by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
On Friday, Jan. 19, I will be in Washington, D.C., participating in the annual March for Life.
Monday, Jan. 22, the actual 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decisions striking down all the state laws that banned or limited abortion, I will be in Topeka for a pro-life Mass and rally.
It is a tribute to pro-life Americans that abortion remains such an important social issue, despite its legalization for 45 years.
It is always encouraging to witness the number and enthusiasm of young people at the March for Life. Despite the overwhelming support in the secular media and entertainment industry for legalized abortion, the younger generation is much more pro-life than their elders.
With modern technology creating a window in the womb, making the humanity of the unborn undeniable, and with more and more post-abortive women speaking out about the grief, guilt and suffering following their abortion, why does abortion remain legal?
First of all, it is very difficult to undo what the Supreme Court did 45 years ago. Pro-life Americans have to either pass a constitutional amendment, which our founders wisely made very difficult, or the Supreme Court has to take the rare step of reversing a previous decision.
Despite the fact that Americans have grown increasingly pro-life in recent years, there is a fear among some about life without the availability of abortion. It seems odd that a significant number of Americans think that abortion (the killing of our own children) is essential for the “well-being” of the nation.
The legalization of abortion was based on lies and deceptions. Neither of the women plaintiffs in Roe v. Wade (Norma McCorvey) or Doe v. Bolton (Sandra Cano) actually wanted abortions. They were both used and manipulated by abortion advocates. Deception has remained an essential tool in keeping abortion legal.
Those promoting abortion have been masterful in their marketing strategy. They have attempted to disguise the reality of abortion as killing of an innocent human life. They have referred to the embryo or fetus as merely the product of conception or just a blob of cells.
Abortion advocates successfully attempted with the help of a complicit secular media to change the terms of the debate from one of life to that of choice.
There is a deeper reason why abortion has remained legal these past 45 years. A sufficient number of Americans believe that it is impossible to live without legalized abortion, because they believe that one cannot be happy without an absolute freedom to be sexually active.
Hormonal contraception became very popular and, with it, the notion that it was possible, even commendable, to be sexually intimate without having to worry about the possibility of conceiving a child.
Of course, hormonal contraception is not 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. If you are sexually active over a long enough period of time, the possibility of a pregnancy increases. Abortion became the necessary backup for failed contraception.
In his book, “Cheap Sex,” Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, presents a rather bleak picture of the sexual mores of Americans.
The premise of the book is that sex has become dramatically cheapened in our culture for two principal reasons: hormonal contraception and pornography.
Contraception effectively uncoupled sexual intimacy with the possible responsibility of conceiving and raising a child.
Professor Regnerus’ research also explores the reality of what has been termed the “hookup” culture, prevalent with young adults both on and off college campuses.
Sexual intimacy has not only been separated from child-bearing, but also from authentic love. It is alarming the early age at which so many young people have their first sexual encounter and the number of sexual partners they will have by the time they reach their 30s.
Pornography, however, is the ultimate “cheap sex.” It requires not only no commitment, but not even any sort of relationship with the object of one’s pleasure. Pornography destroys real love.
The Catholic Church has always understood sexual intercourse to have two mutual purposes: 1) to generate new human life; and 2) to express a deep, committed love only possible within the covenant of marriage.
This is, of course, not just a Catholic understanding of human sexuality. It has been the common understanding of sexual intimacy for millennia across many cultures.
From a faith perspective, this is the design that the Creator has given to the sexual act to be both life-giving and love-giving. God’s design of uniting in sexual intimacy the potential for conceiving new life with the most profound expression of physical love was to prevent it from becoming trivialized.
Not surprisingly, the results of this decoupling of sexual intimacy both from its life-giving and its love-giving purposes is disastrous.
Mark Regnerus paints a tragic picture of a significant number of young men who are content to allow their cohabitating female partners to provide for them, while they spend a significant part of each day in the virtual world of video games and pornography.
Young women, on the other hand, find it extremely difficult to find young men who are worthy candidates for marriage.
The recent revelations of the sexual misconduct in the celebrity world are tragic but, unfortunately, not very surprising considering our current moral climate. Abortion in many ways is one of the most tragic consequences of a society that has not only diminished the value of life, but also places little importance on committed love.
This July, we will observe the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s controversial encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (“On Human Life”) in which he predicted much of what we are witnessing today.
If anything, the past 50 years have provided negative confirmation for the church’s teaching on the sanctity of life, the importance of the virtue of chastity and the necessity of faithful, committed married love as the foundation of the family.
Culture is the result of the choices individuals make in determining how they conduct their lives. As we observe the 45th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in our nation, let us commit ourselves (young and old) to make choices in our own lives that build not only a culture of life but also a culture of love.
We will never succeed in restoring respect for human life, if we do not rediscover the meaning of authentic love, which never uses another for selfish pleasure but is willing to sacrifice heroically for the other’s good.