Bishop’s column: We must remain vocal in protecting the unborn

The Virginia March for Life on Feb. 1, 2023, in downtown Richmond. (Photo/Father Chris Hess)

One of the feasts commemorated during Christmas week is that of the Holy Innocents – the infants under the age of two killed by Herod, who felt threatened by our newborn king, Jesus. It is fitting that shortly after we conclude the Christmas season, our attention again turns to holy innocents, i.e., the unborn.

On Monday, Jan. 22, the Church in the United States observes the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. With prayer and special liturgical celebrations, we focus on the protection of children whose lives are taken by abortion.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, 2022, there were those who felt, after nearly 50 years, that advocating on behalf of the unborn was no longer needed. However, there are those who are trying to enshrine in state constitutions the availability of abortion well beyond anything that was envisioned by Roe v. Wade. The campaigns that advocate for these changes are strong and well organized.  We have an opportunity to shift the narrative by sharing the joy of the Christmas season and the divine visitation that we just celebrated.

Given the results of last November’s elections in Virginia, we know there are legislators who will pursue having an amendment in our state constitution that will guarantee abortion availability all the way through a pregnancy’s last term. This is a grave concern for anyone who is pro-life. Will the voice of the Church and others concerned about unborn human life be heard?

Our voice is expressed and heard in many other issues of social justice. When it comes to  immigrants and migrants, housing, education, employment and other elements of the Church’s social teaching, like the dignity of women and their unborn children, our Virginia Catholic Conference (www.vacatholic.org) is our voice in the halls of the legislative and executive branches of state government. We must be unwavering with our elected officials, urging that they hear – and act upon – our advocacy on behalf of mothers and their unborn babies.

We should have and will have a voice in this concern as it goes through the legislative process. This is the preeminent concern of the U.S. bishops. Within the social teaching of the Church, it’s an issue that affects all of us. Without life, the rest is not even possible. Protecting the vulnerable and the voiceless, especially those in the womb who have no other advocates defending them, is a core, fundamental issue the Church needs to express.

There are some who might say, “Sure, the Church cares about the unborn, but what about after the babies are born?” Our concern for women in crisis pregnancies and their unborn children extends beyond birth. Consider the outreach of Hope 4 Life (www.hope4lifeva.com) in the southeastern part of our diocese. They provide ultrasound services, confidential counseling, material resources and compassionate support during pregnancy and after the baby is born.

There is Mary’s Choice RVA (www.maryschoicerva.org), which cares for and provides a home for those experiencing crisis pregnancies and in situations that are challenging for them to carry their child to birth and care for them. They provide an expectant mother with no-cost housing for up to four years in order to further her education and/or secure employment.

Commonwealth Catholic Charities (www.cccofva.org/childrensservices) and Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia (www.cceva.org/pregnancy-counseling/) each provide counseling and care tailored to the needs of the mother, including facilitating adoption of her child if she seeks that option.

Knights of Columbus councils throughout our diocese are at the forefront of pro-life work. They are generous in their financial support of advocacy efforts undertaken on behalf of the unborn and in supporting the outreach of organizations that serve women in crisis pregnancies.

Since the Dobbs decision, some have indicated that they’re not sure if the advocacy for life issues is as significant now since much of this issue is in the hands of the states for consideration. That is all the more reason why we in the Commonwealth must be vocal.

Since it is local, it does not necessarily carry with it the kind of resources and strength that we have at the national level. Thus, it is important that we continue to advocate for life at the local level. The Virginia March for Life on Wednesday, Feb. 21, while not coordinated by our diocese, has our participation and support. We will join with other groups that have great concern for the right to life and, with them, will continue to voice our defense of the unborn.

Editor’s note: More information about Virginia Pro-Life Day, Feb. 21, in Richmond.

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