This weekend, the United States Bishops encourage the celebration of Respect Life Sunday, which is meant to bring awareness and renewed vigor to a whole host of pro-life issues in the world: abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, genocide, contraception, reproductive technologies, and more.
The Bishops, various Catholic media outlets, and pro-life organizations within the United States rightly suggest that Catholics should enter the public discourse to promote individuals, groups, and policies that uphold the sanctity of human life. But what is one to do when voting for anti-abortion candidates isn’t enough? What if Roe v. Wade is never overturned? Should Catholics look around, shrug their shoulders, and congratulate themselves for a good effort?
This Respect Life Sunday, here are 5 suggestions to promote and protect life at its earliest stages. These are not public policy positions, but actionable items that take place within the most basic units of society: our families and our immediate communities.
1. Consider announcing a pregnancy as soon as possible
According to 2012 CDC statistics, more than 90% of abortions take place before 13 weeks of gestation. It is difficult to promote a culture that respects life from the moment of conception if couples, extended families, workplaces, and societies consider the first trimester of pregnancy to be a medical condition a woman should hide. Instead, share and celebrate the creation of a new life as soon as possible!
2. Don’t be quiet about miscarriage
Many couples choose not to announce their pregnancies until 13 weeks gestation or more because the risk of miscarriage greatly decreases. If Catholics believe that life begins at conception, then a miscarriage is a loss of a life and that life can be acknowledged. If miscarriage happens within your own family, contact a the church or a funeral home about the different options for prayer and rituals on the occasion of miscarriage or stillbirth. If you know someone who experiences a miscarriage, acknowledge it. Often, families are dealing with grief that most of society doesn’t acknowledge. Say something as simple as “I’m so sorry.” Take a meal. Offer a mass. Consider anything that you would use to show sympathy if the person had lost a relative that had been alive for many years.
3. When an unmarried woman says she’s pregnant, do anything and everything you can to support her.
Congratulate her, and mean it. Be excited that a life has been created. Bring her gifts for the baby. Buy diapers. Let her live with you. Let her know you love her, no matter what. Statistically, the woman most likely to seek an abortion is a white, single, Catholic woman in her 20s who lives on less than 200% of the federal poverty line and already has at least one child.
4. Offer free babysitting, help with chores, or do any other job that can help a mother feel less overwhelmed.
Almost 60% of women who have abortions have already had at least one previous birth, and the three most common reasons given for seeking an abortion are 1) the child would interfere with the mother’s education, employment, or ability to care for other dependents 2) the woman cannot afford to have a baby and 3) that she is/would be a single mother or is having relationship problems. Help a woman to feel secure in her ability to provide for her family and not overwhelmed by her responsibilities.
5. At appropriate times, show children pictures of babies in the womb
When there is a pregnancy in the family or when it’s time for “the talk”, consider showing children pictures of developing children. Knowing and seeing that the beginnings of a mouth, eyes, and nose are present in a 5-week old embryo can shift a perspective that otherwise might consider it “just a cluster of cells.
To be clear, abortion is not the only pro-life issue the catholic church stands for. For more ways to be pro-life across the entire spectrum of living, see this great list of 100 by Meg Hunter-Kilmer.
St. Helen Parish
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