In 2003, President Bush signed into law the ban on partial birth abortion. In partial birth abortion, also called intrauterine cranial decompression, the baby is born. While the baby's head remains inside the mother, the doctor inserts a vacuum tube into the back of the baby's head and then draws out the brains. In this way, the baby can be fully delivered dead. Unimaginable that our politicians have argued in favor of this! Inconceivable that our legislators have passed laws allowing this and our courts have approved this! Unthinkable that any doctor worthy of so noble a profession would ever engage in such an act!
Before the 2003 ban on partial birth abortion, Congress had passed bills banning it. Twice President Clinton vetoed the bills. Even the Supreme Court had refused to ban this barbaric practice. In fact, in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), the Supreme Court took the grisly decision not to strike down the practice of partial birth abortions. It took much education and work to end this merciless killing of our children.
In ancient Rome, infants were routinely killed. An infant had no legal status until the head of the family, the paterfamilias, accepted the child. Until accepted, the infant could be destroyed. In parts of the Roman Empire, the doing away with babies either through infanticide or through abortion became so prevalent that there was zero population growth. This is not unlike the trend toward negative population growth in many European countries today where the faith is no longer strong and where there is widespread abortion and artificial contraception.
However, early on, Christians spoke out in favor of the life of the child and they made a difference. The Didache, the oldest surviving written catechism from 70 A.D., when explaining the second commandment, stated "You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (Didache 2:1 - 2). Tertullian, the second century theologian and apologist, sometimes called "the founder of Western theology," said that "it makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or does away with it in its nascent stage. The one who will be a man is already one" (Apologeticum, IX. 8). Because of this consistent Christian defense of life, once Constantine legalized Christianity, it became illegal for a father to kill his children. In fact, well into the 19th century, Christians unanimously considered abortions immoral and therefore illegal.
But times changed. In this country, Christian morals collapsed under the turmoil of the 60s and 70s. Ever since the tragic 1973 decision of Roe v Wade, it became legal for a woman to abort her child at any stage. In Doe v. Bolton, the companion decision to Roe v. Wade, the court legalized abortion for any reason related to the mother's well-being. Since the Supreme Court Justices handed down these two infamous decisions legalizing abortion, there have been more than 54 million abortions performed in our country.
Today, there remain many politicians who consistently vote for abortion. In his 2009 speech at Notre Dame University, our president spoke in favor of keeping abortion legal. Like many other politicians, he believes that abortion is a personal issue, and individual women should have the right to decide about their own bodies. Thank God most Americans think otherwise.
Today, more and more Americans understand what an abortion truly is. First, science, with its ultrasound technology, is proving the truth about life. The picture of the baby in the womb has moved the discussion from "who decides" ("choice") to "what is being decided." Is the baby in the womb simply part of the mother's body, as those favoring abortion claim? Or is the baby distinct human life? In abortion, is the life of another human person at stake or not? This is the issue.
In 1981, before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, French geneticist Dr. Jerome L. LeJeune gave strong testimony for the sacredness of life from the moment of conception. He said, "To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence." Once conception takes place, we not only have a life, we have a life that, by its intrinsic biological nature, is human. It develops into a human and nothing less.
Second, the culture in American is changing. Studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches issues related to reproductive health, show unambiguously that abortions are decreasing in the United States. Not only are the majority of Americans (51 percent) pro-life, but young people are more pro-life than their elders. The pro-life movement is very much alive. It is very much young. And this is very encouraging. Politicians, take note!
Our politicians, legislators and judges should also realize that, unless they step out of partisan politics and vigorously protect life, they are harming all of us, born and unborn, young and elderly. There is an essential connection between a child's right to life and the very well-being of society itself. All inalienable rights that we possess as individuals flow from our most fundamental right to life itself.
When human life is trampled underfoot, society no longer has a moral foundation. As Pope Benedict XVI has said, "a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized" (Caritas in Veritate. 15).
A consistent respect for life at all stages that is held personally and then unflinchingly translated into politics can provide the solid foundation for a society to thrive.