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Valuing life: Priceless

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States issued Roe v. Wade, its landmark ruling legalizing abortion throughout the United States. Case closed. End of discussion. Or was it? Obviously the Supreme Court decision has not put an end to the public debate on abortion. The conversation continues, often rather contentiously.

The recent and ongoing release of a series of clandestine videos obtained by the Center for Medical Progress demonstrating Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the trafficking of organs harvested from aborted fetuses (pre-born babies) has renewed this debate with an urgency not seen in quite some time.

The graphic videos and incriminating statements made by Planned Parenthood officials have put that organization and its allies in the media and the government on the defensive. They also have awakened the consciences of many good-willed people and galvanized many more in the pro-life movement by providing new evidence of the gruesome facts intrinsic to the harsh realities of abortion, which have often been disguised by sanitized euphemisms such as “pro-choice” and “reproductive health.” This justified outrage has led to a renewed call for the federal government to defund Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States.

Without weighing in on the appropriateness of the methods used in obtaining these videos, they have made clear an alarming loss of sensitivity to the intrinsic dignity and value of human life and the human person. As evident in these videos and in other forms of trafficking, respect for human life has become so coarsened that it is often regarded as merely one commodity among others to be bought, sold and discarded. Pope Francis has prophetically warned against the tendencies of our “throw away culture,” which has lost sight of God’s sovereignty as Creator and our responsibilities as stewards over all God’s gifts.

These disturbing videos and the controversies they are engendering already have led many to speak up and demand accountability and change. But, it is also an opportunity to highlight the good efforts and initiatives that promote respect for life and authentic concern for women who may be dealing with problem pregnancies and the effects of poverty that often leave them feeling vulnerable and hopeless.

We are fortunate to have an organization such as Birth Choice in our community providing counseling and prenatal support for pregnant women. Catholic Charities has many services that offer support and assistance to women, children and families in a caring and compassionate manner. Project Gabriel supports women experiencing crisis pregnancies. Rachel’s Vineyard is a retreat for women and men who suffer the emotional, spiritual and relational wounds of having participated in an abortion.

Having been re-sensitized to the tragedy of abortion through these recent controversies, I call upon all of the faithful and all people of good will to take action in support of the dignity and sanctity of every human life from conception to its natural end. It is our civic and moral responsibility to engage in the political process as advocates for the dignity of human life with all that this entails.

Finally, I urge a prayerful response. Our hearts must be converted before our society will be able to consistently enact and embrace just laws that embody a proper regard for the sanctity of life. I urge prayers in our homes and parishes for a renewed respect for the dignity of every human life and for a rejection of the throw away mentality that treats human beings as valuable or disposable based merely on their usefulness, health, age or economic status.

Every life is precious and has infinite value in the eyes of God who creates each of us out of love.