When thousands gather in Washington, D.C., next week to protest the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the Jan. 25 March for Life will mark 40 years of legalized abortion in the United States.
Two pro-life leaders in the Diocese of Wilmington recently discussed the state of the nation under legalized abortion and the decades-long effort of the pro-life community to end it.
The two generations of Americans who were born since 1973 can hardly fathom how Roe v. Wade affected issues of life and death in this country, but despite the passing decades since the high court’s decision, the abortion issue has never been settled, according to Father Leonard R. Klein, director of the diocesan Pro-Life Activities office.
Legalized abortion in the U.S. “obviously is a grim enormity,” Father Klein said. “What we need to keep before us is the raw numbers and sheer shame of it all.”
According to the latest abortion statistics from the Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 45 million abortions performed in the U.S. between 1973 and 2005. In 2005, there were 1.2 million abortions performed; 22 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion that year.
“We need to remember that Roe v. Wade wiped out the abortion law of all 50 states,” Father Klein said. “We need to continually recall that ours (the United States’) is about the most absolute permission of abortion in the world. Many less religious and more secularized nations have tighter restrictions than do we.”
Father Klein, who is also administrator of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary and St. Patrick in Wilmington, noted the toxic cultural results of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision.
Legal abortion has “the horrible cultural effect of making it possible for men to walk away from responsibility, the decline of the marriage rate and the decline of men in the work force,” Father Klein said.
The primary effects of Roe v. Wade are on aborted victims and women, he added.
“It’s made it easier for men not to grow up and therefore has cost women terribly.”
Legalized abortion has also contributed to the Department of Health and Human Services’ controversial requirement for insurance plans under Obamacare to include birth control and other anti-life procedures, according to Father Klein.
“The great desire of a faction of the culture is to totally legitimize and establish the permanency of the sexual revolution,” said Father Klein, who also said with hope, prayer and clear resistance, such as in the nation’s 19th century anti-slavery movement, pro-life attitudes can prevail.
“On balance, what’s starting to happen in the courts looks favorable,” he said. “The pro-life movement is not going to go away. The reality and sheer horror of abortion will keep it alive.”
“I don’t think the past 40 years have ever prepared us for the place we are now,” said Bess McAneny, president of the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition and a member of St. John-Holy Angels Parish in Newark.
She said the proposed federal government HHS guidelines for health insurance plans to cover contraception, with only narrow exceptions for religious institutions, “concern me very much. I think we’ve been hit very hard.”
“There’s an ideology that wants church institutions to close their doors,” she said. “We can’t cooperate with evil, therefore we have to close. Who takes over all these services?
“They (the government) are imposing contraception and abortion. There’s no doubt about it.”
For forty years the pro-life movement in the United States “has tried to spread the truth and maintain our belief in human dignity created in the image of God,” McAneny said. “We have to start a new campaign and it has to be led by the church and by our bishops.”
The pro-life movement “has now become a spiritual battle in the magnitude that we haven’t seen in hundreds of years. It’s evil that we would have regulations imposed on us.”
McAneny said the church should “rebuild youth instruction so they know their faith and know the principle of life. It can’t be all about service projects.”
Although the pro-life leader sees her cause at a crossroads due to the proposed HHS regulations, she has hope.
“I look back at the power of the rosary,” she said. “What we have left is spiritual warfare. We have the hope and beyond that, we have to prepare.”