ROME — Pope Francis threw his support behind Poland’s pro-life movement Wednesday as radical feminists continue protesting a ban on eugenic abortions targeting children with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
“On October 22 we celebrated the liturgical memorial of Saint John Paul II, in this centenary year of his birth,” Francis told Polish pilgrims gathered in the Vatican for his weekly general audience. “He always called for a privileged love for the last and the defenseless and for the protection of every human being, from conception to natural death.”
“Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and the sainted Polish pontiff, I ask God to instill in the hearts of all respect for the lives of our brothers and sisters,” he continued, “especially the most fragile and defenseless, and to give strength to those who welcome and care for it, even when this requires heroic love.”
The pope’s words take on special significance in the face of the social unrest in Poland over a recent ruling by the nation’s Constitutional Tribunal striking down allowance for abortions on the basis of fetal anomalies.
There can be “no protection of the dignity of an individual without the protection of life,” the court declared.
In its decision, the court argued that aborting a child because of probable birth defects constituted eugenics, an effort to rid society of the weak and undesirable, notoriously practiced by the Nazis against Jews and disabled persons, and by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger against blacks and minorities in the United States.
On Sunday, demonstrators interrupted Catholic Masses around Poland to protest the decision. In Poznan, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Krakow and other cities, protesters stormed into churches while services were taking place, “confronting priests with obscenities” and spray-painting churches with slogans and phone numbers of abortion providers, Associated Press (AP) reported.
For its part, the Catholic Church has steadfastly defended the rights of the unborn and praised last week’s court ruling.
“The position of the Catholic Church on the right to life is unchanged; obscenities, violence and disrupting services as well as profanation are not the right method of action,” said Poznan Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.
“For her part, the Church cannot cease to defend life, nor can she fail to proclaim that every human being must be protected from conception until natural death,” he noted. “On this point, the Church, as Pope Francis often says, cannot compromise, because it would be guilty of the culture of rejection that is so widespread today, always affecting the most needy and vulnerable.”
“I am asking all the faithful for prayers for unborn children, for parents expecting children, and for the conversion of those who use violence,” he said.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis released a letter to Europe laying out his “dream” for the continent’s future that includes the elimination of legalized abortion.
I dream of a Europe “that protects life at every stage, from the time it arises unseen in the womb until its natural end, since no human being is the master of life, either his or her own life or the lives of others,” Francis wrote.