In April, the Florida Legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, the Heartbeat Protection Act. While the abortion restrictions in the bill will not go into effect unless the Florida Supreme Court rules to uphold a 15-week abortion ban passed last year, it is hoped that the Court will indeed decide in favor of life and thus this law restricting abortion after six weeks of gestation will go into effect.
This is a big deal — and a step forward even though the bill does contain exceptions to the six-week ban including for rape, incest, or human trafficking. While we pray that one day all abortions are illegal — and unthinkable — this incremental piece of legislation, when it goes into effect, will save tens of thousands of lives. At the same time, increased funding for vital pregnancy and parenting support will help address the essential needs of mothers and families.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs vs. Jackson County returned the enactment of laws concerning abortion to the people. People through their elected representatives would decide and not judges legislating from the bench. Abortion policy once believed to be “settled law” is being again debated across the nation with the people in some states passing laws to protect human life — and in other states passing laws that allow the killing of unborn infants to seemingly protect human autonomy.
These “abortion wars” currently raging across the country are uncomfortable and disconcerting, adding another layer to the political and social polarization we are experiencing as a society. Nevertheless, for the pro-life movement, this is an opportunity to help our fellow Americans to reconnect the dots of sex and reproduction and to offer a more human vision of pregnancy and parenthood.
Unless we reconnect those dots — the sexual revolution that began in the ‘60s with the wide availability of contraception — the abortion wars will continue unabated. Before the sexual revolution, sexual responsibility meant acknowledging the consequences of sex and rising to meet them. Afterwards, it meant avoiding these consequences entirely. A courtship culture was transformed into a hookup one. Contraception obliterated the social standard of lifelong commitment to one’s sexual partner and children — and made abortion necessary as a “backstop.”
The root cause driving the demand for abortion is society’s unwillingness to accept — and to anticipate — the natural consequences of sex. Sexual activity outside of commitment resulted — despite the availability of contraception — in increased unintended pregnancies — not to mention reducing women to being simply outlets for men’s sexual release, resulting in the objectifying of women in popular media, pornography, and the dating culture.
Prolifers should focus on the humanity of the unborn child as well as the dignity of motherhood. We need to remind those who argue that abortion is necessary to protect human autonomy that, in the words of John Donne’s famous poem, “no man is an island entire of itself … Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” Abortion always results in the death of a human being. It is a “solution” that solves nothing but creates new problems.
Both men and women share a common purpose in life: to love and to be loved. We realize ourselves as human beings by the gift of ourselves. To be human means to live in relationships. These relationships, including sexual relationships, impose duties that must be accepted if we are to live fulfilling lives. In other words, claims to autonomy or self-determination are not absolute: They cannot be divorced from our duties to others.
The “sexual revolution,” in separating the link between sexual activity and procreation, wreaked havoc on relationships between men and women, resulting in the breakup of families and devaluation of the life of the unborn child. It also has changed the view of marriage and the family as the commitment of one man and one woman to a lifelong relationship where children are born and nurtured.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, at a National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, in the presence of Bill Clinton, then president of the United States: “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
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