During the month of October, the Catholic Church celebrates Respect Life Month. This year’s theme, “Christ Our Hope: In Every Season of Life,” reminds us that the Gospel message calls us to view every life as sacred, regardless of age, health, ability or anything else. The message of Respect Life Month challenges us as Christians to speak out in support of life that is under attack, whether as a result of abortion, violence, terrorism, poverty or assisted suicide.
The Catholic Church has long been a leader in advocating for life, in particular when it comes to the issue of abortion. Recently, we received some good news in regards to abortion when the most recent abortion statistics were made available. The data, tracked by the Guttmacher Institute, indicate that the number of abortions in 2017 decreased by nearly 200,000 compared to the last time the data were collected in 2011. At the same time, the rate of abortions, that is the number of abortions per 1,000 women, is 13.5, down 3.4 from 2011. In fact, the abortion rate today has decreased by over 50% since 1980!
While pundits will debate the exact reasons for this decrease, the fact that the number of abortions is in decline is very good news! This is evidence that the culture of life is powerful and more people are coming to recognize the inherent dignity of the unborn. Through the powerful witness of people who participate in events like 40 Days for Life and the March for Life, we are seeing more people who identify as pro-life, especially among youth and young adults, whom some have referred to as the pro-life generation.
I have to say it again, this is good news! We thank God for the progress we are making on this issue.
Yet, in the midst of this good news, there remain concerns. One abortion a year is one human who will never get the chance at life, and that is one too many. The data also indicate that medical, or chemical, abortions are increasing. Medical abortions occur when a woman ingests two pills, one that ends the baby’s life and a second that induces labor. While these pills are regulated, there is some evidence that women can access these pills online, and therefore the number of medical abortions may be even higher than the data show.
Even here in the Diocese of Green Bay, we recognize this challenge. Though we are happy that the clinics in our diocese that once performed abortions have closed, data from the State of Wisconsin indicate that roughly 21% of medical abortions within the state occur within the Diocese of Green Bay, meaning abortions continue to take place in our diocese.
So, while we celebrate the progress that has been made, we remain steadfast in our commitment to support the lives of the unborn and of all human beings. Let us never forget that we are people of the resurrection. This is our identity so even in the midst of darkness, we can always place our hope and trust in the Light of Christ.
May each of us turn to God in prayer and fasting and ask for our loving Father to give us the grace to see all people, born and unborn, as created in his image and worthy of protection and honor!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.