Lesson 15: Pro-Choice

The Pro-Choice group agrees readily with the Pro-Life group that life is a gift from God to be cherished and protected. They emphasize, however, acknowledging the sanctity of life must include considering the quality of life. The Christian love that cares for each person as a child of God always involves being willing to share the sufferings of another person. The Pro-Choice group believes women carrying an unwanted child bear undeserved distress and therefore should be given access to everything available for their care. Nonetheless, most in this group insist abortion is always a last resort and never a form of birth control.  Many of them are willing to regard abortion as a moral option when the birth threatens the physical or mental health of the mother or is the result of rape or incest. They typically give preference to the life of the woman over the fetus, because she already has social relationships. In fact, most believe the woman should make the decision, because she must care for the child, often mentioning society’s refusal to share the costs.

Some think abortion can be a moral option if the child would have severe physical or mental handicaps, would hinder the care of others, would upset the economic or psychological stability of the family, or occurs at a particular time in the pregnancy. This group usually has no problem destroying embryos that do not offer qualities the woman seeks in the child, a practice Pro-Lifers lump with abortion.

The Pro-Choice people insist ethical action always calls for the courage to do the best we can in a very complicated situation. In general, they think we should be devoting our energies to the needs of persons already in social relationships rather than expending so much on the unborn. Some observe much of anti-abortion effort involves academic or political speech rather than actual care for the living, whether born or unborn.

Engaging in creative conversation with this group might start by discussing whether ethics ever concerns only individuals. Making a decision about abortion based totally on the benefits brought to the pregnant woman overlooks many moral considerations, such asthe role of the fetus, the man involved, the wider family, and the community.

The Pro-Life group certainly is correct when they insist the health of the community is a major consideration. Allowing individuals to make all decisions about life and death threatens basic needs for law and order. However, the discussion must go beyond abortion. It is hard to know how those who oppose a woman making decisions about the fetus she carries can be avid supporters of individuals unrestrictedly carrying guns or military operations without Congressional authorization.

Creative conversation must also address the touchy charge that Pro-Choice is a form of eugenics. To abort is always a decision to kill a certain kind of person. When you include stem cell research in the discussion, you soon realize you are into genetic engineering. On one hand, humans have always engaged in such activity when they select their mates based on their personal preferences. On the other, modern science has tremendously complicated this by opening up possibilities for selecting everything from a child’s eye color to IQ.

Members of our modern society are forced to make decisions about life and death once regarded as beyond human control. It is critical that Christians engage in the public conversation about how to handle these. As a very conscientious Christian scientist who worked extensively with Roman Catholics concerning medical research recently remarked, “If the Church wants to participate in this new world, she must change some of her ways of thinking.”

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kerry says:

    Again, excellent!

  2. Father Jude Motaka says:

    It is so disappointing to hear Pope Francis comparing abortion (to be fair, he is speaking of birth-defect fetuses) to Nazi eugenics; to wit, on June 16th of this year: “I say it with pain. In the last century the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to pursue the pureness of the race. Today, we are doing the same thing, with white gloves.”

    The Roman Catholic Church even to this day maintains a fascist theology centered around God the Supreme Dictator. Two thousand years of old white men still trying to tell everyone how they should live and they still, to this very day, can’t get that women aren’t second-class citizens or come to terms with child sex abuse (really, a cardinal, just recently – after twenty some years just getting around to cardinals’ abuses?).

    Dialog with that? No thanks.

  3. Lupe Andrade says:

    Dear Fritz,
    I do not think we should lock ourselves into political positions, Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. To begin with, the names are invidious in themselves. Pro-Choice sounds selfish and self-centered, as a “category”. Pro-Life sounds admirable and nearly God-like. If someone who did not know anything about the rift and the debate were to be asked if they were pro-choice or pro-life, they would probably say pro-life. Of course they would… life is precious and a gift from God. However, I insist that we look back to the Church to Christianity in its earliest teachings, and in centuries of belief. Nowhere is it stated or held or legislated that “life” begins at conception. In fact, for many centuries there was some question about when the child actually began to exist, much less live. Children were so easily aborted (naturally, or by illness or stress or heavy burdens) and children so easily died as newborns or tiny babies, that in some cultures and places the child did not even receive a name until it was at least a year old. It was, until then, “the baby”. In fact, in early Christianity (and you can correct me if I am wrong) baptism was usually done when the child could walk to the river or shore for immersion. This idea that “life” begins at conception is modern, and in some ways it makes sense, and in others it does not. In fact, if such were the case, “in vitro” fertilization would be plagued with dangers and even murders, because often multiple embryos are produced and some are introduced into the woman’s womb, and others are discarded. Are those clinics and doctors actual murderers? Should the procedure be criminalized? And if the fetus is so badly deformed or impaired, or a product of incestuous rape, is forcing the mother to carry it to term (sometimes endangering her life as well) the legal and correct thing to do? Are we here trying to out-play God?

    There are too many questions, and here conscience and clarity of thought and humane concern with raped children, for example, seem to be essential to making a decision. I do not know what is “right” and I do not think that it can be defined as an absolute. Just as killing in self-defense can be a reasonable action, or killing in war, to defend one’s nation or nation’s interest can be called excusable, why are there no reasonable alternatives in abortion cases? More questions… dear Fritz, I know, but this needs much debate. WIth love, Lupe

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