On Saturday, America commemorated the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion throughout all 50 states. Many gave witness both in Washington, D.C., and at home to the dignity of human life. In June, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down another momentous decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, one that could return abortion regulation to the states. Proponents on both sides are keenly focused, preparing for the case's outcome.
What does this mean for Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and in Michigan, where we currently have some of the strongest laws protecting life in the nation?
Michigan is among 10 states where abortion would be illegal should Roe be overturned, but a new ballot petition recently filed could change that status. What issues do we better need to understand? Where might we need to align our pro-life understanding with the heart and mind of Christ? How will we speak up for the vulnerable and voiceless at this crucial time in history?
For such a time, we have been born. Among us, there should be no bystanders in the defense of equality and dignity of human life, which begins at conception. “The only moral norm needed to understand the Church's opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person,” says a fact sheet from the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities (emphasis original). The Church reaffirms that protecting the life of unborn children is the pre-eminent human rights issue of our time.
Many Catholics may be on the fence, wounded from past abortion decisions, not engaged in the protection of life, or may even hold a different view, perhaps seeing abortion as a woman’s right or as health care. It is a perfect time to shed a brighter light on healing resources that gently accompany and acknowledge abortion trauma. Project Rachel is the Church's ministry to those who have procured or assisted in abortion, which operates as a network of professional clergy, licensed counselors and volunteers trained to provide one-on-one spiritual and psychological support for individuals who are suffering. A confidential helpline offers referrals, and Rachel's Vineyard weekend retreats bring the mercy of God to women, men, siblings and families seeking forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. We are called to restore God’s people.
“More than anything, women considering an abortion deserve support, love, and compassion,” said Rebecca Mastee, Michigan Catholic Conference policy advocate. To do this, the Archdiocese of Detroit partnered last year with the U.S. bishops' Walking with Moms in Need initiative, which helps parishes collaborate with local pro-life resources to get mothers and families the support they need. As we make known the many resources, good works, and our commitment to serve pregnant and parenting women in need, may the Church be known as a refuge of compassion and care for mothers.
Regardless of whether we attended this year’s March for Life, every person is needed to build a culture of life and a civilization of love where equality begins in the womb. When we use our gifts to uphold life, we are changed. By our witness, other hearts change so that together we will be ready to respond to whatever God asks of us.
“God’s word gives us renewed courage," Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in this year's archdiocesan Mass for the Protection of Unborn Life. "We all have a capacity to hear God’s word, which means we have ways to respond to the Gospel of life. Each of us is called to respond in his or her appropriate way. This is the opportunity we have, to be part of the new evangelization. The good news of the Gospel of life is essential; it is an indispensable part of what God speaks to us today.”
The lack of respect for human life can be heartbreaking. Our efforts to bridge understanding and division even in our families and among our friends may seem inconsequential, yet it’s important to remember that changing the culture is a process of conversion that begins in our own hearts. It is the radical love we have been given by God that changes us, drawing us close, challenging us to return this radical love, living pro-life and extending God’s mercy in building a culture of life.
Remain faithful to the battle, first within our own hearts and then outward to the road ahead. Continue to pray that whatever legal outcomes we face, we will have equipped ourselves, our families, our parishes and our spheres of influence. Resources can strengthen your advocacy for the child in the womb and your accompaniment to our vulnerable. All are invited to be part of this ongoing work of God’s mercy “to respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life.”
Kathleen Wilson is the Pro-Life and Project Rachel coordinator with the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship. Visit www.aod.org/pro-life for more information.