Fr. Frank Pavone says pro-life gains are adding up quickly and victory is near . . .
When I became director of Priests for Life 20 years ago, I began visiting national pro-life leaders to learn what they were doing and to offer our help.
This led us to develop a specific plan to end abortion, which marshals the strengths of the pro-life movement against the weaknesses of the abortion industry. We update and implement that plan through networking with leaders, not only through strategic summits but also through spiritual retreats.
I am more convinced than ever that we are winning the fight against abortion. I’d like to explore one of the key reasons why the plan is bearing fruit, and how we can build on this momentum. Two key issues for pro-lifers today are the battles for marriage and religious liberty. Priests for Life was among the first to file a lawsuit over the HHS mandate, and we are confident of victory. But the battle for the defense of life itself will always remain the most fundamental moral struggle, because one can neither be married, religious, or free unless one is first born. Murder, including abortion and euthanasia, takes away these other rights and goods as well.
In the fight against abortion, the words of St. Paul are playing out: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless works of darkness; rather, expose them” (Eph 5:11).
Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s trial and conviction exposed abortion to national debate. It opened many people’s eyes to three things: what is done to the child; what is done to the woman, who is often injured and even killed; and the unsafe, unscrupulous environment of the abortion industry, which doesn’t even measure up to the standards in place at veterinary clinics.
As various members of our Priests for Life team attended Gosnell’s trial, reporters would ask us if we thought Gosnell was “crazy.” I responded, “Not necessarily. He is simply following the logic of the abortion industry.”
Roe v. Wade did not deny that unborn children are living human beings, but it did remove their protection under the law. “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins” [410 U.S. 113, 159], the decision said, and at the same time, “the word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn” [410 U.S. 113, 158].
This leads to what Gosnell did — namely, killing the same babies even after birth. The Journal of Medical Ethics published an article entitled, “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” (Feb. 23, 2012). The authors state, “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
Controversial ethicist Peter Singer once said that the “location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make such a crucial moral difference,” and that to be consistent, there are “only two possibilities” — “oppose abortion or allow infanticide.”
My recent public letter to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (LetterToNancy.com) caught such national attention because it demanded that she answer a question that we must all answer: What is the difference between killing a baby by legal abortion in the final months of pregnancy and killing the same baby outside the mother’s womb (for which Gosnell is serving life sentences)?
Raising this question has helped legislators to pass legislation that protects children after birth and in the later stages of pregnancy. Some 10 states — as well as the U.S. House of Representatives — have voted to prohibit abortion starting at 20 weeks of fetal age. This is monumental. Pro-lifers are also working with legislators to strengthen state laws that regulate abortion facilities, causing many of them to close. At least 58 U.S. abortion mills — almost 1 in 10 — have shut or stopped killing children since 2011.
These measures don’t represent the final goal; they represent the next logical step. Every abortion is equal in its moral violation, but not in its psychological impact. And regulating an abortion clinic doesn’t make the abortions right. But pedagogically, we take the public and our legislators from the more obvious to the less obvious, and real progress is being made. Just exposing abortion is enough to bring most people to reject it.
As our executive director Janet Morana points out in her new book Recall Abortion, the testimonies of those who have had the experience (and the studies of the damage it does) make the case for the government to protect these women — and ultimately to recall the procedure as harmful to the public. We are closer to that day than ever before!
FR. FRANK PAVONE is the national director of Priests for Life.