Bishop promotes ‘gift’ of life

Diocese marks annual Mass as changes to abortion laws loom

YOUNGSTOWN — Efforts need to be made to work harder to protect and promote human life, which also encompasses what many feel includes the unborn child, an area religious leader said.

“All life is a gift; all life is sacred,” Bishop David J. Bonnar of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown said.

That was a main theme Bonnar espoused in the homily he delivered at the annual Mass for Life gathering on Sunday at St. Columba Cathedral, 154 W. Wood St.

The Mass for Life, sponsored by the Youngstown Diocese’s Office of Pro-Life, Marriage and Family Life, takes place annually around the date of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on Jan. 22, 1973. Next year’s Mass will mark the 50th anniversary of the decision.

Sunday’s Mass came less than a month into the 2022 legislative sessions in which battles over the future of abortion already are setting up around the U.S. Republican lawmakers are proposing new restrictions modeled after laws in Texas and Mississippi that present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, while some Democratic-led states are working to preserve or expand access.


The activity in state legislatures was anticipated after the U.S. Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, signaled it was ready to make seismic changes to the nationwide right to abortion that has stood for nearly half a century. If the court overturns Roe v. Wade entirely, the decision on whether to keep abortion legal would fall to the states.

More than 20 states already have laws on the books to ban or dramatically restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. As legislative sessions begin, several are considering new bans.

“This could be a really, really dramatic year in terms of people’s ability to access abortion care and to decide if, when and how they become a parent,” said Kristin Ford, vice-president of communications and outreach at NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group. “At this time next year, we could be looking at a scenario in which more than half of the country has lost access to abortion … It will have consequences for everyone.”

Susan Arnall, director of outreach for the anti-abortion Right to Life League, said abortion opponents have gained the upper hand throughout the U.S.

“Life is winning … and the abortion industry is losing,” Arnall said.

Meanwhile, at least seven states, including Ohio, could follow Texas, which already effectively has banned abortions after six weeks with a law strategically written to avoid a federal court challenge. The Supreme Court has allowed the law to remain in effect, even though it appears to contradict the Roe decision.

Similar proposals have been introduced in Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida and Arizona. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a possible 2024 presidential contender, released a proposal on Friday modeled after the Texas law. She said it would “ensure that both unborn children and their mothers are protected in South Dakota.”

In another major shift last year, the Food and Drug Administration made a regulatory change that allows people access to abortion medication by mail after obtaining a prescription online. That promises to be another front in the legal debate over abortion. Some states could allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing the drugs if they oppose abortion.


In his homily, Bonnar cited the late Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn as having said many men in the 21st century are “at war with God” and, by extension, with life. By contrast, Jesus Christ desires people celebrate and hold up the gift of life, which is largely the family, the bishop added.

It’s also important to recognize that children need to be loved, even before their arrival in the world and “before they have done anything to deserve it,” Bonnar said.

He added to reject life also is to “reject God’s gratuitous love.”

In addition, it’s vital to embrace motherhood and fatherhood. Most mothers display and exude tenderness and moral strength, and fathers are just as necessary and important, he said.

On the other hand, it’s counterproductive to pass judgment upon those who “reject life” by getting an abortion, for example. God is the only judge, Bonnar explained.

“We also must respect the dignity of every person, especially if they are different from us,” the bishop said.

Bonnar also performed a Blessing of a Child in the Womb via prayer. No expectant women came forth for the rite, perhaps because of Sunday’s inclement weather, which kept the attendance light.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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