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Repeatedly, I've expressed in this space my fondest hope -- and expectation -- that as our collective "environmental consciousness" spreads, as it certainly will, and as we come to understand the interconnectedness of all life and its support systems, we will learn the gift of life holistically is both precious and sacred, and we will be forced in conscience to find more ways to protect the fetus.

I see little reason to think that, without more education, significant legal protection of the fetus is possible. Antiabortion forces, by focusing almost exclusively on the legal battle, only alienate and further harden those opposed to them, making dialogue and education almost impossible.

Are we, then, to do nothing? Absolutely not. We must share our views, speak up, listen to our adversaries and work tirelessly to shape a society in which abortions become rare.

I believe that, were the formidable lineup of prelates seen on this week's front cover visibly to come together as well to lobby for greater funding for public housing, for inner-city mothers and preschool feeding programs, were they to stand together and hold candles to protest state-sponsored executions, they would make a broader and more effective pro-life point. They would be more persuasive and their antiabortion sentiments would be better-served.

Viewed fairly or not as "single issue" advocates, our bishops' message is weaker than they can imagine. They do say they follow the broader life, pro-life approach, as Cardinal Roger Mahony indicates (page 4) this week.

It is, then, troubling to see them act in such ineffective ways, and to see them exploited by smart politicians such as Sen. Jesse Helms.

Each time I write about the sacredness of the fetus, a Catholic friend writes back taking some issue. This time, in the spirit of openness, I will end my column with some of his concerns. I welcome responses. He writes: "As I understand it, between 20 percent and 35 percent of pregnancies abort naturally. Is there something inherently sacred or precious about these fetuses? And are these natural abortions also a tragedy? Is sacred an absolute quality of a fetus, or can it be a more-or-less quality? Or, is it possible that as the fetus matures it grows also in degree of sacredness, so that at birth it is more sacred than it was, say, at five weeks?

"How much more sacred is a fetus than were the egg and sperm before copulation brought them together? Must not the egg and the sperm in themselves have some kind of sacred quality to them? But certainly any sacredness they are invested with must be very minimal, since most eggs and sperm do not produce embryos that grow into fetuses that grow into newborn babes."
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Title Annotation:Cover Story; pro-life Catholic strategy
Author:Fox, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 5, 1993
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