Charles E. Rice
Right or Wrong?
September 24, 2008
Are you "pro-life" but tired of the way abortion becomes a political football every four years? The politicians make their points on one side or the other. And then they forget it—for another four years.
If you are looking for a positive and non-political approach, consider the 40 Days for Life, an interfaith initiative which began "right here in River City" on September 24th and will run until November 2nd. The campaign, organized by local residents, is part of a rapidly growing national effort. It includes Notre Dame students, faculty and staff who have joined it.
First, let’s take a look at how the 40 Days for Life campaign works. It has three components. If you can’t do them all, do what you can:
1. Most important: Personal prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Decide for yourself how to do this. You can pray anywhere, anytime. Fasting can be of the Lenten sort, giving up something for forty days, even something as big as chocolate.
2. Peaceful, lawful witness for life, 24/7, outside the Women’s Pavilion at 2010 Ironwood Circle, South Bend, between Edison and Rte. 23. This constant vigil is neither a demonstration nor a protest. It is primarily a prayer, reminding ourselves and the community that the legalized execution of the innocent is an evil that cannot be overcome by politics as usual but indispensably through the grace of God. You can sign up for a particular time but you don’t have to. Just come when you can, if only for a few minutes. You will make a difference.
3. Community outreach, taking a positive pro-life message to individuals and the community in every constructive way we can.
The national 40 Days for Life began as a local event in 2004 in College Station, home of Texas A & M. It was organized in a few weeks but enlisted over one thousand participants. One result was a 28 percent reduction in abortions in that community. In 2005 and 2006, the campaign spread to a half-dozen other cities, with positive results including the closing of abortuaries or reduction of their "business" hours. In 2007 the program went national and began to take off, with campaigns in the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008 in 139 cities in 43 states. More than 150 thousand participated, with 35 thousand in the prayer vigils at abortuaries. The fall 2008 campaign is the largest yet, with 40 Days for Life in 173 cities in 45 states as well as the national capitals of Washington and Ottowa.
Why take part in this unique testimony for life? Because the stark reality of legalized abortion requires each of us to take a personal stand. Evasions won’t work. When Louise Brown, the first "test-tube baby" was born in 1978, the whole world knew exactly when her life began—at the union of the sperm and the ovum in the in vitro fertilization process. To deny this reality of another human life inside the mother, at every stage from that fertilization, can today be the product only of ignorance or willful denial. "In simplest terms," said Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, "they are human beings with an inalienable right to live."
The new technology of morning-after pills and other early abortifacients is making abortion a private matter beyond the effective reach of the law. Surgical abortions, such as those performed at Ironwood Circle, are decreasing in frequency. The 40 Days for Life vigil at Ironwood is not therefore to infer that the existence of such execution centers is the only problem. Rather, the abortuary on Ironwood is one sign of a malignant culture in which the intentional infliction of death on the innocent is accepted as an optional problem-solving technique. The "greatest destroyer of peace today," said Mother Teresa at the 1994 Prayer Breakfast in Washington, "is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" We were appalled at the random killings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and elsewhere. But, except for the age and visibility of the victims, how were those murders essentially different from the thousands more that are legally committed each day in abortuaries throughout the land?
The prayer and witness components of the 40 Days for Life are more than a reminder of the reality of every abortion, whether surgical or chemical. Abortion, now moving beyond the reach of the law, is the first sacrament of the militant, agnostic secularism which is our dominant public religion. The only remedy for abortion is the voluntary reconversion of the American people to the conviction that every human life is precious because it is a gift from God. The 40 Days for Life campaign is a positive way of asking for the grace of increasing that conviction in the minds and hearts of all of us.
For more information contact ndjusvitae[at]gmail[dot]com or www.40daysforlife.com/southben. Or call Dr. Tom Akre and Mary Akre at 574-933-1835.
Charles E. Rice is Professor Emeritus at the law school. He may be reached at (574) 633-4415 or rice.1[at]nd[dot]edu.