Our Community, Our Choice

Thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade, many Catholics wonder why the country still does not protect the life of every unborn person. The case against abortion seems compelling, so why does it often fail to convince? The greatest obstacle is fear. The opening chapters of the book of Exodus remind us of the close connection between fear and death, while suggesting that the choice for life cannot be the burden of one person—it is a mandate to the whole community.

The family of Israel went to Egypt because there was a famine in their own land. But Egypt, first a place of life, became a place of death. Pharaoh wanted to stop the Hebrews from increasing because he was afraid-afraid that they would become too numerous and strike out on their own. His solution was to command the Hebrew midwives to kill all Hebrew boys at birth.

Abortion, too, is often the result of fear. Pregnancy is scary. Before I gave birth I spent five weeks in a hospital a hundred miles from home, paralyzed with medication. Our son was born at twenty-eight weeks and stayed in the hospital for two and a half months. Yet we were very fortunate. We were supported by family and friends, nurses and doctors, local pastors we did not know, even the prayers of elementary-school children. I was a graduate student at the time, and my department assured me that they would work with me so that I could remain in my program. My...

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About the Author

Anathea Portier-Young is assistant professor of Old Testament at Duke University Divinity School.