40th Anniversary of a tragic decision

A Bishop’s Perspective,
1-20-13 Juneau Empire column


I recognize that many Americans view the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion as a victory oriented toward justice for women. However, from my perspective, it has led to, and continues to be, a modern day holocaust.

It is important to say that we should respect in all people the thirst for justice and recognize the presence of that thirst in the hearts and minds of all who seek the truth. A unique aspect of human nature is this thirst for justice, and as a man of faith, I am grateful to God for endowing us with such a sense. As a Catholic Bishop I desire to stand in solidarity with the poor, the weak, and the marginalized. And who could be weaker, more vulnerable, or poorer than a human being developing in the womb of her mother?

This coming Tuesday, Jan. 22, we remember the 40th anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decision. This decision started the horrific scenario whereby abortion on demand has become the rule and in many sectors has been reduced to a lifestyle choice and a convenience. I join a people in serious mourning and prayer for the untold number (estimated at 55 million) of brothers and sisters who were rejected by their human family, rather than welcomed in love.

I am unequivocally pro-life, which means I view abortion as a serious and troubling evil. I believe it has become a horrific type of genocide, the most significant offense of social justice in our time.

The pro-life position is ultimately a more coherent and loving response to the demands of justice in a way that is logically consistent. What is most just for women, the poor, and our brothers and sisters in the womb? Justice cannot contradict itself, so what is just for one must also be just for the other.

Abortion advocates assume justice demands that the health of women depends upon unrestricted access to abortion. By using an argument for women’s health, abortion supporters have effectively promoted their position as being pro-woman and see being pro-abortion as intrinsic to women’s rights. By appealing to our good desire for justice, they have been able to influence millions of caring Americans to believe that abortion is a just response to women’s health needs. However, I argue (along with millions of other pro-life Americans, including Pro-life feminists) that abortion acts against the integral health of women, individually and socially. Pregnancy is never a disease to be eradicated, even when unintended. This does not mean there is no place for prudence in family planning; of course there is. But as a people we must support women who are in situations of unplanned pregnancy, not with the quick, awful and irreversible solution of abortion, but with solidarity that emphasizes mutual support, love, and acceptance of mother and child. As a community we must consider the integral health of the mother and the child together. We must have an open posture of acceptance toward new life and the mothers who often bear it alone, rather than a posture of objectification and violence. Ultimately, pro-abortion arguments put mother and child at odds with one another. This is unacceptable for a just and compassionate civil society.

Within the Catholic Church we have a ministry called Project Rachel, and here in the Diocese of Juneau we have Rachel Vineyard retreats, which exist to help mothers who have chosen to abort their children. The stories that come from these women are a powerful testimony to the deep wounds they carry from abortion, but also to the ever present compassion, love and mercy of God. These women are often the sole voice of testimony for a child who has died a tragic death and needs to be grieved.

In writing this article I asked a woman who has had an abortion if she would review a draft and I presented her with the content written above. She said that I failed to mention the side effects of abortion. She told me of the high suicide rate of teenage girls who struggle to keep their personal wounds secret after having abortions. She spoke of the problems with drugs and alcohol that consume young women after an abortion. In addition, she identified sterility and breast cancer as sad byproducts of abortion. In my conversation with her, she said that women who have had abortions are not talking to their children about their abortion and, as a result, the tragedy becomes generational — that is, daughters go through the same pain, many times alone, when their mothers could have helped had there been open, honest and loving discussions about abortion. She told me, “I told my kids about my abortion, and when my daughter got pregnant at the age of 18, she went to the clinic to consider an abortion but she didn’t do it. She told me, ‘I decided not to because of what happened to you.’”

Tuesday is going to be a sad day — the 40th anniversary of the tragic decision by the Supreme Court of the United States legalizing abortion. Here in Juneau there will be a public Rally for Life on the steps of our Capitol Building at 12 o’clock noon on that day to keep this issue alive and uphold the truth that life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death.

• Burns is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

%d bloggers like this: