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Listen to the Cry of the Unborn

Bp Gerald John Mathias Bp Gerald John Mathias
04 Jul 2022
Let us unite to respect and defend the life of the innocent, defenceless and voiceless child in the womb.

On 24 June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old verdict in Roe vs. Wade case that had legalized abortions. The Church and Pro-life groups have welcomed the decision. The U.S. Bishops’ Conference praised the decision. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, praised the ruling and exhorted all to defend life from the moment of conception. Jeanne Mancini of ‘March for Life’ expressed “Joy and gratitude” on this decision of the Supreme Court. I add my own humble voice to the chorus of those who hail this landmark decision which should invite all to re-think their stand on abortion and respect life as a gift from God and protect it from the moment of conception.

However, the U.S. Press reacted strongly even as anti-abortion and pro-life activists welcomed and celebrated the ruling of the Supreme Court. Washington Post said: “It is hard to exaggerate how wrongheaded, radical and dangerous this ruling is….”

New York Times stated: “For the first time in history, the Supreme Court has eliminated an established constitutional right involving the most fundamental of human concerns: the dignity and autonomy to decide what happens to your body.”

Chicago Tribune: “We lament Friday’s decision on the grounds that it diminishes freedom and choice, and we do so as a consequence of our longstanding belief that government should not interfere with our individual bodies.” Los Angelus Times, The Boston Globe, Miami Herald, etc. also had similar strong reactions.

Many celebrities and politicians including President Joe Biden himself have reacted strongly, Biden calling it a “terrible” ruling, “Jill and I know how painful the devastating decision is for so many Americans.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada wrote on Twitter: “The news coming out of the U.S. is horrific. My heart goes out to the millions of American women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion.”

All the above and thousands of similar reactions focus only on the woman’s right over her body. None of the pro-abortionist, nor the millions of women who go for abortions and the doctors who perform them think of the right of the innocent, defenceless, voiceless child in the womb. That unborn babe also has a right to live. Who will defend it if not the courts? It is sad that the Supreme Court took 50 long years to overturn that decision and allowed hundreds of millions of abortions in the past 50 years. In India, on the other hand, instead of banning or restricting abortion, the Parliament extended legalization of abortion up to 24 weeks last year.

We must note here that abortion is not merely a legal issue; more important, it is a moral issue. It concerns the fundamental right of an innocent unborn human person. Right to life is the first and the most fundamental of all rights. All other rights depend on that one. In fact, the State, Judiciary, the Church and women themselves should come forward to defend the life of the innocent child in the womb.

I would like to reiterate here briefly the Church’s teaching on abortion and why it is intrinsically evil and therefore sinful if done deliberately.

While explaining the meaning of the fifth Commandment of the Decalogue, “You shall not kill” (Ex.20:13; Dt.5:17), the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) underscores the sanctity of human life. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative act of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of Life from the beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” (CCC 2258)

The Church has always, from the first century itself, affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. In the Didache´ it is clearly said: “You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born.” This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to moral law (cf. CCC 2271).

The Vatican II Constitution Gaudium et Spes teaches with very clear and unequivocal terms that human life must be respected and protected: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” (G.S.51)

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its Declaration on Procured Abortion (1974) states that the human person has certain rights which are known as “human rights” and the first right of the human person is right to life. This is fundamental, the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others. (No.11)

It further teaches: “From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It will never be made human if it were not human already” (No.12).  Furthermore, “The child itself, when grown up, will never have the right to choose suicide; no more may his parents choose death for the child while it is not of an age to decide for itself. Life is too fundamental a value to be weighed against even very serious disadvantages.” (No.14)

St. Pope John Paul the Great, in his Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae (1995) on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life, defines procured abortion as “the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth” (E.V.58).

The Popes and the Church are well aware that sometimes the tragic and painful decision to abort the fruit of her own womb is made not for purely selfish reasons but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place (e.g., extreme poverty, genetic disorders, victim of rape etc.) But St. Pope John Paul affirms: “Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being” (Ibid).

Many people use ambiguous terminology or euphemisms to refer to abortion, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, “Medical Termination of Pregnancy”, पेट सफाई करना, बचचा गिराना, etc. which, in fact, hide the seriousness of abortion as a grave moral evil. But that does not change the reality of things. We have to call a spade a spade. Abortion is the deliberate and direct killing of an innocent human being in the womb. It is tantamount to murder; it is terrorism in the womb; it is a veritable war on life.

The fact that millions of abortions take place every year (a conservative estimate is 150 million annually) does not justify it. “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right,” said Fulton J. Sheen.

St. John Paul II, the great defender of life, describes the pitiable plight of the innocent, weak and defenceless child in the womb: “The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined.  In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a new-born baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done” (Ibid).

Often others, like boyfriend, parents, doctors etc. advise the woman to go for abortion. In India, of course, the husband or more often the mother-in-law would pressurize the wife/daughter-in-law to abort, if it is a female foetus. The obsession for male child and anti-female mentality due to the prevalent dowry system are closely linked to this mind-set and behaviour.

Pope St. John Paul II strongly condemned abortion as a grave moral disorder: “Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with Bishops…… I declare that direct abortion, that is abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based on the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (E.V.62).

The Code of Canon Law punishes abortion with excommunication: “A person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication” (C. 1398). The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed (cf. C. 1329, E.V.62).

We should also note here that many of the contraceptive pills are not just contraceptive but abortifacient. They do not merely prevent conception but prevent implantation of the fertilized egg on the wall of the uterus, hence causing abortion of the zygote. It is reported that in the U.S. because of the present Ruling and the consequent ban on abortions in many States, the demand for Abortion Pills have increased considerably.

Furthermore, any experimentation which involves killing or destruction of embryos is equal to abortion. “The use of human embryos or foetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person” (E.V.63).  In the case of in vitro fertilization many embryos are produced either to be used as “biological material” or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. Some are used, others are frozen and kept for later use or eventually destroyed. “The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act” (Ibid).

Human life is sacred. It is a precious gift from God, the Author of life. It begins with conception and, therefore, must be respected and protected from the moment of conception to natural death. It is hoped this brief presentation will help the readers understand the sacredness and inviolability of human life and the gravity of the unspeakable crime of abortion. Let us unite to respect and defend the life of the innocent, defenceless and voiceless child in the womb.

(The writer is the Bishop of Lucknow)

 

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