As the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision approached, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities urged everyone concerned about "the tragedy of abortion" to recommit themselves to a "vision of life and love, a vision that excludes no one."
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York also called on Catholics to participate in a new "9 Days for Life" campaign launched by the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
The centerpiece of the campaign is a Jan. 16-24 novena, which has "as its overarching intention the end to abortion, according to the website 9daysforlife.com. Details about the campaign also are explained in a YouTube video: http://youtu.be/gxJwfcefUiU.
The campaign makes use of something the founders of the pro-life movement decades ago would never have imagined: social media. The novena is meant to be shared with the online community through social media posts, videos and selfies labeled #9DaysforLife.
Each day's prayer guide -- in English or Spanish -- can be accessed through an app, email or text message and people can follow the novena campaign on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Those taking part can express why they are involved in the pro-life movement and what it means to them and receive daily email messages or texts reminding them to pray and providing suggested readings.
In addition to a prayer to end abortion, there also is a focus on a wide range of life issues. Participants are urged to discuss these issues and even are provided discussion topics and activities.
A "Leaders' Toolkit" with various resources and graphics is available for parishes, schools, dioceses, ministries and other organizations to use to promote involvement in the campaign. It can be accessed via this link: http://tinyurl.com/j6lrmqc.
"Most Americans oppose a policy allowing legal abortion for virtually any reason -- though many still do not realize that this is what the Supreme Court gave us," Dolan said in a statement released Jan. 15.
The Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions in 1973 legalized abortion virtually on demand.
"Most want to protect unborn children at later stages of pregnancy, to regulate or limit the practice of abortion, and to stop the use of taxpayer dollars for the destruction of unborn children," he continued. "Yet many who support important goals of the pro-life movement do not identify as 'pro-life,' a fact which should lead us to examine how we present our pro-life vision to others."
Dolan said that "even as Americans remain troubled by abortion," what he described as a powerful and well-funded lobby feels "that abortion must be celebrated as a positive good for women and society, and those who cannot in conscience provide it are to be condemned for practicing substandard medicine and waging a 'war on women.'"
He expressed regret that in 2015 Congress did not pass into law the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which would have protected medical workers' right to decline to participate in elective abortions because of their religious or moral objections.
"While this is disturbing," said Dolan, "it is also an opportunity."
Pro-lifers should reach out to "the great majority of Americans" who are "open to hearing a message of reverence for life. ... We who present the pro-life message must always strive to be better messengers," he said.
"A cause that teaches the inexpressibly great value of each and every human being cannot show disdain or disrespect for any fellow human being," he added.
The cardinal also said the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis is a time for women and men to find healing through the Catholic Church's Project Rachel post-abortion ministry.