When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down in June 2022 its decision in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the decision in Roe v Wade that legalized abortion across the country, those who believe that life at every stage must be respected and protected were hopeful our country had reached an important turning point.
After decades of hard work, marches, protests, and lawsuits, it seemed that we as a society were poised finally to reject abortion and embrace a culture of life.
But since the Dobbs ruling, the debate over abortion has not gone away. In fact, in some ways, it has intensified.
As we move into October, which is Respect Life Month, we must acknowledge that our work to build a society that recognizes the value of every human life from conception to natural death is not yet finished. While the fight to end legalized abortion will continue in the legislative arena, this effort will require more of us.
In his statement marking the 50th anniversary of Respect Life Month, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said Catholics have a personal responsibility to accompany women facing difficult or challenging pregnancies with a “radical solidarity.”
“The most immediate way to save babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with lifegiving support and personal accompaniment. This is radical solidarity,” Bishop Burbidge said.
“Being in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant or raising children in difficult circumstances means putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own,” he said.
How many women, convinced they have no other option, are driven to choose abortion by fear – fear that their family will reject them, fear the father of their child will abandon them, fear that their opportunity to finish their education will elude them, fear that their dreams for a career will be taken from them, fear that their ability to provide for their child’s material needs will be beyond them, fear that their emotional resources to care for their child will not sustain them?
How can we work to ease those fears? In some instances, it might require action by the entire community. In others the acts of each of us can help.
“Radical solidarity can be lived out in countless ways,” Bishop Burbidge said, “including volunteering at your local pregnancy center; helping an expectant mother find stable housing; babysitting so a mom can work or take classes; providing encouragement and a listening ear to a mom without a support system; or speaking to your pastor about beginning Walking with Moms in Need at your parish.”
Walking with Moms in Need is a program developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that “provides easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to help transform our parishes into places of welcome, support, and assistance for pregnant and parenting mothers facing difficulties,” Bishop Burbidge said.
In his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life),” St. John Paul II reminded us that through the incarnation and birth of Christ, God reveals to us the dignity of all human life. As a gift from God, human life is sacred, and thus must be respected, protected, loved, and served.
That is not a mission for someone else. That is a call to action for each of us. Through our compassion, our voice, our prayer, in how we live our faith in every aspect of our life, we can build a culture that truly respects life.