THE RIGHT TO LIFE:
A QUESTION OF JUSTICE

 

30 April 2007

Message of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family
on the occasion of the National March for Life

Ottawa – May 10, 2007

 

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) would like to take the opportunity of the 10th National March for Life to call upon Canadians to reconsider the inconceivable juridical void in our country which allows for the free elimination of our future citizens through abortion. We mourn the 3 million children who, over the last 36 years, have been refused the right to life in this country.

 Canadians have always been a peaceful people. We have striven to build a just society that would increasingly reflect the dignity of the human person. Yet the silent violence of abortion counters this ideal and constitutes a flagrant injustice.

 The first fundamental right

It is an illusion to think that the human rights of each and everyone will be respected if we do not begin by respecting the first of all fundamental rights: the right to life, which is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 3). It is only by respecting life from its earliest beginnings until its natural end that we may hope to have the rest of our rights respected.

 

Since the year 2007 marks the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the time has come – and is indeed 25 years overdue – to extend the protections of this document to unborn Canadian citizens. For a quarter of a century, the Charter has proclaimed the "right to life, liberty and security of the person" in accordance with the principles of "fundamental justice" for "everyone". (Section 7) It has also affirmed that "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination" (Section 15). And yet unborn humans, whether minutes after conception or seconds away from their birth, have continued to be utterly excluded from these basic protections.

 

The unborn child: a human person

Today, astonishing and abundant scientific evidence confirms the humanity of the unborn, each of whom is unique and irreplaceable. Only three weeks after conception, its heart is already beating. We have seen, at twelve to sixteen weeks, that the fetus can yawn, swallow, suck its thumb, and hiccup. It can make a fist, kick and do somersaults that are not yet felt by its mother. Modern medicine has enabled fetuses as young as 22 weeks to survive a premature birth. These babies have shown us that they can already feel pain.  Moreover, scientists now affirm with certitude that “it is not possible to accept the idea that [even] early embryos are ‘a featureless clump of cells.’” This affirmation echoes that of the father of modern genetics, who discovered the chromosomal anomaly responsible for Trisomy 21, the French professor of human genetics and medical doctor Jerome Lejeune, who declared: “from the moment of fertilization, that is from the earliest moment of biologic existence, the developing human being is alive, and entirely distinct from the mother who provides nourishment and protection. From fertilization to old age, it is the same living human being who grows, develops, matures and eventually dies. This particular human being, with his or her characteristics, is unique and therefore irreplaceable.”  This wealth of information on the intrauterine development of the human being surely helps to explain the encouraging evolution of Canadian public attitudes and opinion on this subject. Reliable surveys indicate that two-thirds of citizens say they are in favor of a law that would give greater protection to unborn human life, at least from a certain stage of pregnancy.

 

Recognizing the right to life from conception

As a civilized country, considering the knowledge that we now have about prenatal development, we cannot continue to deny the evidence: to destroy a human fetus or embryo is to prevent the birth of a unique and irreplaceable human being.

 Our communities must be more creative in supporting women and couples confronted with an unexpected pregnancy. Moreover, our governments also have a crucial role to play in this area.  We need publicly funded services that offer alternatives to abortion. We need informed consent and parental notification laws. As the U.S. Supreme Court recently stated in Gonzales v. Carhart, where it upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion: “The government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within a woman.”

 In fact, the fundamental principles of justice demand that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our laws recognize and promote the right to life of the most vulnerable among us, who are also our future: living, unborn human beings. From the first moment of its existence, the human being must be respected as a person. 

 COLF is co-sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus. It promotes respect for human life and dignity and the essential role of the family.

 

 


May 11, 2006 

Canada's greatest treasure - its people

Demographers have told us: the current birth rate – 1.5 children per woman of child-bearing age – cannot maintain the Canadian population at its present levels. Economists have warned us: the aging of the population will result in socio-economic problems at the younger generations’ expense. Scientists have confirmed it: abortion can cause sterility.

It is therefore not surprising that the organizers of the ninth National March for Life are declaring this year that “Abortion is killing Canada’s future”. On the occasion of this event, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family calls Canadians to recognize that our country’s greatest treasure is its people.

 

In light of this, how can we help but wonder what drives society to promote abortion? Many women, deprived of any support, see no other solutions. The difficult situations in which they find themselves present a series of invitations to the state and civil society, of which we are all members:

  • An invitation to offer young people a vision of love that is worthy of their humanity – a love that is chaste and faithful – so they know that the favoured context for welcoming new life is parenthood that is rooted in marriage;
  • An invitation to help them discover the fullness of human love according to God’s plan; a love that does not see sex as a commodity, but becomes “concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking (…), instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.”
  •  An invitation to rediscover the greatness of responsible motherhood and fatherhood, and to promote the beauty of the role of parents and of raising a child; to recognize the immense personal and social value of the work performed by a parent who chooses to stay home to educate young children;
  • An invitation also to offer to women, who generally take on this responsibility, the chance to be fulfilled professionally without having to give up their role as mothers – a change that involves a radical transformation of many social and corporate attitudes;
  • An invitation once again to demand and develop effective family policies that support a rising birth rate, and also fiscal and social measures that would allow parents to assume their role as the primary caregivers for their children — a dream for so many young families! 
  • An invitation, finally, to increase initiatives and services to help pregnant women who are in difficult circumstances.

 

The serious demographic challenge facing Canada requires decisive action in favour of couples and families. As Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae this action would begin with resistance to those who:

“try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth.

 

It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined.”

 

Together we must take up the challenge of life, beginning with changing our view of the child to be born. Rather than being a threat, this child is a rich resource and a promise: a promise for the future. We must encourage generous couples who would like to give three, four or five children to Canadian society.

 However, this will not happen without an active commitment on the part of those who believe in life and who choose to welcome it and to help it blossom daily, from its earliest moments until it ends naturally.

 This joint civic responsibility rests on everyone’s shoulders. That is why it is important to march for life. Being witnesses in this way of the inalienable worth and sacred nature of all life – even amidst great suffering – is to contribute to humanizing Canadian society so that it may become capable of always welcoming the new lives that guarantee our country’s future.

 


 

May 3, 2005

Free Choice or Freedom of Choice?

A new phenomenon is beginning to shake up long-held opinions at the heart of Canadian society. More and more women who have been hurt by abortion are rising up to speak out about their suffering. They do so generously, hoping to help others avoid the difficulties that they went through. Their message is clear: they made the wrong choice. Children are not the only victims of the abortion mentality prevalent in our society. Their mothers are also victims of the abortion culture.

 

On the occasion of the National March for Life 2005, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) invites Canadians to dare to listen to what these women have to say. After more than 35 years of a progressive trivialization of abortion and the death of hundreds of thousands of future Canadians, it is time for our country to take a long hard look at these past choices.

 

A free choice is a choice for life

When one speaks of choice, one must also speak of freedom - it is a value of utmost importance! Experience has shown that, too often, the mother who chooses abortion does not find the freedom she sought. Instead, she becomes a prisoner, locked in her own fear and ignorance.

 

She fears for the future and receives no psychological, moral or financial support from her partner, family or friends. No one helps her marvel at the intra-uterine development of her child, and no one warns her about the possible consequences that the abortion might have on her own health. She believes she is making a free choice by aborting, but too often finds herself overwhelmed by suffering and guilt.

Abortion: society’s failure

A necessary realization must take place: abortion is a failure of society; an obvious sign of our inability to respect and welcome all of those little lives on whom our future depends. The time has come to dare to listen to these courageous women who are speaking to us - sometimes 10, 20 or 30 years later - about the negative impact that abortion has had on their lives.

 By sharing their experience with us, they describe the “post-abortion syndrome” that led to emotional, psychological and moral suffering. Some of their responses to this suffering were drug and alcohol abuse, destructive relationships, depression, suicidal thoughts - anything to numb their pain. They also tell of the negative consequences that abortion had on their physical health: sterility, cervical cancer, problems with other pregnancies (miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, etc.)

It is a very worrisome reality when we consider recent figures from Statistics Canada: 52% of the 105,154 therapeutic abortions in 2002 were done on women in their twenties, and an average of 26 out of 1000 women in their twenties has had an abortion.

A question of justice

The personal and social costs of abortion should convince us of the rights of women to 1) know the possible consequences of abortion on their health; 2) be informed of fetal development before their abortion; and 3) be provided with other options.

It is a question of justice for these women, without even mentioning the unborn child and his or her right to be born. It is also a question of social policy, because Canada is confronted with a growing demographic decline - a birth rate of 1.5 children per woman of childbearing age - and the rapid aging of our population.

Pregnant women in difficulty need alternatives to abortion, positive and constructive solutions that favour the welcoming and blossoming of life. We must encourage the creation of services that are adapted to their needs and support those services that already exist: counseling, homes for pregnant women, adoption at birth, help from a friend or relative for an undetermined amount of time to raise one’s child without losing custody, or “adoption” of a pregnant woman and her child during the pregnancy and after the birth in order to provide moral and financial support.

 It is important to go beyond the incoherence of the current Canadian law that recognizes, on the one hand, the necessity of protecting the embryo (Law on Assisted Human Reproduction) and, on the other hand, authorizes abortion at any stage of the pregnancy.

 Certain voices in Canada are now seriously questioning the consequences of abortion on our society. COLF is one of them. Time has come for Canadians to overcome their taboos and dare to begin a new societal debate on abortion. Our future is at stake.

 

 

May 13, 2004  

Life: A Right, a Mission, a Responsibility

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family welcomes the opportunity offered by the National March for Life to remind Canadians that choosing life is the only choice that respects God’s plan for humanity.

The question to ask, at a time when science is able to produce human beings in a laboratory, is this: What has been, since the beginning of time, the Creator’s plan for life, for human sexuality and for the arrival of children into the world? What does God expect each one of us to do to promote this plan?

Choosing life means defending the life and dignity of each person, from his or her conception right up until his or her natural death. It also means walking with all those who cross our path, so that they might flourish while responding to God’s daily call. God’s plan for life involves loving both God and our neighbour, who has been created in God’s image.

Each man, woman and child has been entrusted with a mission for the common good of the world, a mission that no one else can perform for them, such as forming a family where happy children will thrive; giving the gift of time to a child with disabilities or to a volunteer organization; or welcoming a grandparent who can no longer live alone. And, who knows, maybe even discovering a cure for AIDS, making an exceptional movie, composing a symphony or developing new policies in favour of a fairer distribution of the world’s riches. 

Everyone will rise to this challenge if they are first allowed the right to live, and then provided with some basic help along the way – constant, loving parental involvement in their upbringing, guidance in the choice of a suitable course of study or career, ongoing assistance in case of an unexpected pregnancy, moral support during unemployment, encouragement in times of sickness and suffering, and compassionate accompaniment when death is near and the passage from life to Life beckons.

Throughout our lives, the God of life calls upon us and counts on us to promote and defend life, our most precious gift. What trust God has placed in us! And what a responsibility that is!

It is important to march for life, to publicly declare that life is sacred and that it must be defended at every stage of development and in all its dimensions. It is important to be involved in the emergence of a culture of life. But let’s also take the time each day to wonder about life, to love life with all its joys and challenges, and to show our gratitude for the very gift of life that comes from God.

Let us awaken with a song of gratitude in our hearts. We have been granted this one more day, this time of our lives. May we be a blessing!

Let us breathe and count each breath as a blessing. We are sustained by the air, by generations who have gone before us and are now part of the dust, the stardust and the air. We are upheld by the earth. We have a place to walk on. We have eyes that can notice the difference between day and night. Once again, may we be amazed, as on the first day of creation, that there is night and there is day, evening and morning.

Let us listen to the world about us, as if on the first day of creation. Not only are there birds, there are flowers and trees greening – even in the midst of our cities.

Let us listen to the beating of our hearts – to the hopes and fears which flow through us and beyond us. However burdened and broken our hearts may be, they are still beating and this too should never be taken for granted.

Let us pause to think about the people we know. May we not take them for granted! Let us grant them, friends and enemies and mere acquaintances, a good measure of respect. They too had their beginning in God.

Awaken to Life! Choose life!  

 

 

 

LIFE: THE ONLY CHOICE

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) would like to invite all Canadians to pause and reflect for a moment on the occasion of the National March for Life, whose theme this year is Life: The Only Choice! This March gives us all an opportunity to appreciate the priceless gift of life and to make known our commitment to ensure that human life is respected and protected.

 Each day we are called to make choices in favour of life. As Christians, we are called to be like Jesus in the world: to give life “abundantly” in a thousand and one ways, and to safeguard, protect and celebrate the dignity of our own lives and the lives of others. On this day of the National March for Life, our voices join with the voices of all those who defend and celebrate life – at all stages of its development – in order to affirm that we must always choose life.

 Each decision we make in our lives, each choice, shapes us, both as humans and as a society. We regularly make decisions that affect our own lives and the lives of others. What sets us apart as humans is this ability and freedom to choose. But the fact that we can choose doesn’t necessarily mean that we will choose well. In fact, having the ability to choose does not determine in any way the morality or the value of the choice we make. The Catholic tradition has always insisted on the fact that we must choose what is good.

 Although decision-making affects all aspects of our life, there is one area that eludes the decision-making process: the beginning of our life. We did not choose the moment or the place of our arrival into the world. Ultimately, we believe that we have both the freedom and the responsibility to choose and promote human life at all stages – from conception to death – and in all circumstances.

 This choice for life grows out of an underlying belief in the inestimable value of all human life. We proclaim that all life is good. As Christians, we believe that life comes from God. Through the prophet, Jeremiah, God tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jer 1:5). We believe that from the beginning the life of every human being is part of God’s plan: “his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life…. The sacredness of life gives rise to its inviolability, written from the beginning in man’s heart, in his conscience.”  This is why we must unconditionally choose life.

 Choosing life means being attentive to the people around us and defending and caring for people in all circumstances, especially the most vulnerable, the most fragile. Choosing life means putting in place policies that help people to balance family and work responsibilities and that promote a family-centered approach.

Choosing life means demanding the right to life for unborn children as well as psychological, social and financial support for pregnant women. Choosing life means protecting the smallest among us – the human embryo – who is part of the human family, who is one of us. Choosing life means supporting and being present to those who are disabled, elderly, ill or suffering. It also means respecting the life and dignity of those who are dying and accompanying them until the very end.

 Choosing life means first and above all being at the service of life. “We need to ‘show care’ for all life and for the life of everyone. Indeed, at an even deeper level, we need to go to the very roots of life and love.”

 


May 7, 2002

Take Time for Life

May each and every person marching in the National March for Life under this year’s theme, “Let Them Live,” reaffirm his or her personal commitment to give even the tiniest and earliest life the chance it needs and deserves! Each child is a gift for humanity, a miracle. How can we as a society embrace and truly welcome children?

 At the beginning of the twenty-first century, life seems so full of promise. Daily, scientists are unraveling many of life’s mysteries. Truly, our lives have been turned upside down by countless scientific discoveries and technological innovations. The advances are so rapid and varied that it is difficult for ethical reflection to keep pace.

 It is critical that we grasp the challenges underlying these scientific breakthroughs; only if our decisions as a society firmly target respect for life and human dignity will we affirm the inviolability of life at all stages of development. A human life is a human life: any attack on its integrity is a direct attack on our humanity.

 Nurture Life in the Family

Life is fragile within a family where both parents have to work in order to put food on the table. New life is equally fragile. Financial uncertainty, lack of support and isolation can wear down today’s families. Even if they decide to live simply, couples have great difficulty finding a balance between caring for their children, earning a living and providing a stable and peaceful home environment. And yet, it is their very love that enables couples to set up and develop the most favourable environment in which to welcome a child: a family. Within a family, the men and women of tomorrow’s society grow, become socialized and learn how to love.

 How, then, can we respond to the many challenges in today’s culture regarding the value and meaning of life itself and of each human life? How can we as a community best support today’s couples who are ready to welcome new life? How do we navigate the individual, collective and political options in our path?

 We must make ethical choices and political decisions to protect the family, the “sanctuary” where life is nurtured. We require concrete social and financial commitments if we are to value and support the fundamental role of the family for society. The life that the family shelters is a gift beyond all measure, the most precious gift that is given to us. It is our duty to love this gift of life, to respect it and to keep it from harm.

 Let Life Live!

As members of the human family, we have to affirm, loudly and clearly, that all human life is priceless and that every person is endowed with a dignity that must be upheld. We must also proclaim that each human being, created in the image of God, has incalculable worth and dignity.

 In recognizing and promoting the value inherent in each human life, we need to realize that a new life today is a very special manifestation of both our past and our future. We are connected; we are of the same flesh. It is the awareness of this intimate link between each new life and each of us that humanizes our society. Children are our hope and our future. Let them live!

The Catholic Organization was founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus to promote respect for human life and dignity and the essential role of the family.

 

 

 

May 4, 2001

Walk as Children of Light

The third annual March for Life will take place on May 11, 2001. People from across the country will come to Ottawa to stand up for life, particularly the life of the smallest and most vulnerable human being, the unborn child.

Every society, however pluralistic, considers life to be a gift beyond all measure and each human being to have incalculable worth and dignity. Life is the most precious gift that is given to us and it is our duty to love it, respect it and keep it from harm.

As people of faith, we also believe that human life is sacred because every human being is created in the image of God. The inspiring words of Pope John Paul II, given in a homily in Washington at the beginning of his pontificate, continue to motivate all who stand up for life.

ll human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ by reason of the Incarnation and the universal Redemption. For us, the sacredness of human life is based on these premises. And it is on these same premises that there is based our celebration of life – all human life. This explains our efforts to defend human life against every influence or action that threatens or weakens it, as well as our endeavours to make every life more human in all its aspects.

And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life…. When freedom is used to dominate the weak, to squander natural resources and energy, and to deny basic necessities to people, we will stand up and reaffirm the demands of justice and social love. When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will stand up and proclaim that they are worthy of love, care and respect.

While there are many threats to human life and dignity, there are also daily actions of human love and kindness and significant developments at all levels of society in support of life. Powerful affirmation of the fundamental value of human life was given by the Supreme Court of Canada this winter in two unanimous decisions.

 In refusing to extradite two Canadian citizens accused of murder unless the United States authorities provided assurances that they would not face the death penalty, the Court in the Burns and Rafay case sent a powerful message about the great care that our legal system must take to protect the lives of everyone, even if they have been accused of the most brutal crimes. In upholding the conviction and sentencing of Robert Latimer for the murder of his twelve-year-old severely disabled daughter, Tracy, the Court made an eloquent statement about the value of each human life and the role of the state in protecting human life especially when it is most vulnerable.

While we have been disappointed by the Court’s refusal to protect unborn human life in two other major recent cases, we have also been encouraged by the Court’s acknowledgment that Parliament has the authority to do so. On the occasion of the March for Life, we reiterate our call for legislation that will effectively protect the life of the unborn child.

 We also recommit ourselves to do all that we can in our families, communities and parishes to welcome and nourish life. In marching for life on May 11 and also throughout the year, may we all walk as children of light for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. ( Eph 5; 8-10)

 The Catholic Organization for Life and Family was jointly founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus to promote respect for human life and human dignity and the essential role of the family.