Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We Can't Compromise on Abortion

Steve Waldman at Beliefnet writes this lengthy and thoughtful post on whether or not Democrats might be able to reduce abortions more than Republicans (HT: Rod Dreher). He asks some interesting--if provocative--questions, including:
Because of the need to preserve the coalition, it's inconceivable therefore that any pro-contraception-pro-life leaders would ever pose this horrific question to the Catholic Church: is it possible that your opposition to birth control over the years has increased the number of abortions? Nor is it likely that they would say to their conservative evangelical compatriots: isn't it possible that your resistance to sex education, has led to more abortions?
I've written here before about the Church's teaching regarding contraception; suffice it to say that the Church's teaching is much more complex and human than people outside the Church generally realize. Moreover, it simply can't be posited that birth control "solves" the problem of abortion; it is birth control, and the "sex without consequences" attitude which accompanies it, that leads to the "need" for abortion in the first place.

But Waldman is raising some other issues that Protestants and other non-Catholic Christians might need to examine, in particular the fact that many Christians don't oppose fertility treatments that can destroy an embryo, such as IVF. It's a good question to ask, especially to those who oppose ESCR but favor IVF, a situation that exists among some Christians.

The real problem, though, is this. We've been down this kind of road before, as a nation, when the moral evil in question was slavery. All kinds of efforts were made to approve it, to allow it to spread, to compromise with it, to overlook it, and so forth. Some of the events which preceded the Civil War were last-ditch legislative efforts to keep slavery contained to the Southern states and not let it spread to the territories--but to keep slavery legal.

But it didn't work. The nation could not, as Lincoln said, remain a nation divided--not when the division was over a grave moral evil that some wanted to allow and others to abolish. Limiting slavery, confining slavery, seeking to remove the rights of freed slaves or those who escaped from slavery to the non-slave territories or states, all of those things percolated below the national consciousness for years until the philosophical and moral impossibility of living in a nation which codified such evil and refused to address it directly boiled over into those things which made the Civil War inevitable.

At our present time in history we know that abortion is an evil which permeates our states and which the Supreme Court's infamous decisions have made ubiquitous. A state that wanted to outlaw abortion couldn't do so at the present time, and that won't change under the Democrats, who think the only way to protect the "choice" to kill one's own offspring in utero is to mandate that the status quo remain firmly in place.

And that is why, despite the clear anguish of so many, Catholics, Christians, and others, who would love to believe that Barack Obama isn't going to make abortion law any worse today than it already is and that they can therefore vote for him with a reasonably clear conscience, it must be said that the answer to the question at hand is, no. No, the Democrats will not reduce abortions more than the Republicans. No, the party of Death will not lead to a greater respect for Life. No, even if you wish to believe that abortions will be reduced under Obama, you must accept the reality that they will not be. At best, more and more abortions will be early, chemically-induced abortions instead of gruesome surgical ones, and the battle for the lives of our tiniest Americans will shift from the ugly, hellish abortion clinics to sanitized pharmacies and the aisles of the banality of evil in our local ShopWalTarStuffEmporiumsMart where currently the dreary hell-tickets boxed up as condoms and similar attacks on our immortal souls and those of our children squat like horned gargoyles that hiss at us as we pass by on our way to buy bread or toothpaste.

There are many things in the political sphere for which it is perfectly reasonable and logical and moral to work out compromises. But just as there was no compromising with the evil that was slavery, so is it true that we can't compromise with the evil that is abortion. It is already eating through the pillars of life and liberty upon which our founding fathers built this country, and if we continue to pretend that the radioactive fallout raining down upon us following the sexual revolution's destruction of the nuclear family is a harmless breeze, we shouldn't be surprised if we wake one day in the not-to-distant future to find that that wind we have sown has become the whirlwind of destruction, poised to claim its harvest.

10 comments:

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Abortion is just an issue on which people of good conscience cannot disagree.

Maria said...

As you highlighted, I think the Waldman article points to the real root of the abortion issue in our country: an embrace of the notion of "sex without consequences" and a rejection of the idea of a child as a gift. I wholeheartedly support effots to outlaw abortion, but just like the end of slavery was just the beginning of tackling the issue of racisme in our country, outlawing abortion is just the first step in tackling these deep misunderstandings of sexuality and human dignity.

I'm feeling rather disheartened at the moment. Each day it looks more and more that Sen. Obama will be the next president, and with his election the first step towards a culture of life, the hope of a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade, becomes less and less of a reality.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church can issue encyclicals all it wants, but unless all US citizens are Catholic and responsive to the Vatican, and all those of adolescent-age and older that are sexually active have ascribed to Catholic principles, and receive the similar security and support of a good Catholic family, we cannot apply our Catholic teaching to others. It is simply not fair in a democracy.

From the pamphlet, Voting for the Common Good, a practical guide for conscientious Catholics, 'reducing our voting duty to a 'litmus test' that reduces Catholic issues to one or just a few issues' is imprudent, and is inconsiderate of our 'broader obligation to promote the common good of all humanity'.

Although it is tempting to bring in a highly charged emotion such as 'hate' to reinforce the 'us vs. them' which is an eminently divisive position, Mrs. Palin's expressed view in her stump speeches for the Republican candidate seem for all intents and purposes an intentional fly in the ointment of decent Americans attempting to make a rational decision, unless we are all banking on Mr. McCain's imminent demise.
Engeltina

Tim J. said...

I read "Voting for the Common Good" and found it uncommonly bad.

I'll take the guidance of the bishops, thanks.

Scott W. said...

The Catholic Church can issue encyclicals all it wants, but unless all US citizens are Catholic and responsive to the Vatican, and all those of adolescent-age and older that are sexually active have ascribed to Catholic principles, and receive the similar security and support of a good Catholic family, we cannot apply our Catholic teaching to others. It is simply not fair in a democracy.

Respectfully, there is one big matzah ball of an error here: that the evilness of abortion is merely a Christian, particularly Catholic artifact. T'ain't so. It is intrinsicly evil. Meaning evil by it's very nature no matter what someone's subjective opinion is of it. This is why there are such things as pro-life atheist groups. Intrinsic evils outweigh other issues. There ain't no escape hatch for this.

Anonymous said...

Why certainly one should beg to differ. For example, in a very simple simile, just as an innocent life lost from miscarriage would be interpreted as the Will of God, so should too, the death of a soldier in war. Far more 'deaths' are waged in the abattoir of the abortion clinic I've heard than the battlefield, but did the little one have full development of a soul at emergence into the world, a sense of right and wrong, choice to do evil or good, have dependents awaiting healthy return to a work-force? My point, death or torture or slavery of a fully developed human is probably more reprehensible than removal in utero. IS there any less pain or torture in fetal demise? There must certainly be feelings and physical response. Tacit acceptance of life and death matters may be okay for the callous, and just as the hooded guillotine operator makes swift work in a death sentence, so might an atheist accept the premise that vegetarians should be pro-lifers, as well.

I would think, that the reasons that other Christian faiths can condone abortion relates to their definition of viable life.

The deliberate act of taking the life of a viable baby that can feel and respond to what is snuffing its life, is in direct opposition to one of ten Commandments, Don't atheists believe in no cruelty, torture or killing? It hardly matters if there is a Commandment or not forbidding it.

Far be it from me to judge the worth of a life, whether it's defined at conception, or viability to survive beyond the sole sustenance from maternal blood supply.

I imagine the thrust of the argument against abortion is as a means of population control--which at the outset is outrageous, If there is a matter of choice in whether procreation is a joint decision as well the intrinsic belief that every time a woman engages in the sexual act that there is possibility of procreation (unless the woman physically does not have the necessary organs for reproduction) then there really should be no argument as to the degree of choice vs. no choice, but it seems that with the matter of a high number of early snuffing of fetal life the equal argument of choice of baby vs. no baby = sex vs. no sex, very rarely happens, I would daresay.

And there is the commonly accepted Jewish matter (and of course a great many rabbis study the Old Testament to come to a conclusion) that abortion is supported by their Faith in cases of maternal endangerment, with their own definition of when life begins, as well.

'Choice' as a human endeavor in the matter of selecting whom is to die and to live is intrinsically evil, but it, too, is the Will of God. In the weighing of things one might well recall that God says, 'get thee BEHIND me, satan.' I choose to think that GOOD will outweigh evil, whether it's on this earth or somewhere else.

One might consider my line of reasoning although somewhat rational a little bizarre, but in making the value of a choice of vote in a democratic governmental system based on a selected issue, and not considering how greater care of God's creation of those living can possibly obviate the call for early life terminations along with other societal and cultural factors, might be considered short-sighted with narrowed vision and unequally bizarre.

And, in my line of work, I would daresay I'm more familiar with living and dying people young and old, neonatal and geriatric than a few people that offer opinions based on how to make words glow and shrink and follow each other on a piece of paper. I don't pretend to know God's mind, nor want to get elected to public office. I just see what I see, and I hope that I never am in a position to be involved directly in a decision that can be interpreted that I'm choosing someone's death over life.

Scott W. said...

One might consider my line of reasoning although somewhat rational a little bizarre, but in making the value of a choice of vote in a democratic governmental system based on a selected issue, and not considering how greater care of God's creation of those living can possibly obviate the call for early life terminations along with other societal and cultural factors, might be considered short-sighted with narrowed vision and unequally bizarre.

Not at all. For an example see Bishop Martino's response to the typical equivocation between abortion and war:

Even the Church’s just war theory has moral force because it is grounded in the principle that innocent human life must be protected and defended. Now, a person may, in good faith, misapply just war criteria leading him to mistakenly believe that an unjust war is just, but he or she still knows that innocent human life may not be harmed on purpose. A person who supports permissive abortion laws, however, rejects the truth that innocent human life may never be destroyed. This profound moral failure runs deeper and is more corrupting of the individual, and of the society, than any error in applying just war criteria to particular cases.

While one can talk about the tragedy of both a baby or a soldier dying, we can't escape the act itself. One can act in good faith in a war. One absolutely CANNOT act in good faith and procure or help procure abortions. I have found in several cases when I squeezed a "personally opposed" Catholic enough, they eventually let the cat out of the bag that for them abortion was only evil according to subjective intent or circumstances. i.e. a thouroughly un-Catholic position. But then to repeat, holding the evilness of abortion not merely a Catholic artifact. Neither is the evilness of loading up a pair of Glocks and going on a shooting spree in the quad. Both are evil, both ought to be illegal, and no support should be given to any candidate that allows either. That one can find other religions that have drunk the modernist Kool-Aid is neither here nor there.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Anonymous who started:

Why certainly one should beg to differ.

Anonymous, you seem to me confused about what is wrong with killing people. It is not wrong because they will suffer. It is not wrong because the Church, or the Bible, says it is wrong. It is wrong because they are people. It is wrong because a human being is made in God's image. The question of when life begins is not a mystery. It begins at conception. That is when a brand-new human being comes into existence. Arguments about ensoulment, suffering, etc are irrelevant. That thing, that one-celled little bundle of tomorrow is a human being. It is made in the image of God. It has inherent dignity because of what it is. You may not destroy it at will.

Hope this clarifies things a it.

jj

Anonymous said...

JJ-

And that is where we differ precisely, as for that matter, where I daresay most of us differ. For, I cannot irreprehensibly consider the snuffing of a fetus if I think that it is a being full of life even without viable and necessary nourishment from its mother.

Of course as humans we're made in our Creator's image, and absolutely must be cared for in the same way as a vessel for God.

Biologically, evolutionally, and liturgically, life begins at conception, but as Susan Peterson was so horrified to consider, without sustenance, love, care, and consideration a fetus cannot be considered (perhaps in an extreme sense) more than an extremely organized collection of purposeful cells, until viable. Once past that 'stage', no matter how it was conceived, it must be cared for as one with utmost dignity as a fellow human being.

Using the logic of viability, albeit bizarre to many people's way of thinking but in line with a lot of other people... intentional destruction of a fetus is not murder until human life is taken.

To aid in simplicity, the Church's teaches that life begins at conception, as this is true for other great Eastern religions. And, one could cite my line of thinking as not in the Church's line, but no more than that if I choose to believe that an infant, once born alive is to be cared for with the utmost respect.

Most abortions are spontaneous in the US, and it is incomprehensibly awful to think that a mother could snuff a viable fetus' life, for whatever 'reason' but as I see it, the matter of the wrongness of induced abortion even post-conception 3 weeks is in the matter of the definition of life's beginning. Despite the notion that the definition of life's beginning is 'black & white', on closer examination, perhaps biochemically, there is a lot of gray, as well as in the passing of life.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Anonymous:

You said:

To aid in simplicity, the Church's teaches that life begins at conception, as this is true for other great Eastern religions. And, one could cite my line of thinking as not in the Church's line, but no more than that if I choose to believe that an infant, once born alive is to be cared for with the utmost respect.

I think there is some misunderstanding here. The Catholic Church doesn't say that life begins at conception. The Church doesn't say anything about when life begins. That is a scientific, not a theological or moral question.

The Church doesn't even say, as a matter of revelation, that it is wrong to take innocent human life. This is known to all men, by creation. The Church simply reinforces what men already know, by nature of their very existence: it is wrong to kill the innocent.

It is not a Catholic thing. It is not a question of what one believes about the beginning of a human life. It is simply evident that a newly-conceived zygote is a human being. What else could it be? It is not a fish, or a tomato! There is no point after conception at which this thing becomes a human being. Viability is a meaningless concept. The newborn is not viable, unless someone takes care of it. I am not viable unless I eat and breathe. That the zygote's viability requires an environment is no different from the fact that I do, though the environment is different.

It is far better clearly to say that you intend to take an innocent life if it meets certain criteria - whatever you think, less than 16 weeks' gestation, whatever - than to pretend that it is not a human being. It is a human being. This is not at all a matter of Church teaching, any more than that the Church needs to teach that the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. We can all see that. We can all see that the new conceptus is a man, a human being. And we can all see that it is wrong to kill an innocent human being.

I think the only thing that allows most people to persuade themselves that it is all right to abort is the "out of sight, out of mind" idea. It would take a lot more emotional force to smother a six-month old baby than to go to a doctor and have the doctor do something inside your womb. This is emotion, not reason. It is easier to stand fifty metres off and shoot a man than it is to go up to him, grapple with him, and cut his throat with a knife. It is easier yet to push a button which your reason tells you will annihilate an adult human. But it is murder just the same.

Abortion is murder. It's not a Catholic thing.

jj