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Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It was 49 years ago that the United States Supreme Court announced their infamous pro-abortion decision in the case of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, 1973. The recent oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson give hope to pro-life advocates that Roe v. Wade will be overturned entirely or at least in part before that wrongly-decided case reaches the half-century mark.

First, we should ask: What was wrong with the decision in Roe v. Wade? There are many things wrong with this poorly-reasoned decision, not the least of which was that it took a highly-debated issue out of the political process of legislative deliberation and fabricated a fictional constitutional right to abortion out of the supposed “penumbras” that emanate from the United States Constitution.

Most significantly, the Court in Roe v. Wade pretended to ignore the basic question at hand when it declared, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” That is precisely what the Court did, however, when it invalidated state laws declaring that human life begins at conception. That is comparable to the horrible decision rendered in 1857 when the United States Supreme Court by a 7-2 majority held in the case of Dred Scott that black people could never be citizens of the United States. While that terrible decision was overturned just 11 years later, it took a civil war and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 to repudiate that unjust ruling.

In a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a diagnostic radiologist, wrote about “The Obsolete Science Behind Roe v. Wade.” Dr. Christie submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Dobbs v. Jackson, in which she was joined by two other female physicians, a neonatologist and an obstetrician, pointing out that ultrasound technology “was in its infancy in the 1970s, when there was much more uncertainty about life before birth. The first ultrasound machines, introduced in 1958, were enormous, and the images were rudimentary. It was only in the later 1970s that fetal ultrasound became widely available, with increasingly detailed images of recognizably human babies. Black-and-white ultrasound images are now found on refrigerators of expectant parents across America. New three-dimensional images have put a human face on the person once dehumanized as a mere clump of cells.”

These ultrasound images make it perfectly apparent now that babies are fully alive and human at 15 weeks of gestation — the age at which Mississippi proposes to protect them from elective termination. Dr. Christie explains further, “A healthy baby at 15 weeks is an active baby. Unless the child is asleep, kicking and arm-waving are commonly seen during ultrasound evaluations. The fetal spine is a marvel of intricacy, and it is most often gently curved as the fetus rests against the mother’s uterine wall. Often, I watch as babies plant their feet against the uterine wall and stretch vigorously. Sometimes a delicate hand — with all five fingers — approaches the face and appears to scratch an itch. Fingernails aren’t visible, but they are present. We can see how the bones of the leg meet the tiny ankles and the many-boned feet.

“At 15 weeks, the brain’s frontal lobes, ventricles, and thalamus fill the oval-shaped skull. The baby’s profile is endearing in its petite perfection: gently sloping nose, distinct upper and lower lips, eyes that open and close. With the advent of 3D ultrasound, we can now see the fetal face in all its detail.”

Dr. Christie concludes, “These are the patients I encounter daily in my work as a radiologist. Clearly human, clearly alive, no longer mysteriously hidden from the eyes and knowledge of man, they ask us to consider them not disposable nonhumans but valuable members of our human family.”

We must also ask, however: what will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned? Legally, overturning Roe v. Wade will not bring about an immediate end to abortion, but will simply return the matter to the states and to the legislative process. That means that our pro-life efforts in Illinois would just be at the beginning of a new chapter. That is because the Illinois General Assembly passed the Act Concerning Abortion of 2017, signed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, which provided for taxpayer funding of abortion and removed the provision in Illinois law that would have automatically outlawed abortion if the Supreme Court were to modify or overturn Roe v. Wade. The Illinois General Assembly then passed the Reproductive Health Act of 2019, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, which declared abortion to be a fundamental right, while also declaring that an unborn baby does not have independent rights under the laws of this state. As a result, abortions in Illinois increased 7 percent in the year after the law was enacted expanding taxpayer funding of abortion and Illinois has become a haven for those seeking an abortion from neighboring states with stricter abortion laws. This pro-abortion environment in Illinois was further worsened by Gov. Pritzker’s signing of the repeal of Parental Notice of Abortion Act just one week before this past Christmas. So, we pro-life advocates have a daunting task ahead of us to reverse this culture of death in our state.

We must not let these distressing facts discourage our determination to protect human life from conception to natural death, but should rather underscore the urgency of the situation and spur us on to intensify our pro-life efforts to change minds and hearts, with the help of God’s grace.

May God give us this grace. Amen.