Throwback Thursday: Roe v. Wade through the Eyes of Our Youth
The Youth Rally and Mass for Life in January is one of the highlights of the ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington. One can’t help but be uplifted by the energy and enthusiasm of the tens of thousands of young people who fill local arenas to stand up for the sanctity and dignity of all human life. In looking out over these events, I cannot help but reflect that these young people and many of their parents have only known the United States as a country in which abortion is legal.
For many of us, we think about abortion through the lens of the sexual revolution, the radical feminist movement and the cultural upheaval of that time. What is the lens for our youth and young adults?
In my own reading and in conversation with our young people, the lens is the experience of loss. The sheer number of lives lost to abortion is overwhelming for them – more than a million a year and about 50 million in the forty years since Roe v. Wade in 1973 (about 60 million to date in 2017). There is also a second loss, a loss of an unwavering belief that they are loved and wanted. They have grown up in a culture that does not believe that every human life, in all of its stages, is precious in itself and is dear to God. So this generation of youth does not find it strange to wonder if they are “wanted.” Our youth could and do ask their parents if they considered an abortion when they learned of their pregnancy.
In the face of the abortion culture’s disrespect for the inherent dignity of human life, it is not surprising that what follows is a societal skepticism that the human being is the glory of God’s creation. In the Book of Genesis, God is portrayed as creating man and woman as the crown of all his creation. It is not in the physical dimension of our life that we mirror him, because God has no body. We are made in the image and likeness of God because God has taken the goodness of his physical creation and breathed into in an immortal spiritual reality called the soul. Because of that principle of life, we, like God, are capable of knowing and loving. We can mirror the knowledge and love that lie at the very core of God’s being; hence, we are called images of God. This is the real message of the March For Life: that God is and will always be the author of human life.
I welcome this generation of pro-lifers! We have something to learn from our youth and young adults. It is impressive what energy and fidelity they are bringing to the movement. I hear of how hard some college pro-life groups have had to work for permission to establish themselves and to host events on campus, and yet they have persevered at campuses across the country including here at our local colleges and universities. The groups are not just active politically, they also have educational and spiritual components.
An important piece of the spiritual component is the Project Rachel Ministry because yet another loss for this generation is a loss of the virtue of chastity and the procreative and sacramental good of the gift of sex as an expression of married love. The overwhelming force of contemporary culture’s fixation on sex often leads to initiation of sexual activity at very young ages. Girls who become pregnant in high school and college often encounter a medical community, along with school counselors and parents, who assure them that abortion is the only right choice. It will “solve their problem” without any long-term consequences. Sadly, they find that again, adults have failed them. Yet, their peers through post-abortion ministries on campus and in their communities help them to encounter the merciful love of Our Lord.
At the heart of all of this work must be a belief that if human values are to be protected as they should be in a world that threatens them so seriously, we must have “the perspective of humanity redeemed by Christ” (Declaration on Christian Education). This is the source of hope in the face of such destruction of human life. This is the gift we must give to the generations that are speaking up to promote and protect the dignity of human life. We are people of hope because we are a people and a world redeemed by Christ.