Bishop David Zubik speaks out against New York abortion legislation

Friday, February 08, 2019 - Updated: 2:46 pm

For as long as I can remember, I have been a “political junkie.” As a young kid, I can remember being glued to the television in the summer of 1956, watching both the Democratic and Republican national conventions. As much as I could, I also became aware of issues that were of importance to our country.

Certainly, in 1956, the issue of abortion was nowhere on our national playing field.

My first recollection of the movement toward “legalized abortion” came center stage in the presidential election of 1968. It was the first time that abortion was raised as a presidential campaign issue in the race between Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon and George Wallace.

In 1970, while traveling through New York with a college friend, I heard the news that the state of New York legalized abortion.

On January 22, 1973, as I returned to my room at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and turned on the television, I learned that the United States Supreme Court had legalized abortion throughout our country.

But few political events in my adult life have made me as sick as when I saw the World Trade Center aglow with pink light last week in celebration of a new law enabling abortion until the moment of birth and revoking a law that had required life-saving medical care for any baby born alive during an abortion. That pink light demonstration was ordered by the governor of New York, the same person who signed the death warrant for who knows how many babies.

A few days later, a similar late-term abortion bill failed to pass the Virginia legislature — but not before the pediatric neurosurgeon who serves as Virginia’s governor said that, if a full-term child was born alive after an attempted abortion, the parents would decide whether or not to kill him or her.

We used to talk about abortion as the slippery slope to infanticide. It looks like we’re there. Could we have come to this? These laws specifically allow parents and medical professionals, the very people who should be responsible for protecting a newborn, to kill the child instead.

In 1973, Roe vs. Wade permitted abortion throughout pregnancy. But the legal language of that Supreme Court decision had enough caveats for advocates of abortion to accuse pro-lifers of exaggeration when we set off alarms about late-term abortions. How times have changed. Some who promote a right to abortion are celebrating what they once claimed was a wild calumny against them by us pro-lifers.

The new New York law erases any such caveats. It claims to focus on heart-wrenching situations, when the life or health of the mother is at stake, or the baby is handicapped and may not survive long beyond birth. But, like Roe, it has large loopholes, loopholes that lead to late-term abortions, and dare I say ­— infanticide.

Late abortions are relatively rare, but rare doesn’t make right. If a mother’s life is threatened late in pregnancy, hasn’t medical science advanced enough to save the mother while delivering the child and giving him or her every chance to live?

My heart goes out to parents who learn that their unborn child is severely handicapped and may not survive. But, again, our moral obligation is to care for and comfort the child, no matter how brief his or her life. Promoting or allowing the killing of those with disabilities is a severe violation of human rights and a sign that we are at the bottom of the slippery slope.

I’ve known women and couples who learned that their unborn child was severely handicapped and unlikely to survive. One woman, whose severely disabled baby died hours after birth, donated her daughter’s organs, saving the lives of two babies on a transplant list. Prior to that birth, the mother was pressured to have an abortion. Another couple who expected to arrange for a funeral shortly after the birth of their child, instead discovered that the pre-natal diagnosis had been far too grim. They are devoted parents to their special needs son, who is approaching his adolescent years. The parents have become advocates against abortion and advocates for all children with disabilities.

God calls all of us to embrace these families and children. For God’s sake, we can never condone the killing of those who are small, weak or handicapped. Doing so is a sign that we as a society have truly lost our humanity. Our Church, and the broader pro-life movement, has worked for decades to provide pregnant women and struggling families with the support and resources they need, whether that is medical care or shelter, diapers or daycare. When a mother and child are struggling, our personal and societal response must be to help both.

With the new law in New York and the proposed law in Virginia, a line is crossed. When legislation allows for a person to be harmed or killed, a line is crossed. That is what happens with abortion: larger, stronger human beings kill weak, defenseless human beings both inside and now outside the womb.

The claim that a fetus is not a child, but a “blob of cells” is a lie! Ultrasound proves this point. Still, abortion advocates argue the unborn baby is either a pregnant woman’s property or part of her body. But science shows that, from conception, each of us has a human genetic code that is different from that of either parent. Humans are not property; children are not their parents.

Other abortion advocates believe it’s acceptable to kill a child before it is capable of survival outside the womb. But no child in its first few years of life outside the womb can survive if adults don’t provide food, shelter and hygiene. This moral and legal responsibility must start when the child is most vulnerable — in the womb. Yet the New York and Virginia bills are pushing in the opposite direction, erasing laws adopted decades ago to protect babies born alive after an attempted abortion.

Abortion proponents have also argued that unborn children have no rights because they are small. But societies in which the strong are free to oppress and kill the weak are terrifying places to live.

Abortion is far more than a “women’s issue.” It is a human issue. All of us were once unborn children. Does abortion empower anyone, woman or man, as the pink light on the skyscraper suggests? It clearly does not empower children!

Abortion is wrong. The governor of New York was wrong to sign that bill, wrong to celebrate it. The governor of Virginia was wrong to endorse a similar bill. Both bills far exceed previous legislation, taking our society to the precipice of infanticide itself.

While we may not be citizens of New York or Virginia, we need to make our voices heard. We cannot be a silent majority or a silent minority. We need to make sure that our federal and state legislators hear that the human rights of unborn and newborn babies must be respected-without exception.

Otherwise, the question: “Could we have come to this?” will be answered in the affirmative as legalized abortion leads to legalized infanticide.

Recently, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a challenge. I support and share this challenge:

“Now is the time for all Catholics-bishops, priests, and laity — to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor. We must educate family, friends, legislators, and fellow citizens about how it is never necessary to intentionally kill unborn children …

“I urge … thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all to advocate for local change. Seek out state and local pro-life groups, including parish respect life groups, that are making a difference” at the local, state and national level.

I encourage you to contact your elected officials through the Catholic Advocacy Network at www.PACatholic.org (click on “Elected Official Lookup”). For more information about the important pro-life efforts at the parish level, please contact Dr. Michel P. Therrien (phone: 412-456-3156, email: mtherrien@diopitt.org), whose office can help to connect you with one of our forty-seven parish respect life coordinators.

For God’s sake and out of respect for His creating hand, don’t let the question: “Could we have come to this?” become a reality.

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