The Hypocrisy of Abortion Politics

Human dignity rests above all on the fact that humanity is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to men and women as soon as they are born. For if people exist it is because God has created them through love, and through love continues to keep them in existence. They cannot live fully in the truth unless they freely acknowledge that love and entrust themselves to their creator.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #19.

We learned this week that pro-life is an obsolete word that is without meaning. It isn’t obsolete because people of faith do not believe that abortion is morally wrong. It is obsolete because it has been co-opted by opportunistic politicians that are no more opposed to abortion than anything else they espouse and then do absolutely nothing to change. Worse, they focus solely on the act of abortion and ignore all the factors that lead to abortion.

The Catholic Church is consistent in its teaching that life begins at conception and many faith traditions agree, but certainly not all. Officially abortion can be forgiven, but it can also result in the most severe punishment in the Church – excommunication. It is maintained that from the moment of conception a human embryo is fully human and deserving of all the protections of any human being. If one viewed this statement simplistically, it seems compassionate. We must treat this new life as if it were the same as a school child or a treasured grandparent. It is when one realizes that in saying “all the same protections of any human” it must necessarily mean that the mother is subservient to the human embryo so what is clearly meant is the same protections as a man. She must give up the control of her body to that human embryo, which is why some people make caveats for rape, incest, and life of the mother.

hypocrisy of abortionPoliticians and pro-life and pro-choice advocates were outraged by the statement of Donald Trump when he suggested that women who have abortions should be punished. It is no surprise that pro-choice advocates and most women were outraged. However, for pro-life advocates and politicians who build careers preying on the faithful, it is nothing short of hypocrisy. Those that claim outrage against Trump’s statements needs to consider what he said and what they claim to believe. Claiming the woman should be punished is consistent with what I would expect of someone that believes that the human embryo is the same as a child or an adult in rights. If a mother killed her 6-year-old or her neighbor, it would be expected that she would be punished. If one believes abortion is murder, then it would be expected that the person who committed or hired someone to commit murder is punished. However, what isn’t consistent is not also punishing the person that incited the murder – the father, or the driver that waited in the getaway car while the murder was committed. If one believes life begins at conception, and the human embryo is fully human and deserving of human rights rather than potentially human from that moment, then one should support Donald Trump’s original statement.

The Compassionate Alternative

Wanting to punish a woman for having an abortion shows a complete lack of compassion for a woman in trouble. Isn’t that what we teach with excommunication. When we say we punish the woman and not the man we are clearly setting different standards for men and women, doctors that do abortions and women that hire them, and mothers, fathers, and significant others that drive women to the abortion appointment. 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 and consign to the criminal justice system. Calling abortion criminal allows us to continue to advocate against abortion without showing the same concern for women before pregnancy, during pregnancy, or after birth.

The child/fetus in the mother’s womb is drawing its life directly from the mother, and she must be nurtured, nourished and protected. Only then will the child develop to its full capacity. Not only is it necessary for a mother, a woman, to be cared for during her pregnancy, but we know through medical science that nutrition is essential even before conception. What we are doing for all women of childbearing age we are also doing for the child she will one day nurture. When we fail her, we fail to defend the integrity of the human embryo that will grow into a child.

We can begin our compassion by ending the use of the terms pro-life and pro-choice. Let us start saying what we believe. In stating our beliefs, we may find common ground that brings us together to find solutions that don’t criminalize acts of fear and desperation and further grow our flawed criminal justice system. Here is what I believe:

  • Women are fully human – not less than men or human embryos or human fetuses
  • A human embryo has all the genetic material of a human being but is not sentient from the time of conception
  • The human embryo/fetus is drawing its life from the mother
  • Self-determination should be a right for all sentient beings – rights come with responsibilities to make moral decisions
  • However, pregnancy is a choice in most circumstances – rape, incest, and the life of a mother are special circumstances that force choices between the good of the human embryo and human fetus and the good of the mother
  • Contraception meant to prevent implantation is not equivalent to abortion – it does violate the teaching of the Church, but can result in a reduction of abortions
  • Poverty, abuse, lack of child care, few education options for women with children, fewer job opportunities and discrimination against women with children, and inadequate support for those that are pregnant impact a woman’s decision to have an abortion
  • Abortion is a moral decision – women are endowed with consciences and can make moral decisions
  • Pregnancy is stigmatizing – society values fertility, but not the always the pregnant woman especially if she is unwed or poor
  • The objective act of abortion being immoral does not equate to the person carrying out the act being either good or evil

The compassionate solution cannot be to build a wall between women and legal and safe abortion and expect it will end abortion and after we stop the access then explore laws to help women care for their children. We should begin with compassion and start by passing laws and making policy changes that will encourage giving birth and value pregnancy.

  • Paid maternal leave for six months
  • Affordable child care based on income
  • Educational support for pregnant teens and new moms
  • Adequate nutritional assistance for all women of childbearing age
  • Free adoption
  • Women’s health care in all communities that is free to all women of childbearing age
  • Corporations that don’t disadvantage women with children

If we put the same passion into supporting pregnant women as we do into preventing abortion, the result may be surprising. I look forward to the day we are praying in the streets outside of community health centers and family practice clinics insisting that they provide women’s healthcare including maternity care or that we march on Washington every year to insist that all women have paid maternity leave and affordable childcare. This week taught us one important lesson – justice must include compassion. It is inhumane to treat women seeking abortion as criminals.

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Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion

Abortion

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77“by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82

2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83

“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84

“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Abortion is not Racism

Protests are an American tradition reflecting the passions of people seeking justice. Unfortunately, with protests come counter protests that all too frequently prove true the original protesters’ claims. Unlike the 60s one does not have to march in the street to carry a sign. One can protest through social media and a virtual campaign. It is that kind of campaign that is occurring against people who seek justice. Unfortunately, some are using the serious issue of abortion as a racist attack.

While pointing out statistics in itself is not racism, when one post a photo that only addresses abortions in African Americans and Hispanics it is not a question of whether it will be followed by racist rants, attacks on black male leaders, attacks on liberals, and women being called “sluts,” but how vehement the attacks will be. If one knows this and then allows the posting of such comments that is inciting racism and thus in itself is racist by intentionally demeaning or promoting the antagonistic statements toward a race of people.

Rather than promoting racism in prolife posts it would be better to explore what part white privilege has played in both the abortion rates and the disproportionate placement of Planned Parenthood clinics in minority communities. In general, Planned Parenthood places clinics in close proximity to the greatest need and where they can get affordable space. The greatest demand for Planned Parenthood services is not solely based on abortion, but the need for health care for men and women. In addition to contraceptive services and abortion, they also provide treatment for STDs, anemia testing, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, physical exams, including for employment and sports, flu vaccines, smoking cessation, high blood pressure screening, tetanus vaccines, and thyroid screening. It is certainly true that Margaret Sanger supported eugenics and was a controversial figure. However, that is not the case with the people at Planned Parenthood today. They sincerely believe that by providing women with options they are helping them to make rational reproductive choice. There aim is to reduce unwanted pregnancies and not to diminish a race. Clearly, this does not justify abortion, but it clarifies the motives of Planned Parenthood. This leads me to the conclusion that bad policy and white privilege is adding to the abortion rates and the success of Planned Parenthood.

Among the leading reason given for having an abortion are the feeling of being unable to afford a child (73%) and not wanting anyone to know she had sex and got pregnant (25%). We should examine why minority communities remain in generational poverty and the policies that are at least partially at fault, such as: zoning that disadvantages minority communities, unequal pay, unequal access to public transportation, and shameful differences in schools to name a few. Look at the differences in public and private funding spent in white and middle class communities and then acknowledge that that inequality is privilege that actually does harm minorities, keep them in poverty, and lead to feeling an abortion is necessary. And then we call them “sluts” for getting pregnant. I wonder, if you knew you were going to be called a slut, would it encourage you to have the baby?

If we really value life then we should show respect for people. Rather than standing in front of Planned Parenthood, we should build healthcare clinics and hospitals in underserved communities. Rather than voting for anyone that opposes new taxes, willing pay them to build community infrastructures that work. Rather than paying an African American less, try paying them the same and ensuring it is a living wage. Rather than saying abortion clinics are racist try working with the city council to change the policies that advantage white communities and disadvantage minority communities.

If you claim to be Pro-Life and you pay women, minorities, or any disadvantaged person less because you can, then you are not Pro-Life. You are Pro-Self. If you think it is acceptable to have substandard schools in minority communities, or inadequate infrastructure then you are not Pro-Life because the policies you accept continue generational poverty and thus encourage abortion. If you call a woman that gets pregnant outside of marriage a slut you are not Pro-Life, but you are encouraging abortion by your actions.

Abortion is not racism. Using the serious issue of abortion as a club to beat up on minority communities and those that actually serve them is.


Human Dignity in Public Policy

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

It would seem obvious that human life is sacred and that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  However, a quick look at public policy, media, and even individual human actions reveals that it is not at all obvious that life is treated as sacred or that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  One only needs to ask what it means to respect life and a heated debate may ensue with all parties proclaiming to be the sole holder of truth.  Most such discussions never proceed beyond abortion, the death penalty, war, and guns.

When asked what is human dignity, a frequently provided answer is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  No it was not a question about the Declaration of Independence.  Yet, it appears that the representatives that signed the declaration understood human dignity and its foundation in our creation in the likeness of God, in stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Why then is this not part of the intellectual reasoning process in making public policy?  And, why for our entire history have we failed to live up to these words in the Declaration of Independence?

On the anniversary of Row v. Wade, let us consider life.  Life is a right.  Unfortunately, it is a right that we appear not to value as a society and a right for which we too frequently fail to give meaningful thought.  Here are a few areas where there is significant disagreement, and where life is either not treated as a right, or the issue gets inadequate public policy attention.

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Culture of violence in video games, movies, and music
  • Death penalty
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug, alcohol, and substance use
  • Health care & mental health care- inadequate
  • Homelessness
  • Genocide
  • Guns
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Poverty
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Torture
  • Violence (rape, hate crimes, child sex abuse, etc.)
  • War

All of these either prevent, end, shorten, or seriously impact life or the quality of life.  There is no public consensus on how to address any of them.  In fact, within the last year each resulted in someone trying to justify the action and/or imply that it was self-inflicted.

The next time someone ask you if you are pro-life be sure to consider whether life is sacred and whether it is the foundation of your moral vision of society.  We can only protect human dignity and have a healthy community if we protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities to each other.  We cannot shrug off poverty because it will always exist and ignore our responsibility to the poor and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot justify rape because the vagina was not ripped to shreds and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot let our children be murdered or sexually assaulted (or cover up the same) and claim to be pro-life. We cannot turn a blind eye to sex-trafficking and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot fulfill our responsibility without first recognizing the value of sharing ideas, cooperating to advance policy that supports human dignity, and admitting that no one individual is the sole purveyor of truth.

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade consider whether abortion is blinding us to all other aspects of life and human dignity and whether a sole focus on protecting the unborn has resulted in public policy that ignores the threats to life that are all around us.  Likewise, consider whether treating abortion as a bad decision made under difficult circumstances has impacted our approach to human dignity in other areas.  Advancing the cause of human dignity in public policy requires us to fulfill our responsibilities and that must begin by listening to other people and hearing those perspectives with an open mind.  Maybe we would be more successful if we became pro-human dignity.