WASHINGTON (November 1, 2002) -- While Roe v. Wade remains, for now, the law of the land, the pro-life cause is winning the minds and hearts of the young, according to a draft pastoral message to be considered by the full body of U.S. bishops at their fall meeting.
"Above all, the pro-life movement is brimming with the vibrancy of youth," says the pastoral message, entitled A Matter of the Heart. Any notion that the pro-life cause has failed because Roe has not been reversed misses the heart of the matter, say the bishops.
The pastoral message was prepared by the Bishops" Committee for Pro-Life Activities and will be presented at the semi-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, November 11-14. If approved, the message will be distributed widely before January 22, 2003, to mark the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court"s 1973 abortion decisions.
Among the achievements of three decades of the pro-life movement, the bishops cite the following:
- "Today fewer abortions are being performed each year, and fewer doctors are willing to be involved in abortion."
- "More Americans identify themselves as pro-life, while the number of those saying they are pro-choice has declined significantly." (The message cites a Gallup poll noting that "prior to 1996, Americans were more likely to call themselves pro-choice than they are today"; in Gallup"s August 2001 poll, "pro-life" respondents matched those calling themselves "pro-choice" (46% v. 46%).
- "In these three decades thousands of pregnancy resource centers have been established to provide practical assistance and support to women facing difficult pregnancies, aiding many thousands in need of help."
- "Roe v. Wade"s disrespect for human life has moved some people to reconsider positions in favor of capital punishment, and to resist the push to legalize assisted suicide. Most state legislatures have enacted measures to restrict or regulate the practice of abortion and reduce its incidence."
In recent Gallup polls, major restrictions on abortion were supported by 55% of adults under 30, a higher figure than for any age group except those 65 and over.
A Matter of the Heart reflects briefly on the impact of Roe and Doe. It expresses gratitude to those who have worked tirelessly to provide services and support to women and children, to educate about the sanctity of human life, to lobby for laws that protect all human life, and to provide help and understanding to women and others harmed by abortion. It also reiterates what the bishops have said individually at various times: if a woman is pregnant and in need of help, the Church and its ministries will help her, with compassion and without condemnation. The statement calls for Roe v. Wade to be reversed.
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia is Chairman of the Bishops" Committee for Pro-Life Activities, which prepared the pastoral message.