In his 1995 papal encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” Pope John Paul II noted the growth of he called a “widespread culture of death.” What he was rightly noting was a fundamental shift in how proponents of abortion morally justified their support of killing the unborn.
The Holy Father wrote:
“a new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives crimes against life a new and-if possible-even more sinister character, giving rise to further grave concern: broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the State, so that these things can be done with total freedom.”
In a nutshell, what the pope was describing was a new way of looking at abortion. No longer would its advocates understand it to be a moral dilemma, in which the unborn child’s right to live competed with the circumstances of the mother. Instead, as the pope predicted, by 2014, Katha Pollitt would write her book “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights” and the left would essentially no longer accept that the death of the child was a moral problem at all.
Gone were the days of “safe, legal and rare,” and in its stead came a celebration of abortion as a moral good. From there, it was quite obvious in which direction things would move. This year, the state of New York approved a law allowing abortion in the third trimester if such a procedure would help the health––not the life, but the health––of the mother.
And, now in Virginia, a law has been proposed that would include mental health in that rubric. In stunning testimony about her proposed law, Delegate Kathy Tran explained yesterday that there is no limit to how late in a pregnancy an abortion may take place. Asked if her legislation would allow for the killing of a child moments, even seconds before being born, her answer was an unabashed yes.
Heartbreaking… This isn't in New York, this isn't in California, this happened just this week right here in Virginia. @VAHouseDems proposed legislation to provide abortions up to just seconds before that precious child takes their first breath. Watch for yourself. pic.twitter.com/AxgPVyI6kU
— VA House GOP (@vahousegop) January 29, 2019
For many Americans, the prospect of this is nothing short of horrific. Any honest person who has ever witnessed a birth cannot help but understand that the child they held in their arms, was every bit the same child mere minutes before, while still inside their mother. To pretend otherwise strains credulity. One may argue that the woman’s bodily autonomy outweighs the child’s right to live, but they must, if arguing in good faith, concede that what they are advocating to kill, is indeed, in every meaningful way, a child.
Just as it was clear to Pope John Paul II in 1995 that this culture of death in which society washes its hands of killing was getting worse at that time, so we must see the same trajectory in our time. With one profound difference––there is now no more backstop, and only one taboo is left for those who view young life as disposable. That taboo is the life of a child already born. Can we doubt that such killing will be justified next? Either in the case of a botched abortion that leaves the child alive, or the birth of a badly-deformed child, there can be no doubt left that powerful forces in our society will advocate for their execution.
We have already had hints of this from a Planned Parenthood official who suggested that a living, breathing child outside of her mother could be killed. In the now-infamous exchange from 2013 the lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, Alisa LaPolt Snow had this to say under examination:
“So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief,” said Rep. Jim Boyd. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”
“We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician,” said Snow.
This devaluation of human life should shock us, and yet, how can it? What discernible difference is there between this advocacy for what is, in every sense of the word, murder, and the practices protected by the New York and Virginia legislation?
There has always been a scientific clock running against abortion advocates. As viability of the unborn becomes earlier and earlier due to medical advancements, it may no longer play a role in deciding when abortion is morally justified. Perhaps this was always a canard, or perhaps the abortion advocates of the past really believed it was a line not to be crossed. Regardless, today, the vast majority of them simply do not.
All of us in the pro-life movement must now understand what we are really fighting against. There is no more nuance. These laws authorize the killing of children, full stop, and there is a moral responsibility to protect those innocent lives. In this fight we must be vigilant. Things are worse today than in 1995, far worse. But we must not despair. Rather, we must hold fast to the dignity of all human life, and call those who would destroy such a life what they are: murderers.