Back in 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court concocted the right to abortion, people screamed bloody murder — and they meant that literally. Pro-lifers have spent more than four decades praying, working and campaigning to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us: the unborn child.
It’s been an uphill battle. The defenders of the right to life have been threatened, sued, jailed, insulted and scorned for their beliefs and practices. Happily, quite a few of them have been elected to public office.
Organizations like the Arizona Catholic Conference, the Bioethics Defense Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom have worked hard to help get laws enacted that protect mothers and their unborn babies. It hasn’t been easy.
I can recall one sweltering summer day just a few years ago when our then-governor vetoed a ban on the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion as well as a measure that strengthened parental consent laws.
A few of us stood outside her office the night before the veto, praying that she might relent. Given that she was the keynote speaker that year at the Planned Parenthood luncheon celebrating Roe, it was a long shot.
We were dealing with the same person who, as Arizona’s attorney general, refused in 1997 to defend a ban on partial-birth abortion when a federal judge said it was unconstitutional.
Fast forward to 2012: a law banning abortions after 20 weeks was passed by the Arizona Legislature, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer and ruled constitutional by Federal District Court Judge James A. Teilborg on July 30.
Nikolas T. Nikas of the BDF was ecstatic over the news.
“This ruling should be studied by everyone in the pro-life movement,” Nikas said, “because it foreshadows the day that the Supreme Court will return the abortion issue back to the state legislatures to act on their legitimate interests in protecting women and unborn children from the unspeakable violence of abortion.”
Unfortunately, the celebration lasted less than 48 hours. On Aug. 1, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to issue a preliminary injunction.
About 100 unborn babies in Arizona are killed every year in abortions that take place after 20 weeks. By then, most pregnant women can feel their child moving about the womb, tap-tap-tapping, as if to say, “Hi there, Mom. I’m living within you, waiting for the day we’ll meet face to face!”
But none of that matters to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Not the will of the people of Arizona, not the votes of the duly elected state legislators, not the ruling of an esteemed federal judge, not the scientific proof that an unborn child at 20 weeks suffers pain as he or she is torn apart.
The judges want to see more evidence that a law against pulling the arms and legs off tiny humans is truly needed. Really?
John Jakubczyk, a local attorney and past president of Arizona Right to Life, was steamed when he heard the news. I sprang it on him at a dinner for the outgoing director of 1st Way Pregnancy Center, one of the many pro-life clinics in town that assist women who are in crisis pregnancies rather than making money off them by destroying the life growing within them.
The Ninth Circuit ruling, he said, “is just another example of their extremism and the fact that they are out of touch with the legal system. Their failure to recognize the humanity of the unborn child and the health needs of the mother point out the problem of our current judicial system.”
I couldn’t agree more. I don’t know what it’s going to take to convince those who are charged with defending justice in our nation that the killing of the smallest, most innocent among us is a grave injustice.
Let’s recommit ourselves to prayer, fasting and education in this regard. And let’s find out where the candidates stand on this issue before we vote. Check out the voter’s guide at www.azcatholicconference.org.
This column appears in the Aug. 16, 2012, print edition of The Catholic Sun.