I began bothering people in 1973. This was the year that I was born, and folks who have known me since before I could form memories assure me that my company was unpleasant almost from day one.
Something else happened in that year — something that has had a profound effect on society ever since. In January of 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling, guaranteeing American women the right to abortion.
My parents were not religious people at that time, nor were they particularly politically minded. All the same, something about America’s top lawyers decreeing that lives could be ended before they began affected them very deeply. So, when it came time to name me (this process took an unusually long time — being as I was a second child, there seemed little urgency to the matter), they thought to recognize the fact that while I had been born in good health, millions of other little fellows would never get that chance. They looked past our Irish roots (most of our monikers have to do with drink or revenge, anyway) and named me Theodore, which is Greek for “Gift of God” (I hasten to add that they settled on this handle before they had taken the full measure of my personality or, significantly, before I had learned to speak).
Today in Canada, the man who led the charge for abortion, defying the law before our own Supreme Court reached the same dubious conclusion as its American counterpart, is the object of acclaim. Dr. Henry Morgentaler has been awarded the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour, which is symbolized by a snowflake-shaped lapel pin.
At my age, and with my middling skills, I have not been graced with the time or talent to have attained such a prestigious award. But if I had, and if the same folks who honoured me then chose to celebrate a man for snuffing out little lives, I like to think I would waste no time in telling them where to stick their snowflake. I was proud that my father removed his own hard-earned Order of Canada immediately upon hearing of Morgentaler’s accolade.
Future generations may well condemn our society’s countenance of abortion in the same way we look back in wonder and revulsion at those who defended slavery. Men such as William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln are rightly revered today for their opposition to that peculiar institution — but we must recall that they were outnumbered and reviled in their time. Indeed, both men were stretched to the limit of their political skills, and their lives, to obtain justice. The nobility of their cause, though clear to us, was nowhere near apparent to their contemporaries. Then, as now, the most dreadful things can become convention if enough folks go along.
Every child is important, and they are all wanted by someone. Most significant, children are not possessions, nor are they disposable appendages before their birth. All children deserve a chance, even those who are disagreeable and grow up to write contentious columns.
None of us, not even justices of the Supreme Court, knows where souls can be found before life begins or where they go when it is over. It is a beautiful mystery of which each human life owns a part. In this way, every child is a Gift of God.