For most Americans, abortion is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it is there but decorum and civility warrant that it not be discussed in polite company. In the 45 years since Roe v. Wade, the abortion aura has deeply permeated our schools, universities, the marketplace and entertainment. Since the average elephant lives no longer than 50-70 years, one could surmise that it is about time we as a nation had more open and frank discussions about its role in our society.
Unfortunately, abortion is probably the most difficult and therefore the most important issue that confronts Catholics. Its proponents strike at the very root of our faith. It is important that Catholics try to create a common front on this issue. The other side is basically a monolith in its promotion of the slaughter of the innocents. Since Catholics have the truth on our side, I do not see why we cannot emulate them in their passion.
The standard avoidance tactic hides behind the belief that since it is legal, it must therefore be acceptable or at least tolerable. It has become the necessary evil, like Homeowners Insurance or annual dental cleanings that everyone needs to protect against unnecessary mishaps such as fires or gingivitis.
Abortion is more than a killing act. It has become an attitude. The way one looks at abortion is the way that one looks at other people, the elderly and even the unwanted. Abortion has stripped children of their innocence and adults of their compassion. It has robbed the future of much of its promise. People become disposable commodities that have utilitarian value. When their use runs out they can be discarded at will.
This is essentially the cultural playing field. Some may argue that abortion is not about theology but only practicality. I would counter that abortion is all about metaphysics and with that it is very theological. Man is made in God’s image and likeness, especially in his early formation. To destroy another human being is an attack on God’s creation and ultimately an attack on Him.
Abortion has made the lucky survivors of choice more special to the extent that we pamper them and agonize over their least bodily aliment. Our addiction to “things” often results in the neglect of our spiritual lives. When those among us are ripe for meaningful sexual relationships or just a few recreational acts, we want them protected against the “disease of pregnancy.”
Abortion is to the post-modern era what slavery was to the 19th century. The blowback from that legal institution is still being felt today. Imagine what the unintended consequences will be for this country in future centuries.
In conversation, many people use the biologically correct term but foreign-sounding term “fetus” with reference to the unborn. I suggest that to use that in a sentence is as contradictory and offensive as using the word “chattel” with black people and Untermenschen with Jewish people. The human way is to call them what they are: “unborn babies.” In this country, it is illegal to kill a bald eagle and her eggs. Though they are no longer threatened with extinction, they still have a higher status than an unborn baby, which has absolutely no protections or rights.
The Declaration of Independence talks of man’s inalienable rights. All rights come from God. They are part of what being human is all about. Abortion can never be an inalienable right. It is nothing more than a privilege protected by Congress and five members of the Supreme Court.
In our “living language” some people have started calling pregnancy a disease, religion a mental illness and an unborn child a parasite. Rhetoric in favor of abortion always focuses solely on the woman. Isn’t it curious that there are probably more men in favor of abortion than there are women? It was seven men who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade in 1973. It was a man who came up with the idea of “choice” as an argument. Men perform most abortions and I would add for the presumed benefit of men. I wonder how many women are actually “forced” in their “choice” by a fearful father, a jealous boyfriend, or even an angry husband.
Many politicians, even those who claim to be pro-life, allow for the exemptions for rape and incest. (R&I) What can or would you say to these people? This one upsets a lot of people, even some devout Catholics. I believe that people who accept these exceptions undermine every argument against any abortion, even the so-called “partial birth” abortion. This makes R&I their best weapon, because it is admittedly our weakest link.
I have usually countered this argument by directing the anger toward the guilty party here, namely the rapist and the father. To “punish” the unborn child for someone else’s crime is an evil misdirection. While the woman bears no responsibility for her pregnancy, sometimes a human responsibility is thrust upon us in times of national disaster, and even war. I believe that the violence done to her fits this situation.
By her very virtue of being a woman and a human being, the nascent life in her womb has become her responsibility. It is somewhat akin to the woman and the violinist. Sometimes God’s will ask us to do things we would rather not do but we have to do them because they are the right thing to do. To kill her unborn child, and it is her child, whether she chose it or not—is like the mother, father or even total stranger who saved themselves from a burning building and left a child to die.
While these exceptions amount to no more than 19,500 out of the 1.3 million aborted babies each year, they are still innocent and deserving of public protection, without consideration for the relative circumstances of their conception.
These emotional appeals have high standing in the debate. Few people can envision “forcing” a young woman to bear her father’s child or that of a total stranger. It would take the heroic act of a real saint to bring these children to term. Yet sometimes we are called to perform acts of moral heroism and courage. Mothers and fathers and sometimes, even total strangers, risk their lives to rush into a burning building to save a child or come to the aid of a child being attacked by a predator. Police officers and firemen and women do it every day. Why can’t women look at their unwanted babies in that light?