PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Dr. Kermit Gosnell may have been convicted May 13 of murder at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, but “nothing can bring back the innocent children he killed, or make up for the vulnerable women he exploited,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.
And, he added, “the repugnance of his clinic conditions” must be remembered.
The Philadelphia archbishop said, “Gosnell is not an exception. Others just like him run abortion mills throughout our country.”
A Philadelphia jury May 13 found Gosnell guilty of murder in the deaths of three babies born alive during abortions and acquitted him of a fourth similar charge. He also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death by a drug overdose of a patient who had an abortion.
Gosnell, 72, was charged with snipping the spines of babies born alive during illegal late-term abortions. Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks of gestation.
“We need to stop cloaking the ugliness of abortion with misnomers like ‘proper medical coverage’ or ‘choice,’” Archbishop Chaput said in his statement. “It’s violence of the most intimate sort, and it needs to end.”
A few weeks earlier in the six-week trial, after the prosecution had rested its case, Judge Jeffrey Minehart of the Common Pleas Court, dismissed three other murder charges against Gosnell, saying they lacked evidence.
The same jury will consider Gosnell’s sentence. Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.
Both supporters of legal abortion and abortion opponents praised the verdict, though they pointed to different underlying problems.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement that “justice was served to Kermit Gosnell and he will pay the price for the atrocities he committed.” She described Gosnell’s clinic and practices as “a peek into the world before Roe v. Wade made legal a woman’s right to make her own choices.”
Hogue said “anti-choice politicians and their unrelenting efforts to deny women access to safe and legal abortion care, will only drive more women to back-alley butchers like Kermit Gosnell.”
Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said the “self-interested indifference of an unrepentant, unregulated and unmonitored abortion industry stood front and center among the tragic events that led to the conviction of Kermit Gosnell.”
Yoest’s statement said “the legacy of Gosnell’s trial will be Big Abortion’s collusion in bringing about America’s ‘red-light district of medicine’ – today’s back-alley abortion clinics and renegade abortion profiteers.”
She said “pro-life Americans must fight Big Abortion as they attempt to block commonsense attempts to regulate and monitor abortion clinics where we know that some women and girls have suffered and even died.”
Yoest said the case underscores why abortion clinics must be subject to medical standards and regular inspections. Gosnell’s clinic had not been inspected for nearly two decades, she said.
“Kermit Gosnell is not the aberration that abortion advocates claim,” Yoest added. “Over the last three years at least 15 states have initiated investigations into the conditions and practices of abortion clinics. These investigations were triggered by women’s deaths, reports of dangerous and unsanitary practices that exposed women to injuries and infections, and infants born alive following attempted abortions.”
For 40 years, the cries of unborn children lost to abortion have been heard at the annual March for Life held in Washington, D.C.
At this year’s march on Jan. 25, an estimated 500,000 anti-abortion advocates – the largest crowd in march history – traversed up Constitution Ave. through the snow to the Supreme Court. Protesters held signs and yelled chants in an attempt to raise awareness to the slaughter of babies in the womb. The March for Life Education and Defense Fund boasts that the annual march is the largest human rights demonstration in the world.
Catherine Woesthoff, a parishioner at Holy Family, Flushing, did not let the cold weather stop her as she marched in the 40th annual March for Life Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C. She’s posing with the official Diocese of Brooklyn sign for the march. (Photo by Jim Mancari)
Normally held on Jan. 22 – the actual anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which lifted legal protections for the unborn – this year’s march was moved back three days to accommodate for President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Jan. 25 marks the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
“One of the reasons for going is to hope that we can convert other people, the world actually, to protect the unborn,” said second-time marcher Deacon Lamont Blake from Christ the King, Springfield Gardens. “I think we kind of accomplished that. Yes, it’s been 40 years, but we have to continue to keep that movement going.”
Since the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, more than 55 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. That figure surpasses the entire population of England.
“The argument that it’s a woman choice and that it’s not a human being, that really doesn’t cut it with me anymore,” said first-time marcher Victor Torro, a parishioner at Sacred Heart parish, Bayside. “Even science has proven that life begins at conception. We’re literally talking about the killing of innocent children.”
The Diocese of Brooklyn was well represented at the march. More than 800 people from Brooklyn and Queens boarded 16 buses – eight from individual parishes and eight sponsored by the DeSales Media Group, parent company of The Tablet – heading to Washington. The diocese sent more people to the march than any other diocese in the state, and it was the largest pilgrimage ever from the diocese to Washington.
“It was much appreciated,” said Cathy Donohoe, president of Bridge to Life in Flushing who went on the first-ever March for Life and has since been to 15 straight. “We’re a close diocese, and I would like to see every pastor in every parish speak about it.”
While scores of young people were full of energy and excitement, the march is intended to serve as a somber occasion commemorating the lives of those lost to abortion. This year’s march carried additional sadness, since it was the first without its founder Nellie Gray, who passed away last August at the age of 88.
Fontbonne Hall Academy seniors Enza Agliata, Michele Cipriano, Rosalia LoVerde, Caroline Walkuski, and Cathleen Giordano, and juniors Dianna Marie Mikelis and Patricia Barakakos, all members of Fontbonne Hall’s Friends for Life, headed for Washington, D.C. on January 25, one of the coldest days of the new year, to participate in the 40th March for Life. The students were accompanied by their moderators Ms. Breeda Connolly, chairperson of the Social Studies Department, and Ms. Donna Russo, member of the Religious Studies Department.
The first-ever March for Life was held on Jan. 22, 1974, the one-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade. About 20,000 people attended that March, but Gray oversaw the exponential growth of the movement.
“She (Gray) was one woman who stood up 39 years ago at the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said Delia Mannix, a parishioner at St. Luke’s in Whitestone who marched for the 10th time this year. “As small as it was to begin with, the power of a woman of faith said that we have to protest and we have to object to it. The impact of one person showed how it’s expanded all over the country and all over the globe.”
After Gray’s passing, Jeanne Monahan, president, and Patrick Kelly, chairman of the board, took over as the march’s new leaders. They led the pre-march rally on the National Mall.
Monahan noted that the 55 million abortions in the past 40 years have wiped out one-sixth of the nation’s would-be population. However, she said that pro-life has become the “new normal” in the country as 50 percent of Americans identified themselves as pro-life in 2012, while a record-low 41 percent identified as pro-choice.
Monahan also stated that the movement is winning among young people. An estimated 80 percent of the participants in the march were under age 30.
Parishioners from Holy Family parish, Flushing at the March for Life.
Statement of Self-Survival
“The young people have been born in a time when abortion is legalized,” said second-time marcher Father Darrell DaCosta, pastor at St. Paul the Apostle, Corona. “It’s really a statement of self-survival because the chances are statistically high that they may not have made it out of the womb because of the legalization of abortion.”
The parish youth group from St. Bartholomew’s, Elmhurst, made the trip to Washington to support the cause.
“These kids are constantly told that life is not important, that abortion is completely normal,” said Sister Tatiana Ramirez, P.C.M., director of the youth group. “Yet no one is telling them to stand up for these kids that are being lost to abortion.”
“From conception, it’s already life,” said Kimberly Ortiz, a member of the youth group and a student at Francis Lewis H.S., Fresh Meadows. “It’s important that we continue this march and this representation of the unborn and their rights.”
Other speakers at the rally included Congressman Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Congressman Smith referred to President Obama’s inauguration speech when the latter spoke about caring for the vulnerable and keeping all children safe from harm. That should include the unborn children and their mothers, Rep. Smith said.
Cardinal O’Malley read a tweet from Pope Benedict XVI: “I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”
Young parishioners from St. Sebastian’s parish in Woodside proudly display their banner during the 2013 March for Life. (Photo by Jim Mancari)
Despite the lack of widespread coverage of the event, many believe the march is still an effective tool to spread the anti-abortion message.
“The problem is that the major media ignores (the march), just like they want to ignore the issue,” said Jim McCloskey, former president of Queens County Respect Life who has marched nearly a dozen times. “For the movement itself, (the march) serves its purpose. In that respect, it’s great that you can produce that many people which can affect the political equation.”
While the March for Life fund reports that abortion numbers have steadily declined since 1990, the organization will continue the march in hopes that lawmakers will not be able to ignore the outpouring of support.
“I believe in life; life is real,” said first-time marcher Doris Buczek, a parishioner at Holy Child Jesus, Richmond Hill. “For these babies that we’ve lost all through the years, they could be living in a beautiful world if things were different.”
Imagine a deadly scenario like this: A businessman is rendered unconscious by medical professionals to help him heal after a serious car accident, using pharmaceutical agents to cause a medically-induced coma. A few days later, a business competitor, wanting him dead, enters the hospital and kills the comatose patient. At his trial, when questioned about the murder, the competitor tries to argue that, “the medically-induced coma rendered him quite incapable of feeling any pain, because those parts of his brain involved in sensory processing and pain perception were clearly decoupled from consciousness. So killing those who are unconscious, at least on the grounds that they might feel pain, should not be seen as problematic nor should it be restricted as a personal choice.”
Anyone would appreciate the absurdity of such an argument, much as they ought to recognize the unreasonableness of a similar conclusion reached by neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Bor in a recent piece in The Dallas Morning News:
“The evidence is clear that a fetus can respond to sights, sounds and smells, and it can even react to these by producing facial expressions. The evidence is equally clear, however, that these responses are generated by the most primitive parts of the brain, which are unconnected to consciousness, and therefore these actions don’t in any way imply that the fetus is aware. Furthermore, the fetus is deliberately sedated by a series of chemicals produced by the placenta, so even if it had the capacity for consciousness, there is almost no chance it could ever be conscious in the womb. Consequently, it can’t consciously feel pain. … There are therefore no scientific reasons for restricting abortion on the grounds that the fetus will experience pain, at least until very late in pregnancy. This evidence has heavily influenced my views here, and consequently I am very much pro-choice.”
As a neuroscientist and an ethicist myself, it’s clear how Dr. Bor’s conclusion does not follow from his premises. He seeks to crown consciousness as king, elevating it above life itself. Consequently, he misses the deeper truth that human consciousness (and particularly self-consciousness) is a feature of certain kinds of beings, namely human beings, who are valuable in and of themselves. Our humanity precedes our consciousness, and affords the necessary basis for it, with our value and inviolability flowing not from what we might be capable of doing (manifesting consciousness or awareness) but from who we intrinsically are (members of the human family).
Regardless of whether we might or might not be able to manifest consciousness at a particular moment (as when we are asleep, in a coma or growing at early timepoints in utero), our humanity is still present and deserving of unconditional respect. Those who lack consciousness or awareness are still human and should be cherished and protected as much as anyone else with limitations or disabilities.
Some might reply that a sleeping or comatose person’s consciousness is merely dormant. If they wake up, they will have memories, awareness, etc. For a very early human embryo, on the other hand, no consciousness exists yet, since the brain has not developed, or may not have developed sufficiently. Until that development occurs, the argument continues, there is “nobody home,” and therefore nothing important can be stripped away by abortion.
But it would be false to conclude that “nobody is home.” As that embryonic human continues to grow up, she will develop a brain, memories, awareness and consciousness. Such embryonic development will occur precisely in virtue of the kind of being she already is, namely, a very small human being. The human embryo is special because of her humanity, not because of her consciousness, which will invariably arise as long as she is afforded even the smallest chance at life.
We should appreciate an argument like Dr. Bor’s for what it really is – an attempt to carve out a subclass of humans so that they can be singled out for death by abortion. This move constitutes discrimination against a voiceless class of humans, cloaked in a specious intellectual construct that misconstrues both the essential character of being human and the essential moral obligations we have toward each other.
Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org
After 40 years, it looks like the daily press has finally discovered the March for Life.
The annual demonstration in Washington, D.C., to oppose the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion generally draws just about no coverage in the press. This year, it was different.
The daily papers’ websites all carried feature stories about the March for Life. Most were balanced news stories, but one in The New York Times was written from a particular bias. The Times article highlighted a recent statement by some Christian leaders that pro-lifers who oppose abortion should be just as virulently pro-life when it comes to gun control.
This is mixing apples and oranges. The immediate death of unborn babies is hardly the same as the potential danger of misusing firearms. The numbers alone tell the story. Since Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land, more than 55 million unborn babies have had their lives terminated.
The real question should have been whether or not the pro-lifers who are for gun control will be on the front lines when it comes to saving the babies. I think not.
This year’s March for Life was a huge success with estimates of the crowd hovering around half a million. Not bad when you consider the frigid temperatures and the threat of snow!
Our own pro-lifers from the diocese responded to the tune of almost 1,000 people. Eight buses were sponsored by our parent organization, DeSales Media Group, and some of those were over-subscribed. Add to that the parishes and organizations that traveled on their own or arranged for their own bus pick-ups.
Some groups, like at St. Mary’s Church, Winfield, and Presentation B.V.M., Jamaica, began their day early with Mass that preceded boarding the buses for Washington.
Bus captains reported delays retuning home not only because of the weather but also because the lines at rest stops were long due to the numbers of people participating in the march.
For those of you who could not make it to the nation’s capital, you were treated to live coverage seen on The NET, our sister cable television station. And, of course, later that evening and on the following Monday, there were feature segments about the march on our daily news show Currents.
No doubt about it, the March for Life garnered more attention this year. Perhaps, it’s the urgency of being up against the most pro-abortion president ever elected. Maybe it’s also because of the atrocity of our governor, Andrew Cuomo, fervently supporting the most radical abortion bill ever presented to the State Legislature. If you haven’t done so already, let your state representatives know your feeling. Simply join the New York State Catholic Conference’s advocacy network by logging on to www.nyscatholic.org.
The word is getting out. More and more people are professing the truth of the pro-life cause. Even the secular press is recognizing the pro-life fervor. There’s still a lot to be done, no doubt about it! But the tide is flowing in the right direction because justice and right are on the side of life.
“After these 40 years of hard work we may feel like the ‘chosen people’ of the Old Testament who wandered through the desert for 40 years,” said Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas as he spoke at the Life Vigil at the National Shrine.
But he urged those present to not grow discouraged and lose hope. “Moses never saw the Promised Land. Many of us who have labored for 40 years for the cause of life” may not get to see it either, Bishop Farrell added. But he assured the young people: “You will see the Promised Land.”
On the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortions, the faithful from throughout New York gathered at St. Patick’s Cathedral, Manhattan, for a Mass and procession.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan was the main celebrant Jan. 22 at the 7 a.m. Eucharistic celebration. During his homily, he said that the United States celebrated its greatness the day before, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day.
Helpers of God’s Precious Infants pray outside an abortion mill in Midtown Manhattan on the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling that led to legalized abortion in the U.S.
“But it is appropriate that we gather today for penance and prayer to restore the greatest civil liberty,” he said, referring to the right to life.
Cardinal Dolan said the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade has in a way become a holy day for Catholic families. It is a day during which they pray for healing and make their opposition to abortion known. The cardinal also expressed his hope that people on both sides of the abortion debate can come together to make abortion rare and to support pregnant women.
After the Mass, Msgr. Philip Reilly, founder and director of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, led the congregation on a prayerful procession to an abortion clinic one mile away.
“We are going to where innocent blood is shed, the modern-day Calvary,” Msgr. Reilly told the congregation. He asked those who would be processing to keep in mind the gravity of the situation and to keep the spirit of prayer.
They walked through the streets of midtown during morning rush hour, rosaries in hand, praying and singing.
“(We are processing) to make our voices heard and to pray for the people who are pro-choice to change their hearts and for the innocent,” said Jill Limongi, a parishioner of Incarnation parish, Washington Heights.
When the procession reached its destination, its members stood outside the abortion clinic in prayer. They finished the Rosary just as snow began to fall and temperatures hovered in the lower 20s. They continued their prayer with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy during which a bell rang 50 times to commemorate the unborn children who died as a result of legalized abortion. Upon finishing the chaplet, they knelt on the freezing ground.
“Our main purpose of being here today on this tragic anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is prayer for healing and conversion,” said Sister Lucy Marie Vasilile, S.V. “This is the place where children are killed and mothers and fathers are wounded, so we come to pray here.”
“People who believe in the sanctity of life are required to act on that belief,” said Father Fidelis Moscinski, C.F.R. “The best way is to be present where killings happen in a spirit of prayer and charity.”
Among those who participated in the procession was Molly McDonald, the head of the New York City branch of Life Runners. She said she came to the procession because it supports the mission of Life Runners, to spread abortion awareness. She said the procession was successful in spreading its message because people stopped during their morning commute to notice it and appreciate it.
Msgr. Reilly said the pro-life movement in the United States has already seen much fruit. Abortion clinics have dropped to about 700 locations this year from an all-time high of around 2,000 locations 20 years ago, he said. Locally the largest abortions clinic, Brooklyn Ambulatory Surgery Center, Sunset Park, was converted to a medical facility that focuses on preserving life.
DUBLIN (CNS) – In the wake of the largest pro-life demonstration ever to have taken place in Ireland, cracks have begun to emerge in the coalition government over its plans to legislate for abortion.
More than 25,000 people converged on Dublin Jan. 19, braving bitterly cold weather, to attend the “Unite for Life” vigil in the capital’s Merrion Square, just opposite the Irish parliament.
Before the vigil, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin joined more than 1,500 priests, religious and laity at a prayer service at St. Andrew’s Church in the city center to pray for “the child in the womb.”
The “Unite for Life” rally was organized by a coalition of pro-life groups opposed to the government’s plans to introduce legislation to allow for restricted abortion when there is a risk to a woman’s life, including a threat of suicide.
The massive turnout appeared to take politicians and the mainstream media by surprise, and by Jan. 21, Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton revealed that she was working on an alternative abortion bill that would exclude the threat of suicide as a reason to allow the procedure.
Speaking on RTE Radio, Creighton said she had “grave reservations” about accepting the risk of suicide as a ground for abortion “because I think it is very, very difficult to identify a system that would allow for that while also ensuring we don’t open the floodgates.”
She said she and many of her colleagues in the Fine Gael party had “deep concerns” over abortion, and she said the government needed to ensure that whatever legislation it introduced was “restrictive.”
Vigil organizers included groups such as the Pro Life Campaign, Family and Life, Youth Defence and the Life Institute. Leaders urged the crowd to become citizen journalists and tweet images from the rally, and #unite4life trended on Twitter.
A separate pro-abortion rally held just around the corner attracted about 200 supporters.
As Christians around the world gather to honor a century-long tradition of prayer for visible unity among us (Jan. 18-25), we also are marking the 40th year since Roe vs. Wade canonized the anti-sacrament of abortion, which is still thought by some to be the pinnacle of liberation for women. In the name of what is called “privacy,” the very act is, if you only allow the imagination a moment or two, a diabolic, surgical abnegation of the most sacramentally human and intimate of actions, when celebrated with mutual love.
Over these four decades, despite significant advances in professional, economic and socio-cultural opportunities for many women, it is by no means clear that what was once called “the sexual revolution” has raised the level of honor and personal respect for women in our society or that the proliferation of abortion and contraceptives have fostered their happiness, dignity and vocations in life.
The statistics are sobering. Even as violent crime has generally decreased, crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking still devastate the lives of so many women. One in every four women has experienced severe physical violence by a current or former spouse or “boyfriend.”
While the reasons remain a perennial subject of debate, the so-called “feminization of poverty” in recent decades – the dramatic rise in the percentage of the poverty population embracing female-headed households – raises many questions about the economic consequences of an increasingly contraceptive, anti-life culture. Married couples with children have an average income of $80,000, compared with $24,000 for single mothers. If anything, the liberation – from slavery to responsibility at least – seems mostly to have favored men.
As the role of male responsibility diminishes, another tragedy that has become almost epidemic is the corruption and even dismantling of fatherhood itself. Never mind academic fascination over the arguably tyrannical history of some patriarchies, we are precipitating into a black hole of virtually fatherless families as fathers disappear from households across America. What is more, the decline further exacerbates the country’s persistent race-related divisions. Among blacks, nearly five million children, or 54 percent, live only with their mother. Twelve percent of black families below the poverty line have two parents present, compared with 41 percent of impoverished Hispanic families and 32 percent of poor white families.
We are in the midst of a national mud-bath contest over the politics of gun control, largely in response to some dramatically shocking recent incidents of murderous violence against innocents by some atypical and obviously disturbed individuals. But guns are not the only or even the most prevalent means by which violence against children is executed. The institutionalized and state-sanctioned destruction of lives of pre-born children continues at a relentless pace – well over 50 million since 1973, or virtually one every 20 seconds!
If our common Christian faith means anything, this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity should be more than just a nice occasion for the ecumenical sharing of cake and coffee, psalmody and fellowship. Today, as never before, we need the witness of Christians unafraid to profess the faith handed down to us by a Savior unashamed to address God as Father, who died for those who “inconvenienced” His life in place of destroying them and taught His followers that the only measure by which they would be judged is the love in which they would live for other human beings, especially the poor and those whom nobody wants. May our prayer for unity be authenticated by our total commitment to the Lord of life and the humanity He loves.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Church teaching against abortion “requires absolute adherence” on the part of Catholic voters, who must “stand united” in opposition to the practice regardless of party affiliation, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
“(Abortion) really is a big issue today, and I think what it requires of Catholics is a loyalty to the church prior to their political party,” Archbishop Chaput told Catholic News Service Oct. 20 in Rome.
“We’re Catholics before we’re Democrats. We’re Catholics before we’re Republicans,” he said. “We’re even Catholics before we’re Americans, because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us. And this has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries.”
“That doesn’t mean we’re not being good citizens,” the archbishop said, “because being good citizens means giving God his rights prior to the government making its claims upon us.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, abortion is “gravely contrary to the moral law” in all cases — a Church teaching that “has not changed and remains unchangeable.” Under canon law, any “formal cooperation” in abortion automatically incurs the penalty of excommunication.
“If we don’t stand united on this issue, we’re bound to failure,” Archbishop Chaput said, “not only in the area of protecting unborn human life but in maintaining our religious freedom.”
He said that a lack of such unity among Catholic voters had permitted support for legalized abortion to become part of the Democratic Party platform.
“Catholics have been historically part of the Democrat Party in great numbers, and I think really could’ve stopped that great development, movement, if they tried, but they didn’t in order to accommodate people from the other side of the issue,” he said.
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Nellie Gray, who started the annual March for Life parade to protest the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, has died at age 86.
She was found dead in her home Aug. 13 in Washington’s Capitol Hill neighborhood by a March for Life staffer, Gene Ruane, who said the medical examiner will determine the cause and date of her death.
The March for Life has grown into one of the signature events of the pro-life movement. After the first march in 1974, Gray, a Texas native, established the March for Life Education & Defense Fund to sustain it.
Each year in her remarks, Gray exhorted pro-lifers to promote and adhere to a series of “life principles” that would eliminate abortion and enhance life, to which she said there should be “no exception! No compromise!”
Ruane, an administrative assistant with the March for Life, told Catholic News ServiceAug. 14 that leadership of the organization would be assumed by Terrence Scanlon, who has been its vice president “since the beginning.”
Funeral information was not immediately available. Gray was a member of St. Mary, Mother of God parish in Washington.
Next week marks the 39th anniversary of the most remarkable adventure of judicial hubris in the history of our constitutional Republic since the infamous Dred Scott vs. Sanford (1857) decision. Through Roe vs. Wade (1973), purportedly to settle public policy by standardizing state regulation of abortion, our highest Court essentially concocted a fictive legislative chimera that grows ever more unwieldy under scientific and rational scrutiny.
The parallels in both decisions are notable. Dred Scott was attempting to sue for his freedom and that of his wife, Harriet, and their two daughters on the grounds that, although he and Harriet were slaves, he had lived with his master Dr. John Emerson in states and territories where slavery was illegal. But the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (as in Roe) that the diversity of citizenship rules denied him and all persons of African ancestry standing. In order to assert the rights of owners to their legal “property,” the Court declared unconstitutional the congressionally approved Missouri Compromise, which was an effort to halt the expansion of slavery. Instead of settling differences among states and territories with this so-called “federal solution,” the ambitious court (like in Roe) bypassed them, only to outrage the factions and deepen tensions. It took three post-Civil War amendments and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1863) to nullify the court decision. Experience and history, however, testify to how much longer it takes to heal from the vestiges of slavery. The struggle continues.
A caveat: attempts to compare the plight of African-Americans to that of the unborn, though not without a certain logic, tend to exacerbate emotions even as they over-simplify the uniqueness of each circumstance. In fact, efforts to persuade even those well inclined to promote pro-life positions will likely backfire if they feel more like emotional bludgeoning or guilt-mongering than an appeal to the intellect and conscience — with facts and sound reasoning.
Alveda King, a niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, who is active in the Priests For Life Organization, has strongly advanced her belief that her uncle would have been among those championing the rights of the unborn. He had, in fact, expressed revulsion for the abortive practices of the Romans. Most of her arguments against abortion —such as, among others, its documented link with cervical and breast cancer, emotional illness and family disruption — stand on their own without the need to speculate about how Dr. King might have acted today.
What each cause does share in common is the inevitability of a struggle against existing sociocultural prejudices and a clash with the political-legal institutions that defend them. Each must engage in the same political process by which others will attempt to do under the guise of law what they could not do without its sanction.
Law — whether of legislators, presidents or judges — by attempting to make acceptable what is fundamentally immoral also corrupts the law itself by endowing it with a power it does not have. In Robert Bolt’s play, “A Man for All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More makes just that point in his defense for not signing the oath that would attribute to the King the right to divorce his wife. Responding in Act II to Cranmer, he says, “Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it? No, I will not sign.” Nor must we sign onto anything contrary to right reason or moral conscience.
On Monday, Jan. 23, tens of thousands of people of all faiths, many of them teens and college students, will gather in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. They will attest to the conviction that all human life is sacred from its creation at conception and not at some position or trimester humanly devised or ordained thereafter. The march will no doubt be peaceful, inspirational and representative of the best of what America is and stands for. It is also likely to be judiciously ignored in the secular media, if past experience is any indicator. The march has consistently drawn 250,000 people each year since 2003, and estimates put the 2011 attendance at 400,000.
The number of abortions in America still exceeds two million annually and remains two to three times higher among minority women. Statistics, however, are never completely reliable, since reporting is not mandatory and the methods of enumeration are not consistent.
Roe has trouble remembering all her children.