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:
- 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.
- It is a well-known fact that science confirms that life begins at conception.
- 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.