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June 27, 2022
Pro-Life; What Does It Mean?
A distinction – An abortion is the direct and intended killing of an unborn child. When medical procedures are performed on a pregnant woman to save her physical life from a genuine probability of death, and the procedure ends in the ultimate, but undesired death of the unborn child – That Is Not an Abortion. The death of the child is classified as an undesired consequence and is neither an abortion nor a sin (CCC #’s 1752, 1754, 1853).
Like myself, I imagine that millions of Christian men and women across the United States are celebrating the rightful decision of the Supreme Court concerning Roe v Wade. I am not a lawyer, neither by training nor by watching multiple episodes of Perry Mason, L. A. Law, or Bull. I have however, studied in depth the Roe v Wade ruling, the Majority Arguments by Justice Black, and (as fate would have it) the Minority Arguments by Justice White. At the focus of the Supreme Court’s original ruling, Justice Black, along with a majority of Justices, argued that the State of Texas (Wade) had not sufficiently demonstrated a legitimate interest in the welfare of the unborn child (within the first trimester) to overrule the woman’s right to decide; as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. It is important here to understand that at that time in history, there was not a unity of opinion as to when “life began” by scientists and medical professionals. For some scientists and medical professionals, “life” didn’t begin until the fetus began to move. In the majority opinion, Justice Black points out that there was a time in the Catholic Church when it was taught that the soul was not incorporated into the body until “quickening” or movement.
It was not long after the Roe v Wade decision that it became a near universal understanding in science and medicine, that “life” was defined by the ability of cells to divide, replicate, and take nourishment. Science and Medicine no longer consider life to begin with “birth” or “quickening”, but at conception. Pro-Life proponents argued, correctly, that since there is general agreement that life begins at conception, then it must also be concluded that within the human species, as in every other animal species, a fertilized human embryo can only develop in a human way. Thus, at every stage of development, it is a human life. The decades of Court decisions, sustaining the Roe v Wade decision did not enter into the argument of when “human life” began, but when Juridic Life (life protected by law) began. Thus, it was the responsibility of the States to demonstrate their legitimate juridic interests in the life of the unborn child, allowing the unborn protection under law.
I have argued for many years that the legitimate rationale for proving the State’s interest in protecting human life at every stage (conception until natural death) lies in the very purpose of human society. Societies are formed around a fundamental presumption of protection. The role of government is, fundamentally mandated to protect society. If it is acceptable that one segment of human society has the unquestioned right to decide the life or death of another segment, then society is in grave danger of extinction. For government to ignore this threat is for governments to fail in their fundamental responsibility. I have discussed this idea with lawyers and judges, and they have agreed with me, but said they were unable to defend this argument in court until they were a legitimate person of interest. I have not seen nor read the Majority opinion on the latest ruling that overturned the Roe v Wade decision. I am pleasantly surprised by the action, but I also fear the politization of the Supreme Court.
I am reminded of an encyclical by Saint Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life. In this encyclical, Pope John Paul II writes about a definition of Right to Life. He writes that being against abortion is the fundamental starting point of respecting life. He was also very clear that simply being against abortion, apart from any concern for the child born and their family situation, was as inconsistent with Right to Life as Pro-Choice. As a retired teacher who had to teach math, there is a fundamental law of equations – If an equation is to be true then all the components on one side of the equal sign must be discovered completely in the other. Saint Pope John Paul II was very clear that one could not validly claim to respect life if they were against abortion, but ambivalent or antagonistic toward human dignity, just wages, education for everyone, the right to immigrate, etc.
As human beings, we have limitations. We are limited by time and by circumstance, by resources and talents. We need to choose our battles wisely if we hope to win any of them. There are thousands of people, quite likely millions, who direct their energies to a limited number of aspects of the broad issue of Right to Life; but are humanly unable to address them all. The latest Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v Wade is not going to end the debate on abortions. Addressing the social issues that might present a pressure upon a woman to seek the desperate relief from a difficult pregnancy is a better answer. It is historically proven that when women have real choices, the rate of abortions decrease annually. Reversing the Roe v Wade decision was a major step forward in eliminating the option of abortions, but it is not the whole march.