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Betsy Kneepkens: Brazen comments on abortion and Down Syndrome show why we need Respect Life month

It was the Catholic Church that designated October as Respect Life Month. October was likely chosen for many reasons, but one among them is that this month contains the feast of the Most Holy Rosary. The rosary is considered the most powerful prayer to defend life on earth. This Marian devotion is commonly prayed by pro-lifers when matters of life are at stake.  

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

Every month should be Respect Life Month. Identifying October specifically as Respect Life causes pause, heightens awareness, and helps us renew a focus on doing everything humanly possible to protect, respect, and uphold the dignity of every unique and unrepeatable child of God.  

The Catholic Church often gets negatively portrayed in the media for its consistent and unwavering work on behalf of the unborn, suggesting Catholics think other life issues are secondary. A short read of church documents would say otherwise. However, the reality is that we must speak louder for the unborn because they can never advocate for themselves. I am repeatedly impressed by the work of the lay faithful who give tirelessly to save the lives of our most vulnerable and least able in the world.  

Scripture proclaims in Luke 1:42 that God's design intended something extraordinary about motherhood and the child a mother carries within, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Way back then, before the ultrasound, it was known that another person, a complete and sacred being, was being housed, fed, and kept warm in the shelter of her mother's womb until she was developed enough and readied for the next phase of life outside the womb. No one ought to be surprised that Catholics see responsibility for the unborn.  

Working in the Catholic Church for nearly a decade, I am confident that we are world leaders serving endlessly on behalf of all matters that concern the dignity and respect due to all human life. The church's voice in the wilderness keeps the "wolves" at bay as this world tries to iron out attempts to reduce the sacred dignity due to the human person.   

 There has been a lot of news and noise coming out of Texas recently regarding the issue of abortion. I am not a legal expert, and lawmakers' recent attempt to reduce abortion in Texas is a bit complicated to understand. It seems that Texas lawmakers believe abortion is not a right granted in the Constitution. Instead, Roe v. Wade, the case used to disallow states from banning abortion, was a workaround to the Constitution to legalize abortion in all 50 states.  

Consequently, the new Texas law is not an overturning of Roe v. Wade but rather an attempt by the state legislatures to work around Roe v. Wade. Abortion is still legal in Texas, but this new law allows a private citizen to sue someone aiding and abetting an individual attaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Some would say this is essentially making abortions unattainable in Texas, because many women don't know they are pregnant at six weeks.   

As you can imagine, there was a great deal of chatter on social media regarding this law, both pro and con. There was one comment which exemplifies, for me, what legalizing abortion has done to our society. Dr. Richard Hanania, a research fellow at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, posted his concerns about the new Texas law, stating, "You can't screen for Down syndrome before about 10 weeks, and something like 80% of Down syndrome fetuses are aborted. If red states ban abortion, we could see a world where they have five times as many children with Down syndrome and similar numbers of other disabilities."  

Since our society legally believes unborn are expendable, Dr. Hanania does express very matter-of-factly our culture's norms, which makes it sound reasonable to eliminate those that are not preferred.  

If Dr. Hanania and others seek a world of peace and justice, perhaps they should look at people with Down Syndrome's impact on others. I do not have a child with Down Syndrome; however, I have many close Catholic friends who allowed their child to live. These children with Down Syndrome are certainly not "normal," because they can love others in ways "normal” people often struggle to do; they love as Christ loves.  

My observation of these individuals is that they accept and tolerate others. They seem to lack the ability to prejudge people. Their personalities exuberate in the simplest things. They are gifts to humankind, because they remind us about how Christ calls us to love others unconditionally. The world is lacking 80% of those individuals now because of abortion.  

Dr. Hanania's brazen comment epitomizes why we need a month of Respect for Life. When it becomes legal and, worse yet, acceptable, not to find value in categories of individuals who are not preferred, we can never live in a just society.  

More importantly, we are intentionally disrupting God's plan for his Creation. Every life needs to be respected; every life has a purpose. When some judge that others aren't worthy of their contribution, we can't ever have peace. When allowed to live out their God-given purpose, every person contributes in ways that make for a better world. Respect Life month reminds us to always fight for those lacking the dignity God intends for their existence. God intended those beautiful human beings with Down Syndrome and others with disabilities to make us better human beings.  

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.