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The Value of Human Life ~ Maria Steen
Saturday, February 3rd 2018

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (25 March 1995) reminded all Catholics of the “pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!”  Following the recent decision to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, Maria Steen was invited to address our parish community on ‘The Value of Human Life, as we witness to the Gospel of Life.

The Value Of Human Life
Today in Ireland we stand at a crossroads. There are those who wish to remove the protection of the law for children before they are born.  Contrary to what people think, the Eighth Amendment is not a constitutional ban on abortion. Rather, it recognises the right to life of the child before birth. This is
what we will soon be asked to vote away: the most basic human right of all – the right to life – from the most vulnerable of all human beings – the infant in the womb. By taking those rights out of the Constitution, we leave all babies vulnerable.

At the crossroads, we can catch a glimpse of what awaits us, if we follow the route that other countries have taken. We only have to look to our neighbours to see where it leads: in the United Kingdom one of every five children does not make it out of the womb: that’s 200,000 lives lost every year.

Repealing the Eighth Amendment would mean changing our culture and our society, which in turn would affect our communities and our families.

Abortion rejects the ties of duty and unconditional love. A culture of abortion attacks family at its roots. It undermines relationships. Abortion hurts. It leaves scars. It takes its toll on families, but it also destroys the possibility of future generations being born because one child dies. How different might life be if children were given their chance to live?

People talk about hard cases, although the vast majority of women who seek abortions in this country – and elsewhere – are not for these reasons. The vast majority happen because women feel unsupported, or fear rejection and isolation or are struggling financially. What then is the right thing to do, the compassionate thing to do in these circumstances? Is it to say: go and have an abortion, it’ll all be fine. And then leave her to her own devices?

Or to say to her: “It’s okay, pregnancy is not the worst thing that can happen to you; this too shall pass. Whatever sadness and anxiety you have now won’t last forever. And while they do, it’s okay, I’m here for you. Have your baby. There will come a time when you feel like your heart could burst with love for your son or daughter, when you feel proud of him or her, and of yourself for what you have done, for bringing your baby into the world and giving him or her a chance. If you don’t feel able to raise him or her, there’s always adoption. I’ll be there for you.”

Sometimes, we need some perspective, we need encouragement, we need to know that we’re not alone. And that just might make the difference.

With the advent of new technologies, science shows us through an ever-clearer window into the womb that what we are talking about is a human being, a baby.  Whether the circumstances of a child’s conception are difficult, or the child’s mother is in difficulty, or whether the child’s life will be long or short, every child has the right to live the life he or she has been given. This is not just a Christian
ideal, it is something that people of all faiths and none can agree on.

Every person deserves the protection of the law of the land whether before or after birth. This is what the Eighth Amendment does – it says to us: during pregnancy, both lives deserve equal protection, never directly do harm to anyone, do your best always to save both lives.

By contrast, repealing the Eighth Amendment sends out a message to women that their babies are dispensable. It encourages people to “screen out” those who are seen as less than perfect of the next generation – because their bodies don’t look right or their brains don’t function normally.

It allows a child to be punished for the criminal acts of her father, even though she, like her mother, is a hapless victim.

It allows a child whose natural life, doctors guess at, might be short, to be put to death despite the fact that it is the only life that baby will ever have.

We are told that this is a moderate, middle ground. But what is moderate about killing an innocent person?

For Christians, this is the opposite of Christ’s example: He thought that every human being ever created, no matter whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, innocent or guilty, was worth loving – even to the point of dying for us on the cross so that we might live.

This is often described as a complex issue, but viewed in this way it is not. Every one of us has the right to live the life we have been given and every one of us deserves the protection of the law, no matter how old or young. The Eighth Amendment is a beacon of hope in a world that has become darkened by a trend that elevates choice over justice. Were we to repeal it, we would follow that well worn path towards a culture where human life is cheapened, made dispensable, commoditised. We can do better for mothers and for their babies, we can offer hope, compassion and loving support by saying “NO” to the government’s proposal which would discriminate unjustly against children before they are born and strip them of all rights. I urge you all to stand up for justice and true compassion.

 

 

 

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