Column: Hope reigns on life issues despite barriers

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

The Bible is a mirror for the Christian. If we peer into the Scriptures with the eyes of faith, we see ourselves and gain insight into the circumstances of our lives.

The sixth chapter of the Book of Judges describes the plight of the Israelites for offending God over many years. Israel finds itself subjected to the oppressive power of the Midianites for seven years.

The Lord called a man, by the name of Gideon, to rescue Israel from the cruelty of Midian. Gideon is successful in assembling a huge army to help him liberate Israel from the brutal oppression of Midian, only to be informed by God that he had too many soldiers. The Lord tells Gideon if he defeats Midian with this huge army, then the Israelites will think that it was their own power that won the victory.

God instructs Gideon to tell his soldiers: “If anyone is afraid or fearful, let him leave” (Jgs 7: 3). Some 22,000 soldiers left as a result of this invitation, still leaving Gideon with 10,000 soldiers. The Lord tells Gideon that he still has too many soldiers and instructs him to observe the way his men drink water from the stream. Some 9,700 of his soldiers knelt down to drink, while only 300 cupped water in their hands, lapping it like a dog. God instructs Gideon to keep the 300 who lap water like a dog and send home the other 9,700.

Gideon positions his 300 remaining soldiers around Midian’s camp at night. They do not carry weapons — just torches, pottery jars and horns. On a signal from Gideon, the soldiers break the jars, light and wave their torches, and blow their horns. This entire ruckus sets the Midianite camp into a panic. They begin killing one another, mistaking some of their own comrades for enemy Israelites. Those who are not killed by “friendly fire” flee. This is a typical Old Testament victory for Israel. It has nothing to do with Israel’s military skills or strength, but everything to do with their faith in God.

Today, Jan. 22, marks the somber 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, striking down every state statute that protected the lives of innocent unborn children. In effect, our nation’s highest court legalized abortion in all 50 states for all nine months of pregnancy and virtually for any reason.

One year ago, the pro-life prospects appeared quite desperate. President Barak Obama had just been sworn into office, drawing the largest crowds ever to Washington for an inauguration ceremony. His approval ratings were in the stratosphere and his party held a veto-proof majority in the Senate and a large majority in the House. It appeared that the president could pass whatever legislation he desired.

During his campaign, Obama had promised Planned Parenthood that one of the first pieces of legislation he would sign as president was the so-called Freedom of Choice Act. FOCA, as it had been introduced in the previous Congress would, among other things, have invalidated state laws requiring: 1) parental notification for minors seeking an abortion; 2) informed consent requirements; and 3) bans on partial-birth abortions.

Last year, while attending the March for Life, I participated in a meeting that had been requested by leaders of the Pro-Life Congressional Caucus. Their message was grim. They were uncertain whether they had the votes to block something as extreme as FOCA or even to protect the most long-standing of all pro-life policies — the ban on federal funding for abortions.

The Pro-Life Congressional Caucus leadership believed the only hope for preventing the passage of FOCA and a reversal of many, if not all, of the pro-life policies enacted in the past 36 years was massive pro-life constituent communications to members of Congress. The bishops’ conference already had in motion a postcard campaign urging Congress not to pass FOCA and to preserve the ban on federal funding of abortions, as well as other pro-life policies. This desperate plea from pro-life congressional leaders gave an even greater urgency to our efforts.

The response of Catholics across the United States was remarkable. It was the largest pro-life postcard campaign ever. As a result, FOCA, instead of being on the fast track, was at least temporarily derailed.

Next, the president made health care reform his highest priority. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did everything in her power to prevent a vote on a pro-life (Stupak) amendment that was designed to prevent federal tax revenues from being used to fund abortions under the guise of health care. At the eleventh hour, Speaker Pelosi was forced to allow a vote on the Stupak amendment which, much to her dismay, passed overwhelmingly.

Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve, while most of the nation was distracted, the Senate passed a bill that would force every tax-paying American to help fund abortions. As I write this article, the final version of the Health Care Reform bill is uncertain.

We must pray for pro-life Democrats in the House of Representatives to remain strong by refusing to vote for passage of any health care reform bill that forces Americans into funding abortions and fails to provide adequate conscience protections for pro-life doctors, nurses and health care institutions. It has been a remarkable achievement by pro-life Americans to have derailed even consideration of FOCA and thus far prevented the passage of a health care reform bill coercing Americans to fund abortions.

In many ways, we are like the 300 water-lapping soldiers of Gideon. Our only weapons are our prayers and our voices that, hopefully, can create enough of a ruckus to keep the pro-abortion leadership in Congress confused and in a frantic panic.

Humanly speaking, all pro-life public policies remain very vulnerable under our president and the current congressional leadership. Still, there is more reason for hope than a year ago. We are encouraged by the truth that what humanly is unachievable is possible with God.

This Jan. 22 is a moment for each of us to renew our commitment that, no matter how dire the circumstances, we will never, never, never give up the struggle to protect innocent human life!

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