Monday, September 10, 2012

Abortion: Is It Ever Justified?

Dear Parishioners,

Abortion is a topic that seems to be verboten in so many instances in our society.  However, with the upcoming presidential election, it needs to be discussed with various other important issues.  While there are those who will argue that no election is ever about a single issue, the topic of abortion has to be an issue.  Human life—and respect for it at all stages—cannot be simply ignored or be a non-issue.

Abortion is seen as a moral evil—the taking of an innocent human life.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#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.
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.

Some time ago, this issue was cleverly changed in the political realm to a concern about “choice.”  This word (or the phrase a woman’s right to choose) has become the mantra of those who are pro-abortion or trying to hide behind some level of justification of this act.  The fact is:  we can never deliberately choose anything which is morally evil.  We all should know that we have God-given, free will (choice).  However, what we choose is our concern here.  We can never choose a moral evil—the taking of an innocent human life.  It is gravely sinful.

That being said, what do we do about the so-called exceptions—rape, incest and a threat to the mother’s life?  Rape and incest are again grave moral evils.  Anyone who has suffered from these has experienced a grave injustice and merits our prayers as well as our utmost compassion and sympathy.  If a pregnancy occurs, however, will abortion take away the sexual assault or its memories?  Unfortunately, no.  Does the abortion of the developing baby not, rather, become a continuation of the hostility?  The innocent life in the womb—remember that the baby didn’t have anything to do with the circumstances of its own conception—now becomes another victim.  Strong emotion, rather than reason, often drives the argument that abortion is the solution in the situation of rape and incest.

What about when a mother’s life is threatened because of the pregnancy?  Circumstances like an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy often result in the indirect (neither directly desired nor intended) death of the developing baby when part of the infected fallopian tube is removed.  Morally, this action is considered permissible by an acceptable moral principle known as the principle of double effect.

When other serious illnesses possibly threaten a mother’s life, it could undoubtedly be one of the most difficult choices that a mother will ever have to make.  No one could ever fault a mother for trying to bring the baby along as far as possible to try to reach some level of viability.  Unfortunately, even then, some babies will die.  Then there are those exceptional people who go above and beyond the ordinary with great acts of heroism.  I recall someone like St. Gianna Beretta Molla (canonized in 2004) who unselfishly decided:   "If you must choose between me and the baby, no hesitation; choose – and I demand it – the baby.  Save her!"

I realize that emotions run very high when a topic like abortion is even considered.  Yet, the respect for all human life—from the moment of conception until natural death—has to be part of the discussion leading up to any presidential election.  Topics like a candidate’s “likability” and the economy (alone) are simply insufficient for Christians taking their faith seriously.

Fr. Ed Namiotka