Priest ordained one year after Roe: No law can change humanity of babies targeted for abortion
October 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — As the Senate deliberations on Amy Coney Barrett continue, an important area of deliberation centers on the Roe v. Wade decision. The question to consider is this: has anything changed from 1973 until now, 47 years later, in 2020? Roe v. Wade allowed abortions to at least 24 weeks’ gestation. (Doe v. Bolton, Roe’s companion decision, allowed it up to the moment of birth.) A recent study showed that 15% of premature infants at 23 weeks survive, and the record includes 11 cases of infants surviving at 22 weeks and two at 21 and 20 weeks’ gestation. “Viability” is younger than ever.
Has the humanity of the preborn changed during these past forty-seven years? No, viability measures the advancement of medical technology and the availability of neonatal intensive care units. It measures the external life support systems, not the humanness of the premature infant. Viability is, in fact, unrelated to the question of whether the pre-born are living human beings.
Dependency does not define a person’s humanity. It reflects the fragile state of the human being’s situation at different stages of pregnancy, not his humanity. Viability measures the medical community’s ability to sustain life, not the status of that life.
Medical technology is not yet able to provide an alternative environment for babies younger than about 20–23 weeks to survive. Some researchers predict, however, that if an artificial womb and placenta are developed, as well as further development of the use of oxygen-saturated liquid (instead of air), many pre-born infants could survive at less than 20 weeks of gestation. (By 12 weeks, the preborn child’s whole system is developed and fully functioning.) Viability is not a fixed or definitive line or place and has certainly changed since 1973.
In addition, since 1973, we have the incredible medical advancements in fetology and perinatology, especially significant advances in medical technology, such as the electronic fetal monitors (EFM). EFMs were not widely used until after Roe v. Wade, and uniform standards for EFMs were not firmly established until 1997.
Use of the fetoscope began in the 1980s. The first intrauterine surgery done successfully on a pre-born child occurred in 1981. It reminded the world that a doctor is treating two patients, not just one. We now have an amazing “window to the womb” with 3D ultrasound developed in the 1980s and 4D ultrasound in the 1990s, all of which preclude the thinking of “out of sight, out of mind.”
Some studies show that 80–95% of abortion-minded women who agree to see an ultrasound of their baby before having an abortion choose not to kill the baby. These mothers experience their pre-born children in real time instead of being purposely shielded from that reality at abortion facilities. In addition to these dramatic transformations, the internet, websites, and social media since 1973 have facilitated on-site videos and instant communication with photos of pre-born children, including pictures of the terrible aftermath of abortions. This helps us understand why Nicholai Berdyaev stated at the beginning of the 20th century: “The greatest sin of this age is making the concrete abstract.” The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas puts it this way: “the only thing that really converts people is the face of the other.”
Since 1973, many laws have been enacted restricting abortion in most states, which certainly has shifted public opinion on the issue. Between 2001 and 2010, 189 abortion restriction laws were passed. From 2011 to 2019, there were 424 abortion restrictions in state laws, and this past year, there were 350 bills to restrict abortions, more laws than ever. Forty-three states have passed some type of gestational laws. These facts may explain in part why in the early 1990s, there were more than 2,000 abortion facilities in America, and now there are about 750. There are no abortion facilities available in at least 85% of the counties in the United States (compared to over 3,000 crisis pregnancies centers all over America), which reflects the fact that a significant number of Americans view abortion differently from how they viewed it in 1973 and now know the reality of pre-natal human life within the womb.
Melissa Ohden, Josiah Presley, Claire Caldwell, Heidi Hoffman, and Gianna Jessen — they are abortion survivors because of the advancement in medical technology since 1973. The “Abortion Survivors Network” includes over 300 who survived attempted abortions. They are not insignificant “fetuses,” a term meaning “young one,” or mere “products of conception” or simply meaningless “clump of cells.” They are real people (victors) who survived a horrendous, brutal attempt on their lives. They bring home the reality of the undeniable consequences of abortion to visible people (not just an abstract concept). They are the visible ones, whom we are really talking about in the discussion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.
There was a lack of knowledge in Roe v. Wade of how abortion would change a person. Thus, since 1973, we have seen the rise of so many post-abortion healing programs. Thousands of women have gone through Project Rachel over the last 35 years, as well as other Christian post-abortion ministries throughout the United States. In addition, thousands of women have shared their stories of sorrow and regret through the “Silent No More” Campaign, which readers can view at I regret my abortion.com, abortiontestimony.com, Lumina, After Abortion, and Abortion Recovery International.
Dr. Theresa Burke is founder and director of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats, which take place in 49 states and 70 countries, with 1,000 retreats held annually. She estimates that more than 150,000 women (and men), with stories of devastation and brokenness, have made one of these retreats. This was certainly not foreseen by the seven justices who thought abortion would not have such a negative fallout and definite adverse aftermath years later.
Roe v. Wade has relegated the father of the child irrelevant to the abortion decision. The decision was left to the pregnant woman alone (It’s “my body!”) without any consideration for her pre-born child or anyone else, including the father. Previously, the courts tried to balance the decision between men and women in terms of divorce or parental rights. Roe v. Wade gave them a free pass to leave everything on women, and too often, many of these men end up with practically zero consequences or accountability. One of the roles of men and fathers is to be a protector and a provider. A man must be present in a family to fulfill that role. Yet, sadly, over 80% of fathers do not marry the teen mother of their babies. Women head over 80% of single-parent households, and almost half of children living only with their mothers are poor. I don’t think it is a coincidence that woman too often bear the brunt of poverty, including suffering severe consequences physically and emotionally, because Roe v. Wade laid the foundation for absentee fathers at one of the most vulnerable, insecure, and fearful points of a woman’s life.
Another consideration is that over 250,000 black American pre-born lives are destroyed each year through abortions. It is estimated that since 1973, abortion has reduced the black population by over 15 million. (Seventy-five percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are in minority neighborhoods.) About 13% of American women are black, but they submit to over 28% of the abortions. This no doubt contributed to the fact that black Americans are no longer the largest minority in our country. Latinos represent 12% of the population but account for 20% of the abortions (140,000 pre-born Latinos children are destroyed each year). This outcome of destructiveness for non-white people was not envisioned in 1973 by Roe v. Wade.
Despite over 60 million abortions in the last 47 years, America has experienced more teenage pregnancies, more divorces, more spousal abuse, more sexually transmitted diseases, more women and children in poverty, etc. The list of negative consequences goes on and on. Killing innocent pre-born children and failing to support women in crisis and untimely pregnancies will never resolve the difficult situations pregnant women face, nor will it help decrease our social problems. Roe v. Wade has contributed significantly to a more self-centered society and opened the floodgates for using violence to solve problems. Moving forward, in 2020, these women, these men, and their pre-born children, as well as our society, deserve a better solution than abortion, which has stimulated so much violence in the last 47 years.
Father Jim Hewes has been a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Rochester for 46 years and is currently a “senior” priest in residence at St. Mark’s in Rochester, New York. He was one of the founding members of the Rochester Right to Life Committee (1968), which was one of the first pro-life groups in the country. Being concerned about the difficult situations that women with crisis pregnancies were faced with, he helped start one of the first Birthrights in the country. Later on, he helped start the Human Life Commission in the Diocese of Rochester in 1978. He helped established Project Rachael in his diocese and directed the post-abortion healing ministry for eighteen years.