40 Days for Life Presentation

Published: April 14, 2019

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor gave the following talk during the closing of the Lenten 40 Days for Life prayer vigil across the street from the abortion facility at #4 Office Park in Little Rock on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Bishop Taylor

I have participated in every 40 Days for Life held here in Little Rock ever since I came here as your bishop and have managed to make it up to northwest Arkansas a few times for the 40 Days for Life held up there.

40 Days for Life gives powerful witness to the sanctity of life in the womb, offers life to women who are about to make the worst decision in their entire life and keeps the absolute immorality of abortion in the public eye 46 years after some thought we were just a nuisance that would gradually fade away.

Almost always when I participate in pro-life events my starting point is the Church teaching regarding a consistent ethic of life, that human life should be respected and protected from the first moment of conception all the way to natural death and every stage in between.

I prefer the bumper sticker that says: Abortion Leaves One Dead and One Wounded”. The reason is that you’re not really pro-life (you’re just anti-abortion) unless you care about both the mother and her child.

So no euthanasia, no death penalty, no domestic violence, a long list of things. Most of you have heard me speak on this topic, so you already know what our faith has to say about these things. So hopefully you will forgive me if I limit my reflection today to the topic of abortion, which is the specific focus of 40 Days for Life, knowing that by so doing I am not in any way ignoring the importance of these other pro-life issues.

But in terms of the scope of the evil involved, the evil of abortion dwarfs the other evils of the culture of death that has taken hold of our nation these last 46 years. And of course, let’s not forget that abortion did exist prior to 1973; it just was not legal nationwide by judicial fiat.

Throughout all of history there have been frightened women who found themselves dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and sometimes these women were treated with great cruelty. I am old enough to remember the homes for unwed mothers and even arranged for the daughter of one of my parishioners to go to the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth.

By then the girls that were there had come voluntarily, but even for them it was a wrenching experience to give their child up for adoption. But it wasn’t too far in the past when girls were placed in such homes pretty much against their will, in any event because they had few options and often they bore a heavy load of shame, especially if they came from a respectable family. I think it was a major factor in the change of attitudes among some in our society that led to the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

One of the weapons unfairly used against us by the pro-abortion crowd is their effort to portray us as insensitive to the plight of frightened women burdened with an unwanted pregnancy. The pro-choice people claim to advocate for women, to give them control over their bodies. They portray them as victims of burdensome circumstances that have gotten out of hand and they offer abortion as a solution to free these women from bondage, to undo a problem that some man has left them with.

The idea is that the pro-choice people care about women whereas we pro-life people really care only about the baby. Nothing could be further from the truth, but isn’t that the impression you sometimes get from the media? That’s the problem with the bumper sticker that says: “Every Abortion Stops a Beating Heart”… which is of course 100 percent true, but it leaves some people asking: “But what about the mother?”

I prefer the bumper sticker that says: Abortion Leaves One Dead and One Wounded”. The reason is that you’re not really pro-life (you’re just anti-abortion) unless you care about both the mother and her child.

Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees was that “they tie up burdens hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders, but will not lift a finger to help … all their works are performed to be seen.”

If we’re truly pro-life, we can’t allow that to be said about us. To be pro-life, we have to GIVE life. Jesus wasn’t just PRO-life, he GAVE us life. He said: “I have come to give life and to give it abundantly” and then he proceeded to take the cross, that instrument of death, and turn it into the greatest source of life, the greatest example of self-sacrificing love imaginable.

And then he invited us to do the same, to now take up our own cross of self-sacrificing love and follow him, which we are already doing through our pro-life activities, but we sure still have a long way to go.

One of the things that has most impressed me since coming to Arkansas is the depth and breadth of commitment of the Catholics here and other Christians — not just Catholics, to protecting human life and human dignity from the first moment of conception to natural death.

St. Joseph Helpers in Little Rock and the Northwest Arkansas Pro-Life Council are both very active in working to prevent abortion and to help pregnant women in crisis with current needs. Arkansas Right to Life, Catholic Adoption Services and Birthright work to provide alternatives to abortion as well.

And of course, our diocese plans and promotes Respect Life Sunday events and organizes the annual Mass for Life and March for Life each January, and beginning this last year, we had our first Eucharistic Procession for Life and the evening before that we had our first Hearts for Life Conference for adults.

And of course our youth office, led by Liz Tingquist, schedules our youth convention for that weekend so that our youth will be able participate in the procession, Mass, march and rally for life as well. They are being formed not only to understand the immorality of abortion but also to raise their voice and advocate for change.

And our anti-abortion, pro-life work doesn’t stop there. For instance, Project Rachel seeks to give new life to wounded post-abortive women. This ministry is now being led by Helen Malchan-Evans under the leadership of Catherine Phillips, the energetic director of our Respect Life Office, but of course our diocese has been offering this care for wounded women for a very long time.

Project Rachel was begun in 1991 by Anne Dierks, a truly great Catholic Arkansan. Indeed for a time she was director of Arkansas Right to Life, now led by Rose Mimms and then from 1989 until 2005 she served as our diocesan respect life director. And of course our diocese keeps an eye on bills that touch on pro-life issues in the Arkansas legislature, especially those that have to do with abortion.

Our current legislature is the most anti-abortion legislature in recent memory. Three bills were passed that added prohibitions:

  • HB 1439 that prohibits abortions after 18 weeks gestation, effectively reducing by four weeks the period in which an abortion could be performed.
  • SB 148 that will automatically abolish abortion in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade is overturned; the only exception would be the case of a medical emergency endangering the life of the mother.
  • And SB 2 which bans abortion of unborn babies with Downs Syndrome.

And five bills were introduced that subject abortions to increased regulation:

  • SB 3 requires reporting of abortion complications.
  • SB 278 expands the waiting period for abortion from 48 to 72 hours, plus requires emergency procedures, equipment and a 24 hour patient hotline.
  • SB 341 expands previous informed consent requirements to include information on the possibility of reversing a chemical abortion.
  • SB 448 would require abortion doctors to be a board certified OB/GYN and remove the presumption of viability at 25 weeks to allow physicians to estimate an earlier time of viability in some cases.
  • HB 1453 would require the mother to be informed of perinatal palliative care options in cases of a fatal fetal anomaly as an alternative to abortion.

And then three more bills that relate to abortion in some way:

  • HB 1399 bans public funding of human cloning and destructive embryo research.
  • SB 168 expands the Safe Haven Act to allow parents to lawfully abandon infants up to 30 days old at fire stations in addition to hospitals and police stations, and allows the use of special baby boxes.
  • HB 1289 creates a Medical Conscience Protection Act and expands conscience protections in Arkansas law specifically to include abortion and contraceptives, plus other as yet unforeseen areas of conscience that might emerge — like gender reassignment requests, for instance.

So we have a lot to be thankful for in the present environment. We are getting more favorable legislation in Arkansas than in the past. We have a Supreme Court that hopefully will take more seriously its obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us and therefore reverse Roe v. Wade and other harmful decisions of previous courts.

And the number of abortions being performed in our country, while still ghastly, continues to decline. Our prayers and our advocacy is having an effect. And so I would like to close by thanking you for all that you do to promote the sanctity of life, from the first moment of conception to natural death, and especially all that you do to mitigate and work to eliminate the scourge of abortion — our nation’s gravest mortal sin.