Glechoma hederacea. If you’re a homeowner, you probably know this stuff by another name: Creeping Charlie. It is an aromatic little plant with purple flowers and a nasty habit. It spreads. It spreads its shoots into lawns. The shoots root, then spread more. Doesn’t stop. In three years it owns your lawn. Next it owns your neighbor’s.
Creeping Charlie give us a good glimpse at the growth of evil. For like Charlie, evil lives to spread. As Hitler rooted himself into Europe, France and England understood the implications. To protect themselves, they gave him Czechoslovakia. That was about as effective in stopping evil as giving Charlie 100 yards of composted topsoil. But there were no pretty purple flowers, no aromatic smells. Only the death and suffering of millions. Given a chance, evil smothers everything in its path.
So does the evil of abortion. It is not content with devouring unborn children and inflicting massive, sometimes mortal wounds on mothers. It ruins marriages and destroys relationships of all kinds. It keeps rooting and spreading. And right now, it is smothering another victim.
The right of conscience. Our conscience is the sanctuary where we listen to the Voice of God. From there we chose to live in moral freedom by obeying the law that He plants within us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1776, 1782). “[Man] must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” (1782).
The right of conscience is fundamental to our religious freedom. It came at great price ⎯ the lives of heroes who would rather die than surrender their relationship with God. The Old Testament recounts the mother and seven sons who one by one were tortured and killed for not eating unclean food (2 Mc 7:1-41). Our Catholic faith celebrates the courage of heroes young and old who witnessed to God with their lives. We are still Church today because they mingled their blood with the Blood of Christ.
Civilized society holds that no person should suffer for following the Voice of God, even in the area of abortion. Following Roe v. Wade, states enacted protections for doctors and nurses who in good conscience refuse to participate. The people of Illinois enacted the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, a law still standing. It was not enough to fully protect the right of conscience. So in 1977, we the people enacted the Health Care Right of Conscience Act. Its language and spirit are clear. It is designed to “respect and protect the rights of conscience of all persons . . . and to prohibit all forms of discrimination . . . for refusing to act contrary to their consciences or conscientious convictions” in providing any type of health care. It covers all people connected to the field of health care. It covers abortions and artificial birth control. It is one of the noblest of all Illinois laws.
But the right of conscience that it seeks to protect is under serious attack. By executive order, Governor Blagojevich now requires all Illinois pharmacists to dispense the “morning-after pill.” It is a form of birth control that causes abortions in early pregnancies. Some pharmacists have conscientiously refused to fill prescriptions. They are paying with their jobs. Corporate pharmacies have removed pharmacists from their positions and transferred them far from home, even to other states. Those who cannot accept the transfer have been fired. Conscientious mom-and-pop pharmacists are threatened with the loss of their licenses ⎯ and so their livelihoods. As for now, the will of the people means nothing to the spread of evil. For evil smothers everything in its path, pharmacists included.
There is a tragic irony in the Governor’s action: he claims to be “pro choice.” Haven’t we always been told that “pro choice” means that everyone (except, of course, the unborn) has the right to choose whether to become involved with legalized abortion? But the Governor has ended pharmacists’ choice. They must dispense killer drugs. If someone wants to abort, they must assist. That is not “pro choice.”
The implications of the illegal order are far worse than ironic. If the Governor can force pharmacists to participate, he can force others, like nurses and doctors, to participate. Several years ago, pro-abortion lawmakers tried to force Catholic hospitals into the abortion process. The bill failed, but that was then. Efforts have been made in some states to force medical students to learn abortion techniques. So far pro-life lawmakers have resisted, but if the evil gets a toehold into the right of conscience, they won’t be able to hold out forever. Proposed right-of-conscience legislation is opposed in many states. And nothing confines the spread of evil to the medical arena. Will private schools be required to teach our kids that abortion is legal and available?
What can be done to halt the creep of evil? Plenty! We must stand with the pharmacists, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Call the Governor’s office and protest his illegal action. Remind him that an election is coming and you have a long memory. Investigate the positions of all candidates from all parties. If necessary, write in pro-life candidates. Ask your pharmacy what it would do to pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions on grounds of conscience. If it will not protect pharmacists, tell it that you are taking your business elsewhere. Make economic pressure force employers to pressure the Governor for change. Insist that your lawmakers support the right of conscience. And be vigilant for any effort to spread the evil of abortion.
In 1945, Lutheran minister Martin Niemoller, a survivor of concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Dachau, reminded the world of the danger of inaction:
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.
The evil of abortion is creeping still. It will not stop. It must be stopped.
If not by us, by whom?
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.
© Paul V. Esposito 2007. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us on the web at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/