Column: Pro-life movement is about saving lives, not taking them

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

I was shocked and saddened when I received a phone call on Sunday from Michael Schuttloffel, the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, informing me of news reports that Dr. George Tiller had been murdered while attending church that morning. On Monday of this week, I offered Mass for the repose of the soul of Dr. Tiller and for comfort and consolation for his family.

I have written frequently about the evil of abortion and our responsibility as American Catholics to do everything possible to restore legal protection for unborn children. I have also expressed my profound dismay that because of Dr. Tiller’s Wichita clinic, Kansas has become the late-term abortion capital for the Midwest.

It usually troubles me when the media insists on identifying those engaged in attempting to restore legal protection for the lives of unborn children as anti-abortion rather than pro-life. When I heard reporters identifying the man suspected of shooting Dr. Tiller as anti- abortion, this for once seemed like the correct descriptor.

The pro-life movement is about saving lives, not taking them. It is about providing housing, medical care, educational opportunities and financial help to pregnant women who feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of their pregnancy. It is about providing counseling and support to those who have had an abortion and now deeply regret their past choices. It is about a profound respect for the law, as evidenced by many laboring arduously and perseveringly to reform our present public policy in order to restore legal protection for the lives of unborn children. It is about a belief in the sanctity of each and every human life.

Killing those who perform abortions builds up the culture of death, because it embraces its premise that we solve problems by destroying human life rather than honoring the truth that every human being is made in the image of God. Undercutting the authority of the law by acts of vigilantism is an absurdity for a movement that is trying to gain legal protection for the lives of unborn children. What is the point of working for legal reform for our public policy on abortion, if you accept the premise that it is acceptable to disregard the law and kill another human being?

Through my involvement with the pro-life movement, I have met several individuals who at one time were involved in providing abortions, only to become ardent pro-life advocates. Dr. Bernard Nathanson was one of the leaders in the 1960s and 1970s of the effort to legalize abortion. He personally performed more than 60,000 abortions. After his pro-life conversion, prompted by his study of neonatology, Dr. Nathanson developed some of the most effective, pro-life educational materials, presenting the scientific case for the humanity of the unborn child.

Carroll Everett was the administrator of a string of abortion clinics in Texas. She became disillusioned with the manipulation of frightened, pregnant, young women in the clinics she helped to operate. After leaving the abortion industry, Carroll Everett became a powerful advocate for protecting both unborn children and vulnerable young women from the tragedy of abortion.

Before the 1973 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion, Dr. Beverly McMillan had interned at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She witnessed first hand, in the emergency room, the harm done to women by botched, illegal abortions. Dr. McMillan opened the first abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. She was convinced that she was helping women by providing safe abortions.

Over time, Dr. McMillan found herself becoming unhappy and depressed over her medical practice. After an abortion, the doctor must reassemble the body parts of the unborn child to make certain none are left in the mother’s uterus, potentially causing an infection. On one such occasion, she relates how she began to marvel at the arm of a child that she had just aborted. She thought this is a perfect arm. It is a child’s arm. At that moment she realized she could no longer continue performing abortions.

Several months after she had discontinued her abortion practice, she found out that a group of Christian women had been praying for her for years that the Lord would enlighten her and give her the courage to stop performing abortions. Dr. McMillan is convinced that those women prayed her out of her abortion practice.

Abortionists are not evil people. They are men and women made in the image of God and deemed by Jesus to be of such worth that he gave his life on Calvary for them. They are men and women who are engaged in a very evil activity – destroying an innocent human life, but often for what, in their misguided minds, they believe to be noble reasons. I believe this was true of Dr. George Tiller.

We need to pray for doctors and those who assist them in the performance of abortion. We need to pray for their enlightenment. We need to do all in our power to pray them out of the abortion clinics. We need to treat those involved with performing abortions and advocating for abortions with the respect that is due to every human being. We need to love them out of their abortion clinics.

There are some pundits who have asserted that anyone who criticized Dr. George Tiller for performing abortions shares some responsibility in his death. Many Americans just wish the abortion issue would go away. They prefer not to know that more than 4,000 American children die every day by abortion. They prefer not to be reminded that every abortion results in the destruction of an innocent human life.

We need to continue to speak the truth about abortion, but always with love. Those who perform abortions and those who procure abortions are not our enemies. We must recognize in them the same God-given dignity that inspires us to be so passionate in protecting the lives of unborn children.

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