January 19, 2024
Not a State Issue
For years now, Jan. 22 has been designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states, “In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, Jan. 22 (or Jan. 23, when Jan. 22 falls on Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.” Jan. 22, 1973, was the day on which the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion throughout the nation in its companion decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Since that tragic day, the evil of abortion has multiplied in a nation with the destruction of innocent life as well as the resulting wounds incurred upon women and families.
The devastating decision of the Supreme Court legalizing abortion throughout the nation was overturned on June 24, 2022, in its decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. There is no question that the decision was an answer to the prayers of so many as well as those offered on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. While we are very grateful for the decision of the Supreme Court in reversing legalized abortion as a national mandate, the matter has reverted to each individual state. The issue of abortion has become even more politicized, and radical calls for policies to permit abortion, even to the point of birth, have come from the state and federal levels.
The right to life of an unborn child is neither a federal nor state issue as it is a fundamental right given to us by God in accord with a very purpose for which our great nation was founded. Our country came into existence on the foundation, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is granted to all persons by God Himself. There is no legal authority that can authorize abortion as there is no legal authority which can authorize the taking of an innocent life for any reason. We have seen in the past years how abortion leads to a lack of respect for life at every stage. Abortion is a life issue. It is not a health issue any more than the taking of someone else’s life for the sake of another’s convenience would be acceptable. The state does not have the authority, any more than the nation, to legalize abortion.
Currently, in the state of Florida, there is a 15-week abortion limit, and it remains in effect unless the Florida Supreme Court decides to challenge it. The legislature’s passage of a bill to further limit abortion to six weeks of gestation during the 2023 session, and its approval by our governor, is a major achievement. There has been tremendous progress in the legal protection of the unborn child in the state of Florida. However, there is a Florida abortion amendment, which may appear on Florida’s November 2024 ballot, that would legalize full-term abortion with no protection for the unborn child. This amendment to our state constitution would prohibit all restrictions on abortion before viability. The amendment would be a radical one and would completely undermine the great progress that has been made in our state. The Bishops of Florida strongly support a coordinated campaign to mobilize against the proposed amendment which would be so destructive to the protection of life.
The protection of unborn life is a priority in terms of all of the issues that are before us today. This is so to protect innocent life but also to protect the life of every single human person made in the image and likeness of God. The Catholic Church has been accused of being single-minded in regard to this issue. However, recent debate and activity over the issue have demonstrated that those who favor abortion are also single-minded in this regard. The Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children offers us again the opportunity to commit ourselves to the protection of life at all stages from the moment of conception until natural death.
In their statement on the occasion of the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, the Florida Bishops clearly articulate, “A healthy society can only continue to flourish if based on a consistent recognition of the rights of each individual, especially the weakest and most defenseless. With this in mind, we remain committed to pursuing full legal protection of pre-born children and continue to support efforts to offer practical assistance in accompaniment to women and their families experiencing difficulties during pregnancy and beyond. We invite all people of goodwill to join us in these endeavors.”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito