The One Pertinent Question We Truly Must Ask


In the wake of the horrifying deaths of 20 young school children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, there is one question that we must ask.  We must ask it while the horror is fresh and we must ask it when the process of grief has eased our shock and pain and we must ask it the next time and all the days in between now and the next time.

In what way did those children differ from the unborn who are slaughtered in this country by the thousands every day in abortion clinics SUCH THAT the former deserve the protection of the law and latter do not?

Here is another way to ask the same question: In what way do your own school-age children differ from the unborn who are slaughtered in this country by the thousands every day in abortion clinics SUCH THAT the former deserve the protection of the law and latter do not?

Here is another way to ask the same question: In what way do you differ from the unborn who are slaughtered in this country by the thousands every day in abortion clinics SUCH THAT you deserve the protection of the law and they do not?

Let’s explore some possible answers and the implication of each, i.e. what legal principle they instantiate. Let’s explore whether those differences ARE SUCH that they can account for the inequality of the legal protection of the one life versus the other.

You might be told that the unborn live in a state of dependency upon someone else for life and sustenance. The implication of this response is that any dependent human being, of any age — newborns are just as dependent — may be killed with impunity. It means that if you become dependent, you may be killed, too. We must ask those who give this response if they want to live where dependent persons are disposable instead of protected.

Some responses might focus on that fact that the unborn differ from other humans in their location and size and stage of development. The unborn are in the womb. They are small. They are young. The implication of this response is that the right to legal protection of one’s life is not based upon being a human being — something intrinsic — but is based extrinsic criteria, like location, size, or age. We must ask those who give this response if they want to live where extrinsic arbitrary criteria determine whether one’s life should be protected.

We cannot see the unborn, nor can we communicate with them and relate to them.  They may in fact be “inconvenient” and “unwanted”. The implication of this response is that the right to legal protection of your life is not based upon what you are, but on how or if others perceive and relate to you and whether they find value in your existence. Is it okay with you for the law to place your life in the hands of your fellow citizens to dispose of according to their own personal, subjective criteria? According to whether you are convenient or wanted?

Hearts that have the capacity for genuine anguish over these wanton and senseless killings of children they do not know and have never seen, members of families they do not know and have never seen, are hearts that have the capacity to embrace and protect the unborn. We cannot lose sight of that just because the cause of life seemed so set back politically in the last national election. What we see in our fellow Americans — the outpouring of stunned grief, the compassionate outrage — bespeaks a blind disconnection of mind and heart. To define the problem as merely “political” is to miscategorize it and to concede to defeat in the wrong realm. Millions of our fellow citizens are in mental slavery to a demon-inspired lie that can be overturned with truth, persistently and lovingly presented:

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5 RSV).

So ask: In what way did those children differ from the unborn who are slaughtered in this country by the thousands every day in abortion clinics SUCH THAT the former deserve the protection of the law and latter do not?

Ask it in multiple ways. Ask everyone. Boldly and lovingly insist that people mentally travel into the implications — the brutal, bloody, merciless implications — of their answer, because in their hearts, they really do not want to live there.


About Author

Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is one of the founders and Editor-at-large of Raised as a third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996. Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at

  • Richard E.

    I wrote something along the same lines last night:

  • I have a gut feeling too that a spiritual climate that tolerates abortion also “enables” the deeply troubled to act out with violence. This is not to excuse the young man, but to suggest that his actions not be seen in isolation.

  • I answer a burning question, “Should pro-lifers compare abortion to things like the Connecticut Tragedy?” in this…


    Only the people who stand far, far away from the realities of the sacred experience of saying farewell to a child in a tragedy can demean the experience by putting it on a soapbox side by side with a moral/social “issue” and call them the same thing. I am pro-life, but also in favor of supporting the victims’ families by not trashing the experience so disrespectfully by comparing it to abortion so soon after it happened. This is not a pertinent question and should really NOT be asked in the first week after the disaster. Give it several months rest out of respect to the families who’ve lost a vital part of their lives.

    • goral

      I don’t like the timing either, Darcy. This is my backyard. It hit us very hard.
      Our Santa exhibition was deflated, Friday evening. The parents of the little darlings were not in a jovial mood. What was this evil person thinking in picking this season to do the unthinkable.
      What was the slain teacher thinking when she put her body between the gunman and the children? Now she’s not with her family for Christmas either.
      Yes, timing is everything, as they say.
      When is it the wrong time to save a life? any life?

      • Mary Kochan

        “When is it the wrong time to save a life? any life?” That’s what we call getting it.

        • visitor

          Writing a blog posting is not the same thing as saving a life. That’s the first thing you have to understand. No matter how noble your intentions, this article will save no lives unless it is persuasive. If you come across as somebody just using this crime to score points in an argument, you will actually stir up resentment that will make it harder for the pro-life message to be effective. This is something beyond the ability of you or me to control; it’s just the reality of how people are. You have to be aware of this and respond accordingly.

    • Mary Kochan

      No, Darcy, abortion is no more of a “moral/social ‘issue'” than gunning down 1st graders is. And I have lost a child in a tragedy for your information. The best way to honor the memories of these children is to prompt greater love and protection for all children.

    • Dec. 18th: ‘abortion’ is the slaying of unborn human babies and this, as Pope John Paul has said over and over again, creates a ‘culture of death’ where no human life is considered sacred, where human life is expendable…violence begets violence and the violence of destroying human life in the womb or outside of the womb generates more violence…

  • “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

  • Hijacking this horrific event for any cause is inexcusable. Grieve for these children and these families and their community. Don’t piggyback on their grief, extrapolating it out to anyone else. It’s disrespectful and lacks compassion and love.

    • Mary Kochan

      On the contrary, it is NOT “hijacking” to perceive that our embrace of these particular families and children — who, I will remind you, most of us do not know and have never seen — should also extend to yet others we do not know and have not seen. It is not hijacking to note that our ability to embrace these particular families and children most of us do not know and have never seen can give us hope that we do indeed have the capacity to extend our compassion to the unborn. That is NOT a lack of love and compassion, it is rather a widening of the circle of our love and compassion.

      • Widening it to forward a different agenda (one other than comforting those in distress) is hijacking.

        • Mary Kochan

          No it is not. And i speak from experience. Have you ever lost a child?

      • Alice

        The connection between abortion and the senseless murder of
        20 very young children and the six adults who died trying to save those young lives is very real. Abortion and senseless mass murder are only two of the countless symptoms of the metastasizing cancer spreading ever wider and deeper into our culture and our souls. I also think that raising the issue of abortion now, even in the midst of our grieving this tragedy with those whose lives have been personally and forever scarred and changed, does not amount to hijacking, but rather, is necessary, even if it adds to our pain. If we are to ever begin to change the course of events in our world, it needs to be pointed out that what ails our society as a whole is also what ails each and every one of us: and that is, the “s” word: sin, the cause of all our blindness and weakness and divisions among us.

        Over and over again in the course of media coverage of the murders in Newtown, I heard the reporters and citizens alike conclude that “evil
        has come to this town today,” and “this represents the murder of our youngest and most innocent—how could anyone do this???” Yes, great evil, unimaginable evil was committed, and precious, innocent lives were violently and brutally taken. But these children are in fact
        NOT our youngest and most innocent victims of violent and brutal murder. And there is in fact, God help us, an even greater evil living among us: the evil which we do not call evil; the evil for which we do not weep and over which we do not cry aloud, “why?” That evil is abortion: the daily mass murder of what has become millions of our pre-born children. All unloved and unwanted children; all unmourned. What greater tragedy could there be in this life?

        As all of us now reach out to those in Newtown who are in the midst of such profound grief, please know that we do not in any way detract
        from or minimize what has happened when we also put this latest horror into its wider societal context. Beyond our grief at the loss of those murdered, don’t we in fact honor the victims and their families and loved ones to the utmost if we finally resolve to do everything to try to help them answer the question, “why?” We need to get to the heart of the matter. Because in doing so, what we are seeking to accomplish is to make sure that they did not die in vain—because finally, we want to do everything we can to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

  • CoJoGo

    I think it’s safe to say we all grieve these precious children taken violently from their families, Mary included. I absolutely understand the criticisms that people have leveled at Mary – in the same way I understand a troubled young woman that has an abortion after finding herself pregnant without planning that result. I understand but do not support or agree!

    Yes this is a moral issue but is too important to be referred to as a ‘social’ issue. People must be led to the absolute truthful conclusion of protecting and caring for the most vulnerable of us, whether born or not. If we, as a people, don’t wake
    others up to the reality of life ending at death – rest assured, abortion is death – then we will never be able to ask the question, “why do these atrocities happen?” When a child is disposable in the womb and young people grow up hearing this, knowing this, being taught this at school, then it is not a stretch to see someone who does not think clearly, for whatever deplorable reason, do a heinous act such as this. I will not presume on the young man’s condition or thought process but I will recognize the fallacy in our country that protects a child that is newborn and yet destroys the same child just moments before birth. The grief I feel is no less for the unborn than for these dear children. Heartsick, physically ill.

    The children do not differ. The choice of the parents, did.

    Thank you, Lord Jesus, for holding these children and their families,
    communities, country and human family during this most tragic time. Dear God, change our hearts and minds!

  • bglm

    Ms. Kochan is unequivocally correct. I am not shocked such violent urges reside deep within the DNA of our country’s citizens. Nor do I share our country’s collective disbelief that someone could carry out abhorrent crimes such as what so tragically occurred just four days ago during this season of merriment. After all, the perpetrators of most of these acts are just kids themselves so they were born into our culture of death and moral relativism where no one is allowed to speak of right vs. wrong or good vs. evil.

    As Bryan Kemper says, lest anyone think it insensitive to draw these comparisons so soon, while we’re all still reeling from last Friday’s horrific events, I concur with him that the time is actually LONG OVERDUE.

    The REAL war on women, and the crime of surgical abortion, has wounded our nation’s soul so deeply and warped our consciences so irreparably, I am left with but one question:

    What else could we possibly expect?

  • I am absolutely appalled by this post. Shame on Mary. It’s okay to be anti-abortion, but wow….this is shocking. I hope you’ll open your eyes and see what you are saying. So tragic that you would write this Mary. Shame shame shame on you.

    • Mary Kochan

      “It’s okay to be anti-abortion”? Is it “okay” also to be pro-abortion or “pro-choice” if the “choice” under consideration is the killing of a baby in the womb?

  • Dec. 19th: I’m glad you are asking that Mary. I live near Newtown, have friends in Newtown – this has hit everyone hard. Msgr. Weiss, the Pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Newtown is a staunch pro-life advocate and he speaks at pro-life conferences often. Many of those slain are parishioners of St. Rose. When comments came up after the shooting linking this horrible event with the culture of death in our country, some people were furious and indignant. “Keep abortion out of this, they cried.” I no longer use the word ‘abortion’ because it has become meaningless to many…I ask, as you did, how we can slaughter so many human babies in the wombs of their mothers and go on as if nothing is happening? I believe we need to show what this killing is like…people could ‘see’ the faces and bodies of those little children slain last week but they cannot ‘see’ the little ones growing within the mother so they can ignore this mass killing. And they cannot see that the seeds of death and destruction are being sown every day which generate death and destruction everywhere – Mother Teresa used to ask: “If we would kill the babies in the womb, would would we not do?” I often wonder why every single Cardinal, Bishop, Pastor, Priest, layperson is not crying out in a loud voice: “Stop the killing!” but they are not and those who perpetuate these mass murders like Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, Kennedy, Daschle etc are allowed to consider themselves Catholics in good standing and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. So in the eyes of many, it is not a serious issue…families in Newtown are also asking why anyone needs a military style rapid firing assault weapon…they ask what would have happened if the shooter had had a hand gun – would the principal who tried to take him down still be alive…instead, he was able to mow her down quickly, as he did with the small children…rapidly firing to kill…they say he intended to kill many more but when he heard the police sirens, he killed himself. Let people own hand guns for protection and rifles for hunting but why these powerful weapons? I just don’t understand the need to kill or to own such weapons to potentially kill…what type of personality needs these powerful weapons? The abortionist, the mass murderer…when will we learn to live in peace and brotherhood…Newtown is a beautiful place…people will heal and there is so much love and support not only among the people of Newtown but coming from afar to embrace them with prayer and love…but this will leave its mark and the surviving children have seen and experienced something no one should ever see or experience so please pray for all … and pray for an end to this senseless killing – in the womb, in our schools – everywhere…Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace…

    • goral

      “What type of personality needs these powerful weapons? The abortionist, the mass murderer.”
      A good question, Sam, especially in light of the horrific event that just took place in our State.
      Before I give my own answer, I’ll just pass a comment that a caller made to Gov. Roland on his afternoon radio show.
      He said that when he brings his child to that school, as an off-duty officer, he is required by law to leave his gun at home.
      If the gunman turned the gun on himself when he heard the police siren then why was the emergency siren not activated right away. Probably because there wasn’t one.
      Are we loosing our ability to think and take reasonable precautions for our protection in this state and throughout the nation. We have to stop being stupid about our own responsibility to secure our safety.

      To the original question, the “answer” is really your own answer. The abortionist uses medical implements to inflict far more carnage.
      In places where it’s almost impossible to get assault weapons, desperados strap explosives on their bodies. The Omaha explosion was made from fertilizer.
      I can come up with ten sure-fire ways to kill dozens, in just this post.
      A sick mind could think of scores.
      It is not my intent here, to defend assault weapons. There are many who
      use them for sport, legally.
      Why do guys drive muscle cars with 160 on the speedometer?
      Why do some women own twenty pairs of shoes?
      People have extravagant hobbies and in this case evil intentions.
      We have a lot of soul searching to do.
      Your closing statement should be our beginning. God bless.

    • I believe in the Second Amendment, but every civil right is limited by the need to uphold the common good. Weapons suited to soldiers in the military are not needed for hunting or self-defense. It would be just fine with me if the government enacted a buyback program, as happened in Australia some years ago.

      I have never owned a gun and in fact would be afraid to have one in my house. I rely on God’s protection to keep me safe – and he has rescued me from crime on at least two occasions that I know of. If a murderer breaks in and kills me, then it was my time. I will not become like him by using a weapon. We are Christians, and faith is our shield.

  • jmadsen

    Here’s another way to ask the question – Why do you spend so much time, money and care on the unborn, and so little on the already living, in poverty & malnutrition?

    • Maybe bringing justice to everyone requires starting with the most vulnerable of all?

    • Mary Kochan

      To whom is this question directed? Is it directed toward me personally — you don’t know what I/my family spends to help others. Or is it directed toward pro-lifers in general, who are also among those who give the most to all charities? Or is it directed to Catholics and the Church? What you are doing jmadsen is mindlessly repeating a meme created by the pro-aborts — a little thought virus inserted into your mind and then replicated itself through your mouth and fingers. Try thinking about whether there is any logic to it. Consider that “caring” for the unborn also means caring for the already born mother of that child. Consider that the Catholic Church runs more schools and orphanages and clinics and hospitals than any other organization or government.