As thousands of pro-life demonstrators fill the streets of downtown Washington on January 24 for…
A reminder that the pro-life movement starts with us
This past September, my little sister (and the youngest of my siblings) turned 16, which means she’s not that little anymore. But I’ve known this for years based on her maturity level, the fact that she is nearly my height, how we can (kinda) share clothes, and how strangers no longer mistake her for my daughter. Only in recent years have we hit our stride and put aside the nearly 10-year difference in age and actually become friends.
Ten years both feels like a minute and a lifetime, but so much has happened since I was my sister’s age attending the public high school down the street. Namely, the political and cultural atmosphere has changed, and that has affected what is being taught in our schools.
And it’s not just in the classroom. Sadly, many of the places that should be safe for children and teens are becoming less so, and health care is among them for young women. Here’s one example.
Recently, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois — the state where my parents live with my sister and the younger of my two brothers — signed a repeal of the state’s Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which will go into effect June 1. This means that my 16-year-old sister and her friends who are 17 and younger (think 13- and 14-year-old girls) can go to an abortion clinic and get a life-altering procedure without their parents being notified.
Let me give you some context about this law. In the United States, 37 states — including all of those in the Midwest — have parental notice of abortion laws, according to the Catholic Conference of Illinois, who spoke out against the repeal in October, when it passed the state legislation. So, while these laws only require parents to be notified and don’t necessarily ensure parents the right to prohibit the abortion for their daughter — legally a minor — about 75% of states have something to protect young girls from making drastic decisions in a moment when they feel most alone and are most vulnerable.
Additionally, the law in Illinois to require that parents be notified has only been in effect since 2013. But it took nearly 20 years for it to go into effect because of a court battle that started after the law passed in 1995 — the year before I was born. And that’s when I realized: the world isn’t that much different now than when I was in high school, because it wasn’t until I was about 16 or 17 that this law was implemented. I, too, could have sought an abortion without my parents knowing during much of my teenage years. Praise God my sister and I both have loving parents who helped us understand from a young age the evils of abortion and the gift that is every life.
To say I’m disgusted and sorrowful by the decision my home state has made is the closest I can get to explaining what I feel. To know that young lives — both of the vulnerable girls put in difficult situations and the lives in their wombs — may be changed without a loved one’s support, well, it makes me sick. There is nothing loving in this legislation. It is preying on the vulnerable.
In a December statement, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, wrote: “The government rightly exercises its authority by establishing laws that protect minors from making life-altering decisions that they are not equipped to make, establishing laws that prohibit children from tanning, buying lottery tickets, buying cigarettes and purchasing alcohol and tobacco. … Minors cannot get body piercings without parental consent, nor can they undergo every other invasive medical procedure without parental consent. Removing the requirement for parental notification, our government has knowingly put our children in mortal danger and physical danger.”
So much has happened since the Supreme Court legalized abortion. And while I’m not without hope, it can be disheartening to see laws such as the Parental Notice of Abortion Act be repealed. There’s a weariness many of us feel. But having something so close to home was the wakeup call I needed to reevaluate my participation in the pro-life movement, and maybe it is for you, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean marching in D.C., donating to pro-life causes, writing to our representatives and seeing where help is needed in our communities, but it can, and for some of us, it should.
I didn’t want my sister to grow up with the reality of abortion still being so strong, but it is. I don’t want the same for my future children. It starts with us, through God’s grace. May God give us the strength to do what we can to protect the vulnerable.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.