We have a voice that cannot be silenced3
April 17, 2014 by Alex Johannigman
I’ve spent a lot of time since last Thursday thinking about, praying about, and taking action against SB 175 in Colorado. My missionary community has been very involved in understanding its implications and making our voices heard by the senators who would be voting on it. One missionary spent a couple afternoons at the Capitol personally testifying against it in front of the Health and Human Services Committee and speaking in person to different senators as the final vote drew nearer. Others were very active in sending emails and making phone calls both to the senators and to friends so that they would lend their voices to the cause.
Over the weekend, Archbishop Aquila voiced his concern in a letter read throughout the archdiocese, urging all Coloradans of goodwill to pray and take action against the bill. Then with only one day of notice, he urged Catholics to gather at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon for a prayer service which about 1000 Coloradans attended.
Emails and phone calls voicing opposition to the bill became so frequent that many senators stopped answering their phones or even unplugged them. Archbishop Aquila told us at the protest that senators told him they had never been contacted so much about a bill in their entire career. Opposition was loud and persistent.
It was so vocal that yesterday, while at the State Capitol for the hearing, we were told that the bill would not be voted on, presumably because the bill’s sponsors believed they no longer had the support of enough Democrats in the senate. It was incredible news to hear, not just because it stopped a dangerous bill, but because of what it showed me about the power that prayer and petition have.
This week was the first time that I saw how much of an impact a single voice (Archbishop Aquila) leading a large group of voices could have in the political sphere. When people of goodwill unite and work together, making their petitions known to both God and to those holding political power, real change can happen. The opinions of at least one senator were changed. Lives were saved. The voice of reason and justice was heard.
In the current political climate in the US, it can be discouraging to see the direction that some policies are going, and to watch public opinion on some issues be swayed by emotionalism rather than reason and the desire to serve the common good. I remember several friends totally despairing after the results of the 2012 election. Yesterday, however, there wasn’t as much of a reason to despair. The good guys won this round, and we were reminded (or perhaps learned for the first time) that we can have a positive influence in the political sphere when we gather together and make enough noise.
Thank you for linking to the bill. I don’t live in CO, so I had not heard of it. However, I don’t understand the basis for your objection. You want governments to be able to regulate these decisions instead of doctors and their patients making the decisions? I agree the bill is probably an inelegant overreaction to invasive, intrusive procedures (such as transvaginal ultrasound requirements when not medically necessary) having been legislated in other states. But the principle behind the bill is still valid. Those whose religious beliefs disallow abortion and contraception should be able to act accordingly. And those who don’t feel that way should be equally allowed to decide to act as they see fit. Not everyone’s religious, and law must be flexible enough to apply equally to non-believers, and to believers who believe differently.
I agree that the law should not favor one religion or another, but the law also exists to protect the human rights that are due to all people. I believe that a lot of things are immoral and should not be allowed, and many of those beliefs are at least partially encouraged by my religious beliefs. But laws exist not just to arbitrarily impose rules on people. They exist so that human beings can flourish and be fulfilled. We have laws prohibiting murder because we believe that humans have a right to live without being killed by someone else. We have laws about theft because we believe in a right to private property. We have laws against slavery because we believe everyone should have the freedom to choose their own destiny. Just because those laws are religiously motivated for a number of people doesn’t mean that those who don’t agree with those morals should be exempt.
Similarly, many, myself included, push for laws to limit abortion because we believe that a person’s right to life shouldn’t be dependent on their age or self-sufficiency, and that dismemberment is wrong whether the victim is inside or outside of the womb. You have to recognize that there is a difference between religious practices and moral law. I don’t believe that anyone is denied any rights because they do or don’t observe Passover, fast during Ramadan, or abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, so I wouldn’t push for people who don’t observe those practices to be forced to by law. But I do think that moral law should be enforced by society because it promotes the common good and allows humans to flourish. When we don’t have laws that protect basic human rights like life, private property, and freedom, people suffer. Shouldn’t our law strive to help people avoid suffering and the loss of their rights? I don’t think people who disagree with these rights should be exempt just because they don’t believe in them. Imagine if we said that non-religious people could have slaves if they wanted to, because it’s not right for religious folks to impose their views on others? You’re making a very similar argument about abortion. To use some of your own words, “Not everyone’s (opposed to abortion, murder, theft, slavery, rape, etc.), and law must be flexible enough to apply equally to non-believers, and to believers who believe differently.” I disagree.
You and I would agree that the legality of abortion is regrettable. Where we disagree is that I see it as still necessary, until and unless we have universal access to effective contraceptive methods and sex education in early grades. People who live in dire poverty do not have the same choices, ability to thrive, food security, or freedom from a level of stress that leads to disease, domestic violence and neglect, if they have too many children. It’s a terrible choice, but our economic and political system creates situations where the poor must sometimes make that choice. Adoption preferences are highly unequal, depending on the skin color of the child, so a large proportion of minority foster cares grow up without stable families. I think our societal negligence in being “our brother’s keeper” is our greatest moral failing as a nation.