Mr. Panza is 97 years old. He lives in the nursing home down the road from my house. Over the last year, he and I have become good friends. A few weeks ago, he told me his story.
Mr. Panza’s parents met when his father fought in France during World War I. A farmer from Le Mans, France, offered his farm to the Americans to set up their operations. There his daughter met and fell in love with Mr. Panza’s father, a strapping, young Italian-American G.I.
After the war, they married and moved to his home in Chicago. From the beginning, Mr. Panza’s mother struggled with life in the United States, especially the rough streets of Chicago. She begged her husband to allow them to move back to France. She was miserable.
Soon after arriving in Chicago, they had a son together. When she became pregnant again, however, Mr. Panza’s mother decided she couldn’t take it anymore. She would have an abortion, leave her husband and return to France.
The abortion procedure, however, failed. The baby refused to die. By that point, she couldn’t bring herself to try another abortion.
That was 97 years ago.
My friend, Mr. Panza, was a failed abortion. Soon after his birth, his mother took the boys to vacation in France, but then informed her husband she would not return.
After a difficult custody battle, Mr. Panza’s father returned to Chicago with the two boys. They lost touch with their mother and would not find her again until they were adults. It was only before she died that she finally confessed to her son her failed attempt to abort him. She begged him to forgive her.
Mr. Panza did.
God has blessed Mr. Panza with a full and abundant life. His father remarried, this time to a Mexican-American woman. He was raised speaking Italian, Spanish and French. He himself fought in World War II on the Pacific Front, helping to liberate New Guinea from the Japanese. For years, he owned and operated a small factory in California which made jackets for J.C. Penney. He married, had two sons of his own and now has numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
None of them would be here today if the abortion hadn’t failed. Even today, it is impossible to speak with Mr. Panza without being moved by his infectious kindness and joie de vivre. His life has touched hundreds, if not thousands of people.
The abortion debate continues to rage in our country. A new justice on the Supreme Court and new legislation by a number of states have brought the issue once again to the forefront of American politics and news.
Since the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion with its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, an estimated 60 million babies have been aborted in the United States. To put that into perspective, that is ten times the amount of people killed in the Holocaust.
Sixty million babies. Sixty million souls. Sixty million lives unlived.
Though one can understand a woman’s desire to have autonomy over her own body, what about the baby’s right to live, to breathe, to survive? Just because a pregnancy is unwanted or unplanned does not mean the baby’s life is any less precious or important. Every life, every soul, every person on this planet is important to God.
If you are hurting like Mr. Panza’s mother, if you are struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, understand there are other options. Yes, it is more difficult to have the baby and then give him or her up for adoption, but you are saving a life. You are saving yourself the burden of a lifetime of guilt and regret. You are allowing a life to be lived.
A life like Mr. Panza’s.