had nowhere
to hurl the blood money by which he was now tormented but he did try to make
amends by persuading the single mother in his congregation to accept the support
he could no longer contribute to his own aborted child. In this gesture of
vicarious restitution, he began to find a measure of peace. And as he invested
more of his late child’s time and money in a broader range of pro-life projects,
this sense of release gradually deepened.
Black’s Law Dictionary, defines restitution as an equitable remedy
pursuant to which:
A person who has been unjustly enriched at the expense of another is required
. . . [to make good, indemnify or give equivalent for any loss, damage or injury
he or she has caused another]. . . . The Federal Courts in many states have
restitution programs under which the criminal offender is required to repay, as
a condition of his sentence, the victim or society, in money or services
Note that the obligation to pay "society" means that the death of one’s
victim doesn’t relieve the perpetrator of his duty to pay a third party the
money his victim can no longer accept. From a scriptural perspective, we are
obviously not talking about the selling of indulgences but Ephesians 4:28
teaches that: "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work,
doing something useful that he may have something to share with those in need."
According to Exodus 22:3, if he doesn’t have money, a thief must pay back
time: "A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must
be sold to pay for his theft."
Luke 19:1-10 goes beyond mere restitution in describing a tax collector named
Zacchaeus who was so inspired by the presence of our Savior that he declared " .
. . here and now I give half my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated
anybody out of anything I will pay back four times the amount." In first century
Palestine, the title "tax collector" was virtually synonymous with the term
"cheat." So the question for Zacchaeus was more likely to have been "how much"
than "if" as regards his disgorging ill-gotten gain. Of special note was
Christ’s response to the tax-collector’s promise to return quadruple the amount
he owed in simple restitution. Jesus didn’t say "give back only that which you
have wrongfully taken." With obvious approval of Zacchaeus’ extravagant
generosity, our Lord said "Today salvation has come to this house . . . ."
The payment of interest on restitution finds its origins in Leviticus
6:1-5 where we read:
The Lord said to Moses: ‘If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by
deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or
stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or
if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do -- when
he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by
extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or
whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a
fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner...’
So powerful is restitution’s capacity to heal that Philemon 18 &19 even
quotes the Apostle Paul offering to pay restitution for the wrong-doing of
another: "If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I,
Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back..."
Many well-meaning Catholics leaders will be disturbed by a proposal that
restitution be linked with abortion. They will think it insensitive or even
cruel to preach any homily which heightens an abortion participant’s sense of
guilt. But good intentions are perverting mercy. CDC reports that 45% of women
who abort have already had one or more previous abortion. It is, therefore,
post-abortive women who most need to feel appropriate guilt about abortion
because they are at such high risk of aborting.
Abortion is sin. God forgives where we confess and repent. But obedience to
His restitution commandment can speed healing. It dissipates the guilt that can
linger even in the wake of forgiven sin. That’s what’s needed to heal the Body
of Christ. That’s what’s needed to fund and staff a pro-life movement with the
capacity to make short work of this hideous evil. The Bible says so. And though
it will come as no surprise to people of genuine faith, my friend’s experience
confirms that once again, the Bible prescription is correct.
Notwithstanding our noble rhetoric, abortion is happening with the
permission of the church. God has given His people dominion over resources more
than adequate to outlaw abortion in any 5 year period. That end is nowhere in
sight because we are merely feeling pity for victims of abortion where we
should also be showing pity.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus rebukes the religious leaders of His day as
hypocrites for focusing on minor matters while ignoring what our Lord called the
"weightier matters of the law." He went on to define those "weightier matters"
as beginning with "justice and mercy." What could be less just than torturing
unborn babies to death? What could be less merciful than the gap between
Catholic rhetoric and Catholic behavior in defense of life?