On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States. Since that date, 49 million babies have been killed legally in our country. The court’s decision has divided us as a nation. The debate over abortion continues to rage. In every debate there is a key word or phrase that defines the issue. In the abortion debate the key word is “person.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2270) states: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his or her existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which are the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
In 1981 the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee made the following statement (S-158, 1981): “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being, a being who is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological and scientific writings.” The philosophical and political aspects of the abortion issue are not subject to scientific evidence. The biology aspect of the abortion debate is subject to scientific evidence, and the scientific evidence is verwhelmingly clear: Life begins at conception. All of a person’s chromosomes are present from the moment of conception.
In most cases, a person has 46 hromosomes, 23 pairs. We receive 23 chromosomes from our father and 23 chromosomes from our mother. Chromosomes are the rodshaped structures, which are located in the nucleus of a cell, which contain hereditary material. A person’s entire genetic component is present at the moment of conception. In rare cases, a person may have one less chromosome or one or two more chromosomes. In Turner’s syndrome, a girl has 45 chromosomes. In Klinefelters’s syndrome, a boy can have 47 or 48 chromosomes. In Down’s syndrome, a child has 47 chromosomes. But, regardless of the number of chromosomes, when a person has a human father and human mother that person is a human being and a child of God. After conception, for the next nine months the child lives in the mother’s womb. For the rest of a person’s life, he or she lives outside of the womb.
An essential fact to remember is that the embryo is genetically distinct from both the father and the mother. The embryo has a different DNA than the mother. The embryo has a different DNA than the father. The embryo is not part of the mother’s body. Abortion is intrinsically evil. Every time an abortion occurs at least one human being dies. Not only does abortion destroy a body, abortion kills a human being. This human being, this person, is made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. We read in Genesis (1:271): “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2258) states: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God, and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” Abortion is destroying our country. According to statistics from the National Right to Life Committee: • In the United States more than 3,400 babies are aborted each day; that is 146 per hour, or at least one every 24 seconds.
For every 1,000 births, there are 312 abortions. •More children die from abortion each year than Americans who died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars combined. • The abortion business is a $400 million a year industry. We need to pray that this “culture of death,” which is devastating our country, can be replaced by a “culture of life.” The words of the Prophet Jeremiah (1:5) are most relevant. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you.”
Monsignor Farmer is pastor of St. Ursula in Parkville and is spiritual director to the archdiocesan Respect Life Committee.