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Forty years have passed since the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade decision, on January 22, 1973, and our country has never been the same since. Abortion is the worst domestic crime ever sanctioned by America, and the statistics become more grim by the year: nearly 60 million unborn children have been legally murdered since Roe.

Because of the confused times we live in, the full extent of this evil has not yet been recognized. In the Fall of 2013, for instance, Pope Francis gave an interview which was interpreted—or rather, misinterpreted—as downplaying the ongoing abortion Holocaust, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” he said. While the Church’s teaching is clear, he went on, “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent,” Francis continued. “The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” He said that the Church should instead be highlighting the “essentials of the Gospel”—the love, mercy and salvific power of Jesus Christ—because “it is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

Francis was trying to explain how the moral teachings of the Church are woven within the larger fabric of the Gospel, and how evangelization should be advanced in that context, but that is not how it was received. The pope’s  comments, particularly his use of the word “obsessed,” were employed to mercilessly attack social conservatives and to denigrate the pro-life movement. “Pope Says the Church is ‘Obsessed’ with Gays, Abortion, Birth Control,” blared the New York Times. “Pope Seeks Less Focus on Abortion, Gays, Contraception,” followed USA Today.

Despite all of this, there are more reasons to hope in the pro-life movement than to despair because of abortion. For one thing, this particular papal interview, not to mention the sensational headlines which followed, did not do justice to Francis’s own pro-life record, which is outstanding.

Let us remember, too, that, appearing before a crowd of tens of thousands in Rome early in his papacy, Francis said, “I greet the participants of the March for Life which took place this morning in Rome and invite everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.” He then joined the 40,000 marchers on the ground, to express his solidarity with them, and pro-lifers throughout the world cheered. Today, this extraordinary event is rarely mentioned.

Then there is the revealing fact that many leaders of the “pro-choice” movement have themselves openly acknowledged what abortion really is. “We know that it is killing, but the state permits killing under certain circumstances,” says the founder of a Milwaukee abortion clinic. Camille Paglia, the outspoken feminist, is even more blunt:

The pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly involved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. . . . Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue.

Even more encouraging is the fact that, despite forty years of pro-abortion propaganda, half of all Americans still describe themselves as pro-life. Since their activism began, peaceful pro-lifers have endured jeers, contempt, unjust arrests, and even violence. Though the media has largely ignored their witness, (even as it has covered fringe extremists, never part of the authentic pro-life movement), they have marched on nonetheless.

This January 22, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers will march in Washington, as they do every year, to speak, pray, and bear witness to the fundamental right to life that every American citizen is entitled to. Let us join them—if not by marching, then in spirit—in peace and in hope, undeterred.

William Doino Jr. is a contributor to Inside the Vatican magazine, among many other publications, and writes often about religion, history and politics. He contributed an extensive bibliography of works on Pius XII to The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XIIHis previous articles can be found here.

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