A most urgent work of mercy

by Jeff Ziegler

One of the facets of campus life most striking to alumni of other alma maters is the devotion of this university’s students to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Whether or not they take part in the formal program that bears the name, students here strive to put these works into practice: they visit the sick, instruct those ignorant of the Faith, and, most importantly, pray for the living and the dead. Through prayer and counseling, students take part in the great work of mercy of rescuing the unborn from the death of surgical abortion, a barbaric death from the crushing of skulls, the burning of salt, or the dismemberment of limbs.

Sadly, surgical abortion is only the tip of the abortion iceberg. Chemical abortion, which has killed more human persons more rapidly than any other means in human history, also cries out for a response from Christians who strive to see their Lord in the least of their brethren.

Dr. Bogomir Kuhar, the Executive Director of Pharmacists for Life International, estimates that Americans kill 9,115,000 unborn children each year by means of contraceptives that are often abortifacient (e.g., the Pill, Depo-Provera, and Norplant) and devices that are always abortifacient (i.e., IUDs).1 It is well known that these chemicals and devices are truly contraceptive when they suppress ovulation or prevent the migration of male gametes into the uterus. It is far less well known that these chemicals and devices kill unborn children when (after the contraceptive effect fails) they alter the endometrial lining in the uterus and thus prevent newly conceived human persons from being implanted in their mothers’ wombs. The Church teaches unambiguously that these tiny human persons-fertilized eggs the size of the period at the end of this sentence-have “identical ethical relevance”2 to that of an embryo or a fetus. Truly these brothers and sisters of ours are the poorest of the poor, the least of the least of our brethren. They have no mouths with which to scream for help and no arms with which to defend themselves. If we do not speak and act on their behalf, no one will.

Drawing upon impeccable scientific data, much of it from manifestly pro-abortion sources, Dr. Kuhar calculates the number of chemical abortions based upon the standard conception rate per cycle, the number of American users of each of the abortifacients, and the percentage of instances in which each of the chemicals is abortifacient rather than contraceptive. For example, 1,500,000 Americans use Depo-Provera; thus it affects 18,000,000 monthly cycles each year. Assuming the standard 25% conception rate per cycle, Dr. Kuhar calculates that 4,500,000 conceptions occur (or would have occurred) each year among users of the drug. Depo-Provera has an abortifacient effect 40-60% of the time and a contraceptive effect 40-60% of the time. If the 40% abortifacient figure is true, Dr. Kuhar estimates that Americans kill 1,800,000 unborn children per year by means of Depo-Provera (the other 2,700,000 conceptions being prevented by the drug’s contraceptive effect). If the 60% abortifacient figure is true, then Americans kill 2,700,000 children each year by means of Depo-Provera (the other 1,800,000 conceptions being prevented by the drug’s contraceptive effect).

There are 3,915,000 births and 1,350,000 surgical abortions in the United States each year. If there are 9,115,000 chemical abortions each year in the United States-a figure that is sure to increase with the recent FDA approval of the sale and marketing of the PREVEN “morning-after” pill-then 63% of the 14,380,000 persons conceived each year are killed by chemical abortion. An additional 9% are killed by surgical abortion. Thus only 37% of Americans survive their first week of life, and only 28% survive their first nine months. Every day Americans kill 28,671 unborn children by chemical and surgical means-1,195 every hour, 20 every minute, one every three seconds, like water dripping from a faucet. In the past quarter century, Americans have killed over a quarter billion of their children.

The worldwide statistics are more horrifying.3 Estimates of the number of surgical abortions worldwide vary widely; 50,000,000 is a number often used. If the ratio of chemical to surgical abortions is the same worldwide as it is in the United States, then there are over 387,000,000 total abortions worldwide each year-1,061,898 every day, 44,246 every hour, 737 every minute, 12 every second.

We are members of what is in many ways the finest Catholic university in the United States. If much has been given to us, much is expected of us. If Franciscan University students, faculty, staff and alumni do not show mercy to these children by praying, speaking and acting on their behalf, who will? If we do not strive with the humility and gentleness of a St. Francis de Sales to tell others the truth that contraceptives can act as abortifacients that kill children, how many more children will die? Will not innocent blood be upon our hands?

The world is enveloped in the culture of death. Each day, as it were, we breathe the air of death, trod the ground of death, and gaze upon the landscape of death. In chemical and surgical abortion, we face the greatest corporal moral evil any generation has ever faced. But the Holy Spirit gives us hope through the Sacred Scriptures: “[W]here sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20)

Let us beg for that grace which alone can overcome the culture of death. In prayer and especially in the sacraments, we can beg Our Lord for the grace of heroic chastity and heroic simplicity so that we can choose to accept our future sons and daughters (or use NFP if there are serious reasons) rather than kill them. If, one day, we have surplus financial resources, we can beg Him for the grace to assist friends and relatives in financial need so that they may welcome their children rather than kill them. We can also beg Him for the grace to inform others about chemical abortion so that innocent lives may be spared, a duty especially incumbent upon us if God should raise us to the clerical or religious state or place us in a position of public influence. Then we can beg Him for the grace to endure, and even welcome joyfully, the ridicule, ostracism, and persecution that are bound to follow.

Surgical abortion and chemical abortion may well kill 12 children every second. Nearly 3,000 more children may have been killed during the four minutes you have spent reading this article. What are you going to do about it?

Jeff Ziegler, a graduate of Princeton, has worked for FUS since 1994. He has written a lengthier article on abortifacients which appears in the October 1998 issue of the New Oxford Review.

  1. Bogomir M. Kuhar, Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives (Bardstown, KY: Eternal Life, third ed. June 1998) 62. This figure is the mean of Dr. Kuhar’s high and low estimates. ↑
  2. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Donum Vitae (February 22, 1987) Foreword. ↑
  3. Father Richard Welch, CSSR, the President of Human Life International, says that “the number of abortions [chemical and surgical] worldwide now surpasses the number of live births.” (“HLI Ready to Step Up Fight for Life,” National Catholic Register, July 26-August 1, 1998, 16.) ↑