The Pro-Life Movement: A Spiritual Perspective

Author: Charles E. Rice


Charles E. Rice

Common Faith Tract No. 2

{c) Christendom Educational Corporation 1983 Christendom Publications, Route 3, Box 87, Front Royal, Virginia 22630


1.Foreword 2.Introduction 3.Three Evils •Secularism •Relativism and Positivism •The Contraceptive Ethic 4.Demographic Pressures 5.A New Pro-Life Movement 6.Public Prayer 7.Afterword


What makes politics both fascinating and infuriating is its changeability. Political trends have a nasty habit of slowing down, speeding up, zigging and zagging, or even reversing themselves, in the most unexpected ways and at the most inopportune moments. Achieving a political goal, therefore, is rather like trying to tackle a broken- field runner--one can rarely have more than a general idea of the direction one ought to take in order to grasp the elusive prize.

At the present time, pro-lifers have every justification for feeling like a blitzing defense which, having apparently trapped the enemy ballcarrier for a major loss, saw him slip away for a long gain. The Reagan victory in the 1980 elections seemed to portend political prosperity for the pro-life movement, and to be a major setback for the anti-lifers. However, things have not in fact turned out so happily, as every pro-lifer knows only too well.

There are many theories floating about purporting to explain this surprising reversal of pro-life political fortunes, and probably most, if not all, of these theories possess some portion of the truth. While a detailed discussion of these theories might well be highly useful it also poses the danger of so immersing us in the minutiae of political tactics that we lose sight of our larger purposes and goals. To continue the analogy, one can get so involved in each play of the game as to forget about the game plan.

It is precisely on this "game plan" level of larger purposes and goals that Dr. Charles Rice has written this current Common Faith tract on the pro-life movement. Dr. Rice's major objective here is not to analyze in detail the past history of the human life issue, although he does offer some review in order to set necessary background. Rather, the author is herein confronting the pregnant question which must deeply concern every pro-lifer: where do we go from here?

In his tract, Dr. Rice, like many a good football coach, desires to redirect our attention back towards what we might call "the fundamentals." The first of the "fundamentals" is that the abortion issue must not be considered in vacuo. Abortion is both an aspect and a symptom of a larger crime, rebellion against God, which our secularistic society has been perpetrating openly for nearly 200 years, and which men in general have been committing constantly since the Fall. Far from being a discrete issue, in Dr. Rice's view, abortion is rather the current cause celebre, or focal point, for the concentrated efforts of those with a horrifyingly broad agenda for destroying the natural order as God created it, and replacing it with some secular humanist construct of their own. While finite men cannot ever succeed in replacing God as Creator, there are a few things such misbegotten efforts never fail to produce--misery, more slaughter, chaos, etc. Dr. Rice provides us with ample proof that abortion, like artificial contraception, pornography, euthanasia, and all the other concomitant aspects of the "contraceptive mentality," have borne precisely such bitter fruit and promise even larger, more terrible harvests in the future.

This brings us to the second fundamental, viz., that the abortion issue, whether analyzed by itself or as part of the larger evil, is primarily a religious issue, not a political one. Dr. Rice explicitly points out that he does not intend to disparage political action. However, he is adamant and persuasive in arguing that to treat abortion as primarily a constitutional, secular problem is to play the enemy's game, in effect, and on his home field to boot. Under these conditions, Dr. Rice contends, "the pro-life movement ... is absolutely, utterly hopeless."

From this very basic re-assessment of our situation Dr. Rice derives a revamped game plan for the pro-life movement, dependent primarily on spiritual means, most particularly the Rosary. It is his hope that we will cease reacting to the shiftiness of the opposition, and keep our own true goals clearly fixed in mind.

Overall, this is an essay which can be read by all pro-lifers with profit. It may or may not inspire agreement on all points, but, at the very least, it will surely provoke serious reflection.

Thomas P. Mangieri

THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT: A Spiritual Perspective

This Common Faith tract is intended to evaluate the status and prospects of the pro-life movement. But what can be said that is different from the standard--and ultimately boring--format of such analyses? The usual pattern is to decry Roe v. Wade and the number of abortions performed under its license, to warn of the danger of euthanasia, to describe and evaluate the proposed constitutional amendments and statutes, to stress the need for electing more pro- life Congressmen and, finally, to emphasize that tireless educational and political work will build a broad coalition which one day will tip the political scales and bring us victory. This approach is familiar and I do not mean to disparage it, for it is good as far as it goes. But it only addresses part of the problem. For abortion itself is not the ultimate problem; instead, it is merely the symptom of a deeper rebellion against God and against reason.

As will be discussed below, abortion is merely one inevitable result of the denial of God, of the capacity of the mind to know truth and of the intrinsic relation between sex and life. Pro-life rhetoric, which treats abortion in secular, constitutional terms-- which treats it as a political rather than a religious problem-- will get us nowhere. Indeed, the pro-life movement, in secular political terms, is absolutely, utterly hopeless. The basis for this statement is more than statistical, although the numbers are sobering.

Every year at least 1.5 million American babies are "legally" killed by abortion. Every five hours and fifteen minutes we kill by abortion as many as the 900 who died in the mass suicides and murders at Jonestown. Every eight days the abortionists kill more Americans than were killed in battle (33,629) in the Korean War. Every ten weeks, they kill as many as we lost (291,557) in World War II. In all the wars this nation has fought, from Lexington and Concord in 1775 through Vietnam, including both sides in the Civil War, American battle deaths totaled approximately 669,000.3[1] The body count of unborn babies reaches that figure about every six months.

Every year abortion wipes out the equivalent of the combined populations of Kansas City, Minneapolis and Miami. Statistically, each child who enters the womb has one chance in four of being killed by his mother before he leaves it. There are more abortions than live births in New York City and Washington, D.C. Abortions are disproportionately high among blacks, although two-thirds of the women who have abortions are white; and two-thirds are between the ages of 15 and 24.[2] Abortion is now the single most common surgical procedure in the United States, more common than biopsies and three times as frequent as tonsillectomies.[3]

It is nothing short of silly to treat a catastrophe of this magnitude as a result merely of constitutional misinterpretation, although one would hardly want to be accused in this matter of saying a good word for the Justices of the Supreme Court who voted and continue to vote to legalize the murder of the unborn. Justice Harry Blackmun recently said that he has received more than 45,000 letters about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 abortion ruling in which he wrote the opinion for the court. "Think of any name," Blackmun said, "I've been called it in these letters: Butcher of Dachau, murderer, Pontius Pilate, Adolph Hitler."[4] The analogies, as with all analogies, are inexact. But it is true that the basic principle of Roe v. Wade is precisely the principle that underlay the Nazi extermination of the Jews, that an innocent human being can be declared to be a non-person and subjected to death at the discretion of those who regard him as unfit or unwanted. And Pontius Pilate, as an operational positivist who executed the innocent for reasons of state and of his own convenience, would have found little to quarrel with in the philosophy of the Roe opinion. It is fair to say that our Justices who triggered the abortion avalanche by their own wilful decision, are even more reprehensible than the Nazi judges who acquiesced in the crimes of the regime and the functionaries who administered its decrees at Dachau, Auschwitz and similar places. Although Justice Blackmun noted in the same interview that "once a decision has been made, I don't lose any sleep over it," he does acknowledge that he will probably be remembered for his Roe v. Wade ruling alone: "I suppose I'll carry Roe to my grave." This is not entirely inappropriate since ten million of the youngest Americans have already carried Roe to their "graves" in garbage dumps and incinerators around the country.


1. Secularism

It is a temptation to divert this essay into an extended discussion of the manifold reasons why the Justices of the Supreme Court who favor legalized abortion have earned the scorn of those who value the right to live. But the Supreme Court did not cause the basic problem; abortion, and Roe v. Wade, are merely symptoms of deeper evils, the prevalence of which justifies the conclusion that, in merely human terms, the pro-life effort is hopeless. Those evils are secularism, positivism and the contraceptive ethic. The Supreme Court in Roe was merely reflecting a consensus which is tolerant of those evils.

Secularism can be briefly treated.[5] In legal terms, the Supreme Court has misinterpreted the First Amendment to require government at all levels to maintain neutrality between theistic and non- theistic religions. That is why it is theoretically unconstitutional for a public official, whether President Reagan or a public school teacher, to state as a fact that the Declaration of Independence is true when it affirms the existence of God. The teacher, for example, may note for his students the historical circumstance that the Founding Fathers, lacking the insight of our ruling Justices, actually believed in God and prayed to Him in the course of their public activities. But the teacher today must maintain neutrality on God; he must suspend judgment; in his official capacity, he can neither affirm nor deny that God exists. And, of course, he cannot pray in his governmental capacity. But this suspension of judgment involves an implied preference of the agnostic belief that the existence of God is unknown or unknowable. The result is the implicit establishment of agnostic, secular humanism as the official national creed.

The interesting point here, however, is that, despite the consistent support of 75-80 percent of Americans for the restoration of prayers to public schools--a desirable but cosmetic remedy--the Court has gotten away with it. The secularizing rulings have endured for two decades at least in part because they reflect something in the American consensus, a pietistic strain that tends to reserve religion for the closet and that is uncomfortable with any breach in the mythical "wall of separation between Church and State." Every state, however, has to have a god, an ultimate authority or criterion. Thus jurisprudence is rightly called the study of "ultimatology."[6] If the god recognized by a legal system is not the real God, it will be another. In the contemporary American constitutional scheme, it is the god of established secularism. One result of this development is the treatment by the courts of the abortion issue in secular, amoral and merely pragmatic terms. No appeal can any longer be made on the ground that the law of God guarantees the right to life of all innocent human beings. In 1772, George Mason, in arguing the case of Robin v. Hardaway, declared:

Now all acts of legislature apparently contrary to natural right and justice, are, in our laws, and must be in the nature of things, considered as void. The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth. A legislature must not obstruct our obedience to him from Whose punishments they cannot protect us. All human constitutions which contradict his laws, we are in conscience bound to disobey. Such have been the adjudications of our courts of justice.[7]

Mason was arguing that a Virginia statute of 1682 which enslaved Indians was "originally void, because contrary to natural right and justice." He won his case on the separate ground that the 1682 statute had been repealed by a 1705 statute. Mason's argument, however, would clearly be out of bounds in the Supreme Court today even when the issue involves the execution of the innocent as in abortion. In such a secular game, the unseen child in the womb does not have a fighting chance.

2. Relativism and Positivism

In addition to secularism, relativism is the second underlying evil. And it is a national disease. You can verify this by asking any high school or college student two questions: 1. Apart from sense impressions can you really know anything with absolute certainty? (He will answer No; and he will be certain about it.) 2. Is it always wrong to have an abortion? (Professor Dan Wikler, a University of Wisconsin expert on polls, says a typical response is "I wouldn't have an abortion, but I wouldn't tell someone else not to.")[8] A 1981 Yanklevich survey showed that 70 percent of women agree that "a pregnant woman should have the right to decide whether she wants to terminate a pregnancy." The average student believes that the morality of an act is determined by how one feels about it. Ethical relativism leads to legal positivism, which is the concept that, since no one can know what is just, the resolution of such questions will be left to the political process, including the judgments of the Supreme Court. If that process turns out an Auschwitz or a Roe v. Wade, the decision cannot be criticized as unjust because no one can know what is just. Gustav Radbruch, a leading German legal philosopher, renounced positivism during the Nazi regime and described the process by which the German legal profession was subverted by the positivistic idea that might makes right:

For the soldier an order is an order; for the jurist, the law is the law. But the soldier's duty to obey an order is at an end if he knows that the order will result in a crime. But the jurist, since the last natural law men in his profession died off a hundred years or so ago, has known no such exception and no such excuse for the citizen's not submitting to the law. The law is valid simply because it is the law; and it is law if it has the power to assert itself under ordinary conditions. Such an attitude towards the law and its validity [i.e., positivism] rendered both lawyers and people impotent in the face of even the most capricious, criminal, or cruel of laws. Ultimately, this view that only where there is power is there law is nothing but an affirmation that might makes right. [Actually] law is the quest for justice ... if certain laws deliberately deny this quest for justice (for example, by arbitrarily granting or denying men their human rights) they are null and void; the people are not to obey them, and jurists must find the courage to brand them unlawful.[9]

Positivism, it is fair to say, is the dominant American jurisprudence. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who is a patron saint of modern American jurisprudence, was of the opinion that "truth was the majority vote of the nation that could lick all others."[9] And Holmes declared, "I see no reason for attributing to man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or to a grain of sand."[11] Roe v. Wade, itself, is an exercise in legal positivism. In Roe, the Supreme Court held that, whether or not the unborn child is a human being, he is a non- person and therefore has no constitutionally protected right to life. The decision thus is the same in effect as a flat holding that acknowledged human beings are non-persons. In this respect the ruling broke what had been assumed, since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, to be an inseparable correspondence between humanity and personhood. The legal concept of personhood is broader than merely all human beings; thus a corporation is a person for purposes of the Constitution. But, because the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to overrule the 1857 Dred Scott case in which the Supreme Court had declared that slaves were property rather than persons, it was properly and generally assumed that the Fourteenth Amendment ensured that all human beings would thenceforth be regarded as persons. This is so despite the fact that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment gave no apparent consideration to its effect on unborn human beings. Senator Allen A. Thurman, in commenting on the scope of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, stated that:

[It] covers every human being within the jurisdiction of a state. It was intended to shield the foreigner, to shield the wayfarer, to shield the Indian, the Chinaman, every human being within the jurisdiction of a State from any deprivation of an equal protection of the laws.[12]

This legal treatment of all human beings as persons is consistent with the philosophical definition of a person as an individual substance of rational nature, that is, an individual with intellect and will. When the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, broke this necessary correspondence between humanity and legal personhood, it opened the door to unrestricted speculation as to the meaning of legal personhood. If human beings are not necessarily legal persons, well, then, who are? The Court, incidentally, was reflecting the growing dominance in American jurisprudence of legal positivism, the notion that since the mind is incapable of knowing the essences of things and since, in the words of Hans Kelsen, the leading legal positivist of this century, "justice" is merely an "irrational ideal,"[13] there is no inherent limit to what the law can do. Therefore, whatever decrees are handed down pursuant to prescribed legal forms by the ruling authorities must be accepted as valid law regardless of their content. As Kelsen put it, "any content whatsoever can be legal; there is no human behavior which could not function as the content of a legal norm."[14]

Modern positivistic jurisprudence is well on the way to establishing the intellectual base for the depersonalization and extermination of various classes of innocent human beings. Consider, for example, the theories of Peter Singer, of Monash University in Australia. His book "Practical Ethics"[15] establishes the principles through which the legalized extermination of inconvenient human beings can be rationalized. Singer, incidentally, begins by stating, as one of his basic premises, "I shall treat ethics as entirely independent of religion."[16] In his earlier book, "Animal Liberation", which argued for vegetarianism, Singer denounced the evil of "speciesism," which he regards as an unfounded prejudice in favor of persons belonging to our own species, i.e., homo sapiens. In "Practical Ethics" he expands his treatment of the subject. Just as we are properly opposed to racism, Singer believes, we should be opposed to speciesism. Singer states that, "having accepted the principle of equality as a sound moral basis for relations with others of our own species, we are also committed to accepting it as a sound moral basis for relations with those outside our own species--the nonhuman animals."[17] He quotes favorably Jeremy Bentham's prediction that "The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny." In Bentham's view, "a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose it were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"[18]

Singer regards a person as "a rational and self-conscious being."[19] "There are many beings," he notes, "who are conscious and capable of experiencing pleasure and pain, but are not rational and self-conscious and so not persons. Many nonhuman animals almost certainly fall into this category; so must newborn infants and some mental defectives.[20] But chimpanzees, whales and dolphins, for example, can be persons. As far as killing is concerned Singer believes:

we should reject the doctrine that places the lives of members of our species above the lives of members of other species. Some members of other species are persons: some members of our own species are not. No objective assessment can give greater value to the lives of members of our species who are not persons than to the lives of members of other species who are. On the contrary, as we have seen there are strong arguments for placing the lives of persons above the lives of nonpersons. So it seems that killing, say, a chimpanzee is worse than the killing of a gravely defective human who is not a person.[21]

"This strong case against killing," he concludes, "can be invoked against the slaughter of apes, whales and dolphins. It might also apply to monkeys, dogs and cats, pigs, seals and bears."[22] He refers to "the questionable assumption that chickens are not self- conscious"[23], thus raising the possibility that the greatest mass murderer in all history is neither Josef Stalin nor Adolf Hitler, but Colonel Sanders. Even if we make the "shaky assumption that ducks are not self-conscious," "the shooting of a duck does not lead to its replacement by another." So, generally "the killing of a duck ends a pleasant life without starting another" and is therefore wrong.[24] Only if we add to the sum total of pleasure by replacing a happy chicken or duck by another happy chicken or duck, could the killing of such a happy chicken or duck be justified--and then apparently only on the "questionable assumption" that chickens and ducks are not persons.

Please remember that this is mainstream positivist jurisprudence. "Practical Ethics" was very seriously and favorably reviewed, with some detailed reservations, by H.L.A. Hart, the leading figure of contemporary positivist jurisprudence.[25] Singer offers a window on the near future: "The belief that mere membership of our species, irrespective of other characteristics, makes a great difference to the wrongness of killing a being is a legacy of religious doctrines which even those opposed to abortion hesitate to bring into the debate."[26] The right-to-life movement, he believes, "is misnamed. Far from having concern for all life, or a scale of concern impartially based on the nature of the life in question, those who protest against abortion but dine regularly on the bodies of chickens, pigs and calves, show only a biased concern for the lives of the members of our own species."[27] While he believes that "the life of a newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee,"[28] he believes that "where rights are at risk, we should err on the side of safety. If there were to be legislation on this matter, it probably should deny a full legal right to life to babies only for a short period after birth--perhaps a month."[29]

With respect to euthanasia, Singer supports "nonvoluntary euthanasia" at least for those who were "never capable of choosing to live or die." Nonvoluntary euthanasia, on the other hand, of those who were once rational and self-conscious but who now have become non- persons, he would justify only if some precaution were taken to allay the apprehensions of persons who might suffer "insecurity and fear" at the prospect that they too might be involuntarily killed if they lose rationality and self- consciousness.[30] Singer, of course, supports voluntary euthanasia for those who choose it for themselves and prefers "swift and painless" active euthanasia to "passive euthanasia" which "often results in a drawn-out death."[31]

Singer rejects the argument that euthanasia would be "the first step on a slippery slope."[32] "The Nazis," he admits, "committed horrendous crimes; but this does not mean that EVERYTHING the Nazis did was horrendous."[33] The Nazis' offense, in his view, was not euthanasia but the racism practiced in the selection of those to be killed. To avoid the slippery slope, Singer suggests that we rely upon the doctors. "If acts of euthanasia could only be carried out by a member of the medical profession, with the concurrence of a second doctor, it is not likely that the propensity to kill would spread unchecked throughout the community."[34]

This criticism of Singer does not in any way imply approval of mistreatment of animals. We have a strong moral obligation to treat animals with appropriate kindness but this duty proceeds from our obligation to God rather than from any supposed status of animals as themselves persons. Moreover, it would be a mistake to regard Peter Singer as an insignificant character in an out-take from Saturday Night Live. On the contrary, this is serious business. It was in the 1950's that the academics and lawyers began articulating the theories of rights and interests which culminated in Roe v. Wade. We will soon hear increasingly how some human beings never become, or cease to be, "persons in the whole sense" (or some similar euphemism). Once the principle that all human beings are persons is abandoned, there really is no stopping short of regarding Washoe the Chimp as more deserving of protection than your newborn child.

Right to Life 1973-1983

This extended discussion on personhood leads to the conclusion that the solution to legalized abortion, in constitutional terms, is the restoration to our basic law of the principle that all human beings are persons. This was the key focus of the right-to- life movement from 1973 through 1980, which made headway because it was united in the conviction that, whatever differences might exist over wording of amendments, exceptions, etc., the essential remedy is the restoration of personhood. People can be inspired by that insistence on personhood because they can understand that if the unborn child in the womb can be defined as a non-person and deprived of his right-to- life, so can his elder brother or his grandmother.

Seen in this context, the decision of the Catholic Bishops in January, 1981, not to support the Helms-Hyde Human Life Bill (which would have affirmed the personhood of all human beings from conception) and to support instead the Hatch Amendment was, in my opinion, an act of folly which aggravated a growing split in the pro- life movement. Although this is not the place for an extended discussion of the Hatch Amendment controversy,[35] it must be noted that the "legislative powers" approach to abortion proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and the simplified states' rights version proposed by Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-Mo.) fail to introduce the fundamental notion of the personhood of the unborn. But the positivistic denial of personhood is the error of the abortion decisions that must be corrected. In this light, therefore, these approaches are gravely deficient.

3. The Contraceptive Ethic

In addition to secularism and relativism (which underlies legal positivism), the contraceptive ethic is a major cause, not only of abortion but of a broad range of evils. It was not until 1930, with the Anglican Lambeth Conference, that any Christian denomination ever said that contraception could ever be objectively right. Yet in just a half-century the legitimacy of contraception has become an implicit assumption not only of virtually all discourse on the subject but of government policy as well.

In "Humanae Vitae", which most Catholic students know only through professorial caricatures of it, Pope Paul VI stressed that the law of God prohibits "every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or a means, to render procreation impossible." This teaching "is founded upon the inseparable connection--which is willed by God and which man cannot lawfully break on his own initiative--between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning."[36] Contraception is wrong because, as Pope John Paul II said in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation, "Familiaris consortio",

When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion they act as "arbiters" of the divine plan and they "manipulate" and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of "total" self-giving.[37]

It is a question, therefore, of dominion: who is in charge, man or God? (In "Humanae vitae", incidentally, Pope Paul also explained the legitimacy of abstinence from sexual relations during the woman's fertile period, provided that such abstinence is practiced for "serious motives." And in "Familiaris consortio", Pope John Paul II called on "all--doctors, experts, marriage counselors, teachers and married couples--who can actually help married people to live their love with respect for the structure and finalities of the conjugal act which expresses that love. This implies a broader, more decisive and more systematic effort to make the natural methods of regulating fertility known, respected and applied.")[38]

Beyond their apparent failure to grasp the essential reason why contraception is wrong, most Catholics show little awareness of the role of contraception as a root cause of other evils. The general acceptance of the morality of the act of contraception is a major factor in the following developments:

ABORTION. Contraception is the prevention of life while abortion is the taking of life. But both come from a common root: the willful separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of sex. Widespread contraception tends to require abortion as a backstop. And the contraceptive mentality of unwanted babies tends to reduce objections to abortion to the emotional or aesthetic. There is a technological link, too, in that many so-called contraceptives, such as the IUD, are abortifacient.

PORNOGRAPHY. Like contraception, which reduces sexual relations to an exercise in mutual masturbation, pornography is the separation of sex from life and the reduction of sex to an exercise in self- gratification. In the process, woman becomes an object rather than a person. One characteristic of contraception is its tendency to depersonalize the woman. Pope Paul in "Humanae vitae", warned that contraception would cause women to be viewed as sex objects, that "man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."[39]

HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITY. If sex has no inherent relation to procreation, why not let Freddy marry George? The legitimization of homosexual activity is predictable in a contraceptive society, which cannot say that homosexual relations are objectively wrong without condemning itself. Instead, homosexual living must be regarded as an "alternate" life style--which is what it is, if sex has no inherent relation to reproduction. On the contrary, a society in which it makes no difference whether boys marry girls or other boys is not only on the road to extinction; it is clinically insane.

IN VITRO FERTILIZATION. Contraception is the taking of the unitive without the procreative. In vitro fertilization is the reverse. The teaching Church has warned against this as a perversion. The process involves the fertilization of several eggs; only the best ones are implanted in the womb and the rest are flushed down the drain. Dr. Patrick Steptoe, one of the originators of the technique, recently denied that he was destroying human lives because, in his opinion, only "a potential life has been started when an egg is fertilized. The mortal part of life has been joined with the immortal part: by that I mean the genetic material. We are all merely transient carriers of our genes, I'm afraid; it is our genes that are immortal, definitely."[40] We are already seeing further refinements of the in vitro technique, including serious proposals that spare embryos be frozen and then defrosted and given, or sold, to prospective "mothers," that the embryos be used for experiments or that they be used for spare parts for persons in need of new organs.

TEEN-AGE PROMISCUITY. In addition to the inducements offered by imprudent sex education, the media and the availability of contraception and abortion, one explanation for teenage promiscuity is parental example. According to the natural moral law and the Commandments, sex is reserved for marriage; this is so because sex inherently has something to do with babies and the natural way to raise children is in a monogamous, lifetime marriage. But if children see their parents, in their practice of contraception, behave as if sex had no inherent relation to reproduction, it should not be surprising if those children draw the conclusion that sex does not have to be reserved for marriage.

DIVORCE AND CHILD ABUSE. The divorce rate soared during the years in which contraception became practically universal and sterilization became the most popular method. This is not merely a "post hoc ergo proper hoc" deduction. In the natural order of things, marriage is permanent because sex is intrinsically related to reproduction and it is according to nature that children be raised in a stable home with parents permanently united in marriage. If sex and marriage are not intrinsically related to life, then marriage loses its reason for permanence. It tends to become an alliance for individual self- fulfillment--what Pope Paul called "the juxtaposition of two solitudes." The refusal to accept responsibility for others and to endure frustration is characteristic of the contraceptive mind. According to Dr. Edward Leonski, director of pediatric emergency services at Los Angeles County Hospital, 90 percent of the battered children in a six-year study "were planned pregnancies." Since the introduction of the pill, child beating has increased threefold.

EUTHANASIA. The contraceptive ethic, because it denies that life is always good, prepared the ground for permissive abortion. Once abortion had accustomed people to the idea that burdensome lives are not worth living, the way was clear for euthanasia as a "cure" for the aged and the "useless."

These effects of the prevalence of the contraceptive ethic are fairly obvious. It would be a mistake, however, to say that a "contraceptive mentality" is undesirable but that individual acts of contraception can be justified and even meritorious in some cases. This erroneous distinction was flatly rejected by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. The root error is the acceptance of the idea that the deliberate separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of sex can ever be right. Moreover, the contraceptive mind tends to be hostile to new or burdensome life. It is this factor which gives added impetus to the euthanasia movement which is a product not only of spiritual ills but of demographics as well.

Demographic Pressures

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are now 5.4 Americans under 65 for every American over that age; by the year 2050, the number will be 2.6.[41] Which raises the question: who is going to support all those old folks? The United States fertility rate is at its lowest level in a century. According to the study, "Fertility of American Women: June 1979," by Martin O'Connell and Carolyn C. Rogers, if the current low rates continue, the proportion of women completing their childbearing years without having a baby could go as high as 25 to 30 percent, well over the 1979 figure of 14.9 percent and exceeding the record 22 percent of the women born in the 1880's who went childless.[42] A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics documents the marked increase of younger couples who are medically unable to have children. Among women between the ages 15 and 29 with one child or no children, the percentage who are medically infertile rose from 6 percent to 9 percent between 1965 and 1976. The increase was "especially marked" among black women, going from 6 percent in 1965 to 14 percent in 1976. The report said one cause for the general increase may be the tripling of reported cases of gonorrhea during that period and the 600 percent increase in those years of women using intra-uterine birth control devices which increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease which in turn can cause infertility.[43]

The demographic reality of an aging population is alone enough to make the pro-life movement hopeless in secular political terms. Moreover, the institutionalization of euthanasia is already far advanced in this country and within a fairly short time it will be practiced on a massive scale. Theoretically, of course, if you can kill the innocent unborn child in the womb because he is unfit or otherwise unwanted, why can you not do the same thing to his elder brother and his grandmother? It is a common practice in hospital nurseries to give the parents of a retarded newborn a choice as to whether the child will be kept alive or not.[44] The legal issues concern the distinction between ordinary treatment, which must be provided, and extraordinary treatment, which need not be given. But this distinction is illusory in light of the tendency to regard even the provision of water and food as optional where the death of the patient is desired because of his illness or other deficiency.

On April 9, 1982, a boy was born in Bloomington Hospital, Indiana. The only name he ever had was Baby Boy Doe. And he had three problems. First, he had esophagal atresia--his esophagus was not connected to his stomach--a condition which could have been corrected by surgery; this condition prevented him from taking nourishment orally. Second, he had Down's Syndrome. Third, his parents refused to consent to the surgery to correct his esophagus and they refused to allow him to be fed intravenously while his fate was being determined by the courts. Bloomington Hospital officials complied with his parents' decision, and three Indiana courts, including the State Supreme Court, declined to interfere with that decision. Baby Boy Doe was placed in an isolation room where he died without treatment or nourishment on April 16, 1982, seven days after his birth.

The death of Baby Doe was described by Congressman Henry Hyde as an "act of eugenic infanticide." "The freedom to choose to kill inconvenient life is being extended," observed columnist George F. Will, "precisely as predicted, beyond fetal life to categories of inconvenient infants, such as Down's Syndrome babies."

Recently, a Los Angeles County prosecutor sought homicide indictments against two doctors who disconnected a comatose, 55- year- old man, Clarence Herbert, from his respirator, at his family's request; then, when he unexpectedly survived, they withdrew two days later, the intravenous tube which provided him with food and water. One week later the patient died from dehydration.[45] The similarity of the court-room arguments justifying this to the philosophy that underlay the Nazi extermination program was evident.[46]

A New Pro-Life Movement

From all the foregoing, it can be seen that abortion is not itself the ultimate problem. It is rather a symptom of a total disorder, a total rebellion against God's law. In the face of that disorder, a partial, compromising response is inappropriate. Rather, the response must be total as the disorder is total. And it must be essentially religious because the disorder is religious. The purpose of this tract is to suggest that a new pro-life movement is needed, that it is now developing and that it offers the only realistic prospect for success. The outlines of this new pro-life movement can be described as follows:

1. It will be primarily religious, appealing to all persons of all religions, who recognize that the abortion problem is a manifestation of the simple issue: Who is God, the real God or the state?

2. It will be uncompromising in its educational efforts, emphasizing that we are in trouble because of secularism, relativism and contraception. The last named is especially important. Although abortion differs from contraception in that abortion is the taking of life while contraception prevents a life from coming into being, they are related, as discussed above.

3. Its political activity will be similarly uncompromising. As I have said elsewhere, the movement will work for the adoption of a legislative agenda and for the election of pro-life candidates at every level. But there will be no compromise. Prolifers must be single-issue voters in the sense that abortion is an absolutely disqualifying issue: any candidate who believes that the law should define some innocent human beings as nonpersons so as to deprive them of the right to life is unworthy to hold any public office, whether President of the United States or trustee of a mosquito abatement district. What is needed is "punishment politics," to use the term coined by prolife Sen. John Martyr, the Jesse Helms of Australia. Those who are wrong on abortion must be voted out of office regardless of their stands on other issues: if necessary, prolifers will run as independent candidates where no pro-life alternative is offered by a major party. Of course, there is no chance of adopting a Human Life Amendment in the near future, but the movement will maintain that as a goal. It will work, in the meantime, for a Human Life Bill and for the enactment of sound and useful restrictions on abortion at the state and federal levels, including especially the elimination of taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood and other anti-life agencies. This will be a form of guerrilla warfare directed at legislative targets of opportunity. And the movement will recognize throughout that there can be no compromise on abortion.[47]

4. The primary emphasis of the movement, however, will be on prayer, especially the recitation of the Rosary, combined with sidewalk counseling, at abortion clinics.

47. Rice, "The New Pro-Life Movement," The Wanderer, January 6, 1983, p. 1, col. 1.

Public Prayer

On the last point, it should be emphasized that I am talking neither about mere picketing nor about disruption of abortion facilities in violation of the law. Since pro-life activity at the abortion clinics is, in my judgment, the most important work of the new pro-life movement, it will be useful to outline here some of the basic considerations that govern that work.

If you saw a woman strangling her three-year-old child on a street corner, would you not interfere? And even if she were committing the murder in her own house but in plain view from the street, would you not break down the door to stop her? The law would surely recognize your right to do so. Why, then, do we not charge into abortion clinics to stop the killings that take place behind their doors? The common law privilege of necessity would justify one in entering somebody's house to prevent the latter from knifing a person to death. But according to the Supreme Court the unborn child is a non-person whose life is practically as much at the disposal of his mother as would be the life of a goldfish. There is evidently, therefore, no legal right for any third party to interfere to prevent an abortion.

In moral terms, however, there may be a right to interfere in a situation where there is a reasonable prospect that such interference would be more than a mere gesture and would actually save lives. The laws which protect abortion clinics against those who would prevent abortion provide a legal sanctuary for murder. Those laws, therefore, are unjust and morally void, as are the Supreme Court's abortion rulings themselves. Whether demonstration and obstruction should be used against abortion facilities is therefore a question of prudence and tactics.

The objective is not to confront abortion with the mere strength of numbers or with physical force. With the power of the state arrayed on the side of death, there is practically nothing one can do to save the life of the child whose mother is resolved upon his death. Breaking up the furniture and sitting in clinic doorways will be of virtually no use in this respect. Our reliance here must be on the Rosary rather than the sledge hammer (and on other prayers as well, especially in ecumenical gatherings). The most effective technique would be to confront every abortion facility in the country with a continuous, peaceful Rosary vigil lawfully conducted on the public sidewalk, including the offering of pro- life literature and counseling to persons entering and leaving the premises. This would not involve any obstruction or interference with anybody. But it would dramatize the opposition of abortion to the law of God. And only through the grace of God will we succeed in removing this scourge from our land.

One objection to a prayer vigil outside of abortion facilities is that it would put an extra burden of guilt on some women who have abortions without really knowing what they are doing. It is not our function to try to make anyone feel guilty. And the subjective culpability of any person is ours neither to know nor to judge. However, in the objective moral order abortion is murder. It is proper for us to call it that and to do so in the literature distributed to willing takers at the scene of the crime. If this incidentally causes some participants in baby killing to feel guilty, this is understandable. For they do have something to feel guilty about.

Another objection to prayer at abortion facilities is that prayer is effective wherever it is offered. We can do as much good, it is said, praying in church or in the privacy of our homes as we can on the public sidewalk. Part of our national problem, however, is due to the tendency to restrict religion to a strictly private preserve, to keep it in the closet and thereby to deny its relevance to the public life of the nation. There is a needed element of witness in praying at an abortion factory. It is hardly too much to suggest that, in the face of the legalized slaughter of millions of babies, we ought to pray in public for deliverance.

In 1964, when Brazil was sliding toward a Communist takeover, that country was saved by women who organized public demonstrations featuring the Rosary. In one demonstration in Sao Paulo, "clutching prayerbooks and rosaries, a vast army more than 600,000 strong marched in solemn rhythm under anti-Communist banners. And as they marched, newshawks on the sidelines sold newspapers containing a 1300-word proclamation the women had prepared:

"This nation which God has given us, immense and marvelous as it is, is in extreme danger. We have allowed men of limitless ambition, without Christian faith or scruples, to bring our people misery, destroying our economy, disturbing our social peace, to create hate and despair. They have infiltrated our nation, our government administration, our armed forces and even our churches with servants of totalitarianism, foreign to us and all- consuming.... Mother of God, preserve us from the fate and suffering of the martyred women of Cuba, Poland, Hungary, and other enslaved nations."[48]

One organization which is most effective on this point is Catholics United for Life. CUL recently wrote to the pastor of every Catholic parish in the United States asking them to cooperate in a Rosary Crusade to End All Abortion. As Mark Drogin of CUL put it:

Our Church has always militantly protected the rights of the defenseless using the weapons of prayer and penance-- especially the Rosary. "Holy Mother Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, has always advocated public prayer in times of public tragedy and suffering." (St. Louis de Montfort) The first goal of this Rosary Crusade is to establish a regular time in every parish when the Rosary (or Holy Hour) is recited publicly in a group for the intention of ending all abortion. Hopefully parishioners will be reminded regularly to also offer private prayers and penances for this specific intention. Many parishes and dioceses already have such programs and we ask your help in spreading this practice more widely. Please keep us informed of your activities.

We hope that this public prayer in the parishes will be a strong foundation for those who are able to be more active. We believe that the most effective response to the public tragedy of abortion is for us to pray the Rosary in front of the abortion chambers where the innocent babies are being slaughtered. We call this prayer and counseling at the abortuaries "Sidewalk Counseling"; we have been doing it for years and we have saved a great number of babies who were scheduled for abortion.

Abortion is wrong because it violates the law of God. Our choice of weapons should reflect the nature of the struggle. With the power of the state arrayed on the side of the baby killers, the use of force against them will be self-defeating. On the other hand we have spiritual weapons which are irresistible. The Rosary, especially, is a wonder weapon. It stopped the Turkish fleet at Lepanto, it saved Brazil in the 1960's, and it is our most effective weapon against the murder of the unborn. If every abortion clinic were the scene of a continuous Rosary vigil, with information and counseling at every hour of its operation, we would win this fight in short order. As Father Patrick Peyton said, "Mary is omnipotent when she prays."

At the beginning of this tract I offered the opinion that "the pro-life movement, in secular and political terms, is absolutely, utterly hopeless." And we have no reason to presume that God will spare this nation the punishment we have deserved for our slaughter of the innocent. This is not to say, however, that the cause itself is hopeless. In human terms it clearly is, for the reasons outlined herein. But we need not fight in merely human terms. Recalling the words of the Angel Gabriel, "nothing shall be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37), we have every reason for confidence if, in addition to our work, we repent, trust God and call on Him for guidance and help, particularly through the intercession of Mary, His mother.


1. See U.S. News and World Report, November 13, 1972, p. 28.

2. U.S. News and World Report, January 24, 1983, 47.

3. Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1981, p. 8, col. 1.

4. Jenkins, "A Candid Talk with Justice Blackmun," New York Times Magazine, Feb. 20, 1983, 20.

5. For further treatment of secularism, see James Hitchcock, "What is Secular Humanism?" (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1982); Charles E. Rice, "Beyond Abortion: The Theory and Practice of the Secular State" (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1979); and Henry V. Sattler, C.Ss.R., "Secular Humanism?" (Stafford, VA: American Life Education and Research Trust, 1982).

6. Edward Barrett, "A Lawyer Looks at Natural Law Jurisprudence," 23 Am. J. Jurisprudence 1 (1978).

7. 1 Jefferson's Va. Rep. 109, 114 (1772).

8. U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 24, 1983, 47.

9. Quoted in Ernst von Hippel, "The Role of Natural Law in the Legal Decisions of the German Federal Republic," 4, Natural Law Forum (1959) 106, 110.

10. Holmes, "The Natural Law, Collected Legal Papers" (1920), 310.

11. Holmes-Pollock Letters (1942), vol. 2, p. 252.

12. 3 Cong. Rec. 1794 (1875). See generally A. Avins, "The Reconstruction Amendment Debates" 12, 29, 36, 220-21, 274, 460, 556, 558, 622, 631, 708, 733, 737-38, 740-42 (1967).

13. Hans Kelsen, "The Pure Theory of Law," Part I, SO Law Quarterly Review (1935), 474.

14. Hans Kelsen, "The Pure Theory of Law," Part II, 51; Law Quarterly Review (1935), 517, 518-519.

15. Cambridge University Press, 1979.

16. Peter Singer, "Practical Ethics" (1979), 5.

17. "Practical Ethics", p. 48.

18. "Practical Ethics", pp. 49-50.

19. "Practical Ethics", p. 76.

20. "Practical Ethics", p. 84.

21. "Practical Ethics", p. 97.

22. "Practical Ethics", p. 103.

23. "Practical Ethics", p. 104.

24. "Practical Ethics", p. 105.

25. New York Review of Books (May 15, 1980).

26. "Practical Ethics", p. 117.

27. "Practical Ethics", p. 118.

28. "Practical Ethics", p. 123.

29. "Practical Ethics", p. 125.

30. "Practical Ethics", p. 139.

31. "Practical Ethics", p. 153.

32. "Practical Ethics", p. 154.

33. "Practical Ethics", p. 154.

34. "Practical Ethics", p. 156.

35. Prof. Rice would be pleased to send articles he has written on the subject to any readers of this tract who desire them.

36. Nos. 14 and 12.

37. No. 32.

38. H.V., No. 16; F.C., No. 35.

39. No. 17.

40. Irish Times, Jan. 11, 1983, p. 10, col. 1.

41. New York Times, Nov. 9, 1982, p. 11, col. 6.

42. Chicago Tribune, Feb. 8, 1981, Sec. 1, p. 14, col. 1.

43. New York Times, Feb. 10, 1983.

44. See Hall and Cameron, "Our Failing Reverence for Life," Psychology Today, April, 1976, 104.

45. Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1983, Part 1, p. 3.

46. This comment is based upon press reports, esp. Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1983, Part II, p. 1. Accurate transcripts of the remarks of various witnesses could not be obtained in time for the printing of this Tract.

48. Hall, "The Country that Saved Itself," Reader's Digest, November, 1964, p. 11.


Pro-abortionists often complain that we are being unfair, uncharitable, even slanderous, when we refer to them as "anti- lifers." Yet, can any of us read this tract of Dr. Rice's and fail to see the justice of the "anti-life" epithet? Clearly, men are in fact on a "slippery slope," pace Prof. Singer; when they deny the humanity of even the least of their brother, for whatever reason and within whatever "limits", if that is even a meaningful word in this context. Indeed, Prof. Singer is himself a prime example of the inevitable slide into monstrosity, being as he is the apostle of indiscriminate murder over "speciesism," and the champion of the chimpanzee over the unborn infant human being.

More to the point, we may argue that our society, even if it allows one to be personally opposed to abortion, is increasingly, overtly anti-God. It is at least difficult to deny the existence, or even the authority of the Creator and still accept the validity of His Creation, to oppose the Author of Life and not then oppose life itself.

Therefore, whatever one may choose to dispute in the details of Dr. Rice's "game plan," his central proposition cannot be denied. The pro-life movement is not merely inextricably bound up with religious concern, or "prejudices" as the opposition would say, but is actually part of one of those relatively sure battles wherein the lines between good and evil are drawn with crystal clarity. This is no "prejudiced" view, since its empirical basis is all too ready to hand.

Thus, we may all agree that there is more involved here than just political maneuver or constitutional debates. Yet, prudence is also a virtue, and among its many counsels which we cannot afford to ignore is that we need to be organized, to have leadership and programs of action. Dr. Rice recommends that any would-be players still languishing on the bench, or activists wishing to expand their participation, contact any or all of the following groups:

Ad Hoc Committee in Defense of Life (Box 2950, Washington, D.C. 20013): publishers of "Lifeletter," the Committee promotes awareness of and support for pro-life strategies which have current chance of success.

Alternatives to Abortion International (toll free number: 1-800- 356- 5671): AAI provides counseling and services to assist troubled pregnant women in bringing their children to birth.

The American Life Lobby (6-B Library Ct., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003): this group is clearly centered around religious principles in its lobbying and fund-raising activities for pro-life action in the federal government.

Birthright, Inc. (761 Coxwell Ave., Toronto, Ontario M4C 3C5 Canada); Birthright provides support to pregnant women who might otherwise have abortions, so that they can bring their children to term.

Catholics United for Life (New Hope, KY 40052): a Third Order Dominican community of penance, Catholics United for Life is a leader in demonstrations and counseling at abortion clinics, and has available a leaflet, "The Best Way to Save Babies," which explains in detail how to organize and conduct a Sidewalk Counseling Program.

The Couple to Couple League (P.O. Box 11084, Cincinnati, OH 45211): this organization provides literature and training in natural family planning, using the best techniques in a sound Catholic perspective.

Human Life Foundation (Room 840, 150 E. 35th St., NY, NY 10016): publishers of "The Human Life Review," a quarterly pro-life journal.

Human Life International (7845-E Airpark Rd., Gaithersburg, MD 20879): headed by Fr. Paul Marx, HLI reports on pro-life situations worldwide.

The March for Life (605 14th Street, N.W., Suite 302, Washington, D.C. 20005): this organization is responsible for the massive pro- life demonstration in Washington, D.C. each year on the anniversary of the January 22 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

National Right to Life Committee (Suite 402, 419 7th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004): the Committee published the "National Right to Life News" and serves as an umbrella organization for coordination at the national level of grass roots pro-life groups in the various states. In order to find out what local pro-life groups are active in your area, contact the NRLC.

Shield of Roses (Anthony J. MacTutis, Atty. at Law, 718 Myrtle Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901; Joseph Wall, 207 Unruh Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111): The Shield of Roses has sponsored Rosary vigils outside of abortion clinics for years.

U.S. Coalition for Life (Box 315, Export, Pa. 15632): the Coalition does research on Federal involvement in anti-life activities.

Some decades ago, social scientist Max Weber, himself a secular humanist, expressed his fear that modern civilization would only succeed in producing "specialists without vision, and voluptuaries without heart." The source notwithstanding, this is a dead accurate description of men without God. It is an especially apt characterization of those we call "anti-lifers."

Thomas P. Mangieri

Charles E. Rice is a Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School and one of the leading pro-life legal minds in the United States today. An editor of the Common Faith Tracts, Prof. Rice earned his D.J.S. degree from New York University School of Law. He is the author of several books, including "The Supreme Court and Public Prayer," "The Vanishing Right to Live," and "Beyond Abortion: The Theory and Practice of the Secular State." The Foreword and Afterword to this tract are by CF Tract associate editor Thomas P. Mangieri, Director of the Politics Program at Christendom College.

Common Faith Tracts (ISSN: 0273-7620) are published six times per year (roughly bimonthly) for three related reasons: to defend the Catholic faith, to apply Catholic thought to contemporary problems, and to promote Catholic spirituality for the salvation of souls. Prices (in U.S. funds) are as follows: Subscription: $10/year Single copy: $1.95 plus 60 cents postage 2-9 copies: $1.60 each plus $1.00 postage 10-49 copies: $1.30 each plus $2.00 postage 50 or more: $1.00 each plus $3.00 postage (C) Christendom Educational Corporation 1983 Christendom Publications, Route 3, Box 87, Front Royal, Virginia 22630 Used with permission.

Editor: Jeffrey A. Mirus Associate Editors: Thomas P. Mangieri, William H. Marshner, Charles E. Rice, Robert C. Rice Spiritual Advisor: Rev. Robert J. Fox Production Manager: Kathleen M. Collins Cover Artist: Patrick Diemer

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