By OSV News | Published January 17, 2024
WASHINGTON (OSV News)–Even with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the landmark Roe ruling, “human life remains gravely threatened by legalized abortion in most states and it continues to be aggressively promoted at the federal level,” the U.S. bishops’ pro-life chairman said Jan. 16.
“Our prayers, sacrifices, and efforts to protect human life have never been more essential,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, said in a statement issued to mark the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which in 1973 legalized abortion nationwide.
The Catholic Church designates Jan. 22 as the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. It is a particular day “for prayer, penance, and our personal recommitment to the cause of life,” said the bishop, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
With its June 24, 2022, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court negated its own precedent that made abortion access a constitutional right and returned abortion policy to the states.
“While we as the Church have rejoiced that this scourge on our nation no longer stands as the law of the land, we mourn for the more than 65 million children who died during Roe’s nearly 50-year reign, and for those that continue to die in places where abortion remains legal,” Bishop Burbidge said.
The church also recognizes “the millions of mothers, siblings, and family members whose lives have been impacted by the death of these children,” he added.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to work for the legal protection of every human life from conception to natural death. This is a responsibility that we all must share–especially now when this very protection is being undermined,” Bishop Burbidge said, noting the U.S. bishops during their November general assembly reaffirmed that “abortion remains our pre-eminent priority.”
In the wake of the Dobbs decision, “more and more states are impacted by sweeping new proposed laws and ballot referenda to enshrine abortion-on-demand,” Bishop Burbidge said, so “it is critical that everyone, whatever their role, take the initiative to learn about such threats to life in their area, and to then speak out compassionately with their family, friends, colleagues, and representatives.”
He added, “The truth is seldom easy, but it is necessary. The truth is with us.”
Bishop Burbidge stressed that “each of us” is called to “radical solidarity with women facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy,” pointing out that “the most immediate way to protect babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with loving support, ‘walking with’ them in their journey of motherhood.”
He invited dioceses, parishes and individuals “to come alongside vulnerable mothers and children” through the USCCB’s nationwide, parish-based initiative “Walking with Moms in Need.”
Launched in March 2020, the initiative encourages parishes to strengthen their outreach to pregnant and parenting mothers in their communities who are in difficult circumstances, through personal accompaniment and connecting these women with needed resources. Bishop Burbidge thanked “the millions of Catholics who are already personally living out this Gospel call.”
“Each of us is called to help mothers in our own community secure material, emotional, and spiritual support for embracing the gift of life,” he said. “Likewise, we must also support policies that assist women and their children and help families to flourish.”
“We must likewise extend the hand of compassion to all who are suffering from participation in abortion. The Church offers Christ’s forgiveness, healing and hope to women and men through the sacraments and abortion healing ministries like Project Rachel Ministry,” he added.
He prayed that all people of faith and goodwill “proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God and that each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self, and others. And may we work together toward the day when society, through its laws and institutions, protects and nurtures human life at every stage of its existence.”
As the bishops’ pro-life chairman, Bishop Burbidge is the principal celebrant of the Jan. 18 opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 18-19 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In his own diocese, just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, thousands of participants from across the country are expected to attend the “Life is VERY Good” event Jan. 18-19. It opens with an evening of prayer Jan. 18, which organizers said is “an opportunity to pray for the success of the March for Life in changing our hearts and those of others in this country.” The Jan. 19 morning rally then sends participants to join the national march in Washington “to make our voices heard as we proclaim the gospel of life.”