by Deirdre A. McQuade
June 16, 2006
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never lived to see the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, but state abortion laws had already started becoming more permissive in his lifetime. His niece, Alveda King, recalls his words: "The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety."
Ms. King takes her family's civil rights work to its logical extension, fighting for the most basic civil right, the right to life. She calls for faithfulness to the principle of nonviolence: "How can the 'Dream' survive if we murder the children?...Abortion is at the forefront of our destruction...By taking the lives of our young, and wounding the wombs and lives of their mothers, we are flying in the face of God."
The National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life sets aside June as "Abortion and All Acts of Violence Awareness Month." Abortion is an act of violence. No matter how the abortion is performed – whether by lethal chemicals like RU-486 or by surgery – it destroys innocent, defenseless life. It robs children of their siblings and cuts to the core of the family.
Black children are especially at risk for experiencing violence in the womb, as African-American women have abortions at disproportionately higher rates than both white and Hispanic women in the U.S. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate among black women decreased between 1994 and 2000, but remains at twice the national average.
Just as it is wrong to discriminate against someone because of skin color, it is wrong to discriminate based on location or stage of development. To kill a human being developing in the womb – or even during the process of being born – is discrimination based on a child's location.
Many claim that the tiniest humans don't deserve protection because they are so small – or have not yet implanted in their mother's womb. But that is also flagrant discrimination based on size and arbitrary developmental stages.
Abortion does violence to women and pits them against their own children. As many women who have had abortions explain, "something inside dies after an abortion." What seemed at first like a solution causes a whole new set of problems they didn't bargain for. Like other acts of violence, it can send shock waves through the family and even into the broader community. So many women and their families today are suffering silently in the aftermath of abortion.
Logic and charity compel us to relate the noble principle of non-violence to the unborn and their mothers. The dream of justice for all God's children applies not only to people of color in public spaces, but also to the most vulnerable ones hidden in the private space of the womb.
Deirdre A. McQuade is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.