By Bishop Mark Seitz
On Jan. 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Roe vs. Wade. Word quickly went out that the Supreme Court of our country had discovered a right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution that would supersede every other right, including the right to life.
Because of this right, practically any laws restricting abortion in the United States would be considered unconstitutional. The unborn girls and boys in the womb could now be torn limb from limb if a mother chose to end her baby’s life.
As a young person who had just recently turned 19, I couldn’t believe my ears. I had been taught as I grew up both at home and in school that our country was a model for all nations because of the democratic principles it was built upon. Chief among these was that human beings were endowed, not by government, but by their Creator, with certain inalienable rights. Chief among these rights was the right to life. All human beings, from the moment they began to be until their natural end, had a right to be respected for their human dignity and a right to live.
I understood that our nation had not always lived those principles. The horrors of the slave trade and racial discrimination were sad examples of that failure. The denial of the rights of women to be seen as equal in dignity also had to be addressed. But I was confident that our nation was headed in that direction.
On that day in 1973, my proud notion about the goodness of our nation was shattered. Based on a complete misapplication of a right of privacy, a decision had been made that some lives were more “worthy” of being lived than others. If the lives of children not yet born – at the most innocent and vulnerable moment of their lives – could be taken, no human life could be considered inviolable any more.
Now, the individual or the government would decide and every life would be in the balance. What would keep someone from saying those with disabilities could be killed, those who are of a different color or race or ethnicity or religion are of no value?
The unauthorized release of a draft of the majority opinion of our U.S. Supreme Court is a severe violation of the essential norms of confidentiality for the court, which should be investigated. Yet the content of the draft has begun to restore in me a hope that was shattered nearly 50 years ago. It moves me to rededicate myself and the Church of El Paso to provide such dedicated care to mothers and fathers who find themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy that they would never feel pressure to seek to end that child’s life.
A community that truly loves and respects every human person, mother, father, child, no matter their color, no matter their origin, no matter whether the child is anticipated or not, will be a community in which no one would ever suggest a “right” to kill an innocent human being.
The Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz is bishop of El Paso.