Four years ago my wife was life flighted down to Denver when we she was 20 weeks pregnant, and told that it was only a matter of days or hours before she began critically hemorrhaging. She was safer, she was told, if she was not pregnant. Euphemism after euphemism was offered. She was advised to follow “Best medical practice,” to have “a procedure”, to take “the safer course”. All code for killing our unborn daughter. But ten weeks later, our daughter was delivered by c-section, and is happy and healthy and here today.
That so called medical advice was wrong, because in the end, abortion is never safe medical care. Taking an innocent human life can never be safe. Never.
While I could say many things about the pro-life cause, today, I want to talk about two things that became profoundly clear to me during those long weeks in the hospital.
First, I was struck by how amazing it was that the doctors, some of the best in the nation at helping pregnant mothers and who had devoted their lives to that cause, had also been immersed in a world that told them that abortion was a normative procedure. Think about it. These were amazing, compassionate, brilliant men and women who got into their job to help pregnant moms…and didn’t think twice about the fact that helping pregnant mothers could mean killing the baby. But they didn’t think about it in those terms. Rather, since at least med-school if not before, these men and women had been formed by a culture that gave them coded language to obscure the evil of abortion and trained them in a system of values that sanitized and normalized murdering one’s child.
My encounter with that medical viewpoint remains the starkest confrontation I have yet had, with what Pope John Paul II called the culture of death. In this pervasive oft unnoticed culture of death, economic hardship justifies killing. We are told in this culture that other values—money, prestige, a career—not only deserve equal ranking alongside the good of an innocent human life but can be even more important than that life.
This culture of death continues to pressure women even after the downfall of Roe v. Wade; it continues to hide its reality behind nice sounding words, and falsely portrayed compassion. And in so doing that culture twists the hearts and minds of our society so that somehow it is normative to debate whether a mother should deliberately kill her baby.
But this dark culture was not the only thing I saw in the hospital. Amid the seemingly all-encompassing culture of death, I also witnessed a powerful culture of life.
What brought that most clearly home to me is when I spoke to my employer here at Wyoming Catholic College. At that time, I was a full-time faculty member, and I called the dean, and I explained to him, that I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to protect the life of my unborn daughter. My concern was that if my wife started hemorrhaging, she would be put under general anesthesia, and the doctors in accord with “safest medical practice” would surgically abort my baby girl, because for all their medical training they could not understand the moral difference between delivering the baby, even though the child would die outside the womb, and directly killing the child themselves. So I told my dean that I was worried that if I left the hospital before that magical moment of viability when the doctors would actually treat my daughter as living person, that I wasn’t sure there would be anyone to speak up for my daughter’s life.
And here’s what happened: The faculty took extra classes, the entire class schedule was rearranged, and students adjusted their work schedule, so that I could stay down in the hospital with my wife and unborn child. In that moment where I was worried who would stand up for my unborn daughter, an entire college united to speak in her support.
That is the culture of life. It is that kind of culture that proclaims the dignity of human life, that recognizes it even when it is hidden and proclaims it to the world by sacrificial action—in meal chains, childcare, prayers and more.
It is this culture of life that will overcome the seemingly total rule of the culture of death. When we bear witness, in communion with the unborn, in communion with mothers, in communion with all those in challenging situations that the culture of death seduces by portraying murder as compassion, when we stand with them in solidarity and support, we create the culture of life. And this culture of life, however small, however limited, shines amid the darkness of death and proclaims the goodness and dignity of all human life.
I have confidence that a small, united band joined together to form a culture of life can overcome the culture of death, because it has happened before. In the Poland of the 1980’s, a movement of workers were standing together in solidarity to resist the fundamental disregard for the dignity of human life that characterized the communist regime, but things looked bleak. The offices of the Solidarity Movement had been raided; the leader arrested. And it was then that the Polish ambassador asked President Ronald Reagan, if he would place a candle in his window to show his own solidarity with the Polish people who struggled to shine the light of human dignity amid the darkness of oppression. And that candle spread across America. For nearly a decade, Americans lit a candle in their windows as a sign that they stood in Solidarity with the people of Poland, and that even when all seemed lost they were untied with them and bearing witness to their solidarity by this candle, until at last the light triumphed and the darkness was overcome.
Today in America, we need to light a candle again. We need to light a candle that witnesses to the fact that we are building a culture of life. That we are bearing witness in the face of the darkness of the culture of death, we are bearing witness to the inherent dignity of every single human life. And so, in my office window at third and Main, I will have a candle, every night for the duration of the 40 days for life. And what a powerful witness if everyone here would do the same. Let every home bear witness though a candle, to our solidarity with the unborn. Let us keep vigil with our candles at night, while we take turns keeping vigil on the corner during the day. And may this light burning in our hearts and windows spread throughout America, bearing witness to the culture of life that shines in midst of the darkness of the culture of death, and which will continue to grow and to shine, until the darkness has been overcome and abortion is illegal.