Abortion absolutes don’t work

Q: Can you be a feminist and oppose abortion in all circumstances? Can you be a person of faith and … Continued

Q: Can you be a feminist and oppose abortion in all circumstances? Can you be a person of faith and support abortion in some circumstances?

One of the lessons we all learn early on (or should) is that we should stay away from absolutes. And yet, pro-life advocates maintain an absolute – that abortions should never be allowed.

It is the absolutism of the pro-life position which is most troublesome, coupled with the fact that “life” seems to be precious only if it is a fetus. How is it that a fetus is more important than the woman who is giving it birth, who might be a mother of other children, or who does not want to die for the sake of honoring church doctrine?

Sarah Palin says she is a frontier feminist when in fact she is a modern-day opportunist playing to her base. Palin is off base here. Life is bigger than a fetus.

The problem with absolutes, and especially absolutes that use God as their justification, is that they impose on us ideology disguised as theology. I truly wonder if God would sanction letting a mother die to save an unborn fetus.

People have scrambled to honor the church absolutes. I can remember the Roman Catholics who lived on my street when I was little. They had baby after baby because “the church” said they must — or at least musn’t use birth control. I can remember seeing some of them cry as they told my mother of yet another pregnancy.

They would cry because they could not afford another baby. “The church” said using birth control was wrong. Abortion was wrong. They loved their husbands and wanted to have sex, but the result was …another baby. They were damned if they had sex because it would produce another baby. They were damned if they used birth control, and they were damned if they wanted (yes, even just wanted!) an abortion.

Why do I think God would not sanction that kind of misery?

The nun who made the decision to save the life of a mother instead of an 11-week-old fetus made a courageous decision, a humane decision. She knew was at risk.

But she stepped out of the circle of absolutism. One can be pro-life and a person of faith and still support abortions in some cases. And one can be pro-choice and veer from that position based on any particular situation.

Absolutes push people to despair. As I understand it, the absolutism of legalism was one of the things Jesus spoke against. He made people mad, but he did it anyway. Why? Because grace and love are more powerful, are more in line with the agape love of God, than are man-made absolutes.

Paul wrote (and I am no fan of Paul) that the things “I do, I do not want to do, and the things I do not want to do, those things I do.” He was obviously trying to follow the 614 laws of the Jewish faith, along with the 1,521 emendations, and found it impossible.

He also grappled with sex and suggested that people should not desire sex. He advised people not to get married, but if they could not control their sexual passions, then they should get married because being married would defuse the passion. Then, all attention could be directed at living “godly lives.”

But that premise proves false. There are plenty of married people who enjoy sex but do not want and cannot afford another child. They cannot practice birth control, they cannot have an abortion, and they have to know that if another child is conceived and the choice is between that unborn fetus, the choice must be on the side of the unborn fetus.

I cannot see God supporting that whole scenario, Sarah Palin and the Roman Catholic Church notwithstanding.

Susan K. Smith
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  • lepidopteryx

    Somehow, I don’t think that when God supposedly said, “Go forth and multiply,” that he meant, “Go forth and pop out a baby a year until your uterus ruptures, even if you don’t have the means to support them.”

  • FatherFrankPavone

    “This is my blood… It will be shed for you and for all.” Matthew 26:28.These words of the Lord Jesus indicate His universal will for salvation. He died for each and every human being who ever existed and ever will exist.The love of God has no exceptions; the command He gives us to love one another likewise admits of no exceptions. “Love one another as I have loved you,” John 15:12. The Christian is not free to discriminate, or to exclude anyone from his or her love. Such exclusion is incompatible with the love of God Himself. This is the basis for saying that no innocent human life may ever be deliberately destroyed; this is the root and source of the unchanging truth that no abortion is ever justified. This is an absolute.Abortion is, according to the teaching of the Church, an intrinsic evil. It is evil by its very nature, and that evil is not altered by circumstances. Every abortion, no matter what the circumstances, contradicts the law and will of God.The circumstances in which a child is conceived — whether they were planned or not, whether they were the embrace of spousal love or the violent act of rape or incest — can never make an abortion morally permissible. The circumstances in which the pregnancy advances — whether the health or life of the mother is threatened or not, or whether her social or economic situation is extremely grave — can never justify the direct killing of a child.Human law, furthermore, can never justify a single act of abortion. There is no court, king, governor, president, parliament or prince anywhere on earth or at any time in history who can issue any decision, decree or declaration that would justify even a single abortion. When human lawmakers attempt to do so, the “law” that results is not simply a bad law, it is, in fact, no law at all, and carries neither authentic nor juridical validity nor any obligation to obey it.Life can be confusing and the temptation to compromise with evil can be great. But the teaching about abortion is as clear and direct as it can be, and is best summed up with one word: Never.

  • lifeonmars

    Thank you, Susan.

  • vayankee

    With all due respect fatherfrankpavone, your sermon sheds little to no light on a complex moral issue, other than to affirm one of the main points in Susan Smith’s article. Religious absolutes make for comforting theory for some, but invariably provide little useful guidance by refusing to acknowledge the kind of exceptional circumstances that can arise which place people in profound moral crises. Blind adherence to dogma leads to irrational conclusions – like continuing to have children you don’t want and can’t afford, or allowing a mother to die rather than terminating a potentially life threatening pregnacy. I am very troubled by abortion, but I am more troubled by religion that tries to take away my right to think, let alone choose.

  • ivri91208

    Susan K. Smith’s argument in favor of abortion is based on the invalidity of absolutes. She writes, “One of the lessons we all learn early on (or should) is that we should stay away from absolutes.” Her argument, however, is self-defeating, for this statement about moral absolutes is itself a moral absolute. Does Smith really want a world in which no moral absolutes exist? More importantly, what is alarming is how impersonal and callous the debate has become. Terms like “fetus,” “abortion,” “personal freedom” and “womens’ health” horribly obscure the issues that are at stake in the discussion. Smith’s phrase, “Life is bigger than a fetus,” is exemplary.Perhaps we would be aided by altering the terms to reflect what they really represent. “Fetus” is a self-conscious, self-determining (but without real freedom to choose) human person. “Abortion” is the procedure by which that self-conscious, self-determining human person is killed. “Personal autonomy,” “womens’ health”, etc., are terms used by the agents of this action to justify the legitimacy of the killing of this human person. What is more, the argument for abortion in order to save the mother’s life, to relieve the financial strain of struggling families, or to end a pregnancy conceived through rape, is a straw man. The vast majority of abortions that take place do not involve any of these three scenarios.