In part 1 of this series on “Ending Abortion the Church’s Way,” we reflected on the fact that the pro-life movement goes beyond the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, and that it is a specifically Catholic attitude to embrace those of other religious persuasions in the defense of life. We also warned against a “clericalization” of the pro-life effort, as if the defense of life arose from instructions from the clergy. In this part we reflect on the intention and goal of the pro-life movement.
Unfortunately, the pro-life movement has a name that is often too big for its own good, because it contains too much. “Pro-life,” after all, accurately describes the motivation behind any effort to save or enhance the condition of any lives at any stage of development. Are not works of tending to the sick, alleviating the conditions of the poor, and working for world peace rightly considered “pro-life?” Every aspect of social justice, to which the Church has exhorted her members for two millennia, is “pro-life.”
Moreover, as John Paul II explains in Evangelium Vitae, the “life” which the Church proclaims is life eternal, which is necessarily based on the natural gift of human life, but also transcends it. So the goal of the Church herself — to bring all people to integral salvation in Christ — is, inherently, pro-life.
Some people, in trying to define the goals and intentions of the “pro-life movement” according to the mind of the Church, begin to stretch the movement as large as the Church herself. Such a tendency risks losing the distinction altogether. Some will say, for instance, that the goal of the movement is holiness and conversion of hearts. But if we consider all the different religious communities in the Church, we see that in every case, the stated goals of these communities are, first and foremost, the conversion and holiness of the members, that is, their union with Christ. Obviously, however, there is a rationale for having many communities and, beyond that, many other movements, structures, and individual ministries in the Church. “Holiness” and “conversion of hearts” is far too broad a goal to define a specific movement. The goals and intentions of any movement must be more specific in order to distinguish it from other movements and from the Church herself.
The “pro-life movement,” specifically, arises out of the historical problem that an entire segment of the human community — that is, those in the first nine months of their existence — has in many nations been deprived of the recognition of their right to life and are being systematically destroyed through abortion. The term “pro-life” does not attach to the movement because it is a movement engaged in every battleground where life has to be defended, but rather because the specific problem it addresses denies the most fundamental right — life itself. This movement, therefore, has as its goal the restoration of the recognition, respect, and protection of that most basic right for that specific community of people from whom it has been deprived, the children in the first nine months of their existence.
The fact that the goals of the Church encompass the bestowal of eternal life, conversion, salvation, and holiness for all people does not imply that movements conducted according to the mind of the Church abandon or blur their more limited, specific goals. Moreover, the fact that the Church defends human dignity on every front does not prevent any movement in union with the Church from having a specific focus, while at the same time agreeing with the goals of other movements that are beyond that specific focus.
If we are going to end abortion the Church’s way, we have to start by proudly and unambiguously stating our specific, historically-defined, limited goal and intention, that is, restoring our unborn brothers and sisters to full recognition and protection of their right to life.
Babies Discarded Like Trash
On Saturday, May 3, 2008 the Archdiocese of Detroit provided a funeral Mass and burial for about 25 aborted babies retrieved from the trash dumpsters behind Woman Care abortion clinics — owned and operated by Alberto Hodari. In February and March 2008, pro-lifers, including members of Citizens for a Pro-life Society and some of our Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, retrieved these babies from the dumpsters of Hodari’s abortion clinics.
Monica Migliorino Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society, reports that along with the aborted babies, there were also “bloody suction gauze tubing used in abortions, blood drenched surgical paper, dozens of glass medicine vials, used syringes, IV bags with tubing and sharps, numerous condoms and condom wrappers probably used for ultra-sounds, bloody surgical gloves, dozens of bloody suction canulas used in abortions and over 200 patient records.” Miller’s group mounted a video on You Tube that records their March 2, 2008 discovery of bio-hazardous waste and finding of aborted babies in Hodari’s Lathrup Village dumpster. A full record of the searches of the Woman Care dumpsters may be found at http://www.prolifesociety.org/. You can also view the babies at www.priestsforlife.org/images/index.htm.
What happened here is reminiscent of many stories from the history of the pro-life movement.
In the early 80’s, 16,500 bodies were discovered in a large receptacle in Southern California, in the Woodland Hills home of a former medical laboratory director. Ron Gillette described his reaction at seeing the babies. “…It’s filled with bodies…dismembered bodies…hands, torn right off…Grown men were weeping and vomiting,” not at the smell, but at the grim reality of the violence they were seeing.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, a city worker noticed dogs tearing at a plastic bag, and inside the bag found three aborted babies, one estimated at four and a half months’ gestation, another at six months’ gestation, and the third at nearly full-term.
Sanitation workers were collecting trash from the curb in front of a house in Loveladies, an affluent section of Long Beach Township, NJ. A cardboard box ripped open and out came quart-size mason jars. The workers noticed a tiny hand or foot inside a jar. The several jars contained body parts of between 40 and 100 babies.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin one spring evening, a call came into the police station that children were throwing stones from a bridge. When the police arrived and asked the children what was in the containers they were throwing around, the children responded, “little people.” In those containers were the bodies of 6- to 8-week-old aborted babies that the children had found in a trash dumpster behind the Mill Medical Center.
It’s not enough to know that abortion kills children. If we’re going to find the spiritual strength to bring an end to this injustice, we’re going to have to let the grim reality of it stir the very depths of our souls and those of our fellow citizens.