“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God Himself,” Pope Francis insisted
I have a visceral reaction when anyone calls abortion murder. I cannot in any way equate terminating a pregnancy before 20 weeks as murder in the same way that I see walking into a school and shooting children as murder. The character and the malice that goes into shooting a sentient human being are far different from the actions and thoughts that go into having an abortion. There is no 20-week fetus that is sentient or able to live without the mother. Nonetheless, I believe it to be an unfortunate decision, made under difficult circumstances, and made out of a sense of fear and distress. I cannot condemn a person so long as my heart aches for her.
Consequently, I can’t conceive of a woman making the hardest and most serious decision of her life as a murderer. I imagine the pain and fear she must feel. I wonder where the father is and why he isn’t offering support. I worry about what happened that she became pregnant and especially if she is a teenager – was she pressured to fit in, manipulated by an older male, afraid to say no, raped, a victim of incest, or never encouraged by her parents to wait?
I react to abortion being called murder because I see the use of the term as a complete lack of compassion for a woman in trouble. If one truly believes that abortion is a mortal sin, then to condemn the woman as a murderer is too easy and self-satisfying. It is too easy because it allows us as a society, a faith community, and as individuals to do nothing to help her through the pregnancy, to dismiss her as immoral, and to condemn her and those who assist her as murders. Calling abortion murders allows us to continue to advocate against abortion without showing the same concern for women prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy, or after birth.
Murder connotes anger and hatred, which would be exceptionally rare in a pregnant woman considering abortion and yet in studies of people who have committed murder and violent crimes it has been found that most have been impacted by abuse and economic problems. The major reasons identified for murder are fear, anger, desperation, greed, and religious fanaticism. Those seem to be the same sentiments pro-life advocates express frequently toward women who have and physicians that participate in abortion.
That same anger, fear, and religious fanaticism that wants to kill want to condemn women seeking abortion as murderers. Likewise, many of those same people vocally support the murder of people who participate in abortion, not after a trial, but by vigilantes and in virtually the same breath defend open carry laws and second amendment rights which demonstrably increases the risk of death from firearms accidents, suicides, and murders. Vigilantism is not Christianity any more than terrorism is Islamic.
We will not be able to change our current path until we fully embrace the dignity of the individual. I do not believe we can embrace that dignity so long as we look at others and label them as murders and allow or friends and neighbors to be radicalized. We cannot allow, in the name of religion, individuals or groups to act in manners we know will lead to death and injury, including death brought on by abortion, guns, death penalties, poverty, and all manner of violence and neglect.
I believe the time has come to list our sins and they are many and are intertwined with our society:
- Abortion as birth control
- Death penalty in a society that has methods that are effective
- Gun in the hands of virtually anyone that wants one
- Poverty that is inadequately addressed
- Domestic terrorism in all its forms (racial, ethnic, religious, gender-based, ecological)
- Endless war that counts soldier and not civilians
- You can list your own
As Americans, we value our freedoms. I believe the time has come that we all need to begin to decline our rights and embrace a moral conscience respectful of human dignity.
- I decline the right to bear arms.
- I decline the right to have an abortion.
- I decline the right to participate in the death penalty.
- I decline the right to take more than I need.
- I decline the right to use free speech to harm another.
- I decline the right to support war and to ignore the impact on civilians.
- I decline the right to remain silent while others act in ways that harm our society.