God’s greatest gift to us is human freedom. God gives us the freedom of our lives, of our choices, and decisions, and opportunities. God gives us the freedom to live in peace, joy, and hope. And God gives us the freedom to live with Him, forever, in unimaginable unity with the Blessed Trinity.
God wants all of us to experience the freedom of abundant and joyful lives. He wants us to live to the fullness of our human potential, and even beyond—to live in the freedom of loving, and being loved, as God himself loves. God wants this freedom for every man, woman, and child. And, in fact, the mission of the Church is to proclaim the freedom that comes from life in Jesus Christ. Freedom comes through sacramental grace, through repentance and mercy, through understanding the dignity and mission of being a person, and through the formation of societies and cultures that respect human dignity, and promote the truest kinds of human flourishing.
Catholics are called to build societies and cultures rooted in true freedom – to create what Pope St. John Paul II calls “true civilizations of love.” To help build civilizations of love, the Church is called to defend the freedom of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. In many cultures, the Church has been called upon to defend the rights of women who are often objectified, or victimized, or degraded by sinful choices, and sinful systems. The great southern author Flannery O’Connor wrote that the Catholic Church “has done more than any other force in history to free women.”
Abortion is a profound threat to the freedom of women everywhere. Across the globe, of course, children are systematically aborted simply because they are female, in cultures in which women are not respected or appreciated, but are rather viewed as a liability. And abortions cause grave harm to the women who undergo them. Taking the life of a child, before it is born, has a long-lasting psychological and emotional impact.
Alice Paul, an early suffragist and author of the 1923 U.S. Equal Rights Amendment, once wrote that, “abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”
Our culture fails to appreciate and support the profound capacity and gift of a woman to foster new life, and to welcome it. Women face pressure to abort their children from social expectations, from poverty, from men who irresponsibly abandon their children and families. Too often, our culture regards bearing children as a burden, and pressures or expects women to undergo abortion to resolve that burden and to “solve the problem.” Abortion is used as a tool to avoid addressing social inequality, and the need for greater legal and social support for women, children, and families.
A true civilization of love would support all women who experience the gift of new life, offering the freedom to receive and experience the gift of new life with true joy.
In 1994, Blessed Mother Teresa wrote that “The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men…it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.”
“Abortion is profoundly anti-women,” Mother Teresa said. “Three quarters of its victims are women: Half the babies and all the mothers.”
Abortion threatens the freedom, health, and well-being of women. To support legal protection for abortion is opposed to the good of all women. True feminism, which recognizes the beauty and dignity of all women, knows that to be pro-woman, we must be pro-life.
This week, hundreds of thousands will gather in Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. I will be with them, as will hundreds of young Catholics from the Diocese of Lincoln. (Editor's Note: March for Life 2015 video) And thousands more will pray and fast with us, offering their prayers as we march. The 2016 theme of the March for Life is this: “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand in Hand.”
To protect the rights, freedom, and dignity of women, we must end legal protection for abortion. We must promote and protect the freedom of all women: born and unborn. And we must pray for a culture of life—a civilization of love—in which every man, woman, and child experiences the incredible gift of freedom in Jesus Christ.