Parental Duties – in the Womb and Throughout Life

This blog was contributed by Brittany Vessely, executive director of Catholic Education Partners in Thornton, Colorado.

As of the end of October, the start of the 40 Days for Life, I am 25 weeks pregnant and closing in on my third trimester with my baby boy in the womb. He is my husband and my first child. While I was pro-life prior to conceiving, carrying my child has made me appreciate the fullness of his life even more.

I am also an education policy advocate. I run a nonprofit that advocates for parental rights over their children’s education options. Specifically, Catholic Education Partners’ purpose is to allow more families and children to enjoy the amazing benefits of a Catholic education, using the tax dollars allocated for their children’s public education. We do this by promoting financial access through state policies and ensuring that our schools and students have their religious liberties protected when state funds are given to Catholic schools for students’ tuition.

My work is constantly advocating for parental rights. But beyond rights, there are duties.

Politics and culture could best be described as two tides with an ocean in-between. They push against each other. Laws shape culture, as much as culture dictate laws. This is true in education policy and in pro-life/pro-choice policy. Everyone appeals to positive, human, and natural rights, but not many appeal to duties.

The truth is that as a new parent, with my child in the womb, I am keenly aware of my baby’s right to life – but I am also equally aware of my duty as his mother to make sure he is healthy, safe, loved, and when he enters this world on his own, he is reared in the Church, given the sacraments, and educated and formed both in the faith and to be a good citizen. That is my duty as his parent, from conception and throughout his life.

Working in public policy, I am encouraged by new legislation introduced to protect life. For instance, on October 22, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions after a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected, usually around 5-weeks gestation. Doctors who perform abortions after the heartbeat can be detected would face criminal charges under this law. The bill is expected to hit the Senate floor in January and Governor McMaster has already stated he will sign it into law.

Likewise, every year, every state considers education reforms that will re-empower parents with their children’s education decision-making authority. It is a battle every year, but as of 2019, over 500,000 children are using state-funding to attend private schools with state scholarships. And about 40 percent of them are attending Catholic schools. As 40 Days for Life commences, we must remember we are fighting for children’s right to life, but it is also our right and duty as parents and members of society to make sure these babies are cared for, loved, raised in the faith and given an opportunity for a quality education. Our duties to them are for life, from conception and throughout their lives.