2018 is a doubly significant year in the history of the March for Life. This year marks 45 years since Roe v. Wade, and 50 years since Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, the profound and controversial encyclical that predicted so many of the problems that have resulted from widespread access to contraception and abortion.
One of the injustices foretold in Humanae Vitae is the potential for governments to “impose” the use of contraception on citizens in order to achieve their own political or social ends.
Perhaps in 1968, just before the Sexual Revolution and the second-wave Feminist Movement went fully mainstream in the 1970s, such warnings seemed sensational and dystopian. But today, one needn’t look further than our neighboring Canada to see the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI taking shape in alarming ways.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-described feminist, recently admonished pro-life groups in his country for being “out of sync” with Canadian values.
Speaking at a town hall event in Ontario earlier this month, Trudeau defended a policy adopted back in December that discriminates against pro-life employers seeking to obtain grants under the Canada Summer Jobs Program. In order to receive money, these businesses and organizations must affirm certain unenumerated “rights,” such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism.
“An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion, the right for women to control their own bodies, is not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society,” Trudeau stated.
In Section 17 of Humanae Vitae, titled, “Consequences of Artificial Methods [of contraception],” Pope Paul VI lists “marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” The truth of this prediction is so apparent that we needn’t cite any of the countless examples present in society today.
But the Holy Father also adds here that “careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.” He continues:
Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.
When Humanae Vitae was first released, the thought of governments getting involved in the sexual lives of their people had to have struck many Westerners as paranoid. But 50 years later, we’ve seen this type of overreach play out in our own country with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate that forced Christian store owners and celibate nuns to include coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients in their insurance plans.
It is with such gross violations of religious freedom in mind that Pope Paul VI entreats world leaders (Section 23) to “never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined.”
“The family is the primary unit in the state,” he adds. “Do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God.”
But the unspoken moral law of Justin Trudeau and his supporters is a far cry from what Pope Paul VI describes in Humanae Vitae.
The Canadian government’s hostility toward natural fertility and the family unit is just as pervasive in Canadian culture. A recent article published by Canada’s CBC News, titled “It shouldn’t be taboo to criticize parents for having too many kids,” serves as a perfect example.
In the piece, author Kristen Pyszczyk joins the choir of complainers who chastised HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines after the couple announced that they’re expecting their fifth child.
But Pyszczyk takes it a step further, suggesting the need to “shame” couples into not procreating:
Procreation is becoming a global public health concern, rather than a personal decision. So when people do irresponsible things like having five children, we absolutely need to be calling them out.
So much for “my body, my choice.”
When Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, he knew that the threat posed by widespread acceptance of contraception and abortion was real and immanent. Canada serves as the perfect example of the moral dystopia he envisioned: A hedonistic society where the powerful employ the rhetoric of sexual freedom and social responsibility to oppress women, children, and the religious faithful.
During this 50th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, and 45th anniversary of Roe, faithful Catholics who march on Washington D.C. in the March for Life are exactly where they should be.
After so many years, it can be hard to keep in mind that the March for Life is not an empty ritual, but an urgent intervention to stay the hand of lethal force. By making our voices heard in our nation’s center of political power, we join Pope Paul VI in sounding the alarm.
It is no exaggeration to say that religious freedom and countless lives depend on it.