Pro-life irony heard in President Obama’s words on Syria crisis

President Obama has been using language familiar to the pro-life movement in rallying support for holding the Syrian government accountable for the use of chemical weapons against its own people.

In a statement made in the White House Rose Garden on Aug. 31, the president rightfully called the attack, in which more than 1,000 people were gassed to death, “an assault on human dignity.” He said we cannot raise our children in a world “where we will not follow through on . . . the values that define us.”

Ten days later in a televised address to the nation, President Obama zeroed in on the fact that hundreds of the victims were children, as evidenced by graphic videos that show bodies convulsing, gagging, and eventually limp from the effects of sarin gas.

“I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?”

Listeners who have worked to protect human life in the womb from the death sentence of abortion likely heard these calls with a certain degree of irony. Those who have seen videos like “The Silent Scream” or other images that graphically depict the ugly truth of what happens to an unborn child during an abortion probably would make the same suggestion to this president: Watch it, and ask what it means if we simply look the other way?

Blessed Mother Teresa had such an opportunity to speak truth to power in 1997. Addressing the National Prayer Breakfast, attended by President Bill Clinton, the diminutive nun’s description of another war seems even more prophetic now.

“What is taking place in America,” she said, “is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another.”

The calendar is about to turn to October, Respect Life Month. It’s a time when Catholics do not look away but rather focus on threats to human life in all its stages. This year’s theme set by the U.S. bishops is “Open your hearts to life!”

This issue of The Catholic Post describes many opportunities around the diocese to prayerfully and practically take action. Consider attending the Respect Life Dinner, taking part in the 40 Days for Life or Life Chain witnesses, or other activities. Pray that President Obama and other government and civic leaders come to respect and protect human life in all its stages.

This year, we have one other suggestion, inspired by those images from Syria. Nearly a third of that county’s population has been displaced by the civil war. Assistance to the refugees is coming from around the world, but organizations like Catholic Relief Services could use our help. If your open heart leads you to open your wallet, send a contribution to CRS online at, by calling (877) 435-7277, or sending a check to Catholic Relief Services, PO Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21297-0303. — Thomas J. Dermody

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