The Hypocrisy of Abortion Politics

Human dignity rests above all on the fact that humanity is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to men and women as soon as they are born. For if people exist it is because God has created them through love, and through love continues to keep them in existence. They cannot live fully in the truth unless they freely acknowledge that love and entrust themselves to their creator.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #19.

We learned this week that pro-life is an obsolete word that is without meaning. It isn’t obsolete because people of faith do not believe that abortion is morally wrong. It is obsolete because it has been co-opted by opportunistic politicians that are no more opposed to abortion than anything else they espouse and then do absolutely nothing to change. Worse, they focus solely on the act of abortion and ignore all the factors that lead to abortion.

The Catholic Church is consistent in its teaching that life begins at conception and many faith traditions agree, but certainly not all. Officially abortion can be forgiven, but it can also result in the most severe punishment in the Church – excommunication. It is maintained that from the moment of conception a human embryo is fully human and deserving of all the protections of any human being. If one viewed this statement simplistically, it seems compassionate. We must treat this new life as if it were the same as a school child or a treasured grandparent. It is when one realizes that in saying “all the same protections of any human” it must necessarily mean that the mother is subservient to the human embryo so what is clearly meant is the same protections as a man. She must give up the control of her body to that human embryo, which is why some people make caveats for rape, incest, and life of the mother.

hypocrisy of abortionPoliticians and pro-life and pro-choice advocates were outraged by the statement of Donald Trump when he suggested that women who have abortions should be punished. It is no surprise that pro-choice advocates and most women were outraged. However, for pro-life advocates and politicians who build careers preying on the faithful, it is nothing short of hypocrisy. Those that claim outrage against Trump’s statements need to consider what he said and what they claim to believe. Claiming the woman should be punished is consistent with what I would expect of someone that believes that the human embryo is the same as a child or an adult in rights. If a mother killed her 6-year-old or her neighbor, it would be expected that she would be punished. If one believes abortion is murder, then it would be expected that the person who committed or hired someone to commit murder is punished. However, what isn’t consistent is not also punishing the person that incited the murder – the father, or the driver that waited in the getaway car while the murder was committed. If one believes life begins at conception, and the human embryo is fully human and deserving of human rights rather than potentially human from that moment, then one should support Donald Trump’s original statement.

The Compassionate Alternative

Wanting to punish a woman for having an abortion shows a complete lack of compassion for a woman in trouble. Isn’t that what we teach with excommunication. When we say we punish the woman and not the man we are clearly setting different standards for men and women, doctors that do abortions and women that hire them, and mothers, fathers, and significant others that drive women to the abortion appointment. If one truly believes that abortion is a mortal sin, then to condemn the woman as a murderer is too easy and self-satisfying. It is too easy because it allows us as a society, a faith community, and as individuals to do nothing to help her through the pregnancy, to dismiss her as immoral, and to condemn her and those who assist her as murders and consign to the criminal justice system. Calling abortion criminal allows us to continue to advocate against abortion without showing the same concern for women before pregnancy, during pregnancy, or after birth.

The child/fetus in the mother’s womb is drawing its life directly from the mother, and she must be nurtured, nourished and protected. Only then will the child develop to its full capacity. Not only is it necessary for a mother, a woman, to be cared for during her pregnancy, but we know through medical science that nutrition is essential even before conception. What we are doing for all women of childbearing age we are also doing for the child she will one day nurture. When we fail her, we fail to defend the integrity of the human embryo that will grow into a child.

We can begin our compassion by ending the use of the terms pro-life and pro-choice. Let us start saying what we believe. In stating our beliefs, we may find common ground that brings us together to find solutions that don’t criminalize acts of fear and desperation and further grow our flawed criminal justice system. Here is what I believe:

  • Women are fully human – not less than men or human embryos or human fetuses.
  • A human embryo has all the genetic material of a human being but is not sentient from the time of conception.
  • The human embryo/fetus is drawing its life from the mother.
  • Self-determination should be a right for all sentient beings – rights come with responsibilities to make moral decisions.
  • However, pregnancy is a choice in most circumstances – rape, incest, and the life of a mother are special circumstances that force choices between the good of the human embryo and human fetus and the good of the mother.
  • Contraception meant to prevent implantation is not equivalent to abortion – it does violate the teaching of the Church, but can result in a reduction of abortions.
  • Poverty, abuse, lack of child care, few education options for women with children, fewer job opportunities and discrimination against women with children, and inadequate support for those that are pregnant impact a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
  • Abortion is a moral decision – women are endowed with consciences and can make moral decisions.
  • Pregnancy is stigmatizing – society values fertility, but not the always the pregnant woman especially if she is unwed or poor.
  • The objective act of abortion being immoral does not equate to the person carrying out the act being either good or evil.

The compassionate solution cannot be to build a wall between women and legal and safe abortion and expect it will end abortion and after we stop the access then explore laws to help women care for their children. We should begin with compassion and start by passing laws and making policy changes that will encourage giving birth and value pregnancy.

  • Paid maternal leave for six months
  • Affordable child care based on income
  • Educational support for pregnant teens and new moms
  • Adequate nutritional assistance for all women of childbearing age
  • Free adoption
  • Women’s health care in all communities that is free to all women of childbearing age
  • Corporations that don’t disadvantage women with children

If we put the same passion into supporting pregnant women as we do into preventing abortion, the result may be surprising. I look forward to the day we are praying in the streets outside of community health centers and family practice clinics insisting that they provide women’s healthcare including maternity care or that we march on Washington every year to insist that all women have paid maternity leave and affordable childcare. This week taught us one important lesson – justice must include compassion. It is inhumane to treat women seeking abortion as criminals.

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Catechism of the Catholic Church on Abortion

Abortion

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

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.75

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.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77“by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safeguarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82

2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83

“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84

“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lent Approaches: Should we cast out the unclean or bath them in compassion

Lent is a few days away and the readings on this cold and snowy Sunday were about leprosy. The once dreaded disease is now treatable and there is no longer a need to shun people with leprosy, put them in isolated communities, or have them shout “unclean, unclean.” We like to imagine that times have changed and we would never be so uncaring or inhumane, but are we and should we be?

Racism and bigotry are diseases able to infect the young and the old alike. The virus enters trough the brain and infects the soul. It multiplies until where once existed love there is only hate. I often wonder if it is better to isolate the one that is infected to avoid unintentionally spreading the disease through social media contact or if it is better to engage and see if love and compassion will slow the infection or even cure the illness.

Racism and bigotry are far more dangerous than any disease of the body. It is a disease that kills the soul of the infected and takes away the human dignity of all it touches. We have much work to do to cure this plague on our communities, our country, and even our world.

Lent is a good time to pray, sacrifice, and offer our time to change the policies that support racism and bigotry and to join in solidarity with those that stand for justice.

Reading 1LV 13:1-2, 44-46

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron,
“If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch
which appears to be the sore of leprosy,
he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest,
or to one of the priests among his descendants.
If the man is leprous and unclean,
the priest shall declare him unclean
by reason of the sore on his head.

“The one who bears the sore of leprosy
shall keep his garments rent and his head bare,
and shall muffle his beard;
he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’
As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

 


Women are Human Beings

Time passes so quickly and yet not quickly enough if you are part of a class that doesn’t enjoy the fullness of human dignity.  In 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York an enlightened group of men and women signed the Declaration of Sentiments.  While it spoke primarily of the role of governments it did address the role of the Church.  One must wonder if what was written in 1848 could today be applied to the Church and the role of women.  Consider replacing “government” with “church” below and ask yourself, “Does this describe what we need today?”

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments [Church] long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government [Church] and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government [Church], and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

How far have we come from the resolutions of 1848 in the public and in the Church?  It can be well supported that we have made great progress in changing public laws as they relate to women.   However, we must remember that it was less than 100 years ago that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote was signed into law.  Today we are still fighting for laws such as The Violence Against Women Act because too many in our culture still think it is acceptable to keep us down by beating us, threatening us, and even keeping us from speaking about that which we hold most dear – our faith.

America Magazine published a special edition on women’s issues and when I read it I was impressed by some of the work of amazing women like Carolyn Woo and Sr. Prejean.  Yet, too much of the issue was the same old story.  We are valued because we have wombs and they produce the children of men, as if to say we do it for men and the children are theirs.  I started reading with great hope and when I finished reading the articles I felt that Elizabeth Stanton would be shocked by the lack of progress since she drafted the Declaration of Sentiments.

Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature and of no validity, for this is superior in obligation to any other.

Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature and therefore of no force or authority.

Resolved, that woman is man’s equal, was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.

Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.

Resolved, that inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.

Resolved, that the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.

Resolved, that the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.

Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.

Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

Resolved, that the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.

Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.

Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities and same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.

Read more: The Declaration of Sentiments | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0875901.html#ixzz2iSKk0h2F

I submit that human dignity is not supported by separate but equal approaches to spirituality.  We learned long ago that there is no such thing as separate and equal.  Separation results in subjugation and as women we need to develop our own Declaration of Sentiments as it relates to our Church and our faith.

From Rosie to Title IX We Have a Long Way to Go to Do It

From Rosie to Title IX We Have a Long Way to Go to Do It


Violence Should be Rare and Compassion the Norm

I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.”   –Clara Barton

I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to form compassionate students.  After all, isn’t teaching about the hope that one of our students makes the world better?  Isn’t the goal of research to find something new that might improve the past? I suppose it is human nature to see oneself as in the mainstream of thought.  I have sometimes delighted in being outside the mainstream.  I enjoy thinking big thoughts and imagining something better, more compassionate, and less violent.  It is hard to imagine such a world when a child being held hostage after a shooting.

If we are going to change the way we approach violence it is not productive to say that a policy or law is ineffective when special interest managed to have enough holes in the policy or law that it looks like policy swiss cheese. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 expired in 2004 and there is great disagreement as to whether it had any effect on gun violence.  One problem was that there were so many exceptions as to make the law ineffective.  It starts by stating, “It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon.”  What follows is a full page of exceptions and then a description of what it takes to be considered an assault weapon.  It would be comical if it weren’t for the fact that this legislation was meant to save lives.  Is it any wonder that it is hard to show if it was effective?

Christopher Koper (2004) did a good assessment of the impact of the assault weapons ban.  He stated,

Because offenders can substitute non-banned guns and small magazines for banned AWs and LCMs, there is not a clear rationale for expecting the ban to reduce assaults and robberies with guns.96 But by forcing AW and LCM offenders to substitute non-AWs with small magazines, the ban might reduce the number of shots fired per gun attack, thereby reducing both victims shot per gunfire incident and gunshot victims sustaining multiple wounds. (p.81)

He makes one point on which everyone should be able to agree – there is no single factor that influences violence.  During much of the research that occurred while the ban was in effect there was a crack epidemic that influenced violent behavior.  It also occurred shortly after the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill when funding for and availability of outpatient clinics was completely inadequate for the large number of people who were no longer hospitalized.  In 2004 the ban expired and there is clear evidence the number of mass shootings has increased, but why?

We must examine the culture of violence not as merely a gun issue, or a mental health issue, or a drug issue, or even a moral issue.  We must examine the culture of violence as a threat to safety, security, and well-being.  The politicians and lobbyist had their chance to address the issues and they clearly demonstrated they cared more about their own self-interest than safety, security, or well-being of the citizens of the United States.  What they did went beyond benign neglect.  It was at best apathy and at the worst a lack of respect for human dignity and life.

It is time for academia, health care, and the faith communities to take on the issues that have resulted in the culture of violence.  We need a fresh perspective that is rational, evidence based, and driven by concerned citizens.  It is time to take the box the lobbyists and politicians have put the issue of gun violence in and break it down and throw it in the recycling bin.  It is time to think outside the box.  The people who care about rationality, evidence, and human dignity and are not driven by personal financial gain or votes need to step forward.  It would be nice if our government could be trusted to prevent violence, protect human dignity, and support a culture of life.  I do not think they have the courage to do so.  While politicians continue to talk to the people that stood by an let a culture of violence go unchecked those who view life as sacred need to address the issues with open minds and open hearts.  Finding the root cause of gun violence requires that be willing to accept that life is sacred.  Guns are not.


Human Dignity in Public Policy

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow men and cooperate with them.”

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

It would seem obvious that human life is sacred and that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  However, a quick look at public policy, media, and even individual human actions reveals that it is not at all obvious that life is treated as sacred or that there is inherent dignity in all humans.  One only needs to ask what it means to respect life and a heated debate may ensue with all parties proclaiming to be the sole holder of truth.  Most such discussions never proceed beyond abortion, the death penalty, war, and guns.

When asked what is human dignity, a frequently provided answer is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  No it was not a question about the Declaration of Independence.  Yet, it appears that the representatives that signed the declaration understood human dignity and its foundation in our creation in the likeness of God, in stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Why then is this not part of the intellectual reasoning process in making public policy?  And, why for our entire history have we failed to live up to these words in the Declaration of Independence?

On the anniversary of Row v. Wade, let us consider life.  Life is a right.  Unfortunately, it is a right that we appear not to value as a society and a right for which we too frequently fail to give meaningful thought.  Here are a few areas where there is significant disagreement, and where life is either not treated as a right, or the issue gets inadequate public policy attention.

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Culture of violence in video games, movies, and music
  • Death penalty
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug, alcohol, and substance use
  • Health care & mental health care- inadequate
  • Homelessness
  • Genocide
  • Guns
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Poverty
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism
  • Torture
  • Violence (rape, hate crimes, child sex abuse, etc.)
  • War

All of these either prevent, end, shorten, or seriously impact life or the quality of life.  There is no public consensus on how to address any of them.  In fact, within the last year each resulted in someone trying to justify the action and/or imply that it was self-inflicted.

The next time someone ask you if you are pro-life be sure to consider whether life is sacred and whether it is the foundation of your moral vision of society.  We can only protect human dignity and have a healthy community if we protect human rights and fulfill our responsibilities to each other.  We cannot shrug off poverty because it will always exist and ignore our responsibility to the poor and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot justify rape because the vagina was not ripped to shreds and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot let our children be murdered or sexually assaulted (or cover up the same) and claim to be pro-life. We cannot turn a blind eye to sex-trafficking and claim to be pro-life.  We cannot fulfill our responsibility without first recognizing the value of sharing ideas, cooperating to advance policy that supports human dignity, and admitting that no one individual is the sole purveyor of truth.

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade consider whether abortion is blinding us to all other aspects of life and human dignity and whether a sole focus on protecting the unborn has resulted in public policy that ignores the threats to life that are all around us.  Likewise, consider whether treating abortion as a bad decision made under difficult circumstances has impacted our approach to human dignity in other areas.  Advancing the cause of human dignity in public policy requires us to fulfill our responsibilities and that must begin by listening to other people and hearing those perspectives with an open mind.  Maybe we would be more successful if we became pro-human dignity.