The ninth March for Life in Italy took place this past Saturday in Rome — although I am an American, I live in Florence; I therefore report from Italy. The march was one that brought faithful and non-faithful alike from all parts of Italy to fight against Law 194, which legalized abortion in 1978. While there were numerous priests, religious, young families, and children, only three bishops were present this year: Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht; and the Bishop-Emeritus of Ferrara Luigi Negri. Naturally, not all Italian bishops could have been present. Yet the fact that every six minutes, according to the latest available data, a child is killed in the womb in Italy was not enough to make them, with the exception of Negri, to walk the streets with their flock to defend the infants who have no voice. While the situation in Italy is different from that in the United States—notwithstanding their misgivings, there are still numerous bishops and their flock that take part in the March to Life every January—it is reflective of a failure from both church and government officials throughout the world to take on human rights violations. Dismal as this may be, let us not get discouraged for the tide is starting to turn.
In his State of the Union address this year, President Donald Trump called on Congress “to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.” Despite this, and the fact that the US House of Representatives had just passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, a bill requiring medical care for babies surviving botched abortions, the US Senate on February 25, 2019, failed to pass it by a 53-44 vote. Perhaps this finally propelled states, such as Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana to pass legislation that restricts the killing of the infant in the womb. In any case, the upheld legislation maintained that babies who are aborted do not survive the process. This could not be any further from the truth.
Let us take, for example, the testimony of Gianna Jessen, who survived an abortion procedure. Jessen had been in her mother’s womb for seven months when her mother went to a Planned Parenthood, where she was told to have a late-term saline abortion. A saline abortion, also known as an instillation abortion, takes place as follows:
A saline solution (which includes substances such as saline, digoxin, potassium chloride, and prostaglandin) is injected into the mother’s uterus and into the baby. The saline solution poisons the baby, burning him or her inside and out, and burning off the outer layer of his or her skin. The baby suffers in these conditions for over an hour until he or she dies, and the mother must deliver her dead child after about one day.
Jessen survived her mother’s late-term, saline abortion. She remained in the saline solution and was delivered alive in the abortion clinic. By the grace of God, the abortionist at the clinic was not yet present, and Jessen was sent to the hospital. Although diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to the lack of oxygen during the abortion procedure, by age four, Jessen was walking with the assistance of a walker, leg braces, and her foster mother. Today, she walks with only a small limp and acts as a voice for the voiceless and hope for the hopeless through her pro-life activism. In her own words: “Death did not prevail over me… and I am so thankful!”
The point I would like to make is that we all have a duty and responsibility to defend and promote natural rights, especially for those, whether mentally or physically handicapped or in the womb who cannot speak for themselves. President Trump has already defunded the International Planned Parenthood abortion group during his first week in office — keep in mind that it also sold aborted baby parts to business partners. He has also reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits US taxpayer funding to groups that promote or perform abortions overseas. The policy does not stop non-abortion international assistance. It ensures US foreign aid will continue to go to health care and humanitarian relief in the millions of dollars. It just will not subsidize abortion overseas. All this being said and done, this is just the start of our crusade, especially when popular presidential hopefuls, such as Bernie Sanders insist that abortion is a “constitutional right.”
Regardless of how conception comes about, life begins at that very moment. As a priest for now twenty-years I have been dealing with repentant mothers who have aborted their child — most of them having a difficult time accepting God’s forgiveness. Yet, with His help, they have not only overcome their trauma, but like Gianna Jensen, they have become adamant defenders of life. Therefore, let us not give up faith or hope when those who should take the lead in this crusade do not. Instead, let us look at ourselves as willed and loved by God who has given us specific gifts and expects us to use them. In this manner we can be His instruments for the voiceless to have the opportunity to exercise their natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.