In May of 2021 (TX) SB 8, known as the “Texas Heartbeat Law,” was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The main point of the legislation was to make it illegal for abortions to be perpetrated on babies with a detectable heartbeat (a heartbeat is detectable by 6 weeks of gestation). It was almost immediately challenged as being unconstitutional and this challenge made its way to the Supreme Court.
At the beginning of September the court ruled that the law was, in fact, legitimate and SB 8 became the law of the land in Texas. This has, not surprisingly, sparked much outrage, commentary, snark, jubilation, hope, and fear, depending on where one considers themselves to stand on issues regarding life and abortion.
One would be hard pressed to avoid the plethora of articles, social media posts, memes, and videos devoted to the subject. Sometimes heated and fierce debate follows, which should make us reflect and ask ourselves, “Is it possible to win this battle and still lose the war?”
Rules of war: know thine enemy
Those who are pro-life and those who have been fighting in the trenches of the pro-life movement for years are used to referring to the fight for the “right to life” as a war. As with any military operation, it is important to know one’s objective and one’s enemy. You can’t win a war, let alone a battle, if you don’t know who you are fighting. This is exactly where the most danger lies for the pro-life movement.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.Ephesians 6:12-15
Our enemy is not the person in the com-box who disagrees with us. Our enemy is not the woman who is panicked because she thought abortion was her only option and now she doesn’t know where to turn. Our enemy is not the Democrat party, politicians, or President Biden. Our enemy is not the “pro-choice lobby,” pro-choicers, or “pro-aborts.” Our enemy is not that person who trolls posts on social media. Our enemy is not our neighbor.
Our enemy is the Devil. Plain and simple. And he will find any way he can to make sure that we lose the ultimate war – the war for our souls. So how do we fight back?
Don’t let victory become an occasion of sin
Satan is sneaky and cunning. He will literally exploit anything to tempt us to sin. Does he like abortion? Absolutely. It’s not a coincidence that at this moment is it Satanists who are being hailed as the “last, best, hope of abortion rights in Texas.” But what Satan likes even more than abortion is sin and he really likes tricking pro-lifers into sinning so that they risk their salvation in the name of being pro-life.
It can be very tempting to adopt a superior attitude towards the pro-choice men and women in Texas (or elsewhere) after a legislative and judicial victory of this sort. We want to look down our noses, pull out some snark, and give those ignorant prochoice people a piece of our minds. After all, we are right and they are wrong, and they should know just how wrong they are, and who better to tell them than me? Right?
When was the last time we saw snark actually win a heart? When did Jesus go and eat dinner with sinners and then call them names and look down with haughty disdain at their sinful ignorance? Never. Instead, he encountered them as persons. As people with the same dignity and worth as the very babies who will, no doubt, be saved by the Heartbeat Bill. Jesus never dehumanized or disrespected people—no matter how sinful they were, and neither should we.
St. Francis de Sales famously said, “A spoon full of honey gets more flies than a barrel full of vinegar.” When we are interacting with people who disagree with us (sometimes vehemently), we can avoid a certain trap laid by Satan if we first recognize their humanity. Secondly, take a moment to try to place yourself in their shoes. Are they scared? Are they angry? Why? It is quite possible you have encountered someone who has fallen for the lies so often told about abortion. They may truly believe that abortion is a right. That it is necessary for freedom. That without it, they may face something they can’t handle. Ask yourself, if I thought my rights and freedoms were being stripped away, would I be afraid? Would I be angry? Probably. Proceed from there. With compassion. Truth should always be spoken, but like St. Francis says, the truth is much more palatable when served with honey rather than vinegar!
Meet the needs of women in crisis
Now that abortion is not a readily available option in Texas, there are going to be many women who are feeling alone, helpless, and with no where to turn. Add to that the (unfortunate but real) chance that they have encountered a mean, or well intentioned but unhelpful pro-life person and there is a recipe for many women to truly feel that they are in a crisis.
Pro-life people, in Texas especially, are going to have to get from the keyboards and be ready to have some skin in the game. You don’t have to be a professional pro-life activist or own a pregnancy center: you simply have to be willing to “love the person in front of you,” as Mother Teresa would so often tell us. Perhaps a good rule of thumb would be that if you are willing to engage in an online forum with someone, be ready to show up for them in real life when called. In person. Tangibly. Otherwise, what good is it if you you can recite all the pro-life talking points, tell someone that they matter and that their baby matters , only to wish them luck and then move on? If a woman has had a negative experience with someone who identified as pro-life, be ready to be the one who changes her mind by how well you love her.
Here again, be wary of a common tactic Satan will use to distract you: he will try to tell you that caring for just one person isn’t enough. That you should direct your attention elsewhere. To the bigger, ambiguous picture; impersonal and vague, don’t waste your time with “just one” when you could help thousands by sharing your carefully crafted post on Facebook, followed by a Tweet series that will surely go viral. Don’t fall for it.
Christ time and again in the Gospels healed the person right in front of him. He kept it personal. Individual. Intimate even. The saints didn’t become saints by big, grandiose gestures. They became saints because in each moment, confronted by all sorts of people and situations, they chose love—supernatural charity, and God’s Will over their own. By loving the person with whom we engage, our “neighbor” in front of us, we avoid the temptation to pride, and we follow the example of the saints, and of Jesus himself.
Remember that your angel is your best “battle buddy”
The Essenes were an ancient sect of Jews whose origins can be traced back to the Maccabean era and were trained for war. One of the important battle tactics they were taught included learning about all the choirs of angels and how these different choirs fought. That’s right, the Essene Jews, whose influence most likely spilled over to Nazareth, where St. Joseph lived, literally fought with the angels as their fellow warriors. A careful reading of scripture will illustrate just how often “God’s messengers” show up throughout the Old and New Testaments. The angels and their attributes haven’t changed since they were created. Their missions, attributes, and abilities have remained fixed. If Satan and his fallen angels (the demons) are our enemy, then our angels and the angels of all nine choirs are our best allies and battle buddies.
Angels are communicators. It is why they are referred to as messengers in the Old Testament. It is why they regularly appear in dreams. Your angel wants to be a help to you. He wants to communicate. So send him! Are you engaged in an argument that has gone sideways? Are you unsure how to end a heated discussion? Do you fear that you engaged with someone and somehow you have made things worse, not better? Send your angel to the person with whom you are arguing. Have you encountered someone you wish you could have avoided? Are they being disrespectful or mean to you? Take a moment and greet their angel. You can do this silently, perhaps just a small nod or a glance above their heads. Don’t you think that their angel sees their behavior? Angels require our assent of will in order to act. A simple greeting, a slight nod, or acknowledgement of their presence allows them to intervene in powerful ways. Have you encountered someone that you truly cannot help personally? At the very least you can send your angel to them. Ask your angel to speak to theirs and offer supernatural assistance.
We so easily forget about that which we cannot see, yet the angelic host is a very real, active part of our every-day life. If Satan and the demons are always busy trying to trap us, tempt us, and thwart our progress in holiness, it is the angels who are working even harder to fight them off, to assist us, and to redirect us towards the truth.
A winning strategy
Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.Acts 9:1-8
The battles in the fight for life are far from over. It is not wrong to find joy in a victory. We should thank God for the good that will come from this judicial win. Ultimately, we must remember that the greater war is a war for souls—our soul and the souls of all who engage in this fight—regardless of what “side” on which they fall. If we keep this in mind, this victory becomes an even greater one—one that can be an opportunity for growth in holiness, humility, and charity. Let us not forget that the battle for souls is never over. That the next person with whom we engage might be on the brink of their own “Damascus moment.” That those who persecute us today may be our allies tomorrow. That God is the God of miracles. Of conversion. And that no person is a lost cause while they still have breath. With our angels on our side, we fight for the ultimate victory—heaven—which we hope to share with everyone we meet.
Featured imaget: Public Domain, wikipedia, Profil d’un embryon de 14 semaines.Embryo at 14 weeks