Sometimes the light of truth shines from little-known sources. A particularly sharp observation on human life and dignity came this week from two sources, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations and the local newsstand.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio to the U.N., spoke at a session concerning the status of women in which he pointed out the many positive strides women have made in the past 15 years. Along with achievements in all professions and in civic and political life around the world, women are at the fore in combating global poverty, educating girls, removing discrimination and enacting laws against domestic violence.

He noted, however, that in many parts of the world women suffer disproportionately from malnutrition, illiteracy, infection by AIDS and human trafficking. Worse than these is the killing of women because of their very gender. “Violence in the form of female feticide, infanticide and abandonment are realities that cannot be brushed aside,” he said.

At the same time last week, a careful review of a newsstand brought notice of the Economist, a British magazine. Its cover story concerned the horrifying evidence of rampant killing of infant girls by infanticide and neglect, and abortion of preborn girls. “Mass murder” for those who oppose abortion, the magazine called it.

The enormous cultural pressures prevalent in China, India and other countries for families to favor boys over girls ignore the truth of the dignity of women. One researcher in the story estimates the casualty as 100 million girls in Asia as of 1990. In the 20 years since, the number is likely much higher because affordable technology like ultrasound scans can easily confirm a fetus’s sex.

Many couples in America have courageously adopted baby girls from China who were lucky enough to end up in an orphanage. Millions of other girls and boys in this country have not been so fortunate. They succumbed to death by abortion perhaps for reasons other than sex selection. But the result and underlying rationale remain the same: this child is deemed inconvenient, unvalued, disposable.

Natural outrage over the killing of girls in Asia gives yet more inescapable evidence that abortion, for whatever reasons it is chosen, destroys human life. All attacks on persons at any age do damage to families, nations and humanity itself. The thought of our countless sisters and brothers who never grew up should motivate everyone to honor women, and men, by opposing the social and legal structures that allow their destruction to take place. May a little girl lead us.