Millions of Americans have their own stories about how they arrived at the pro-life position on abortion, but Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has a unique one. He experienced the reality of abortion in a way most people never have.
In a new interview with the National Catholic Register, he talked about the experience of seeing the body of a baby who had been victimized by abortion in a sink. It left such an indelible impression on him that he said he will forever be pro-life.
“Today is a day to repent,” Archbishop Aquila said in his Jan. 22 letter “40 Years of the Culture of Death.”
“The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a day to commit to a culture of life,” he urged. “Today the Lord is calling us to stand up.”
Archbishop Aquila’s letter began with a grim story of his experiences with two abortions.
“I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that,” he said. “I learned what human dignity was when I saw it callously disregarded. I know, without a doubt, that abortion is a violent act of murder and exploitation. And I know that our responsibility is to work and pray without ceasing for its end.”
The archbishop said he had arrived at college in 1968 intending to become a doctor at a time when he was not consistently practicing his faith. He spent his first three summers of college as a hospital orderly in California, where laws had begun to protect abortion.
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His first encounter with the procedure was in an outer room of a hospital’s surgical unit, where he was “stunned” when he found in the sink the body of “a small unborn child who had been aborted.”
His second exposure to abortion, however, was “more shocking.”
He recalled how a young woman came into the emergency room screaming, saying she had had an abortion already and the doctor had told her she would pass the remains naturally. She was bleeding, and the medical staff, including the future Archbishop Aquila, put her on the table.
“I held a basin as the doctor retrieved a tiny arm, a tiny leg and then the rest of the broken body of a tiny unborn child,” Archbishop Aquila said. “I was shocked. I was saddened for the mother and child, for the doctor and the nurse.”
“I witnessed a tiny human being destroyed by violence,” he said. The experience made him pro-life, and he eventually returned to his Catholic faith.