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 | By Bishop Earl Boyea

Have you any doubt that this is an innocent human being?

I recently came across a column written on Oct. 23, 2008 by Cardinal Edward Egan, the late former Archbishop of New York. He began the column with a photograph of a 20-week-old baby in its mother’s womb. He asked his readers to look at the photo carefully and then he asked: 

“Have you any doubt that it is a human being?  If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?  If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it? If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest – even insist – that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot – must not – be tolerated.”

Then the cardinal goes on to suggest that we not get waylaid by concerns about theology and philosophy but simply use our eyes, “In brief: I looked, and I know what I saw.” He then noted that this being, even if only 10 weeks or 15 weeks in the womb, is still that same innocent life. He even urged his readers to view two National Geographic Society videos: In the Womb and In the Womb-Multiples. Then he continues:

“The one innocent human being squirms about, waves its arms, sucks its thumb, smiles broadly and even yawns; and the two innocent human beings do all of that and more: They fight each other. One gives his brother a kick, and the other responds with a sock to the jaw. If you can convince yourself that these beings are something other than innocent and living human beings (perhaps “mere clusters of tissues,” as one national newsmagazine suggests), you have a problem far more basic than merely not appreciating the wrongness of abortion. And that problem is – forgive me – self-deceit in a most extreme form.”

Then the cardinal warns his readers how easy it is for people to be deceived, citing the examples of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia under Stalin. He then brings it home: “It is high time to stop pretending that we do not know what this nation of ours is allowing – and approving – with the killing each year of more than 1,600,000 innocent human beings within their mothers. We know full well that to kill what is clearly seen to be an innocent human being or what cannot be proved to be other than an innocent human being is as wrong as wrong gets. Nor can we honorably cover our shame (1) by appealing to the thoughts of Aristotle or Aquinas on the subject, inasmuch as we are all well-aware that their understanding of matters embryological was hopelessly mistaken, (2) by suggesting that ‘killing’ and ‘choosing to kill’ are somehow distinct ethically, morally or criminally, (3) by feigning ignorance of the meaning of ‘human being,’ ‘person,’ ‘living,’ and such, (4) by maintaining that among the acts covered by the right to privacy is the act of killing an innocent human being, and (5) by claiming that the being within the mother is ‘part’ of the mother, so as to sustain the oft-repeated slogan that a mother may kill or authorize the killing of the being within her ‘because she is free to do as she wishes with her own body.’”

The cardinal concluded his column nine years ago with these words: “There is nothing at all complicated about the utter wrongness of abortion, and making it all seem complicated mitigates that wrongness not at all. On the contrary, it intensifies it. Do me a favor. Look at the photograph again. Look and decide with honesty and decency what the Lord expects of you and me as the horror of ‘legalized’ abortion continues to erode the honor of our nation. Look, and do not absolve yourself if you refuse to act.”

Why try to write something in my own words when another as esteemed as Cardinal Egan has written it so well?

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