Lesson 14: Pro-Life

pro-lifeLet’s look more closely at the Pro-Life position in order to better critique it. This group is founded on the longstanding conviction that all human individuals regardless of physical or mental health have a fundamental and equal worth. This includes the fetus, because it has the potential for birth. To abort for any reason is to kill a person. It also includes the embryo for the same reason. To use it in scientific experiments, such as stem cell research, is to treat it as means, not ends. Similarly, the destruction of excessive embryos in procedures such as in vitro fertilization is to kill a person.

A significant part of this group’s agenda is the need for Christians to speak for the innocent who cannot speak for themselves. The recent obsession with abortion seems to have been promoted by constantly alluding to the nobility of this duty to speak.

The Christians participating in this movement appeal to scripture that proclaims God prohibits killing human beings, because they are created in his image. They also cite early traditions, such as the Didache, that identify Christians by their opposition to abortion and infanticide in societies that allowed these practices.

The more sophisticated justify what seems to be interjection of religious doctrine into politics by utilizing a concept of natural law based entirely on human reason. They argue every rational person of good will recognizes “Always care, never kill” is a fundamental principle of every moral society.

These Pro-Life people think much of the Pro-Choice talk about self-determination and relief of suffering is really an attempt to rationalize ignoring the “Always care, never kill” precept. They often accuse them of playing God, warning that abortion is a form of eugenics that makes decisions to eliminate particular human beings or traits.

Opening a creative conversation with many Pro-Life people is difficult, because they believe they are supporting an eternal truth. It often feels like talking with someone who claims God spoke directly to them the previous evening.

There are grounds for asking those who deny any exceptions to converse with those of us who see a more complicated problem. Even Thomas Aquinas, widely regarded as the epitome of the natural law advocate, makes distinctions when he allows the abortions of male fetuses up to 40 days after conception and of women before 80 days. If he is influenced by the historical perspectives of his time, we can surely consider the findings of modern science.

It is also worth discussing what can be considered natural any more. Technology is constantly intervening in areas once regarded beyond human control. If many conservative groups are willing to talk about the nuances of a natural death making distinctions between “allowing to die” and “killing,” shouldn’t we be able to do the same with a natural birth? It would seem helpful to examine together the distinctions between destroying embryos and aborting a fetus, between abortion of a fetus and the killing of a person already engaged in social relationships, between an abortion based on the endangerment of the pregnant woman and one chosen because of the health of the fetus. Modern technology almost demands that we make such distinctions. For instance, I question if anyone questions practicing triage in a hospital emergency ward even though it involves humans making selections about life and death.

Women religious remind us speaking against the killing of innocent persons in our modern society cannot be confined to abortion. Death from abortions pales in contrast to innocents killed in modern warfare. If the Christian voice is to maintain its integrity, it has to address the death of innocent civilians as collateral damage. There was only one civilian death in the battle of Gettysburg, anywheres from 90,000–146,000 in Hiroshima and 39,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki. Modern warfare deserves as much passionate discussion as abortion. For that matter, Pope Francis suggests we should be discussing how our modern economic system kills innocent poor people.

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kerry says:

    Thanks so much for your careful thoughts here, Fritz!!

  2. Father Jude says:

    A new USA Today study identifies the United States as now being the “most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.”
    “Experts say that about 50 percent of the deaths of women from childbirth-related causes could be prevented if they were given better medical care and that’s a really surprising thing given that we’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we spend so much on medical care. We’re not just talking about the women who die, we’re talking about 50,000 U.S. women who are suffering life-altering harms,” USA Today investigative reporter Alison Young told “CBS This Morning” on Thursday.

  3. Don Motaka says:

    A new USA Today study identifies the United States as now being the “most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.”
    “Experts say that about 50 percent of the deaths of women from childbirth-related causes could be prevented if they were given better medical care and that’s a really surprising thing given that we’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we spend so much on medical care. We’re not just talking about the women who die, we’re talking about 50,000 U.S. women who are suffering life-altering harms,” USA Today investigative reporter Alison Young told “CBS This Morning” on Thursday.

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