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A House Divided

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July 2014

Some things take on lives of their own.  It was late summer 1982.  Violinist Jay Ungar had put to bed his third annual fiddle-and-dance camp held in upstate New York.  Ungar loved the community spirit within the camp, and its closing left him with a deep sense of loss and longing.  Returning home, he composed waltz music in the style of a Scottish lament.  Naming it after the camp area, Ungar called it Ashokan Farewell.  For months, it brought him to tears.

In 1984, the music moved filmmaker Ken Burns.  He soon obtained permission to use it for his documentary, The Civil War.  There, Ashokan Farewell took on a life of its own.  Burns played it 25 times during the eleven-hour series.   Its melody moved our hearts and brought us to tears as we watched the tragedy of the war enfold before our eyes.  Ashokan Farewell will forever remain synonymous with a very sad time in our history.

The Civil War was a battle for power and control, but on a deeper level it was a battle for our nation’s soul.  From its small beginnings here in about 1619, human slavery had become an American institution.  It polarized the country.  Although we, the people, had declared our inalienable right to liberty, slavery raised a fundamental question: do black people enjoy the same right?  Attempts at legislative compromise allowing slavery in certain states did not hold in the face of outrage over the moral injustice.  Tempers flared into violence.  In Congress, an irate congressman battered a senator with his cane.  In 1857 the Supreme Court declared that slave Dred Scott was mere property under the Constitution.  The decision only made matters worse as opposition to slavery intensified.  Congress lost its power to govern as states dug in over the issue.  Following Lincoln’s election, eleven states seceded from the Union.  We became a house divided, a country at war with itself.  Relatives, friends, even close family members were forced to choose sides.  Brothers fought and died on opposite sides of the battlefield.

The Civil War ended on April 9,1865, but only officially.  The fight against racial segregation and discrimination continued; thankfully, much progress has been made.  Today we fight another battle, again for our nation’s soul.  At issue whether an unborn baby conceived within a woman’s womb has an inalienable right to grow there and ultimately be born.  It is about life and liberty.  In a 1973 ruling both legally incorrect and morally unjust, a divided Supreme Court said no.

The Court probably had no idea where that ruling would take this country.  It viewed legal abortion as a way to help women, whether poor or abandoned by partners, facing the prospect of an unwanted child.  Since then, legal abortion has taken on a life of its own.  The killing of human beings now fuels a multi-billion dollar industry heavily infused with taxpayer dollars.  Our school systems teach that abortion is just another option.  Legal abortion has spawned a sex culture that relies on violence to solve problems of mistaken judgment.  And legal abortion has become the big white elephant in the closet of our political process.  Because of it, political discourse is hard-edged.  Compromise on any subject rarely happens.  The appointment of judges is incredibly expensive and difficult.  Our nation has again become a house divided.

For some, that’s just fine.  It’s a universal truth that those with power, money, or both don’t like surrendering them.  In fact, they usually want more.  Abortion profiteers in industry and politics have learned how to make that work.  They have concocted a “war against women.”  They sidle up to women by claiming that the right to sexual freedom includes the right to kill an unborn baby.  Those opposing legal abortion are supposedly making war on women.  The cry “war on women” has become the pro-abortion mantra. It’s totally untrue.

The so-called reproductive freedom to kill an innocent unborn baby is not a freedom at all.  Men do not have freedom to rape.  Why would women have freedom to kill?  As for it being a “war,” no war has ever been fought over the right to kill a baby.  Would people risk their own lives so that someone may kill the most defenseless of all?  Would someone do it so that others could make billions of dollars or hold power?  Wars are often fought for senseless reasons, but none that senseless.  And in this very senseless “war,” half of the unborn babies are female.  Over 28 million have been killed.  That’s not to mention the hundreds of confirmed deaths of women undergoing legal abortions.  So just who is making war on whom?

There is another reason why this so-called war is phony.  If there is a war against women, why do so many women disagree about it?  Why have millions of women concluded that legal abortion is very bad?  It’s because they understand legal abortion causes war within women.   God gave us all a body and soul intended to work in tandem.  But to woman alone He also gave a unique gift-the ability to bear another human being within her.  A woman is physically, emotionally, and spiritually wired to serve in that role for her child’s entire life.  Call it maternal instinct, call it anything else, a mother will protect her child with her own life.  She will sacrifice everything for the good of that child.  She will starve herself before she allows her child go hungry.  She will give up creature comforts of every kind.  And she knows deep in her soul that it is right to do so. Everything about her works together, just like God plans.

Abortion divides a woman.  It divides her body from her soul. It tells her to put herself ahead of her child.  It tells her that her baby is a blob not worth the sacrifice, that her situation can be bettered by taking the life of her own child.   It is why her decision to abort is gut wrenching; a woman must fight against her nature.  And it is why she often feels a lifetime of regret and self-loathing following an abortion.  In denying her child, she denied herself.

Legal abortion has turned woman into a house divided.  It is a tragedy beyond word.  If it hasn’t moved us to tears, it should.

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 and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2014.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us at and on Facebook.

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