The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: June 2, 2006
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
Most everyone knew if the levees and floodgates were seriously breached, New Orleans would flood.
“Floodgates,” according to the Oxford American Dictionary, are “a last restraint holding back an outpouring of something powerful or substantial.” When the floodgates in New Orleans were compromised, the effects were progressive, devastating and will be long lasting.
Referencing Ivor van Heerden’s new book, The Storm, Candy Booth Thomas in the May 22, 2006 issue of Time writes, “87% of the water that flooded New Orleans came through breaches in the floodwalls, not over the tops of levees. That's key because a storm surge topping the levees would have lasted but a few hours, leaving at most 3 ft. of water in New Orleans, he calculates. The breaches, by comparison, let water pour in for days, inundating houses up to their rooftops.”
What happens when moral floodgates are breached? Just as van Heerden describes the results of physical breaches, openings in moral floodgates let immorality seep in gradually, not all at once. The consequences, while not always visible and immediate, have deadly and long lasting effects on the culture.
The moral floodgate that had been holding abortion back in a largely Catholic country was finally breached on May 10, 2006. By a 5-3 decision, the Constitutional Court of Colombia legalized abortion in cases of rape, incest, “fetal malformation” and where “necessary” to save the life of the mother.
Mónica Roa, an attorney educated at New York University law school, led the fight for liberalization of the Colombian law which prohibited all abortions. After the ruling was handed down, Roa admitted that abortion apologists “have worked for years preparing the terrain so that the suit was successful in the court and in public opinion.” She also acknowledged the importance of changing “societal attitudes towards abortion.”
Preparing the terrain and changing societal attitudes, of course, began in Colombia in the 60s when the moral floodgate was pierced by the introduction of birth control. PROFAMILIA —the second largest affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation—set up shop in Colombia in1965. Now “the country's largest sexual and reproductive health organization,” it “operates 35 centers across Colombia, with more than 1,400 employees.”
Maria Isabel Plata, executive director of PROFAMILIA, speaking at a recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) roundtable commented, “A successful sexual and reproductive health programme generates its own momentum.” That momentum, unfortunately, has changed the way many in the culture view the dignity of the human person.
UNFPA reported that “PROFAMILIA started distributing contraceptives 30 years ago, at a time when pharmacies would not carry them. It encountered opposition from the medical profession and the Catholic Church, but the Government [according to Plata] ‘left us alone’ . . .” The first crack in the moral floodgate had occured.
In 1969 the Colombian government widened that breach by offering contraception through its maternal and child health programs. The journal, Profamilia, boasted in 1992, “Today family planning [contraception] with its varied technologies has become an accepted behavior of the majority of fertile couples.” Tragically, as has been the case in many other countries, wide acceptance of contraception paved the way toward the acquiescence of abortion.
Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International,
identifies the evolution of societal acceptance of abortion when he says, “the process of introducing abortion in societies ruled by a Judeo-Christian ethic is always the unholy trinity—contraception, sex education, and abortion—in that order.”
Modern history illustrates that point. By 1993 sex education programs in Colombia had become mandatory in all primary and secondary schools.
Just as in the United States, contraception and immoral sex education became firmly established in the Colombian culture. It was just a matter of time before abortion broke through the already breached moral floodgate holding it back. Now, barring a miracle, it won’t be long before abortions are legal for any reason.
Rebuilding the moral floodgates will not be easy, but just as in New Orleans, the efforts must continue.