Documentation: The Freedom to Kill Your Child

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent by the Archbishop of New York to his parish priests to be read during all Masses offered on January 20 and 21.

With much of the world I rejoiced that the peoples of Romania, after living for so long in virtual slavery, were suddenly confronted with the possibility of freedom. Whether much of the world joined me or not, however, I was deeply saddened only a few days later to learn that the first “freedom” to be granted was the freedom to put pre-born babies to death. It was saddening indeed to read that many women exulted in this new “freedom” and allegedly rushed to abortionists.

I was saddened even further by the way many of the media reported this new “freedom.” They virtually ignored the reason why many women rejoiced, namely, that during the Ceausescu regime reportedly every woman was required to attempt to have a minimum of five children. Surely that should have been the mandate lifted by a new regime: giving women the choice God Himself gives them, to conceive or not to conceive. That’s a radically different choice from the choice to kill or not to kill—a choice which can never be anyone’s right.

I do not address this letter, however, to the government or the peoples of Romania, but only to you the Catholic peoples of the archdiocese of New York. I know how enormously demanding children can be in a family not certain how it’s going to pay its bills, worried about the costs of housing, food, education, health care, and so many other basics. I know how a woman can feel physically, emotionally, and psychologically threatened by the awareness that she is pregnant. I know that the term “silent scream” is used to describe the pain and the horror of a baby being killed in the womb. I know, however, that a “silent scream” can also come from the heart of a woman unexpectedly pregnant. I have too often had to weep with such women, worry with them, do what I could to help them meet what seemed at times overpowering obligations, not to know their anguish. I was not born with a miter on my head, a crozier in my hand, or a bishop’s ring on my finger.

I therefore write to you as a man of flesh and blood who loves you, a man now old enough to be the father of most of you and, as your bishop, spiritual father to all of you. I try never to speak or write to you in abstractions. Let me therefore simply plead with you to do everything in your power to reach out to women or young girls who are pregnant and in need, many of them completely alone, many of them desperate enough to be thinking of abortion. Let them know, please, how much I want to help. I repeat what I have been saying and doing since I became your bishop, that is, that any woman of any religion, color, or ethnic origin faced with an unexpected pregnancy or otherwise in need can come to me or to my associates in the archdiocese and be given all the help she needs—medical, psychological, spiritual—at no cost to herself whatever. Absolutely no woman need ever have an abortion because she does not know what else to do or where to turn. She need only call 1-800-592-HELP.

I would plead with you, also, never to condemn any woman who has had an abortion. On the contrary, do everything that you can to help her pick up the pieces of her life. If you let me or my associates know, we have a wonderful program to help such women. It is called “Project Rachel.”

You know and I know what the polls say, namely that even Catholics believe that women should have a right to abortion and that it should be a woman’s choice. May I ask you to ask yourself not whether a woman should have a right to abortion, but whether a woman should have a right to kill her baby, because that’s what abortion is. I know that you know the answer to that question.

I do not write to you to criticize or to condemn. I do not write to ask you to vote for or against any particular politician. I write to you only because I desperately need your help in order to save the lives of pre-born babies, to save their mothers the nightmare of aborting them, and to save those who have had abortions to know that they can be reconciled to the God who loves them so very much.

I can never thank you adequately for all the good that you do. Nor can I ever thank you adequately for all that you are.

God bless you. God love you.


  • John Cardinal O'Connor

    John Joseph O'Connor was an American prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of New York from 1984 until his death in 2000, and was created a cardinal in 1985. He previously served as auxiliary bishop of Archdiocese for the Military Services (1979–83) and Bishop of Scranton (1983–84).

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