Lesson 13: Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

pro-life and pro-choice protestersReviving any creative conversation about abortion has to begin with appreciating the two positions that presently divide the Church. The Pro-Life group champions a concept of eternal law that maintains the sacred nature of all human life. Believing life begins at conception, they insist that the embryo, fetus, and newborn must always be treated as a person, always an end and never a means. Because the innocent fetus cannot speak for itself, one of the most noble Christian callings, if not the noblest, is to speak for it. That means opposing abortion in any form.

Recently, this group refuses to discuss any exceptions, because they open up a slippery slope that soon will lead to accepting all sorts of murder. Their primary argument against their opponents is that the Pro-Choice position demands the breakdown of a fundamental social doctrine that prohibits individuals from making decisions about taking human life. Only the government has the authority to declare war or execute criminals. Allowing an individual woman the right to determine whether an abortion will be performed gives an individual the license to kill.

The Pro-Choice group rejects these claims. They argue government in modern secular democracies is not designed to promote eternal truths. It has no authority to impose a Pro-Life agenda on its citizens, because it has neither the knowhow nor the facilities to justly administer its practice. Under present conditions, the decision about abortion by default becomes one of individual right. When people speak about a woman’s right to control her own body, they are claiming it is only fair that the woman involved practices this right, because she has to endure the consequences of the decision.

This group argues that when the Pro-Life people deny women this right, they also deny them the benefits now available to overcome human suffering. To do this continues, consciously or not, the oppression of women practiced in the patriarchal past.

As I argued in the last lesson, I think both positions fall short, because they have become ideologies in our binary political system. Confining the conversation to either/or decisions omits too many morally relevant considerations. If we are to augment traditional moral insights with opportunities offered in the modern world, we have to take seriously the life of the fetus and the needs of the pregnant woman.

The Pro-Life people certainly speak for Christ when they assert the sacredness of all life. Still they hardly do that principle justice when they confine its public discussion to abortion. The Pro-Choice people certainly are correct when they ask the Church to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunities for alleviating human suffering. Still they are far too quick giving women exclusive and unlimited power to abort some form of human life.

The present problem, however, has far less to do with the issues themselves. Before we can begin to share our insights that might resolve the present stalemate, both sides must be willing to speak with one another. Most people around me are continually expressing their frustration at getting a creative conversation started.

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4 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Fritz Foltz says:

    I received several responses via e-mail. A few echoed Susan’s response to Scott’s illustration: “And I respond (free of condescending attack mode I hope), you go, Scott! Elderly white men making decisions about women’s bodies… I’m opposed”

    That seemed yo be the predominate response. I am also posting three other responses that I think capture the essence of the issue.

  2. Paul Wildman says:

    Thanks Fritz as with any oppositional thought process each binary is actually a dialectic so that the negation pitch of one ‘side’ inherently needs its opposite to define itself for funding and promotional and political purposes. So that in this sense it’s a failure to think in systems terms. To do what is called ‘chunking up’ and seeing that both are part of a larger position. So that in this sense as the present ‘conversation’ on abortion, that you allude to, cant lead to a deeper understanding on either/both sides as it remains oppositional not dialectic. As Einstein says a problem can be solved from within the same thinking that created it. Greek thinking avers the included middle in set theory and indeed Aristotle had the view that A cannot be not A – so if one has two overlapping circles A and B (two views as per your lesson below) then A cannot be not A yet where they overlap the overlap is both A and not A (as it is B) Aristotles law of the excluded middle leads to binaries (as you say) of A or B (excluded middle) rather than A&B (included middle) Ciao paul

  3. Lupe Andrade says:

    I, as a mother of four children (three of them barely over a year apart), I was and am a believer in life. I never contemplated abortion. However, as a woman, I have known and seen cases that seem to call out for it, especially before the fetus has developed. As a society, and in the Christian Churches, there are no funerals for naturally-aborted fetuses, those the body rejects or simply cannot carry. There are millions of those throughout the world. No on suggests or thinks they deserve special treatment “after death”. They were never persons, period. However, politics has made the first cluster of cells already protected by God, as an individual you may not “kill”. It is alive? Meaning individually and distinctly alive? Is it conscious? And here I am not talking about a 5 or 6 month fetus, already all but complete. I am talking about a cluster of cells, or a not-yet developed child. One of my daughters had three spontaneous abortions… between the second and third month: should she have felt like a killer? My mother-in-law way back in the days when there was little awareness of RH-negative parental problems, had no less than five spontaneous abortions, these past the 5-month mark. She was devastated, of course, because she wanted to have children, but no one thought to brand her a killer. When my husband was born, because his blood matched his mother’s… she was deliriously happy. This story is not unique. What should we think? The Church never though about baptism-in-utero. You were born when you were born. And then, baptized. If the pregnancy was interrupted, none of those “unborn babies” were doomed… not like the (awful Catholic idea of exclusion) those other babies allegedly in Limbo.

    A few years ago, I was unfortunate enough to learn that a person who had worked with me for some time, had raped and impregnated his 14-year old child. I fired him, of course, and the child’s mother accused the father, who eventually spent three years in prison (and is now, on parole). I have never seen him again, and do not ever want to. It chilled my soul. The Court allowed the older child to abort the fetus, at almost 12 weeks. She spent a long time in therapy, but is now gradually getting well. She is about to graduate from High School. I have never seen her again, either, but I am glad her life was saved. I am not making absolute judgements here, but clearly her life and that unfortunate baby’s would have been hell-on-earth: ostracized, sneered at, perhaps not completely “normal”, riddled with guilt. Would that have been God’s will?

    As you say, this struggle, like the NRA’s insistence on having every woman, man and child in the US carrying high-power firearms even to school, is clearly political.

    As for subjects I would like to see debated, is the decline of public morality: the normalization of lying, the disappearance of ethics from public discourse, the calm acceptance of deceit, dissembling and perhaps even dangerous action because it comes from someone who as a “billionaire”, cannot be wrong, even if he is racist and intolerant and abusive of women. I don’t want to debate Trump. I would like to speak about public indifference to ethics and standards, not only in the US but in Europe and around the world. Could it have a correlation to the decline in Christianity and it’s moral influence?
    With love, Lupe

  4. Don Motaka says:

    Well, this is progress from the previous Lesson which didn’t mention women at all – at least not insofar as that is where the fetus is before it becomes a human being by being born. I would ask why your characterization of the Pro-Choice position leaves out the notion of healthcare? Your talk about a woman’s body and her right to control is a bit on the cold side; you could be talking about getting a tattoo.

    I’m not so sure you shouldn’t have some documentation for YOUR summary of each side’s characterization of its position. You certainly could be seen as loading the dice by the way you describe either position. And you’ve skipped over the real sticking point, at least as far as the original Supreme Court decision milieu is concerned: that the moment the human egg is fertilized, that’s now human life is a religious belief, not a scientific fact and, as such, the First Amendment comes into play, as far as discussing government’s role in any action making anti-abortion normative for the whole nation. Your paragraph beginning “The Pro-Choice group rejects these claims . . .” is, for instance, rather heavy-handed (even though I’m pretty sure I know what you mean but that’s not exactly how it reads.)

    Then we have hanging over us also the “slippery slope” pearl-clutching. The Roman Catholic Church – even your beloved St. Francis the Pope – condemns even birth control as baby-killing, just farther back the chain. Given the current political climate (which will be with us for more than a couple generations down the way now that the neo-fascists have gotten the knack of propagandizing everything), I would argue that nixing Roe v. Wade is just the continuation of rolling back all the advances in human rights that WERE making America somewhat great. Though this argument could be seen as somewhat of a dark-pink (but not red) herring.

    More to the point, is that Roe v. Wade is already de facto being overturned by some states that are already in the full control of the neo-fascists, where legislatures are making rules that stop dead all attempts to have functional abortion-providers and the fanatical gun-toters and Bible-thumpers create an atmosphere of intimidation and disinformation that effectively prevents many from exercising their rights, even though Roe is technically the law of the land (I think you “exercise” your rights; you “practice” certain types of rites – like saying Mass every morning).

    Lastly, I’m hard-pressed to imagine how it is that you expect a conversation on this topic when YOUR opening gambit is that the fetus is human life. The only consideration left after that is how an unfortunately pregnant woman might be able to arrive at a justification for killing her fetus. That’s really not much of a choice, is it?

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