"The U.S. abortion rate fell to its lowest level since 1974, to 19.4 per 1,000 women, dropping the total to 1.2 million in 2005, a report said." -- Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2008.
Recent news of the decline of abortions in America is welcome but hardly comforting. This month the nation observes the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court's grisly decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, that sanctioned abortion for all nine months of pregnancy, up to the very threshold of birth. For three and a half decades, America has witnessed the destruction of tens of millions of lives, numbers that dwarf Vietnam, September 11, Afghanistan, and Iraq many times over.
From a moral perspective, the reduction in the lives lost to abortion, hundreds of thousands annually, is certainly a positive development beyond measure. And yet, the sense of overwhelming sadness persists.
Each year 1.2 million human beings are still deprived of their inalienable right to live, to love, to work, to create, to strive, to suffer, to fail, to experience existence that is the greatest of gifts bestowed on every human being who comes into this world. The darkness still engulfs the land, not just in America but in most of what was once known as the West.
The prevalence of abortion, for almost any reason imaginable, tracks with the decline of marriage and births, the increase in child abuse and a host of childhood pathologies derived from a toxic blend of neglect and over-indulgence. Our children want for nothing other than love and order and parental authority grounded in experience and wisdom.
All of this has precious little to do with poverty or the lack of material resources. It has everything to do with the ideology of personal autonomy that recognizes no restraints on the individual's wishes, desires, behaviors, or actions.
In the face of this determination to do what one wants, when one wants it, not even a dynamic, unique, genetically distinct, never-to-be-duplicated human being, making his or her untimely appearance on the scene, can restrain such an insistent self who cannot acknowledge the common humanity that binds one self to another.
THE RECENT Supreme Court decision permitting a ban on partial birth abortion, a generous term describing a practice more akin to infanticide, is another instance of a welcome but hardly consoling development in our public debate over the humanity of the unborn. This was a close decision, relying on one swing justice who seemed to have a change of heart.
But the fact that we are actually debating, fiercely, the proposition that the destruction of a child, again, at almost the moment of birth, should be outlawed in a society that is pleased to call itself civilized, is really quite depressing.
Some things should be considered beyond the Pale, morally and legally. Like slavery or child abuse, shouldn't this awful practice merit the scorn of a society aspiring to be both liberal and humane?
The hard truth is that evil, even evil defined as the absence of good rather than as a substantive force, can persist over time for generations. It must be named for what it is, resisted, endured, mitigated where possible, and, in God's good time, overcome.
Testifying to the evil of abortion requires standing for integrity of the human person manifested in the humanity of the unborn child. In this way substantive good can trump insubstantial evil.
THIS IS NOT a brief for quietism or acquiescence in the face of 1.2 million dead Americans each year. It is simply a humble recognition that our feeble efforts in defense of human life may, for a time, be without immediate effect, at least in the broader society in which we live.
In the end we must strive to love the mothers, the fathers, and the children who are implicated in this great evil. In this way we can offer witness to the truth which may, hopefully, be recognized one day by our fellow citizens.
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