On Feb. 3, 1994 Mother Teresa spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Before an audience of 3,000, which included President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore, Mother Teresa called for an end to abortion, “the greatest destroyer of peace today.” A disconcerted Clinton did not take part in the standing ovation which followed the speech. Observers called it the most embarrassing moment of the Clinton administration.
…I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.
By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.
Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.
Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the decision of their own mothers. And this is the greatest destroyer of peace today – abortion which brings people to such blindness.
And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere – “Let us bring the child back.” The child is God’s gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things – to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the centre of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.
But what does God say to us? He says: “Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of My hand.” We are carved in the palm of His hand; that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and to be loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.
I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption – by care of the mother and adoption of her baby. We have saved thousands olives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: “Please don’t destroy the child: we will take the child.” So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: “Come, we will take care of you; we will get a home for your child.” We have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child…Jesus said “Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me.” By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus.
Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.
I know that couples have to plan their families and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception.
I also know that there are great problems in the world – that many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural family planning. We cannot solve all the problems in the world, but let us never bring in the worse problem of all, and that is to destroy love. And this is what happens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion.
The poor are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things. Once one of them came to thank us for teaching her natural family planning and said: “You people who have practices chastity, you are the best people who teach us natural family planning because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other.” And what this poor person said is very true. These poor people maybe have nothing to eat, maybe they have not a home to live in, but they can still be great people when they are spiritually rich.
When I pick up a person in the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread. But a person who is shut out, who feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person who has been thrown out of society – that spiritual poverty is much harder to overcome. And abortion, which often follows from contraception, brings people to be spiritually poor, and that is the worst poverty and the most difficult to overcome…
We may be doing social work in the eyes of some people, but we must be contemplatives in the heart of the world. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do.
If we are contemplatives in the heart of the world with all its problems, these problems can never discourage us…I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Bring that good news to your own people first. And find out about your next-door neighbours. Do you know who they are?
I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbour with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said: “Mother Teresa, there is a family who has not eaten for so long. Do something.” So I took some rice and went there immediately. And I saw the children – their eyes shining with hunger. I don’t know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have seen it very often, and the mother of the family took the rice I gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her: “Where did you go?” What did you so?” And she gave me a very simple answer: “They were hungry also.” What struck me was that she knew – and who are they? A Muslim family – and she knew. I didn’t bring any more rice that evening because I wanted them, Hindus and Muslims, to enjoy the joy of sharing.
But there were those children, radiating joy, sharing the joy and peace with their mother because she had the love to give until it hurts, and you see this is where love begins – at home in the family.
So, as the example of this family shows, God will never forget us and there is something you and I can always do. We can keep the joy of loving Jesus in our hearts, and share that joy with all we come in contact with. Let us make that one point – that no child will be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away. And give until it hurts with a smile.
Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me: “Are you married?” and I said: “Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding – sometimes.” This is really something true. And that is where love comes in – when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy…
If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak – the unborn child – must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for. God bless You!