The March for Life began exactly one year after the Supreme Court affirmed the right of a woman to abort her child by its decision in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. Nine years earlier, in 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court had overturned a state law forbidding contraception, and in 1972 extended the right to contraception to individuals regardless of marital status. The Court’s legalizing of contraception led directly to its legalizing of abortion because both decisions were based upon a supposed “right to privacy.”
Our Constitution’s Bill of Rights does not include a right to privacy; such a right had sometimes been invoked in court decisions before 1965, but never until then had it been applied to decisions in regard to human life before birth—up until that date, our country’s laws acknowledged our Creator’s right to govern the conception and continuance of human life.
The so-called sexual revolution won its first public victory with the legalizing of contraception, to be followed by the legalizing of abortion as a measure to be taken when contraception failed or wasn’t used. Man was permitted to seize power over human life in its beginnings; for the first time, civil law protected the freedom of people to conduct their sexual relations, in which human life begins, entirely as they pleased.
Just three years after the Supreme Court legalized artificial birth control, Pope St. Paul VI published the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s prohibition of contraception as a way of regulating birth. But this papal rebuke of the first public victory of the sexual revolution in this country, in the words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, “brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us [preachers] . . . kind of subconsciously said, ‘Whoa. We’d better never talk about that, because it’s just too hot to handle.’ We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day.”
The result of that “tsunami of dissent” has done incalculable harm: It has given a license to the Catholic laity simply to ignore an important moral teaching; it has plunged Catholic youngsters into a sewer of promiscuity that is enabled by “the pill”; and contraception opens up the choice of that most effective form of it, which is abortion. The evil and the suffering that come into the lives of people who exclude God, the giver of life, from “having sex,” are intimately known by any priest who hears confessions.
Pope St. John Paul II began his pontificate by giving a series of talks (from 1979 to 1984) explaining the Catholic vision of human sexuality. He presented it as a gospel vision, “good news,” not just a set of rules; and he encouraged Christians to aspire to a life of chastity—whether before or within the sacrament of marriage (by excluding contraception), or in consecrated celibacy. In particular, Pope St. John Paul emphasized that one should never close the act of love from the Creator’s gift of life.
Simply from the point of view of reason and right thinking, contraception and abortion cannot be called “health care”—unless a child be considered a disease to be prevented or eliminated. Everybody living can be glad that their parents were not using contraceptives on the day they were conceived. You and I were all once tiny embryos—and in today’s world, in America, every child who lives can qualify as an “abortion survivor.”
It is time to reclaim a teaching of Christ and his Church, a truth that was virtually lost to Catholics in the many dark years of dissent since 1968. You and I can help undo the damage of these decades of unfaithfulness. Let us take this opportunity: Read Humanae Vitae; study Pope St. John Paul’s “Theology of the Body.” Let us reclaim and proclaim the truth that each and every human life is our Creator’s gift.