A teenager was once debating abortion with my friend Stephanie, and said, “Look, if you have a baby in one hand and a fetus in the other, you obviously pick the baby,” that is, you save the baby. Her point was that fetuses are more dependent on the mothers, so we should prioritize caring for babies and mothers, not the preborn. Consequently, Stephanie realized: What this young lady was saying was that, if we have to choose between saving a strong person and a weak one, we should choose the stronger.
Then, Stephanie said, “You know, what you just said reminds me of a picture on Facebook, with the caption, ‘My husband is a hero!’” At midnight, this husband, a paramedic, had to rescue a woman and her 10-month old baby whose car was in a river, with them on the roof. The paramedic jumped into freezing water, swam to the car, and could only take one person at a time. “Who do you think he picked first?” Stephanie asked. The teenager said, “The baby.” “Why do you think he chose the baby?” “If he picked the mom first the baby could have drowned.” “Do you think he made the right choice?” “Of course!”
Stephanie then said, “So it seems to me that you believe that if someone is more needy, we help them first, not harm them… You recognize that if someone needs more help, then we give them more help… When you talk about a baby versus a fetus, you’re really pointing out that the fetus is weaker… and more dependent—and you’re right. Based on your analysis of the paramedic’s rescue, though, wouldn’t that mean we put the fetus first, not hurt her?” The teenager said, “You argue well.” In a moral society, we gladly do more to help people who are dependent. That’s why we have handicapped parking spots closer to buildings, ramps at entrances, and financial programs for those with developmental disabilities (Stephanie Gray, Love Unleashes Life, 48-50).
The First Reading today says, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and they will save you. If you trust in God, you too shall live, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. The Lord has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Before each person are life and death, good and evil and whichever one chooses, that shall be given” (Sir 15:15-17). The word ‘choice’ appears four times, because God has given us free will. However, some choices are right, some are wrong. That’s why the slogan ‘pro-choice’ is incoherent. No one’s in favour of choosing immoral actions. Think about it this way: Does anyone believe in the right to take? Take what? Exactly. It’s the same with choice. Whenever people say they support a woman’s right to choose, we ask, ‘Choose what? Kill an innocent child?’ This is our first observation about God’s gift of choice.
Our second is that no one has to sin. The Reading says, “He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin” (Sir 15:20). Our culture loves to justify sin, and so everyone has an excuse for the evil they do. Nevertheless, for example, none of us has to lie when we’re in trouble. Lying is always wrong. None of us has to swear, eat too much, have sex outside of marriage, or watch pornography—we’re not animals. The Reading says, ‘If you trust in God, you too shall live.’ If we turn to Him for help, He will always give grace. And, in terms of abortion, no one has to kill a preborn person; there’s always adoption; there’s the possibility of making sacrifices. Furthermore, when it comes to speaking about abortion, we don’t have to hide our opinions; we get to choose to be calm and respectful.
Third, God sometimes calls us to be heroic. The Reading says, ‘You can keep the commandments… The Lord has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.’ But our culture has a problem with heroism. Most of the popular stories in recent years (James Bond, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad) have no heroes, who would rather suffer and die than do what is wrong.
However, by God’s grace alone, we can strive to be like Jesus, or at least like people such as Martin Luther King (who supported peaceful protests and suffered for it), or Jordan Peterson (who strives never to tell a lie, even when it’d be easier to go along with society’s lies).
When it comes to abortion, it’s true that some women say the choice to abort has helped them, and our whole society only talks about this side of the choice. Why don’t we, as a society, show the other side of the choice, just so that women can make an informed decision? Here’s a video about this other side of the choice:
Serena has been heroic in many ways: to be morally strong and coherent, to resist the unbearable pressure of her parents, to begin again with God (knowing that God still loves her and that He will forgive the sin of abortion), and to share her story and speak against abortion. Yet, wouldn’t it have been great if people had been there when she needed help the most? Wouldn’t it have been beautiful if there were more heroes ready to support her?
This is why, as we do every year, we’ll show photos and a video of abortion next week. Let’s show what the choice of abortion does. This is just a warning in case parents with young children don’t want to see this next week.
Our parish is doing the 40 Days for Life vigil so that people will have the grace not to choose abortion. Moreover, we’ve donated thousands of dollars to pro-life groups so that people will be educated, and women in crisis pregnancies will be supported. Please think about making a sacrifice and doing the right thing, so that we can help more people. The vigil is 7-days long, and we’re asking that you could take at least a one-hour shift between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. In addition, if you’ve done the vigil before, is it possible for you to take two shifts? It may be difficult, but it’s a beautiful choice.
I’ll finish with one more story from Stephanie. One time, a teenager named Mark angrily asked her, “What if you have a 12-year-old girl, raped by her father, and pregnant with a deformed fetus?” Stephanie wondered what was behind that question, and realized that he was asking, “What if you have a 12-year-old girl and her circumstances are hard… they’re really, really hard?” She acknowledged that it was a fair question and that’s reality for some people, but, before giving him an answer, she asked, “It may seem off topic but I promise you it has a purpose: Is there anyone who inspires you?” He mentioned a championship wrestler. “Did he work hard at his sport to succeed?” she asked. Yes. After asking more questions, it turned out that the wrestler had had many tragedies, and the loss of relatives to suicide, but had persevered. Eventually, Stephanie said, “I asked you all that because when you brought up the difficult circumstances a pregnant 12-year-old could be in, what I… heard you saying is, ‘What if someone is in a really hard and tragic situation?’ And you just told me about someone who inspires you who faced… tragic situations in life… You told me he inspired you, not because his life was free of difficulty… but… because of how he responded to all those difficulties… It wasn’t easy, but he did the right thing. That’s all I ask you to consider with crisis pregnancies—that we follow in the footsteps of inspiring people and not end a life, not give up… but look for ways to rise above and turn a tragedy into something good” (71-73). And Mark got it, and his whole demeanor changed.
There’s always a choice to do what’s good. And sometimes Jesus asks us to be heroic. Who do we want to be? Who do we want other people to be? With God’s grace, we can choose the right thing, even when it’s extremely hard.