Before I formed you … I knew you…

By Deacon Rusty Baldwin

In the book of the prophet Jeremiah, there is a passage that I’m sure you are familiar with and will recognize as quintessentially pro-life.  In this passage God said to Jeremiah and therefore to each one of us:  “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  This tells us something about God, something about His character if you will.  Namely, that each one of us exists because of a unique and personal act of creation by Almighty God himself.  None of us was an afterthought – nor is there some sort of heavenly assembly line slapping bodies and souls together and delivering them willy-nilly to mother’s wombs.

That is why St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians takes such care to ensure we know that of the three theological virtues, faith, hope and love, that the greatest is love.  Precisely because that is the essence of who God is.  God is love and he created each one of us in love and for love.  And since we are to imitate Him in all things, it follows that our purpose, our ultimate goal in life is to learn how to be like God, to love as he does so that we can love him like he loves us, so we can love those he loves like he loves us, especially the most vulnerable, especially those yet unborn.

Now, we have recently learned that joy is determined by what we love and also that we experience joy when some good happens to those we love.  That is why we have such joy in the Supreme Court decision that overturned the infamous 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling.  We love life and we love children.  And since life is one of the greatest goods we can wish for anyone, to see the day that the right-to-life is restored to all unborn children cannot help but fill us with joy!  How long we have prayed for this day!!  Let us continue to pray that this great victory in the battle for life.  Yes, the war for life will continue at the state level, yes, there is much more to do, but is no small victory and so we rightly rejoice in this turning back from the culture of death!!!

I think it is instructive to read a few short excerpts from the Supreme Court decision, for it reaffirms what pro-life Christians and other men and women of goodwill have said from the beginning, since the horror of legal abortion began in our country.  It is also important to note that the reasoning is not based on a religious or natural law argument.  Rather, it is based on the truth that right-reason can reach when the meaning of the actual words of the Constitution are taken at face value.  That the decision is based on this kind of reasoning is a good news/bad news story in my opinion.  Good news in that it acknowledges that truth and history cannot be manufactured, wished into existence, or derived implicitly from within the so-called penumbra of the Constitution.  Nor can our country’s actual history be put down the infamous memory hole from the novel 1984.  Judicial decisions must be rooted in facts and what the Constitution actually says.  That the decision is based on such reasoning is bad news in that natural law, which comes from God and should have a central place in the moral compass of our nation, is not mentioned at all.  Perhaps that will come in time, for natural law used to have a privileged place in our legal system when we could legitimately claim to be a Christian country.

Be that as it may, here are some excerpts:  “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.  Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences.”, “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely – the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  That provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution, but any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.’”

Now, Appendix A of the decision lists all the state statutes criminalizing abortion from 1868 on, as well as all the statutes from the territories that became states since that time.  Every single state as well as the District of Columbia outlawed abortion.  There is not a single exception.  From this the Court reasons: “The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.  On the contrary, an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted.”

And finally, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”  It seems appropriate on what we pray will be the end of legal abortion at the national level to consider what it has cost us; how many lives have been lost due to the culture of death since 1973.  To put it in perspective, I decided to compare the lives lost due to abortions to the lives lost due to executions, murder, and war in the U.S.  Since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated, about 1,534 people have been executed with about 2,450 still on death row.  Since 1973, nearly 900,000 people have been murdered.  Over the entire history of our country, more than 245 years, over 1.3 million soldiers have given their lives in defense of our country.  How many children have been lost to abortion since 1973 when abortion became the law of the land?  The Gutmeyer Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., has reported that over 63 million abortions have been performed since 1973.  More than 28 times all the other causes of death I mentioned, combined.  They also estimate that nearly 1 in 4 women in the U.S. have had an abortion.  These are heartbreaking statistics.  The cost of Roe vs. Wade has been staggering in lives as well as in the cultural decline it has brought to our nation and the world.

Satan is the one who brought death into the world because he hated a life-giving and loving God.  A God who creates an eternal soul where before none existed.  Satan was envious, hated that he didn’t have that power and hated that God cherished each soul he created.  And since he couldn’t get at God, Satan decided to get at those whom God loved, through war, hatred, and fear.

How do we find our way back?  How do we transform our culture of death back into a culture of life?  Without fail, we must continue to reach out to those women who are contemplating an abortion or are recovering from one.  The vast majority of women who have abortions are young, scared, and under immense pressure from the father of the child, friends, or even family.  They feel trapped and see abortion as the only way out.  They might have chosen life had someone reached out to them.

And we need to win the hearts and minds of all Americans for life.  Children are a gift from God and we need to recover that fact throughout our country and the world.  This war is for the soul of America.  That, my brothers and sisters, is also part of our mission of love to the world.  Our prayers, our time, and our financial support for pregnancy centers like Elizabeth New Life Center, Dayton Right to Life, and Project Rachel that ministers to women recovering from abortion as well as supporting our local parish Pro-Life groups are concrete ways we can live out this mission of love.

John Paul II in his encyclical the Gospel of Life encouraged women who have had an abortion not to give in to discouragement and not to lose hope.  He said to them, if you have not already done so, give yourselves over in humility and trust to repentance.  The Father of Mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of reconciliation.  Nothing has been definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child who is now living with the Lord.  As a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.

Let me close with this.  If you know someone who has had an abortion, look for an opportunity to reach out to them in love.  If you’ve had an abortion, I want you to know that God never stopped loving you.  And it was you He had in mind when he said:  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, I knew you and loved you.  My love for you still runs deep.  And my love never fails.”

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