National Sanctity of Human Life Day

Today marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which the White House is marking with its clear and compassionate National Sanctity of Human Life Day proclamation:

Today, we focus our attention on the love and protection each person, born and unborn, deserves regardless of disability, gender, appearance, or ethnicity. Much of the greatest suffering in our Nation’s history — and, indeed, our planet’s history — has been the result of disgracefully misguided attempts to dehumanize whole classes of people based on these immutable characteristics. We cannot let this shameful history repeat itself in new forms, and we must be particularly vigilant to safeguard the most vulnerable lives among us. This is why we observe National Sanctity of Human Life Day: to affirm the truth that all life is sacred, that every person has inherent dignity and worth, and that no class of people should ever be discarded as “non-human.”

Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.

Science continues to support and build the case for life. Medical technologies allow us to see images of the unborn children moving their newly formed fingers and toes, yawning, and even smiling. Those images present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs — precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope. We can also now operate on babies in utero to stave off life-threatening diseases. These important medical advances give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn.

Today, citizens throughout our great country are working for the cause of life and fighting for the unborn, driven by love and supported by both science and philosophy. These compassionate Americans are volunteers who assist women through difficult pregnancies, facilitate adoptions, and offer hope to those considering or recovering from abortions. They are medical providers who, often at the risk of their livelihood, conscientiously refuse to participate in abortions. And they are legislators who support health and safety standards, informed consent, parental notification, and bans on late-term abortions, when babies can feel pain. These undeterred warriors, many of whom travel to Washington, D.C., every year for the March for Life, are changing hearts and saving lives through their passionate defense of and loving care for all human lives. Thankfully, the number of abortions, which has been in steady decline since 1980, is now at a historic low. Though the fight to protect life is not yet over, we commit to advocating each day for all who cannot speak for themselves.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia also shared his perspective on human dignity and the sanctity of human life:

The “March for Life” this January, like every January over the past several decades, reminds the nation that killing an unborn child is never a private matter. Abortion is a uniquely intimate form of violence – but violence with bitter public consequences. Catholics eagerly join the March for Life each year because we believe in the God of life and joy; a God who creates every human being with innate dignity and rights, including above all the right to life.

What we really believe, we conform our lives to. And if we don’t at least try to conform our lives to what we claim to believe, then we’re fooling only ourselves, because God cannot be fooled. When we claim to be “Catholic” but then don’t advance our beliefs about the sanctity of the human person as the basis of law, it means one of two things. We’re either very confused, or we’re very evasive.

All law involves the imposition of somebody’s beliefs about the nature of truth, charity and justice on everyone else. That’s the reason we have marches, debates, elections and Congress–to peacefully turn the struggle of ideas and moral convictions into laws that guide our common life. …

There’s a very old Christian expression that goes like this: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Are we troubled enough about what’s wrong with the world — the killing of millions of unborn children through abortion; the neglect of the poor, the disabled and the elderly? Do we really have the courage of our convictions to change those things?

The opposite of hope is cynicism, and cynicism also has two daughters. Their names are indifference and cowardice. In renewing ourselves in our faith, what Catholics need to change most urgently is the lack of courage we find in our own personal lives, in our national political life, and sometimes even within the Church herself.

Every year in these weeks between the end of Christmas and the beginning of Lent, I reflect on what the Church means when she talks about the season of “ordinary time.” Ordinary time is where we spend most of our lives — raising families, doing our jobs, helping others, making the daily choices that shape the world around us. Ordinary time is the space God gives us to make a difference with our lives. What we do with that ordinary time — in our personal choices and in our public actions — matters eternally.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote, “[T]he line separating good and evil runs not through states, nor between classes, nor even between political parties, but right through the center of each human heart, and every human heart.” That includes you and me.

Wondering on the train

I’m on my way back to Philadelphia this morning, on Amtrak Northeast Regional #88 that will get me into the city a bit after 1pm. I snapped the photo above of the Phoenix Park Hotel as I waited for the light to change on my walk to Union Station.

As we’re riding along these tracks, I look out at so many little homes and communities and junk yards and docks, and across semi-frozen water as we occasionally stretch ourselves over a bridge, and wonder if there will be any of this to see in a future where the Hyperloop becomes a reality, likely underground. I wonder what the experience will be like as a passenger of an underground vacuum tube at such high speeds and relatively short durations. And I wonder whether the experience of all those in the little homes and places this Amtrak train passes today will become better or worse, and more or less interesting, when trains like this one diminish in frequency or stop although some day. In any event…

When we get into Philadelphia, I’ll head to my office at Logan Circle for a few hours of work this afternoon after a full few days in Washington, and a full week to come, to be spent partially at Penn State and in State College.

The Philadelphia Eagles meet the Minnesota Vikings tonight at 6pm to decide who wins the NFC Championship and gets to advance to the Super Bowl.

Students for Life conference

I visited the First Baptist Church of Glenarden today near Upper Marlboro, Maryland for the 2018 Students for Life conference, where I spoke with Catherine Glenn-Foster of Americans United for Life on human dignity and how best to serve those facing or considering euthanasia and assisted suicide.

It’s looked like a vibrant and beautiful Christian community, based upon the sanctuary itself and the photos lining the outer hallways. Today it played host to hundreds of young people from around the country who are hungry to serve vulnerable women and men who, across the spectrum, are too often told they have choice yet are handed only one or two real options.

The vigor and service mentality among young people to provide real alternatives to abortion, to euthanasia, to forms of suicide, is inspiring and precisely the sort of service needed to build a more humane culture where authentic autonomy and personal liberty is no longer achieved at the expense of a less fortunate brother or sister.

March for Life and Rose Dinner

This morning and afternoon marked the 45th March for Life in Washington, and tonight the March for Life’s Rose Dinner took place with Pam Tebow as keynote at the Marriott Renaissance. Pam spoke about human dignity broadly, her family’s international humanitarian work, and the story of her son Tim, whom physicians had recommended she abort:

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Afterwards, I walked the mile or so from Mount Vernon Square back to the Phoenix Park Hotel, through Chinatown, past Clyde’s of Gallery Place where the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network board met last night, past the National Portrait Gallery, and ultimately which a brief glimpse at the beautiful Capitol dome, which inspires with the ideals that our politics aspires to in its better moments.

Terry Mattingly offers perspective on the March for Life’s historical lack of media coverage, even compared to similar marches and demonstrations. He excerpts the following Medical Research Project summary of a history of indifference:

The March for Life is a powerful event, one that sheds a spotlight on human rights and dignity. It also brings together men and women of all ages and races, Catholics and Protestants and the religious and scientific communities who believe that life starts at conception. It’s a message those on the political left don’t want to broadcast. It’s also one they don’t want to help further with the help of any meaningful news coverage.

A study conducted by the Media Research Project, a conservative watchdog group, found that CBS, NBC and ABC spent an hour and 15 minutes combined covering last year’s Women’s March held in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. That’s the same Women’s March organizers made sure did not include any pro-life groups.

By comparison, the same group found that the March for Life in 2016 had earned only 35 seconds of coverage from the same three major TV networks – just 13 seconds before it took place and 22 seconds after it was held. The Women’s March had garnered 23 minutes of coverage before it took place.

The situation was similar when it came to online news stories. The phrase “Women’s March 2017” garnered 7,650 mentions on Google News. The same search term for “March for Life 2017” saw a similar disparity – just 474 results.

President Trump became the first president to join the March for Life with a live address from the Rose Garden, where he underscored the stark reality of our laws:

Roe versus Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world. For example, in the United States, it’s one of only seven countries to allow elective late-term abortions along with China, North Korea, and others. Right now, in a number of States, the laws allow a baby to be aborted from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong. It has to change.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, passed the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” today. It will fail in the Senate, where it requires 60 votes to pass, but it is an important step on the road toward protecting human beings who survive failed abortions, ensuring they are transferred from abortion clinics to legitimate medical facilities for care. It’s a fact that today, persons accidentally allowed to be born during an attempted abortion are sometimes simply left to die rather than provided basic care.

And finally, the Department of Health and Human Services today announced the creation of a first-ever “Conscience and Religious Freedom” division meant to “protect doctors, nurses, midwives and other health care workers who refuse to perform, accommodate or assist with certain procedures on religious or moral grounds” and also provides a mechanism for those persons to “file complaints if they believe they have been discriminated against because of their religious or moral convictions.”

That such executive and legislative actions are necessary in the face of the clear and straightforward language of the constitution’s acknowledgement of the right to life, not even to speak of the cultural refusal to acknowledge embryological science as it relates to human rights, is a testament to the fact that ours is not an age of reason, but rather one of power and feeling.

Warm-looking, cold-feeling

The view from Room 807 at the Phoenix Park Hotel, where I’ll be thru Sunday for the March for Life. Union Station (to the right) and the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum (left) look great in this sunny, albeit cold, weather.

Tonight the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network board will meet for the first time this year. I’m proud that we not only grew the reach of our National Crisis Lifeline in 2017, which serves patients and families at risk of denial of care, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, but that we grew our mission while also achieving a second straight year of budgetary positive net income. I set this as a key performance goal when I came onboard as executive director, and we’ll work to make this the third straight year if we can be similarly fortunate and impactful.

Tomorrow, the 45th March for Life from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court.

Try to love the questions

In Washington tonight thru Sunday for the March for Life and Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network reasons. Rainer Maria Rilke, meanwhile, provides consolation in difficult moments:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved
in your heart and try to love the
questions themselves, like locked
rooms and like books that are now
written in a very foreign tongue. Do
not now seek the answers, which
cannot be given you because you
would not be able to live them. And
the point is, to live everything. Live the
questions now. Perhaps you will then
gradually, without noticing it, live
along some distant day into the
answer.

 

Humanae Vitae

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical concerning human life and the regulation of birth. Bishop Robert Barron speaks to this anniversary in this Word on Fire reflection:

When I worked my first real job at The Philadelphia Bulletin in 2008, whose motto was “Philadelphia’s Family Newspaper,” we published a special section commemorating the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. The Bulletin went out of business by 2010, but I have a number of digital editions saved from those years, including that section.

We can do all sorts of things with and to the human body and to the human person. The essential question is always, “Should we?” And equally as important is answering that having considered the immediate costs and longer-term consequences of our decision. Humanae Vitae remains controversial, but true things tend to remain controversial in every time.