Author archives: Mary Szoch

This Independence Day, Let’s Recommit to Embracing Virtue

by Mary Szoch

July 2, 2021

As we approach Independence Day, it is worth reflecting on our Founding Fathers—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay, and many other fearless patriots. These brave men boldly set out to form a great nation—one committed to the truth that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Miraculously, these men succeeded. Though not a perfect nation by any stretch, historically, America has been a source of source of strength for nations under attack—as the troops were on the beaches of Normandy; a beacon of hope for the those who wish to be free—as President Reagan was as he demanded the dismantling of the Berlin Wall; and a land of limitless opportunity—as Clarence Thomas discovered on his journey from extreme poverty to the highest court in the land. 

Yet, today in America, the unalienable rights of life and liberty are under attack in the name of what some consider “the pursuit of happiness.”

America is led by a president who continuously attacks the unborn child’s right to life and has promised to codify Roe, which would enshrine abortion on demand through 40 weeks as the law of the land. In the name of public health, this past year, religious freedom was trampled, and churches were forced to limit attendance even at Christmas. Free speech has been limited in schools and on university campuses. Biological realities have been denied and males are playing women’s sports and using women’s bathrooms. Teachers who are morally opposed to doing so are being forced to call students by biologically incorrect pronouns. And the federal government is considering completely abandoning any regard for human life by removing the limitations on human-animal chimeras

America’s transformation into a nation our Founding Fathers would barely recognize has been accompanied by a decline in the religiosity of Americans. As the number of Americans identifying as Protestant and Catholic have sharply declined, the number identifying as religiously unaffiliated, as “nones,” has grown by about 20 percent from 1990 to 2019

Our nation, a nation for which the Founding Fathers sacrificed and died, a nation that was meant to be the land of the free and home of the brave, has become the land of the “woke” and the home of the godless.  

The resulting loss of freedom and constant attacks on the rights Americans have always held so dear would not shock John Adams, who so wisely commented, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Or Samuel Adams, who concluded, “It is not possible that any State should long remain free, where Virtue is not supremely honored.” Or George Washington, who in his farewell address warned, “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

Though our Founding Fathers were not all Christians, all had a profound understanding of the essential nature of a moral code, of virtue, and of belief in a Supreme Being whose natural laws must be followed. Over the last several years, our country has lost this understanding, but if our nation truly wishes to be great—to be the land our Founding Fathers dreamed of—we as Americans must once again embrace virtue.

Sowing Pro-Life Seeds Among the States

by Mary Szoch , Joy Zavalick

June 11, 2021

On May 17, the Supreme Court announced that it would take up the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and review Mississippi HB 1510, which bans abortion at 15 weeks’ gestation. HB 1510 cites modern medical findings about children in the womb during the first 15 weeks of life, including that infants develop a heartbeat between 5-6 weeks’ gestation and that by 12 weeks they have developed all “relevant aspects” of recognizable human form.

Since the bill challenges the precedents of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prohibit state restrictions on pre-viability abortion, both sides of the political aisle are holding their breath waiting to see whether the Court will finally reset its contorted history of abortion jurisprudence.

There has been a great deal of pro-life legislation that has been passed in the U.S. in recent years. In 2019, seven states (including Mississippi) rolled out laws that banned abortion past six weeks or after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. In 2020, “heartbeat bills” were also passed in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, and Ohio. In 2021 alone, over 500 pro-life bills were introduced in state legislatures, and as a result, Arkansas and Oklahoma joined Alabama on the list of states to pass total abortion bans. Though these laws have been blocked by federal courts, they represent the gold standard of pro-life legislative advocacy, and reenforce the idea that the Supreme Court has no business declaring a supposed right to abortion under the Constitution in the first place.

Considering this national trend of legislative action against abortion, the pre-viability restrictions that Mississippi HB 1510 implements are increasingly in touch with the convictions of the nation. Though the bill does not meet the global 75 percent norm of restricting elective abortion to 12 weeks’ gestation, which highlights the disparity between the U.S. and the rest of the world, the bill does restrict abortion for 25 more weeks of pregnancy than the rest of the nation does.

Given that 90 percent of abortions occur within the first 12 weeks of gestation, the law addresses only the remaining pregnancies that survive to 15 weeks. This means that the battle to preserve life, even within Mississippi, is far from over. HB 1510 nevertheless demonstrates the earnest attempts of Mississippi legislators to reflect the views of their state, where only 36 percent of citizens believe abortion should be legal in most cases.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells His disciples the parable of the talents, which focuses on a man who goes on a journey and leaves varying degrees of money with each of his servants. When the master returns, he rewards the servants who earned interest on the talents that they were given; to these, he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

This parable demonstrates that the Lord blesses the intentions and faith of those who seek to serve Him. The servant with two talents made the most of what he was given and pleased his master just as much as the one who doubled five talents.

For Christians across the nation evaluating their state’s abortion laws, some may feel that they have been given a harder lot to work with than other states. Not every Christian lives in Arkansas, where in March, the Arkansas State Legislature passed a total abortion ban with an exception only to save the life of the mother. For those living in Alaska, where virtually no barriers to elective abortion exist, it may seem that even a massive victory such as overturning Roe v. Wade provides no real hope for a state hostile to life.

According to the words of Christ, however, the Lord reaps even where He has not sown.

Christians living in states with radically unrestrictive abortion laws must not give up the fight for the sanctity of life. To these states that have been given less “talents” or opportunities to pass legislation defending life, the Lord will be pleased with attempts to follow His ordinances, even if legislative success is impossible. For the states that are in the position to protect life, the message is clear: utilize the momentum in the Court to take action; invest the talents that have been given to you, and your strivings will lead you into the joy of your Master.

As Mississippi fights for a 15-week ban on abortion, the Lord is able to accomplish His will through even minimal acts of progress. Through this bill, the Lord could work to reward the strivings of generations of pro-life advocates to overturn Roe v. Wade. Though the outcome of Dobbs remains to be seen, it is certain that the Lord is moving in the hearts of the nation to convict many about the brutal truths of abortion.

Advocates across the country ought to take notice of this progress and be encouraged to do what they can to advance life in their own states, knowing that the Lord will reward their work even in the absence of success.

Joy Zavalick is an intern with the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.

Mary Szoch is the Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.

Fidelity to the Constitution Requires Roe’s Reversal

by Mary Szoch

May 27, 2021

Before joining the policy world, I taught history in Catholic schools. One of my favorite units was on the Supreme Court. Students were required to memorize the justices’ names, review various cases, and argue how the justices should rule in each case. The biggest challenge I faced as a teacher was convincing students that their determination of how justices should rule needed to be based in the United States Constitution, not in personal opinion. Sadly, this is not a problem only middle school teachers face but one confronting all Americans who recognize the role and purpose of the highest court in the land.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to review Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—a case asking whether Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks is constitutional. The Court’s decision to review this case is terrifying pro-abortion activists across the country because not only does Dobbs have the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but if the Supreme Court justices follow their obligation to the Constitution, the Dobbs decision should overturn Roe and Casey.

In Roe, the Court argued that under the 14th Amendment, the Due Process Clause, a woman has a right to privacy, and as such, she has a constitutional right to an abortion. As part of this decision, the Court said that the states had the power to regulate abortion in the first trimester for any reason, in the second trimester in the interest of the woman’s health, and in the third trimester, the state could outlaw abortion. In the Court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Court reaffirmed Roe’s finding that a woman has the right to an abortion but changed the requirements for outlawing abortion from the trimester framework to a viability framework.

As any former student of mine should be able to attest, the words “right to privacy” that are used to justify the right to an abortion in both Roe and Casey do not appear anywhere in the Constitution—neither do the words “viability ” or “trimester.” The seven justices who ruled in favor of Roe, and the five justices who ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood fell into the same trap that plagued my 8th graders. They ruled based on their personal opinion—not on the United States Constitution.

Many have speculated that the outcome of Dobbs will be less than satisfactory to those in the pro-life movement—suggesting that the decision will likely favor a more incremental walk-back of Roe and Casey rather than a full reversal. I hope they are wrong.

If my middle school students (who were very bright, but still, middle school students) were the ones deciding Dobbs, I could understand another failure to decide an abortion case based on the Constitution. I could understand that for a third time, middle school students might substitute their own opinions and create their own framework for when and how abortion should be allowed. But the nine individuals deciding this case have been educated far beyond middle school by teachers and professors far more knowledgeable than me. In fact, these nine men and women are some of the best and the brightest this country has to offer, and more importantly, they have taken an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.

As the Dobbs case is argued and the opinion is written, the pro-life movement must pray that the nine justices are able to recognize that overturning Roe and Casey is not a form of judicial advocacy, a decision based on religious principles, or an ideological answer to the pro-life movement. Overturning Roe and Casey is what fidelity to the Constitution requires.

Spiritual Considerations During Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 27, 2021

This is the final part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Read part 1 on how to support a friend who has gone through a miscarriage and part 2 on the practical considerations during miscarriage.

The information contained in this post may be difficult to read.

If you are or have gone through a miscarriage, or if you are supporting a loved one going through a miscarriage, there are several spiritual considerations that may help you to grieve the death of your child and celebrate the life of your child.

Consider bringing these thoughts to prayer, especially reflecting on how Christ unites His experience of the cross to your pain. Invite Him to be with you in the midst of suffering, in order that He may fill it with His presence and transform it. Christ is carrying His cross and suffering with you. As Pope John Paul II said, “Christ, through His own salvific suffering, is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of His spirit of truth, His consoling spirit.” 

  • God loves your child. In fact, God has had a purpose for him or her since before your child was conceived. Regardless of how many weeks old your child was when he or she died, you can rest in the knowledge that God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you and appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Your child’s life made a difference. Acknowledge your child as a unique person. Recognize that the grief you feel is proof that your child’s life made an impact.
  • Isaiah said, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (49:1). God already knows your child’s name. You and your spouse should consider spending time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to name your child. You can share this name with others or keep it to yourself. Naming your child acknowledges his or her existence and connects you to him/her.
  • Your unborn baby’s death is not punishment. Their death is not because of anything you or your child did (John 9:2). God loves you. Isaiah 55:8 gently reminds us that we can’t always look into God’s purposes for the pain and suffering we experience: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” You will likely not understand why your unborn baby died until you meet Christ on the last day. It is okay to wonder what God is doing. Ultimately, trust that God loves you and your baby—even when you have no idea what His plan is.
  • Though Scripture tells us, “the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31), you and your husband will experience your miscarriage differently. A woman will undergo physical and emotional pain, while a man’s experience of pain will be purely emotional. You and your husband may grieve in different ways at different times. This is ok—in fact, it’s helpful. When one of you is falling apart, the other can be a source of comfort.
  • Isaiah 64:8 teaches, “We are the clay and you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand.” God does not make mistakes. Your child was and is a beautiful gift from Him to you. Consider keeping the ultrasound of your baby, your positive pregnancy test, and any other mementos of your child’s time on earth in a special place, and yearly—perhaps on your unborn child’s due date—consider remembering your child in a special way, even if just in a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift he or she was during his or her short time on earth.
  • An unborn baby was the first person to recognize Jesus as the Son of God without anyone telling him who He was: “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (read the whole story in Luke 1:39-45). While your baby was never formally introduced to Jesus, we know from Scripture that an unborn child can recognize the presence of the Lord even in the womb. Trust in God’s mercy and love and know that you will see your child in heaven one day. (On the question of about whether unborn babies go to heaven, read this short book or this article for biblical backing.)
  • Scripture also tells us, “In your book were written the days that were formed for me, every one of them…” (Psalm 139:16). Your child is part of God’s plan. Do not be afraid to share the experience of losing your child with others—especially with your other children and family members. This is a personal decision, and your decision on this may develop and change over time. Allowing your other children to grieve the loss of their brother or sister at an appropriate age is important. Knowing there is a sibling in heaven can have a huge impact on a child’s life. Sharing about the loss of your child with others not only acknowledges your child’s existence, but it also allows your child to continue to have an impact on this world. The following books have been helpful for other parents talking to their child about the loss of a sibling through miscarriage.
  • Trusting that God is all good and all loving is especially hard when grieving the loss of a child. Ask your pastor to preside over a memorial service to remember and celebrate the life of your unborn child. If your pastor is not able or willing to do this just for you, suggest a service for all parents mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage. Running to Jesus—even if only to cry out “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24”—is the first step to healing your heart. 
  • As a gift from God, your child will always be a part of you. For moms, your child will not only always hold a place in your heart, but it has been scientifically proven that an unborn baby’s DNA stays within his or her mother, and in fact, may help the mother’s body heal from certain diseases. This connection will unite you and your baby until you meet him or her in heaven.
  • Remember that you are a mom and that your husband is a dad, and that you have a child in heaven. This is a great gift. Do not forget that your child always belonged to God, and now your child is with God for eternity. May you be able to say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
  • If you are a Christian, take hope in the reality that you will see your child again. This is the hope of the resurrection. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul wrote, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.” The hope for those in Christ is that we will see our loved ones again—born and unborn.
  • At some point, the wound of miscarriage can become a source of strength. “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).   When you feel ready, do not be afraid to share your story. Your unborn child’s life has and will continue to change the world. This article may be helpful in discerning when, how, and if you want to share your story.

Practical Considerations During Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 26, 2021

This is the second part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Read part 1 on how to support a friend who has gone through a miscarriage. Part 3 will discuss spiritual considerations during miscarriage. 

The information contained in this post may be difficult to read. 

If you are reading this because you are in the midst of losing a baby, I am so sorry. Know that you are not alone. 

The following considerations are meant primarily for those experiencing a miscarriage prior to 20 weeks. Though this post does contain some medical information, these considerations were not written by a doctor and do not constitute medical advice. 

  • If you are pregnant and have started exhibiting the signs of miscarriage including bleeding and cramping, call your doctor immediately.[1]
  • If the doctor orders an ultrasound, ask the ultrasound technician to print out a picture of your baby for you.
  • If the ultrasound determines your baby has died and the doctor recommends going home, be prepared for pain and bleeding. 
  • Depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy, your pain and bleeding levels may vary. Be certain to check in with your doctor to make certain you are not in too much pain or bleeding too much.
  • Heating pads and hot water bottles can help ease the pain during a miscarriage. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. 
  • Depending on how severe the cramping is and how far along you are it may be helpful to also use some labor techniques, as what you are experiencing is a “mini labor.” Low lighting, swaying or leaning on a birthing ball, emotional and physical support of your spouse/massage, deep breaths, offering your suffering for someone in need, having a spouse or partner read from Scripture or pray with you are all helpful ways to endure this time.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. 
  • As you prepare for or experience bleeding, use pads—not tampons—to prevent infection.
  • If you are miscarrying at home, consider placing a bowl in the toilet to ensure your baby’s remains will be treated with dignity. If you are not able to do this, know that God sees your heart and knows how much you love your child. 
    • These pictures are graphic, but they are extremely helpful if you would like to identify the baby. To view them, click here.  
  • You may see your child’s body. Be certain to treat the body with respect by placing the remains in a container. Heaven’s Gain Ministries offers beautiful baby caskets for babies miscarried in the first, second, and third trimester. A container or box that you have at home will work as well. Be aware that your child’s remains will likely begin to disintegrate very quickly.    
  • If you have a miscarriage at a hospital prior to 20 weeks, your child’s remains will likely be taken for testing. State laws differ on releasing the child’s remains to parents. Do not be afraid to ask if you may take the remains for burial. Do not be afraid to ask for a death certificate for your child. If you are at a Catholic/Christian hospital, the hospital itself may have a place where miscarried babies can be buried. If not, your local cemetery or church may have a place. Click here for more information on parents’ rights/dealing with the hospital. 
  • If you miscarried at home prior to 20 weeks and you bring your child’s remains with you to the doctor for a follow-up appointment, the doctor may ask if you would like to have testing done on your child. You have the right to refuse or consent. Know that if testing is done on your child, you may not receive your child’s remains back. 
  • If you do not miscarry naturally, you may need a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure or a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure. If this is the case, be CERTAIN to have one more ultrasound before the procedure is done to ensure that your baby’s heartbeat has stopped completely. 
  • Following the miscarriage, rest. You have been through a traumatic experience. Your body needs time to heal and recover. You have been on an emotional rollercoaster. The loss of your child is devastating, and the hormones that are shifting in your body do not make it easier. 
  • Allow yourself to grieve and experience all the emotions that come with it. Seek emotional support. Take time alone if you need it. Everyone’s journey is different, but don’t be ashamed to ask for help. 
  • Do not be surprised if seemingly unrelated events or objects trigger a strong emotional response or if grief comes at unexpected times. 
  • Advocate for yourself and ask for time off work if needed. Talk with your boss (or if that doesn’t work, then HR directly). A few programs you can inquire about are: Personal Leave, Bereavement, FMLA/Short Term Disability. When speaking with your employer do not say, “Can I…” but rather “I had a miscarriage. I need (time frame) off. What are my options?”
  • Know that a pregnancy test may still read positive for a period of time after a miscarriage. 
  • Know that you may re-experience all the emotions and feelings surrounding your miscarriage when you first get your period back. You may even find that you feel like you are going through a miscarriage all over again. Communicate with your spouse about your fertility to prepare him for this as well. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for support from those who care so much about you. 
  • Check in with your doctor regularly to ensure you are recovering properly. 
  • You will likely have questions about fertility after the loss of a child through miscarriage or about when it is safe to try to become pregnant again. FACTS has a very helpful resource.  

For more information on the physical experience of miscarriage, click here.



[1] Research has been done on the link between low progesterone and miscarriage. Progesterone supplementation may help sustain a pregnancy/avoid miscarriage. There will be a blog forthcoming on this for those who are interested.

How to Support a Loved One Experiencing Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 25, 2021

This is the first part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Future parts will discuss practical and spiritual considerations for miscarriage.

Our society does not think or talk much about miscarriage. For many, miscarriage is a silent form of suffering. Sadly, many couples endure the loss of a child through miscarriage. It is estimated that as many as one in four women experience a miscarriage in their lives.

My prayer for you is that you never need the information contained in this series, but I know there are many women out there who are silently suffering. I myself am a woman who has suffered through a miscarriage.

If one of your loved ones is experiencing a miscarriage, it is important to recognize that your loved one needs extra love and support and that there are several ways you can be a loving friend.

  • Pray. The most important thing you can do for your friend(s) who is going through a miscarriage is to pray for them. Pray for the couple’s physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Pray for grace to be a good friend during this challenging time. Pray for the Lord to protect them from outside stress that will make the loss of their child harder.
  • Be very sensitive about what you say. Treat your friend the same way you would treat anyone else who lost a loved one. Do not try to solve your friend’s problem. Do not think that you know what your friend is going through or why they are going through it. Also, do not offer medical advice if you are not a doctor.
  • Tell your loved one you are sorry for the loss of her child and remind her that you are there to listen if she would like to talk. Your friend may or may not feel like being around people. She may or may not feel like talking about her miscarriage. In the same way you would listen and be present through any other suffering, offer to listen as she directs the conversation about the loss of her child. If she does not want to talk about it, offer to just be with her. If she does not want to be around people, she will appreciate that you offered.
  • Whatever you do, do not say nothing. Don’t avoid your friend out of fear that you will remind her of her loss. Acknowledge her pain. She will never forget your presence or lack of presence.
  • Check in. Make sure to check in on your friend a few days after your first meeting and follow up on anything you have offered to do.
  • Acknowledge your friend’s loss. Take your cues from the mom. If she talks about the baby by name, use the baby’s name. If she refers to the baby as a boy or girl, do the same. Follow her lead.
  • Make a meal. A woman going through a miscarriage is experiencing physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma. It is an incredibly challenging and exhausting time. Bringing over a meal is a helpful way to acknowledge the great loss she is experiencing. Offer to drop off the meal. She may or may not want you to join her.
  • Send a card or flowers. Your friend will appreciate the fact that you are treating the death of her unborn child with love, seriousness, and kindness. Miscarriages are often not talked about, but that does not mean they are not incredibly painful. Your friend will never forget that you sent a card or flowers commemorating her child.
  • Do not trivialize the loss of her unborn child no matter how early in pregnancy the loss occurred.
  • Do not refer to the loss of her child as “pregnancy loss.” A woman who has miscarried is not experiencing the loss of morning sickness, or bloating, or a period of time. She is experiencing the loss of a child. Acknowledge the child.
  • Do not begin any statement with the words “at least.” There is no “at least” that the mother wants to hear or that will help her.
  • Write the due date/month in your calendar and circle back. Significant dates associated with a deceased loved one (such as a birthday or anniversary) can be hard for loved ones. In the case of a miscarriage, the due date of a baby who was miscarried can be a painful time for a mother. Checking in to see how the mom is doing during this time can be very helpful.
  • Don’t forget the husband! Often, caring for a couple who has lost a child through miscarriage focuses primarily on the mom. Remember that your friend’s husband is grieving, too. Take time to check in on him.
  • Do not expect your friend to be fine. Remember that your friend lost a child and will need time to heal. Also remember that the pain of losing that child—just like the pain of losing any other loved one—may come up at various times in the future. Be ready to listen! 
  • Be extremely sensitive if you are pregnant or have just had a baby. Do not take it personally if it is too hard for your friend to be around you at this point. Remember that she is grieving.
  • Remember your friend on Mother’s Day. She is a mom, and she will appreciate you acknowledging that. Do so delicately.
  • Remember your friend’s husband on Father’s Day. He is a father, and he will appreciate you acknowledging that. Do so delicately.

Read part 2 discussing practical considerations during miscarriage.

God Is the Solution to a Declining Birth Rate

by Mary Szoch

May 10, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing the American birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest point in history, continuing the general trend that began in 1971 of American birthrates falling below the replacement level. The Brookings Institute has predicted that in 2021, Americans should expect 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births, a 12-14 percent decline from 2020.   

The social and economic impact of the rapidly falling birthrate cannot be overstated. Fewer children means rising loneliness, fewer consumers, isolation in old age, a dwindling economy, and overall, less happiness. Americans recognize this and actually want more children. Forty-one percent of Americans say three or more children is ideal, while just 1 percent say zero, but in reality, the fertility rate for American women is just 1.7.

Around the world, countries like China, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Italy are facing an even more drastic trend with experts predicting as many as 23 countries will find their population has halved by 2100.

Many blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the dramatic decline in births, arguing the 14 percent decline predicted in America for 2021 is the result of the pandemic. This decline is much steeper than countries have seen before, but it would be naïve to think that this decline is more than an exaggerated data point in a general trend.

Currently, government leaders around the world are working to reverse this trend. China expanded their one-child policy to a two-child policy in hopes of increasing the population, but it has failed to do so. Various countries have implemented maternity leave and childcare policies but failed to find a panacea. Without an accurate diagnosis of the problem, efforts to correct it will continue to flounder.

Without a doubt—the conditions created under the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a dramatic decline in births. Throughout American history, during times of economic decline, the fertility rate has also dropped. Fewer births in 2020 are attributed to the instability caused by COVID-19. But an examination of what happened during the lockdowns across the country points to another, major cause.

During the pandemic, in the name of keeping people safe, weddings were postponed, couples decided not to have children, students did not go to school, loved ones died alone, ICU patients were denied the presence of a priest, multiple churches were ordered to close or limit attendance—even at Christmas. Of course, in many cases, precautions were prudent and, in some cases, necessary. Still, the message “Be afraid of yourself and be afraid of others. Do not make any commitments or take any risks—even for the sake of love (especially not love of God)” was incredibly damaging. 

Sadly, this message was just a magnified version of what society has been preaching for years: “Be afraid. Don’t commit. Don’t take any risks—even for the sake of love.”

Today, the world is one where technology allows us to cancel plans even minutes before they were scheduled; where it is possible to find out everything about a person before going on a first date; where instead of committing to marriage, the norm is to “try things out” by moving in together; where commitment to moral principles has been replaced by a “commitment” to whatever makes people feel good; and where instead of practicing a religion, people identify as “spiritual” but not religious or as “nothing.”

The inability to commit points to an inability to love, which requires commitment, vulnerability, and risk taking. Ultimately, the inability to love indicates a rejection of God who is love. As the birthrate has declined in the United States, so has Christianity. In fact, among Millennials, four in 10 people identify as religious “nones.” It is not surprising that the rejection of God and the rejection of the self-sacrificial love required to fall in love, get married, and bring a child into the world go hand in hand.

The pandemic and the restrictions implemented as a result proved many things—human beings need social interaction; in general, people follow rules; work is a huge source of self-esteem; fear motivates drastic actions; and most importantly, spending time with God is essential for human flourishing.

Certainly, instability caused by COVID-19 impacted the birthrate, but COVID-19 did not cause the instability—it simply magnified a problem that already existed. The antidote to this instability is a return to God. He is the only being not surprised by anything in the future. In Him is ultimate stability—and with that, the courage to fall in love, get married, and have children.

Religious Freedom is a Matter of Human Dignity

by Arielle Del Turco , Mary Szoch

May 4, 2021

A new report by Aid to the Church in Need found that religious freedom was not respected in 32 percent of the world’s countries. Furthermore, approximately 5.2 billion people live in countries that experience serious violations of religious freedom, including populous countries such as China, India, and Pakistan. Christians in all three countries face a certain amount of risk for simply living out their faith in the public square. 

Such concerning numbers warrant attention. Yet, we can tend to take concepts like “religious freedom” for granted and fail to grasp the full significance of this fundamental human right.

At its core, religious freedom is the freedom to choose and change one’s religion and to live in agreement with those beliefs. Attacks on religious freedom target one’s conscience—the very core of their being, making it uniquely important that religious freedom be protected.

Protecting religious freedom is essential not only because it is a fundamental human right but also because it is a vital component of respecting human dignity.

Humans are inherently drawn to seek out answers to life’s biggest questions and to find meaning beyond this temporal existence. As a being with an innate sense of right and wrong, man is led to continuously search for truth. Seeking truth is an expression of freedom, which is what makes man unique.     

While man cannot be forced to contemplate truth, humans are unique precisely because no other creature has the ability to do so. Though some may choose not to embark on the quest to find truth—all men have a right to do so. Allowing a person to live according to his pursuit of truth is fundamental to acknowledging that person’s participation in the human species—respecting the search for truth is foundational to respecting a man’s dignity. To do otherwise would be to treat man as less than human.        

Man’s determinations regarding truth lead to both interior and exterior expressions of deeply held beliefs. While the path to discovering truth is certainly, at times, a personal journey—it is not exclusively so. The connection with others who are also pursing truth is a natural and necessary component of this journey. Thus, the answer to the question, “what is truth?” is often found through religion.

For Christians, the concept of Imago Dei, taken from Genesis 1:27, refers to the fact that every human person is created in the image of God—who is Truth. Because we are created in the image of Truth, we long to find truth.  

While only Christians identify this search for truth as a component of being made in the image of God, this reality extends to people of all faiths as well as those of no faith. All people, because they are made in the image of God, possess inherent worth and deserve to be treated as such.  

For a government to fully affirm the dignity of the human person, it must allow individuals to live out their faith in the public square according to their conscience without government restrictions or social harassment. As James Madison expressed, man’s duty to search for truth, man’s duty to God, comes before man’s duty to government; thus, the government has the duty to respect man’s pursuit of truth.

Christians should advocate for religious freedom for all people because any effort to coerce individuals to believe or abandon any faith violates the conscience of a precious person created in God’s image who is deserving of respect.

In the United States, we are fortunate to have robust constitutional protections on religious freedom and founding documents that affirm basic rights. The Declaration of Independence recognizes the God-given equality of each and every human person, and the “unalienable rights” that flow from that. Let’s pray that human dignity is advanced through the expansion of religious freedom to people of all faiths in all countries of the world.

Pennsylvania Court Delivers Two Pro-Life Victories

by Mary Szoch

March 31, 2021

This past week, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a huge victory for all Pennsylvanians—born and unborn. In a 6-1 decision, the Commonwealth Court both upheld a 1985 Pennsylvania law stating that state taxpayer dollars could not be used for abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother and ruled that “Reproductive Health Centers,” in this case, three Planned Parenthood affiliates and three stand-alone abortion clinics, “lack standing to initiate litigation to vindicate the constitutional rights of their patients enrolled in Medical Assistance.” The abortion businesses who were the plaintiffs in the case will appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Commonwealth Court’s ruling is cause for celebration for several reasons. First, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the rights of Pennsylvanians to have a law prohibiting tax dollars for elective abortions. The 1985 law is essentially Pennsylvania’s version of the Hyde Amendment. This amendment, which passed in 1976, had overwhelming bipartisan support for over 40 years—including support as recent as 2019 from now President Joe Biden—but it is now under attack by Democrats and President Biden. Neither the 1985 Pennsylvania law nor the Hyde Amendment prohibit abortions—both simply state that taxpayer dollars will not be used to fund abortions.

The vast majority of Americans are supportive of this law. In fact, a 2020 Marist poll found that 60 percent of Americans, including 37 percent who identify themselves as pro-choice, oppose taxpayer funding of abortions. Americans recognize that taxpayers who correctly believe abortion is the killing of an innocent unborn baby should not be forced to pay for this practice. Hopefully, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will uphold this ruling and it will be repeated by other state supreme courts who face similar challenges from abortion providers.

Second, the court ruled that abortion businesses do not have standing to challenge a prohibition on taxpayer dollars paying for abortions. In doing so, the court recognized that the key stakeholders in a case regarding abortion are not businesses who stand to profit from the practice of abortion, but instead, pregnant women who intend to have an abortion. This is a major step in limiting the abortion industry’s exploitation of women in Pennsylvania. 

Under the Pennsylvania standard for standing, the Commonwealth Court ruled that they would be required to determine if patients “on whose behalf Reproductive Health Centers purport to speak even want this assistance.” Unfortunately, however, Pennsylvania has a different standard for standing than the federal government. As was seen in the Louisiana case June Medical vs. Russo, the Supreme Court has allowed abortion businesses to file lawsuits on behalf of the women they proport to serve. In doing so, the Supreme Court allowed Louisiana abortionists to continue to profit from putting the lives of women receiving abortions at risk—despite the abortionists’ inability to demonstrate that any affected women actually supported their position.

While the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s ruling is not indicative of how the United States Supreme Court would rule in such a case, and while it may be overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for now, it is a pro-life victory. It is a ruling that recognizes the conscience rights of Pennsylvania taxpayers while limiting the ability of abortion businesses to speak for women. Pray that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds this ruling and that other states’ pro-life efforts are buoyed by this victory.

Family Research Council has developed a series of maps to help Americans understand their state’s abortion laws. To see where your state stands with regard to funding abortion businesses, click here.

The Paradox of New Zealand’s Miscarriage Leave and Abortion Expansion Bills

by Mary Szoch

March 30, 2021

This past week, New Zealand became one of the first countries to offer paid leave to workers who have experienced miscarriage. New Zealand’s legislation offers women and couples three days bereavement leave after the loss of an unborn child through miscarriage, adoption, or surrogacy.

The legislation, which passed unanimously, was hailed by the Washington Post as “the latest in a string of policy changes that have addressed women’s rights under Ardern’s time in office. Last year, the country decriminalized abortion…”

As a woman who has had a miscarriage, I found myself both grateful for New Zealand’s acknowledgement that the loss of a child through a miscarriage is truly a loss and furious that this piece of legislation is being framed as consistent with decriminalizing abortion.

Just over a year ago, the New Zealand Parliament passed legislation that allows abortion on demand up to 20 weeks and up to birth “if the health practitioner reasonably believes that the abortion is clinically appropriate.” Somehow, the legislation legalizing the killing of an unborn child is placed in the same category as legislation providing benefits for women mourning the death of an unborn child.

Either an unborn child is a human being or not. Currently the laws in New Zealand provide for both state funds for a woman to grieve the loss of her unborn child who died through a miscarriage AND state funds for an abortionist to kill a woman’s unborn child.  

If we actually want to advance women’s rights, we must work to create a culture of life—a culture that supports women who are pregnant and facing challenging circumstances, a culture that acknowledges the true suffering that couples who have experienced miscarriages face, and a culture that recognizes the unborn child in the womb for the gift from God that he or she is.

We cannot build a society that advances women’s rights based on lies and inconsistencies. During a miscarriage, an unborn child dies, and it is tragic. During an abortion, an unborn child is killed, and it is also tragic, but there is a major difference. The tragedy caused by abortion is preventable. Affirming that the death of a child in a miscarriage is a tragedy while pretending that abortion, which also results in the death of a child, is somehow a woman’s right leads down a very dark road where an unborn child’s worth is based simply on whether he or she is wanted.

Hopefully, New Zealand’s Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill will prompt the need for pro-life legislation in that country that restricts abortion and is actually consistent with an agenda to advance women’s rights. Let us pray that this legislation will lead to New Zealand becoming a nation that recognizes inherent value in every father, every mother, and every child—including unborn children.

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