The next few years will be decisive regarding the question of abortion. The battle will be definitively lost or won. Bottom line, we have had, in the Western world, abortion on demand for more than a decade. However, this has never sat easy. There has been, even as the movement towards abortion on demand ploughed irresistibly and seemingly irrevocably forward, a massive growth of resistance. Now that resistance has ripened just at a time when governments, for a variety of reasons, are being forced to re-examine the laws that have given us abortion on demand.
During the next few years, certainly in North America, new laws will be brought in or old laws will be upheld which will, I fear, cement the issue into one mold or the other for a long time to come. Consequently the next few years are critical for pro-life. People tend to accept as okay whatever they’ve gotten used to. Practice becomes custom, custom becomes law, legality is seen as morality. Our culture is getting used to abortion on demand. The longer this perdures the more irrevocable it becomes.
Given this situation and the present political state, there is a chance, a last chance perhaps for a long time, to again instill in our political system the will to protect the unborn. But we must act quickly and massively. Many of us are not used to acting regarding this question. We are pro-life, but in a rather anti-septic way.
Pro-life is part of our curriculum vitae: we are officially pro-life; we offer it moral support; we write articles and make statements about its place within the wider spectrum of social justice, but we are entirely absent from the picket lines and from any direct lobbying or confrontational process. I have been an antiseptic pro-lifer. I’ve written an article a year against abortion, spoke out against it in my classrooms, and even addressed pro-life groups, but I haven’t walked a picket line, written or phoned a government member, or realistically confronted anyone on this issue for 15 years.
Given this background, I was deeply cut, cut as one is when a truly prophetic word is heard, by an editorial, “An Open Letter to Socially Concerned Catholics: Resist Abortion Now!” in Catholic New Times, June 25, 1988. Since there are out there, I suspect, many other antiseptic pro-lifers like myself, I share with you, by way of brief précis, some of the salient points of that very prophetic editorial:
One of the most unfortunate developments within the church and within society at large, is the phenomenon wherein both conservative and liberal Christians both tend to lack a consistent approach to pro-life. Liberals, while clamoring loudly for social justice in the areas of economics, racial and sexual discrimination, immigration laws, housing, and Third World concerns, have been simply tolerant of and silent about abortion.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have championed the fight against abortion, but have frequently reduced the concern for life to a simple anti-abortion focus. Thus, while speaking clearly in favor of life on one front, they have been noisily in favor of capital punishment, nuclear arms, and the system of liberal capitalism (which sees society as a system of competing individual rights which must be legally bartered). As well, they have been less fully for life in their views regarding women.
However, with that being said, the editorial goes on to praise the conservatives’ pro-life efforts:
Pro-life groups, despite being single-issue focused and inconsistent in the support of life, have nonetheless “borne the political heat of the day on the issues of abortion. And they have born it with courage”. Their passion is a welcome challenge. Tolerant liberals, who often find pro-life tactics distasteful, would do well to examine themselves and see whether they are backing off from the abortion issue because of the current sense of what is socially acceptable.
The editorial goes on to say that the social virtues of tolerance may never be invoked “to legitimate the decertification of the unborn as human beings.” The work of justice, it asserts, is “totally lacking in integrity if, by omission or commission, we participate in the bartering away of the rights of the smallest and weakest members of our society.” Moreover, we may not believe “that the rights of a woman, or of any other group, will be served as long as the rights of one group, the unborn, can be negotiated out of existence. A society which assumes the divine right of deciding when life begins will all too easily move on to decide when it should end and for whom.” Such a clear stand on abortion does not, the article rightly asserts, diminish the sincerity and admirable social commitment of many pro-choice persons. Nor does it withhold compassion for or judge those who have had abortions. It simply offers a consistent ethic for life and, prophetically, stands up for those who have the least voice.
Finally, and importantly, it calls upon all of us antiseptic pro-lifers to do something, to actually act: ‘In the name of God, do something: Go to the phone and call your Member of Parliament. Walk a picket line. Commit civil disobedience. Wear a button. Start or join an action group. This is politics and pressure is now what counts. Pressure the Members of Parliament. May they not rest in peace!”