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Center Stage

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September 2011

First appearing on stage at age fourteen months, he likened the spotlight to his mother’s womb.  Now almost 91, he still might not be done acting. Mickey Rooney is possibly the most seasoned actor in entertainment history. He has performed in at least 174 movies (one in 2010) and 78 short subjects. His stage and television career has spanned decades. Rooney has starred with Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, Nathan Lane and a host of screen and stage giants.

After years of light movies, Rooney’s breakout dramatic role came in 1938 when he co-starred with Spencer Tracy in Boy’s Town. But it was Tracy who won the best actor award for his portrayal of Fr. Edward Flanagan, an Irish priest who in 1921 established a home for boys outside Omaha, Nebraska. Fr. Flanagan’s work was grounded on a simple rule: “There are no bad boys. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, and bad thinking.” No boy was unwanted, and Fr. Flanagan spent his life seeking a place for every one.

Children have not always been spared from man’s inhumanities.  In fact, they have even been the targets. The ancient Spartans, a warrior people, would throw unhealthy looking infants off Mt. Taigetos. In Nazi Germany, the Reich separated orphans, children with disabilities and behavior problems, and other “imperfect” kids from their families. The Nazis wanted to purify the bloodline of the master race. Just days after the war’s start, Hitler issued a decree authorizing doctors to kill children. And they did, but not before subjecting many to experimentation. Brokenhearted parents were told that their murdered children died from flu.

Doctors here received their licenses to kill not by a dictator’s decree but by a court’s judgment. Since 1973, over 53 million unborn babies have been legally dismembered, scalded, crushed, and trashed. But we don’t claim to do it for harsh sounding reasons like strengthening our military or purifying a bloodline. We mask our brutality with notions of fairness and compassion. It’s only fair, we say, that a woman be allowed to take the life of a baby she chooses to not carry.  It lacks compassion, we maintain, to make a woman bear a child suffering from disabilities or conceived out of rape or incest.  We even claim that abortion can be a compassionate alternative to birth.  Back in my college days, a professor invoked the Bible in suggesting that it would be better that a baby “not be born” than to be born unwanted.  Ironically, that Bible verse warns that it would be better to not be born than to betray the Son of Man (Mk: 14:21). It’s amazing how far we can wander off script.

By definition, every aborted child is unwanted. But we need to be honest about why most are unwanted. Only about six percent of all abortions are performed for reasons of rape, incest, or the mother and child’s health combined. Most babies are aborted because they are inconvenient for one reason or another. The parents wanted the sexual relationships. What they didn’t want is the responsibility to abstain out of marriage or naturally plan during marriage. Sadly, we are killing babies for our own comfort.

But what about babies conceived out of rape or incest? Another Bible verse reminds us that we must not punish a child for the sins of his father. But Bible aside, killing a baby is unjust under any civilized standard. Abortion is not an act of self-defense; the crime is over long before the abortion occurs. Besides, we do not allow victims to take the law into their own hands in dealing with criminals. Why should a mother be allowed to kill an innocent unborn baby? Children can be placed for adoption; countless couples would gladly adopt children conceived in rape or incest. And in the end, abortion only harms women more. They must live not only with pain as victims of crime but also with guilt for causing the death of their own children.

Aborting an unwanted baby is a very one-sided affair. We never get to hear from the baby, and that’s wrong because an abortion involves two humans. But just how do we give voice to the unborn?  Perhaps by listening to the voices of abortion survivors.  Gianna Jensen, now 24, was in the process of dying by saline abortion. She survived because the abortionist was late for work. She remained in the hospital for months and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy caused by the abortion. “I am happy to be alive. I almost died. Every day I thank God for life.”  Sarah Smith, now 31, survived because the abortionist didn’t realize that Sarah’s mother was carrying twins. Born with bilateral, congenital dislocated legs and many other handicaps, Sarah still thanks God that she survived abortion.  And then there was the mother chose life even though told that her son would likely be disabled. He was born with severe glaucoma. By age twelve he was blind. But God had gifted tenor Andrea Bocelli with a voice and a will to use it for good. It’s been said that if God sings, He sounds like Bocelli.

There lies our greatest mistake: we have tried to switch places with God.  All life comes from Him, not us; we only cooperate in the process. Saying that it would be better that an unwanted child be aborted speaks not of our compassion but of our arrogance. It is saying that God made a mistake. It is saying that we know better than God, and we must correct His error by killing an unwanted unborn baby. We have thrust ourselves onto center stage, somehow thinking that we have a right to play God with another’s life. But we don’t get it.

Truth be told, every child is a wanted child, wanted by God. He allows bad things to happen so that good can come from them and His greatness may be revealed. A child can bring comfort and healing to a victim of rape or incest. A child can bring fulfillment and indescribable joy to a couple longing for family. A child can uplift the heart of every person watching him overcome a disability. A child can let us hear how God sings. That’s God’s plan, and it will work for the good of all if trust in Him. It can be difficult. But that’s why God gives us each other.

God belongs on center stage, not us. He’s a whole lot better in the starring role.

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 are raising their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2011.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Comments? Visit us at

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