by Ross Decker Sr
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.”
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Mt2:16-18
This was the reading on December 28, The Feast of The Holy Innocents. For his homily, my priest made the clear connection between those verses and abortion. But he didn’t stop there. He made the case that we, as the Church, should be aware that the abuse of innocent children doesn’t end there. It extends to children born in poverty. Children born in areas of the world where deadly disease spreads unchecked. Children who are killed and maimed because they were born in a country where the adults wage continual war. Children who meet that same fate as refugees trying to flee to safety.
It made me grateful to be in a Church where the Sanctity of Human Life is championed daily, not just on a single snowy, cold day in late January. And it made me grateful to be part of a Church where pro-life means more than just stopping women from getting abortions.
I always felt that there ought to be more to the pro-life movement than being anti-abortion. I learned that from my friend and pastor, Kevin Rhodes. In February of 1982, I invited Kevin, half in jest, to attend a conference for women with me. To my surprise, he accepted and we went there together. One speaker was a young man, a young college professor who spoke about how important it was for women to have access to “easy” abortions. Kevin, sitting next to me, boiled. He was convinced, and was able to convince me, that this guy’s entire agenda was built around creating an environment where it was not only easy to get an abortion but also easy to get college girls to have sex with young college professors.
Kevin felt the need to do something about what we’d seen and soon, the two of us were putting together the first Crisis Pregnancy Center in our borough of New York City. All services were to be free, no board members would be allowed to picket at abortion clinics and there would be nominal material support for mothers who elected to keep their babies. They would get diapers and clothing for their babies. And each year, around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we sent a board member around to each Evangelical church on our island to remind our brethren about the sanctity of human life.
And then, I became Catholic!
When I entered the Catholic Church I got the chance to see what it meant to be pro-life everyday. What it meant to be pro-life, not merely anti-abortion.
From the start of that Crisis Pregnancy Center I saw the need to take care of the mother who didn’t abort. Now, I saw the need to get her counseling, formula, diapers and baby clothes. If we were going to ask a woman to do the right, though hard, thing, it was our responsibility to help her. We had to stick with that mother because it’s important to be as pro-life with a baby once born as it is to care for a pre-born baby. That’s got to be part of being pro-life.
The woman who had the abortion needs care too. There was a lot of stress, fear and confusion that led her to make that choice. Having an abortion doesn’t sort that out. She still needs to be cared for because of the human dignity God gave her. The care of that woman is a pro-life issue.
After becoming Catholic I learned some things about the Church’s compassionate nature that surprised me. I learned that the first AIDS clinic was started in New York City by Cardinal O’Connor. Why did he do it? Because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
I’ve learned that being pro-life means that we hope for fair immigration laws. Families come to America because they are hoping for a better life for themselves and their families. They’ve always heard that America can offer them a great opportunity. The decision to enter as undocumented isn’t made on a lark. There are real risks in going to America. But there is a dark future in their own country. We want families to be able to hold together. We advocate for fair treatment of immigrants because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
We see the human dignity in the marginalized. We seek to bring them in from society’s outskirts. We care that the worker gets a fair wage and is able to provide for his or her family because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
We advocate against the death penalty because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
We see war as a last resort because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
Yes, we know there’s a second amendment issue to gun control but we need to see gun violence addressed because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
We want to see the LGBT community treated with Godly love and respect. Why? Yes, because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.
There’s so much more to being pro-life than being anti-abortion. Being against abortion certainly is an integral part of being pro-life but the issue is greater than that. When I came home to the Catholic Church I learned that the Catholic position on the pro-life is the most comprehensive and consistent position of all.
We see the human dignity in the faces of all God’s children. Why? Because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.