By Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila *
I don’t usually agree with Frances Kissling. In fact, I’m certain that I never do.
Kissling is a Catholic who has served as the director of a New York state abortion clinic, the founder of the National Abortion Federation, and as the president of “Catholics for Choice”—a very small dissident group intent on profaning Catholic identity by defending and supporting abortion.
Kissling has made a career out of publicly denying—and openly mocking—the Church’s teachings on human sexuality and the dignity of human life. Because I believe in the dignity of human life, my viewpoints and Kissling’s are usually at odds.
But this week, Kissling was featured in a Time magazine story about the gradual defeat of anti-life, pro-choice politics in our nation. The story recognized that despite the impact of Roe v. Wade on our nation’s history, pro-life groups have had considerable success in restricting abortion through state regulation. Although Time’s perspective is clearly pro-abortion, in some ways the story recognized that, gradually, America’s pro-lifers are building a culture of life.
Most interestingly, Time noted that despite increased American support to restrictions on abortion in most circumstances, anti-life groups continue to argue that abortion is an ordinary medical procedure. This viewpoint, however, is quickly going out of vogue. Frances Kissling herself emphasized this point: “When people hear us say abortion is just another medical procedure, they react with shock,” she said. “Abortion is not like having your tooth pulled or having your appendix out. It involves the termination of an early form of human life. That deserves some gravitas.”
This is the very rare case in which I agree with Kissling. She is right—abortion does involve the termination of human life. Murder does, indeed, deserve gravitas.
Kissling recognizes that unborn children are human beings, and still she supports legal protection for abortion. Hers is a troubling position. Kissling believes that some human lives are worth less than others. Kissling believes that some human lives are worth less than convenience—that violence against unborn children is a reasonable way to solve a problem. Unfortunately, Kissling is not alone. In a 2006 poll, 59 percent of Americans said that abortion ends a human life. Half of that number supported legal protection for abortion anyhow.
Kissling’s position is unsettling, but it is honest. Without equivocation, a person who recognizes the humanity of the unborn, but supports legal abortion, is staking a claim. The claim is that not all human life deserves the protection of law, or the right to life.
As we recognize the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we have an obligation to defeat this claim. Our responsibility is to support the idea that all human life deserves legal protection, from conception to natural death. Our obligation is to demonstrate that all human life has dignity.
We fulfill our obligation through our prayer and through our work to end legal protection for abortion. But we also fulfill our obligation by making moral choices that reflect human dignity. We fulfill our obligation by supporting family life, by supporting the sovereignty of marriage and human freedom. We fulfill our obligation by building a culture of life—by treating one another with the love of God.
This week, Time magazine offered a challenge to Catholics. It laid out for us a plan to end abortion. If we defeat the notion that inconvenient human lives, the lives of the small and powerless, are worth less than those of the powerful, we will succeed. If we overcome the idea that violence, unspeakable violence directed at children, will solve our problems, we will be victorious. If we continue to change minds and convert hearts, we will stop the deaths of millions of children each year.
The challenge is clear. The end of abortion will come through our holiness. Let us rely on the Lord to build a true and lasting culture of life.
Reposted with permission from Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colo.
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila currently serves as the Archbishop of Denver, Colo. with the episcopal motto, “Do whatever he tells you (Jn 2:5).”
Archbishop Aquila was born on September 24, 1950, in Burbank, Cali. He was ordained to the priesthood in Denver on June 5, 1976, and served the Denver Archdiocese for 25 years before appointed being Coadjutor Bishop of Fargo, N.D. June 12, 2001. On March 18, 2002, he became bishop of Fargo upon the retirement of Bishop James Sullivan.