This week marks the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. On Friday, January 25th, many will unite to march in Washington. There will speakers and Masses said in support of life.
There are many people who argue abortion is about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. A woman does have a right to make choices about what she does with her body but this is limited to her body. When a woman chooses to engage in physical relations with a man, she must realize that pregnancy is a possible result of her actions. She has made her choice. The baby is not an extra part to her body. I realize that in the case of rape, it was not her choice then. Rape is a terrible crime that ranks among the worst crimes and sins that can be committed. As terrible as rape is, we must still stand for life.
Our Catholic Church sees life as a gift. Our Church also believes that life begins at conception, not just when the baby emerges from the womb. Some argue that the baby is not alive on its own until it emerges from the mother’s womb. Before then, the baby is totally dependent on the mother for life. This is absolutely correct. The baby in the womb is totally dependent on its mother for life. However, the baby is still totally dependent on others for life after birth too. After birth, a baby is no longer exclusively dependent on their biological mother. Others can care for their needs but a newborn baby could not survive on its own. The point when life begins is not determined by a baby’s independence.
I ask the question, “When does the baby become a unique individual?” When the egg cell and sperm cell come together, they form a new genetic makeup with a unique identity that belongs only to that baby and will never be exactly repeated. I believe that makes it an individual with rights, including the right to life.
On Sunday, the Knights of Columbus Council in Ithaca led a Rosary for Life. The Knights were present and joined by both our Senior High and Middle School Youth Groups from the parish, along with a few parishioners, and myself. It was about 25 degrees with winds over 20 mph but we prayed the Rosary outside by the Monument for the Unborn that stands by our Catholic Charities Office and our parish school. It was not a good day to be outside but life is important enough to put up with the weather.
The timing of this Rosary for Life does coincide with the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and the March for Life. Yet, while our prayers centered on the question of abortion, our prayers also included prayers for the aged too. The respect for life of the aged is decreasing. People think they have a right to end their life whenever life doesn’t seem worth living when the health begins to decline.
When health declines, life does become difficult and painful. It is still not for us to decide. We do not have to receive medical treatment that does not seem worth it. I remember the difficult time my family had deciding to withdraw the ventilator for my mother but it was a decision to stop treatment that the Church recognizes as acceptable. It was not a decision to end her life. The ventilator is artificial treatment and we are not bound to receive it but that is a far cry from taking a lethal dose of a medicine to end a life.
Life is a gift from womb to tomb, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. A life might seem inconvenient. It can be difficult. It is a gift. It is not ours to decide to end.
P.S. For further reading check out the section of my website called “Social Teaching and the Respect for Life.”