Every conversation about abortion is at the same time a conversation about human rights. Human rights comprise many areas of human life which themselves open up to a variety of conversations on the multiple facets and practical implications of each right. Discussions on the right to life are integral to the broader picture, and an inadequate treatment of question in fact undermines the work in other areas of human rights. Why is that? The right to life is the necessary foundation to recognizing any other right. The other rights, though vital in working towards justice, offer no protection to the man whose life has been taken from him. For example, any hard-earned rights for women’s respect, education and opportunities cannot be fought for the countless girls whose lives were lost through sex-selective abortions.
Human rights, particularly the right to life, are the guardians of human dignity, putting themselves between the value of each individual as member of the human family, and anyone who would trample it. However, in themselves, rights have no strength beyond that of their advocates – real people, who work to defend others.
That is what the pro-life movement has been born of – people working to defend the lives of pre-born children. It formed as a response to the assault on human dignity that is abortion. When children, in their vulnerability, are violently torn apart and discarded as nameless and worthless at someone else’s decision, those who have not forgotten them plead with the culture’s conscience.
That there is today a widespread ignorance or acceptance of abortion makes abortion not just a part of the culture, but specifically a wound on the culture. A culture that kills its offspring is broken, and only worsens its pain by continuing. A healthy culture has tremendous power to uplift, inspire and build people, but it first has to recognize the dignity of its people, including its youngest.
Pro-life activists are trying to show our culture its own wound. Sometimes, the culture ignores or defends its wounds, and we must be patient and persistent in the truth. Sometimes, like a wounded animal, it recoils when we get too close to where it hurts.
If a broken culture were like a broken toy, it wouldn’t be worth keeping. However, a culture is not held together by plastic parts, but by people. These are the people we meet on the streets. Precisely because we recognize the dignity of all humans, those we speak for and those we speak to, we see the wound as something that needs to be tended to, and healed even if it hurts when it’s touched.
Even if it can be discouraging at times to face a broken culture, two things worth fighting for are the lives of pre-born children and the hope for a culture that respects them in their vulnerability. So we will continue to show the culture its own injury until it knows it needs healing.