Readings for Today (Readings for the Memorial of the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children)
The Fundamental Right
The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
I absolutely understand the topic of the unborn, the question of abortion, and discussions around it are rarely civil. That is most unfortunate. Because the right to be born is the fundamental right from which all other rights are derived. That said, no progress can be made if we focus only on the right to be born.
For those who support legal abortion, the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is focused on the belief generally that there is no right to be born. Rather, this right, if it is acknowledged at all, is superseded by the much more important rights of the pregnant woman.
For too many who do not believe abortion is moral and thus should not be legal, the problem can be that no other rights are acknowledged as important. The right to life is the fundamental right, but at the same time, there is the right to food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. There is the right to have the opportunity, the real opportunity to obtain these rights as well.
If we are to convince people of the importance of the fundamental right of life, it is absolutely necessary that we work to rectify those elements in our society that make abortion seem like the only option, or at the least, a good option. How can we claim life is a fundamental right if we sentence poor women to poverty? How can we claim life is a fundamental right if we do not provide a single mother with the chance to have decent child care so that she can also support her family? How can we claim life is a fundamental right if we do not work to guarantee access to affordable health care for all?
What is important is that we recognize that the rights the Catholic Church articulates and works to make available for people are given by God. All humans, according to Church teaching have a right to food, clothing, shelter, health care and the means to attain them. If a mother cannot spend the important first days of her child’s life with her child because she cannot afford to be off from work, then we must work harder for paid family and medical leave.
We cannot claim to be pro-life unless we are willing to recognize the absolute dignity of all life. All human life is made in God’s image and likeness. The Imago Dei. And all this means we must cherish all human life in whatever circumstances we find it. It has never been Catholic Church teaching that our obligations to human life end at birth.
At the same time, how is it we can claim to be a civilized society when so many are opting for some of the most liberal abortion laws in the developed world? Remember when it was the claim that abortion would be rare? And how powerful would it be if the right to food were codified in state constitutions? How powerful would it be if the right to health care, and shelter were codified in state constitutions?
We begin the protection of this fundamental right with prayer. Civil laws are only just when they are grounded in the will of God. But as Saint James reminds us, faith without works is dead. We must work all the more to see to it that the choice to have an abortion is inconceivable. And this will only happen when we remove the barriers that keep people from having the fundamental rights God gives to all peoples.
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