Conscience and the “Pro-Choice” Christian

One of the most puzzling things to me is the large number of “pro-choice” Christians.  Among these are people from my church and many of my personal friends.   I see this as a clear contradiction. How can a person of faith deny the humanity of the most vulnerable of the human family – the unborn child?  These are the same people who believe in Social Justice, but a Social Justice without the unborn.

 Among such people I find a consistent thread – a liberal worldview, or what I would consider, moral relativism.  My Catholic friends would say that their understanding of their faith allows them to make this type of moral decision based on their personal conscience.  It is true that the Catholic Church allows for decisions of conscience, but this conscience must be an informed conscience, based on objective truth that can be known to all.  Pope Benedict XVI, in his book, On Conscience, states that there must be sources for the judgment of conscience other than subjective reflection.[i]  “The radical notion of a justifying, even though mistaken, conscience leads to a dictatorship of relativism, which invariably leads to a tyranny of the strong over the weak.” [ii] Being “pro-choice,” I will argue, does not meet the requirements of an informed conscience based on truth that can be known:

  1. The Catholic Church, in very strong and unambiguous language, condemns abortion.  The Church declares that life begins at conception and must be protected from conception to death. This has been the Church’s position from the beginning. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2272) goes as far as to clearly declare that cooperation with abortion is an evil that merits excommunication from the Church.  No one reading this can claim that there is any wiggle room here for conscience.
  2. It is a well-known fact that science confirms that life begins at conception.
  3. The answer that pro-choice people give, that “it is a woman’s right to do with her body, as she wants” is self-deluding and intellectually dishonest.  The unborn is in her body and nurtured by her body but it is NOT part of her body –  it is a distinct and independent human being.

You will never find any rational logic for the pro-choice position.  Many of my friends will refuse to engage me in debate about their position. They will cut me off by an emotional statement saying that they just believe “it is the woman’s right.”  No reason or documentation of their position is ever offered. I can understand why – they have no answer. Just look at a sonogram of an unborn and tell me that it is not a human being.   Former Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia in his book, A Deficit of Decency, recounts how he came to change from being “pro-choice” to pro-life: “As my great-grandchildren began to arrive, I got around to the real question.  I’ll never forget when my grandson brought in a sonogram showing so very clearly his unborn daughter.  I finally realized how wrong I had been.[iii]

This, then, does not meet the definition of an informed conscience by any stretch of the imagination.  I can confidently say that a conscience decision on this issue is without merit and incorrect. The question I would ask myself, if I was “pro-choice,” would be will I be confident in explaining this position to God at the judgment day?  I changed my view from “pro-choice” to pro-life when I concluded that I could not adequately answer this question in front of the Almighty.

In conversations with people in our own church community we’ve often heard the concept that the “dignity of life” extends to living individuals (the poor, the disabled, the elderly, etc.), with the unborn often excluded.  I can only conclude that these people do not see the unborn as humans – only living people count. The 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision made this same point. This feeling is common not only with liberal Catholics but with many liberal Christians

If we look at this from a practical standpoint, how many poor people in the world are dying from lack of food compared to the 1.5 million unborn babies killed each and every year by abortion in the United States alone?  In the United States, for the year of 2011 the CDC reports 2.5 million total deaths.  Hunger or malnutrition or poverty is not listed at all.  The number 15 cause of death is listed as Pneumonitis at 18,090, and then it lists a cumulative total of all other deaths.  I’m not saying here that one is more important than the other, but that one is stressed to the exclusion of the other.  If you are really for the poor and downtrodden, how can you forget and exclude the most poor and vulnerable of our brothers and sisters – the unborn?

What is disappointing here is that these two sides often end up by accusing the other of being a one-issue proponent.  The conservatives are accused of not caring for the poor and the liberals are accused of not caring for the unborn.  But what is the truth here? Liberals will often say that conservatives do not care for the poor.  This is one of the most blatant misrepresentations that have been perpetrated in our culture.  For his new book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, Arthur Brooks spent years researching data on the giving habits of conservatives and liberals. Brooks says when he began his research, he expected to find proof that liberals are the more generous group in America. But his findings show that conservatives are more generous in every way – from volunteering, to donating blood, to giving money.

The Left has, in my view, a totally one-sided view of poverty.  They have abandoned one part of humanity – the unborn (the unseen), for the economically poor (the seen).  Mary Meehan, in an article in “The Progressive” in 1980 stated it clearly:  “the abortion issue, more than most, illustrates the occasional tendency of the Left to become so enthusiastic over what is called a “reform” that it forgets to think the issue through. It is ironic that so many on the Left have done on abortion what the conservatives and Cold War liberals did on Vietnam: They marched off in the wrong direction, to fight the wrong war, against the wrong people.”  Meehan further argues that liberals will argue that abortion is strictly a religious argument and they will say that no one should impose their religion on anyone else.  This is also a cop-out argument that has no basis in fact and is simply intellectually dishonest.

Arguments are also made based on science.  The liberal will argue that pro-life people are anti-science.  This, again, is an intellectually dishonest argument.  Most scientists agree that life begins at conception.  Another popular argument among liberals is that the unborn is not a person.  This argument falls flat on its face.  If a human being is not a person when life begins as an embryo, when would you confer personhood and what criteria would you use to confer it?  If you can confer it subjectively can you also take it back?  People will disagree on different issues for different reasons that they see are rational, we can’t deny that.  We can agree to disagree, but we must use reason and logic, not simply emotion and raw passion that is not based on any logic.

[i] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On Conscience, (Ignatius Press, 2007) p.2

[ii] Ibid., p.5

[iii] Zell Miller, A Deficit of Decency, (Stroud & Hall, 2005) p. 189.


3 thoughts on “Conscience and the “Pro-Choice” Christian

  1. An informed conscience is that of someone who has had an invitation beyond the materialism you preach. I wonder if you have.

    I have been raped, and violently, and have had to face the threat of rape pregnancy, though Thank God it was only a threat.

    I have had people threaten to kill me to my face.

    I have experienced the threat of unemployment while living in a foreign country, and I have experienced both poverty and sufficiency.

    I have experienced the threat of death by illness as both an infant and an adult, have been told that I would die if I did not do this or that by doctors, yet over and over again, here I am. as usual.

    I have experienced the injustice of libel and threats to my education and career, yet in the end they were overcome.

    I have experienced instantaneous spiritual healing of physical illness without any use of materialistic medicine, more than once and on both sides, as the patient and the praying soul.

    I have had experiences of despair and faith, precognition and beatific peace.

    And I have had the experience of my prayers being answered – to help those who wanted to have a child when they believed they couldn’t, to help those who wanted to do so by getting pregnant when they believed they couldn’t, and to help those who wanted not to be pregnant when they believed they were – and without resorting to adoption, IVF, or abortion.

    And I have had the experience of praying to God and Christ that no woman in my country ever again experience a threat of rape pregnancy without the safety of mind of knowing that she had a legal means of not being pregnant by rape or by non-consent, and of having God and Christ answer my prayer. The answer came in Roe v Wade, and I am grateful to God and Christ for that every day.

    So when you attack Roe v Wade, you attack an answer to a prayer to God and Christ of one who know them, personally, intimately, and loves them more than the apparent world.

    If you want your prayers answered, you had better get a few invitations beyond the horizon first, and discover that God is liberal, because an illiberal God would never be so liberal in answering prayers of love.

  2. SI thanks for sharing such a personal tragedy in your life. You have suffered one of the most devastating violation that anyone can suffer. Rapists are rabid dogs that should be put in a cage and never let out. I would not even oppose the death penalty for such dogs. I will address the question of rape and the dignity of life in a future post.

  3. Thanks for your thanks, but it was not necessarily a tragedy, and the rapist was clearly a mentally ill maniac who needed professional help, not hate. Which would you rather be, who is actually to be pitied?

    Frankly, It was much easier to forgive the rapist than the smug politicians in the state capitol who had made the anti-abortion laws of those days. Yes, they had even made an exception for rape, but they had not considered what such laws would mean in practice.

    After responsibly reporting to and helping the police for about three days, opting not to prosecute because the chance of conviction was about 1%, I withdrew from the university, giving up my national merit scholarship, and returned home to recuperate. This meant dealing with the possibility of pregnancy from rape at a time when there was no Plan B and no home pregnancy test. All one could do was wait.

    But in the waiting, I discovered I could no longer say or write the words, “I was raped.” I would stutter at the “r” or my hand would shake uncontrollably. This from a girl who had studied acting for over a decade and was so fluent a writer as to have been editor of a college lit magazine. I could have said to a doctor, I want an abortion, but I literally could not have said, “I was raped.”

    And even if I were able to tell this to a doctor or have the police medical report sent, would he or she agree to perform an abortion? The doctor would have to seek permission at a hospital from a committee of 12 doctors – would they agree? Would it matter that I had not chosen to prosecute?

    But most of all, why would all these other people have more power over my own sex organs than I did? Rape made me experience utter alienation from people, who existed on the other side of a great uncrossable divide. But this other experience, inability to say or write a particular word, considering the lawmakers and doctors who could have this power, made the divide complete. How was it different, really, from literally living in a state of rape?

    The good thing in all that was that I had to consider the worst case scenario and discover that, if I were pregnant and abortion were not available, legally, illegally, or abroad, I would commit suicide rather than allow my body to grow against my will and conscience a being which would state in its flesh and in life that I was one flesh with the rapist. I would not do that because it was a lie and an insult to God to let my body say that a lie was a living truth. How could it matter what other people thought? They were not on my side of the divide. Only God could be there.

    Only when I understood that suicide was a possible choice was it clear that I did have power over my body and my sex organs and no other people did was I happy and grateful and able to know that God would not want me to have to die to prevent my body from tell a lie against my conscience and God, and so to be able to pray, to be with God and give up the world..

    You do not need to know how my prayer brought the demonstration that I was not pregnant and the ineffable joy that followed. Nor do you need to know how my prayer on behalf of other women and girls in that state of gratitude was, in every detail and nuance, answered by Roe v Wade in a way so amazing that it could convert a non-believer.

    But it seems to me you do need to know the above. You seem not to understand that punishing a criminal is not justice for a victim of crime. It is a puny human attempt at justice. But “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . . to preach deliverance to the captives . . . . to set at liberty them that are bruised,” because, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” That Spirit alone gives justice to the bruised, forgiveness to the ignorant, and life to the dead.

    If we are all equal in the sight of God, then it is not the truth that a woman who is raped has to experience rape pregnancy when a man who is raped does not. That is unjust, unfair, and unequal, and it is precisely this that makes the very threat of rape pregnancy a thousand times more terrible than the actuality of being raped. And the fact that pregnancy is, in itself and regardless of how it comes about, an inequality means that for it to be forced upon a woman is not of the God before whom we are equal.

    That the Spirit of the Lord waited until Mary has the opportunity to test the angel and agree only to pregnancy under very specific conditions before coming upon her does not seem to have meaning for you. But for me, it is a crucial fact without which Christianity could have no serious validity as a religion for any woman. If she had been forced to do pregnancy as a duty, and if Jesus had just been forced to do a duty, love could not infuse their acts. Without liberty, there is no love. But with it, love can be infinite.

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