As we honor the souls of the faithful departed during the month of November, I can’t help but reflect on those of the unborn whom we remembered in October during Respect Life month. Many of them didn’t get to see the light of day because their development was cut short by abortion. We might ask why did this happen in a supposedly civil society? Maybe it’s because our society may not be so cohesive as well as so civil. The bitter disagreement over our treatment of the unborn divides Americans more deeply than ever.
This year, in a direct challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, Ohio, Kentucky, and Georgia have tried to restrict abortion to the first six weeks of pregnancy, but were challenged by pro-abortion decisions rendered in different federal courts, presided over by judges selected by a previous administration that was categorically anti-life. In stark contrast to those state efforts, New York, Vermont, and Illinois now have locked abortion unchangeably into their state law, even if Roe v. Wade should be overturned. These radically opposed perspectives on the national level manifest themselves dramatically in personal life, too, as parents react to the post-mortem trauma that the seemingly innocuous “choice” puts them through. Let me try to explain two very different reactions to the same procedure.
The first involves an increasingly common practice developed in the in vitro fertilization industry. To improve pregnancy-achievement rates, clinics implant multiple embryos in their clients, and risky pregnancies frequently result—twins, triplets, or quads. To reduce the dangers that these types of pregnancies pose, clinics may advise “selective reduction,” where doctors inject one or more of the womb’s little inhabitants with potassium chloride to cause heart seizure and death, thereby making more room for the surviving sibling(s) to grow.
One woman told The New York Times how she decided on her “selection.” “If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner—in a test tube — choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me—and, somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumer-ish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.”
Such a “‘command and control mentality’ over procreation sets up a glide path for us to begin treating our own offspring like raw material,” wrote well-known bio-ethicist, Rev. Tad Pacholczyk. He stated that “We assume the role of masters over, rather than recipients of, our own offspring. When we produce and manipulate children in laboratory glassware, “we sever our obedience to the Giver of life . . . Who has radically willed our personal existence.”
There’s another, altogether different, way: the return to obedience. Like any sinner who feels the caress of Divine Mercy, abortive mothers and fathers (each day 3000 American men lose a child to the abortionist’s hand) can realign their will with God’s through repentance. One father had his experience of this grace twenty years later:
“My Dear John Peter—
This past weekend I did something I should have done a very long time ago. I confessed to your death by abortion. . . . In the fall, John, when the leaves fall from the trees, I shall think of you, for you too fell from life. In the cold of winter, John, the snow shall remind me of you: for like the snow you were white and pure. In the spring, John, I shall think of you: . . . that you, too, should have been born into this world. John, I shall think of you in the summer . . . as a little boy running and playing, scraping your knees from a fall. I shall miss . . . all that I might have gained from your life. My little one, John Peter, I can only now ask you to forgive me as Jesus . . . [has] done. May you rest in the arms of God—Dad.”
The same deadly “procedure” – two very different aftermaths. After nearly a half-century of state-sponsored abortion, the deepening divide widens even further. Against the ominous danger that overshadows their brief existence, our offspring in the womb unknowingly depend on us to protect their precarious little foothold on life, just as our parents did for us when we were where they are. Into their tiny hearts the Author of Life has placed His hope in us—His hope for us to remember that the life we live now is not our own, that we are here because He wills us to be here, that we must do unto others as we would have them do unto us.