Life beyond Roe v Wade

The pro-life stance of the Catholic Church has been literally written in stone.

Jul 01, 2022

(Unsplash/Phil Hearing - Creative Commons)

By Karen Michaela Tan

The pro-life stance of the Catholic Church has been literally written in stone. The sixth Commandment is as sterile and unyielding as an operation table: thou shall not kill. It is thus expected that Catholics would exult in the decision of the American Supreme Court to overturn the constitutional right of a pregnant woman to choose to have an abortion, as it has in Roe v Wade. Yet, many Catholics may not realise that saving the life of an unborn child does not end when a baby is successfully brought to full-term and birthed.

The fight against the Culture of Death begins in earnest when an unwanted child is born. It is easy to make a villain out of a woman seeking a termination, but what kind of social support is there once the fruit of an unwanted pregnancy is born?

A Catholic cannot say they believe in the fundamental right of any and every child to live if they will not take collective responsibility to ensure a life of quality for a baby saved from abortion.

Elation over one saved foetus is as tone deaf as ‘prayers and good wishes’ after a mass shooting. The Catholic Church and its communities cannot delight in the cessation of abortions without knowing that legally stopping women from medically performed terminations will raise the numbers of women who will be put at risk when they seek out backyard butchers to rid them of their unwanted babies.

The psychological and emotional trauma a victim of rape undergoes when forced to produce the fruit of her violent sexual assault also needs to be addressed and treated. Does the Church work closely enough with mental health professionals to ensure women who choose to birth the child of their assaulter will be given enough — and continuing — psychosocial help? Are there enough Catholic neonatal physicians and geneticists who will be able to spot or treat health issues which may arise in a child born from familial sexual misconduct, such as sibling rape or sexual abuse by a father, grandfather or uncle? Are there homes for the severely handicapped or brain-dead children who were ‘saved’ from abortion? Who funds these homes and hospices, and will times of decreased wealth, spending and donor ability be cited when these places have to close? What happens to the inmates then?

Should an unwanted foetus be brought to viability and birthed without physical or mental challenges, does the Church have enough say in the adoption process of the countries she is present in? What assurance has an unwed mother who gives up a child she cannot possibly support, that her child will not bounce around orphanage to care home without being adopted, with an end view to being loved, cherished and taken care of?

Jesus told the Apostles who were musing about how the multitude who had come to hear their Master speak in a far-off and lonely place would find sustenance, “You yourselves give them something to eat.” Catholics cannot rejoice in the overturning of Roe v Wade until and unless each member of the body of Christ understands that we all have to play a part in the bringing up of children saved from abortion. The rights of the unborn is an easy thing to champion, but once born, these children are in need of shelter, nutrition, protection, and education.

The capacity of noteworthy religious like the Good Shepherd Sisters and their homes for unwed mothers are already taxed. Their charism does not extend to the care of mentally challenged or incapacitated children; that is still largely the domain of government-run institutions. The supposed division of religion and state means Church-run programmes will never receive governmental funding.

Rome’s coffers are not unending. Each church has the mandate to be self-supporting, and this, as two years of pandemic has shown, is difficult when the faithful lose jobs, and suffer pay cuts. How then, are the people of God, the lay faithful, supposed to help spread the Culture of Life, and build support infrastructure and systems for the ones we save from abortion? It starts with faith the size of a mustard seed.

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’. (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Lord of Life has mandated that we do not kill. Not committing the act ourselves is not good enough. We have to protect those saved from death, and to do it with the abilities, tools and talents that God has given to each labourer in His vineyard.

Knowing as we do now that the prevention of abortion is just the start, the faithful need to educate themselves about what happens after an unwanted child is born. Pope St John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, 87 that “this is a need which springs from “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6)… In our service of charity, we must be inspired and distinguished by a specific attitude: we must care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to become neighbours to everyone (cf. Lk 10:29-37), and to show special favour to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need.”

How to start? Evangelium Vitae #88 says that “all this involves education and the promotion of vocations to service, particularly among the young. All are eloquent expressions of what charity is able to devise in order to give new hope and practical possibilities for life.”

Tell God that you are committed to being part of a greater ecosystem of care and support for unwanted children. Learn about the fostering process. Consider adoption. Mentor children with no parents or homes to call their own. Understand that if we rejoice in the overturing of Roe v Wade, we need to commit to ensuring that not one of the ones God has given us, we will lose.

(Karen, a columnist with HERALD, used to be pro-choice but upon her delving into Pope St John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, and her study into Theology of the Body, she now identifies as a “Whole-Lifer” who believes that the protection of life runs from conception to death. She has been complicit in the process of abortion, but takes solace that there exists a living, thriving, loved child whom she helped save from termination.)

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