As we enter Lent, local Christians are joining together to affirm the value and dignity of all human life - including the mothers, fathers, children, doctors and nurses who are involved in abortion - during the annual "40 Days for Life" campaign.

The availability of abortion impacts our families and society in many ways and engenders within our culture an inhumane, utilitarian view of life. It blinds to the fact that each individual is a unique person, fully human and gifted by God.

Our society has, in some ways, made great strides in how we think about and care for the disadvantaged. We have laws that forbid discrimination in education, the workforce and other areas, and we offer social services to affirm the dignity of those who might otherwise be marginalized.

Yet, at the same time, we now live in a society where 90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, and where doctors routinely encourage abortion when a child is believed to have this genetic imperfection. People who are made in the image of God and who have much love and meaning to contribute to their families and communities are judged to be unworthy of life because they are genetically imperfect.

The inconsistencies and inhumanity in our culture should disturb us deeply. We need hearts and laws to be changed so that life can be promoted and protected at all stages and for all people.

Rev. Kenneth Doyle's respect life reflection in the Feb. 2 issue of The Evangelist, titled "Compassion for women who have had abortions," is a perfect reminder of what it means to be pro-life. We are not called so much to be against something as we are called to be for something - to be truly pro-life.

God is ready to forgive and heal a person who has been involved in abortion, just as God is ready to forgive and heal a person who has been involved in any other sin. Father Doyle challenges us to live our lives as a reflection of God's character, noting: "Forgiveness should be our way...we should open our arms in compassion and gentle welcome to any woman burdened by that tragedy in the past."

Father Doyle speaks of the regret and remorse that are common to a mother who has had an abortion. Such feelings can also occur in fathers and in all who participate in or are affected by abortion. But we live in a culture where people can be rejected simply because they speak out against abortion or were a participant in an abortion.

Those who have been impacted are often left to suffer in silence. They need to know where to find hope and healing.

If we are to be truly pro-life, we must speak the truth about abortion: that it ends an innocent human life; that it negatively impacts how we value others; that it is discriminatory. We must offer forgiveness, hope and help to all who have been impacted by abortion, so that they can experience the healing power of God.

Everyone deserves an opportunity for the fullness of life.

(Mr. Wilbur is a parishioner of St. Joseph's Church in Broadalbin and a volunteer with Schenectady's 40 Days for Life campaign.)

The 40 Days for Life campaign of prayer and outreach will take place Feb. 22-April 2 at 1040 State St., Schenectady. Contact Viviane Strain, 384-0699, or see www.40daysforlife.com/schenectady">www.40daysforlife.com/schenectady.