Why “Make Abortion Rare”?

On March 8, Catholics from around the state traveled to Albany for the annual “Catholics at the Capitol” day, sponsored by the State Bishops’ Conference.  The purpose of the day is to offer Catholics an opportunity to stand together on the broad range of issues of concern to us — protecting life, strengthening our schools, caring for the poor and sick — and to speak to our state legislators.

One of the issue papers distributed by the Conference was entitled “Making Abortion Rare”.  This document explained our Church’s opposition to the radical Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would lead to an increase in abortion, by placing it beyond any reasonable regulation.  A second issue was our opposition to the Governor’s elimination of all funding for the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation.  That foundation supports local initiatives and organizations that offer alternatives to abortions, and have helped thousands of women have their babies.

These positions are a practical response to the challenge issued by Archbishop Dolan at his press conference in January about the appalling abortion rate in New York City: “I invite all to come together to make abortion rare, a goal even those who work to expand the abortion license tell us they share.”

Some of our pro-life supporters have expressed discomfort with saying that we wish to “make abortion rare”.  They are worried that this might imply that we are conceding the legality of abortion, and that we have given up our ultimate goal of defending every human life.

This concern is understandable, because people rightly can’t be satisfied with anything short of full protection for the unborn.  I understand this concern, but I believe it is unfounded.

Our ultimate goals in this struggle have never changed.  Nobody has any doubt about the position of the Catholic Church on abortion.  We are absolutely, unalterably, irrevocably opposed to legal abortion, and will never accept the legitimacy of laws that permit it.  We hold steadfastly to building a culture of life in which every life is valued in our society and its laws.

But while we pursue those ultimate goals, we have to take into account the political and cultural situation in which we find ourselves.  Then, relying on the virtue of prudence, we have to mitigate the harm that is being done by legalized abortion, and try to achieve realistically attainable results to advance the culture of life.

This approach was outlined in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life:

The Church well knows that it is difficult to mount an effective legal defense of life in pluralistic democracies, because of the presence of strong cultural currents with differing outlooks. At the same time, certain that moral truth cannot fail to make its presence deeply felt in every conscience, the Church encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the re- establishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life. (90)

The challenge to “make abortion rare” is just such an initiative.  It takes into account the political and cultural fact that a complete abrogation of abortion laws is not attainable in our current cultural and legal climate.  It is directed not to people who are already committed to the cause of life.  Instead, it is an appeal to those who consider themselves “pro-choice”, but are uncomfortable with abortion and may be open to work with us on practical measures to reduce it.

In other words, it is an effort to change hearts, to rebuild the foundation for a true culture of life.  As hearts change, laws will follow.

Our vision and our goals will always remain the same.   As the United States Bishops said in their statement, Living the Gospel of Life:

The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights. (33)

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6 Responses to “Why “Make Abortion Rare”?”

  1. James De Silva says:

    Just one life. Just one. If we are able to protect just one, the consequences are unimaginable. Contemplating 50 million lost can lead to despair – unfathomable what agony that alone caused in Gethsemane. Thinking of just one, and seeing just one – perhaps we can maintain hope.

  2. Mrs Eileen Phillips says:

    My soul is troubled. The title \Making Abortion Rare\ was a message to lawmakers in Albany from the NYS Catholic Conference. That title clearly doesn’t mean \End Abortion.\ Who are we trying to appeal to? God? I’ll really have to pray on this one. Perhaps we all could revisit the Bible and read Mt 5:33-37; which stresses in vs 37; say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when you mean ‘no’. We should always communicate clearly our only position is to \End Abortion.\ Then for those who are not Catholic and want to keep abortion legal, we would agree that making abortion rare would be a step in the right direction. We should never compromise our position especially in big black bold letters on the first page of a packet about issues that concern Catholics. Ultimately, I trust in Jesus our Hope and know all is in God’s hands; with our Mother Mary tenderly caring for all those aborted babies. Hearts are changing and the Truth will prevail.

  3. Ed Mechmann says:

    Eileen, I appreciate your disquiet and your dedication, but the position is not a compromise. We are not saying, “some abortions are okay”. We’re saying, “all abortions are bad, but even if you disagree with that, can you at least agree to limit them in some way?” It is a prudential strategy to appeal to those who are open to incremental steps towards our ultimate goal.

    Here’s an analogy that may help you. In Familiaris Consortio, his Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Pope John Paul II spoke of “‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance” in one’s personal conversion. This involves a process of separation from sin, and a progressive increase in holiness. Some people, of course, experience an immediate and complete conversion. Most of us, though, are on that slow road to conversion, as we gradually shed our attachment to sin and bit by bit conform our will to God’s. The public policy strategy that we are pursuing with the “Make Abortion Rare” approach, is an attempt to apply to individuals, and to society, that same “law of gradualness” with regard to abortion.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Mary says:

    Whoever owns the language, controls the argument and “abortion should be rare” is the language of the left. No matter how many ways you can explain it, and you’ve tried, it is still the language of the pro-aborts. Not good.

    “Abortion should be safe, legal and rare” actually goes back to Bill Clinton who used it on his first day in office as he was reversing Reagan’s anti-abortion policies. Since then it is a favorite of politicians moving the abortion agenda. Obama uses it. Cuomo probably uses it. Even my catholic State Senator used it on us on Albany lobby day to explain his support for “‘women’s reproductive rights.” (translation: abortion.)

    Who controls the language, controls the argument. We must never use their language, their phrases. We’re Catholics. We have the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Life informs us! We should be screaming: make abortion never. With joyful faith. Let’s let them talk our language.

  5. Ed Mechmann says:

    The use of this term is not an appeal to “pro-aborts” — the people who think that all abortions are acceptable, and there’s no reason to reduce the number. We’re talking to people in the middle. All the polls show that large majorities of Americans disapprove of the vast majority of abortions, but they’re not ready yet to accept the full pro-life position. The use of the term “rare” is a effort to see if they’ll accept restrictions on abortion, trying to persuade them to move towards our position.

  6. Mary says:

    Keep your message but don’t use their language is all I’m saying. Never say “rare.” It belongs to them. Even I’m confused.

    There are plenty of ways to wake people up. Call it a deception. A lie. Say our goal is justice for all. Say it is worse than war. Worse than cancer. Say it is society’s suicide. Please — not “rare.”