Soon after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed New York’s most radical abortion law to date this past January, one of my staff shared with me this story about a family whose unborn child was diagnosed with severe handicaps. Given the choice to abort, the parents, Krysta Davis and Derek Lovett, decided instead that their daughter Rylei should be born and that her organs would be donated upon her natural death. She lived for only a few days. But she transformed the lives of her parents – who are forever changed by knowing her – and the lives of all the infants who received her donated organs, not to mention their families, friends and so on.
These infants will go on to have lives like the rest of us, full of dreams and joys among the disappointments and sadness. Such is the human experience. But all of this is made possible because of the life of this one child who only lived for a few days outside her mother’s womb.
Estimates suggest that here in the United States, over 60 million children have been aborted since abortion was legalized.
As I consider the newly signed legislation in New York, along with proposed legislation in New Mexico, Illinois, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Maine that would remove most restrictions, I cannot help but be concerned that we are losing any sense of what it means to be human. Fortunately, similar legislation in Virginia was defeated.
History is replete with examples of those who were considered less than human by those in power. Clearly, we have not learned from the past. Rather, we seem doomed to repeat it.
When I think of the impact that this one infant had, living only for a few days, I think of how much we have lost in the 60 million abortions: millions of children, family members, spouses, friends; millions of people who could have helped make the world a better place; millions who may have been the innovators of our society – scientists, doctors, artists, and so on. I wonder how many problems could have been solved had these children been allowed to be born. Mostly, though, I wonder about the love that each one of them could have received and given.
While these new laws are no doubt setbacks, they are also a call to action for all of us. We need to ask ourselves, “How am I prepared to help a woman or girl faced with a difficult pregnancy?” For example, many pro-life parents, sadly, create a perceived need for abortion when they warn their daughters that if they ever get pregnant, they will be kicked out of the house or suffer some other severe treatment. While everyone can appreciate that it’s not ideal for a dependent child to get pregnant outside of marriage, it is a challenge that the human race has faced and overcome for millennia. It’s life and we must be prepared to support women in these situations, no matter what.
Currently, at least five states are considering bills that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida and South Carolina). Other states are seeking to toughen requirements for reporting abortion-related complications to state health officials and prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion if they know the woman seeks it solely because of a Down syndrome diagnosis (Arkansas). Oklahoma is considering a bill that would include abortion in the state’s definition of felony homicide, potentially punishable by life in prison.
I ask that you also look to yourselves as parishes. Are you ready and able to help people facing difficult pregnancies? Are you aware of local resources? Do you support them?
We are the frontlines of the abortion debate. In my experience, a woman who has an abortion feels as if she has no choice but to terminate her unborn child’s life. As the communities surrounding each one of these women, we can help them to make the choice of life. We can also work to make men accountable for the children they father.
This battle must be fought on multiple fronts. The legislative efforts are only one part of it. Each and every one of us must do what we can to create a society in which abortion is unthinkable and undesired.
On March 1, we screened the new film Unplanned at the Freed Theater. The film documents the story of Abby Johnson who went from being a director at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas to a national pro-life activist. Like many, Abby was drawn in by the abortion rhetoric. But years of experience finally convinced her of the lies of abortion. She realized her part in the deaths of so many innocent live. Lives that could have had a positive impact on the world even if they lived only a few days like Rylei.
Rylei didn’t have the life that her parents planned for her when they first learned that she existed, but she had a life that was worth living. Her mother Krysta said, “We were able to fit an entire lifetime of love into that one week with her that wasn’t promised to begin with.”