Resolving to be a pro-life advocate today seems much more complex
than it was 30 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on January
22, 1973. At that time, many of us thought that abortion was the only
But our Church leaders keep reminding us that being a Catholic pro-lifer
requires protecting human life and human dignity at all stages, “womb to tomb.”
In addition to abortion, today’s headlines also cover topics ranging from embryonic
stem-cell research to assisted suicide.
Where to Begin
Last November, the U.S. bishops passed a statement regarding
the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade titled “A Matter of the Heart.” It
focuses on the good news: “Today fewer abortions are being done each year, and
fewer doctors are willing to be involved in abortion. More Americans identify
themselves as pro-life.” In addition, “many young people have taken up the cause
for life” and “most state legislatures have enacted measures to restrict or
In 2001, the bishops explained in depth the Church’s commitment
to a “consistent ethic of life” in the revised Pastoral
Plan for Pro-life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life.
(The bishops' Web site also contains additional
This plan calls upon all of us to “be advocates for the weak and
the marginalized,” telling us to begin “with a commitment never to intentionally
kill or collude in the killing of any innocent human life....”
Set Realistic Goals
Not all of us are able to attend the annual march in Washington,
D.C., this January, but there are things we can do then
and all year long. The following list includes suggestions
that fall into once-a-day/week/month/year categories, depending
on your ability and commitment.
1) Pray throughout the year but especially on January 22,
when all U.S. dioceses for the first time will observe “a day of penance for
violations...committed through abortion and of prayer for the full restoration
of the legal guarantee of the right to life.”
2) Read about a variety of pro-life issues in magazines,
books and on the Internet. Research and reflect upon at
least one topic you don’t understand completely or one on
which you don’t agree with the Church’s position. For example,
you can read the booklet What’s
Wrong With the Death Penalty? on the Illinois Coalition
Against the Death Penalty’s Web site.
3) Write letters and e-mail to lawmakers, publications, corporations
and friends about pending legislation, research and other activities. Send cards
and notes to pregnant women, victims of crimes, people who are dying and others
who need support.
4) Listen respectfully, especially when the opposite point
of view is being expressed. Process what you hear to help you comprehend the
5) Speak effectively by being factual. Pastoral
Plan for Pro-life Activities asks us to help educate
the Catholic community and the public, advising us “to explain
and persuade while showing respect to all who disagree.”
If you know a woman or man hurting from abortion’s aftermath,
encourage them to contact Project
Rachel (800-5WE-CARE) or other post-abortion programs.
6) Donate your time, talent and finances. Fund-raisers,
organizations and protests need volunteers and participants.
Ultimate Pro-life Resource List includes six pages of
links to Right to Life chapters and many other groups (national,
state, Canadian, campus, political, religious, euthanasia,
7) Support victims of abuse and pregnant women,
especially those who feel pressured to abort. Feminists
for Life’s College Outreach Program helps reduce abortions
by urging campuses to provide pregnant and parenting students
with on-site day care and other resources to help them complete
their education. This nonsectarian organization opposes
all forms of violence including abortion, domestic violence,
euthanasia and capital punishment.
8) Organize a program or event in your parish or
community. That could be as simple as arranging for a speaker
at a meeting or as complex as establishing Elizabeth
Ministry, which supports women and their families during
9) Vote for candidates and issues that best support
a consistent ethic of life. In The Gospel of Life,
Pope John Paul II explains that it’s O.K. to support imperfect
pro-abortion legislation when its aim is to limit the harm
and lessen the “negative consequences” (#73). The Susan
B. Anthony List, which is named after the anti-abortion
suffragette, advocates the passage of pro-life legislation
and works to increase the number of pro-life women in Congress.
10) Celebrate the good news. Some states have announced moratoriums
on executions as wrongful convictions are proven. And unborn children are now
eligible for health insurance within the federal government’s State Children’s
Health Insurance Program.
When we live up to our pro-life resolutions, we support the bishops’ call
to “peaceful activism, education, prayer and service” in
building a culture of life. M.J.D.