Led Into the Truth Abortion: A Catholic problem

This week the United States endured the 39th Anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that expanded the breadth of Constitutional “privacy” to include the slaughter of the innocents. Thirty-nine years later, some 54 million deaths have been estimated (not including the under-counted medical abortions and the uncounted, untold thousands of children destroyed as excess baggage in IVF procedures or who were prevented from implantation by artificial birth control).

By the time this column is published you will, undoubtedly, have been inundated with data suggesting that one third of the current generation of youth have already been annihilated and that our legislative prospects seem to be no further along than before. In fact, very shortly it seems that those who work for Catholic non-parochial institutions will have the great American “privilege” of receiving free contraception, sterilization procedures, and access to “morning-after” pills that make promiscuity and irresponsibility so apropos.

You have probably heard that Constitutional Law scholar and President of the United States Barack Obama has announced that abortion is a fundamental Constitutional right, seemingly on the same “fundamental” level as a bicameral legislature and thrice-branched governmental system of checks and balances. Surely the only reason the forefathers failed to include abortion in the Bill of Rights is their inherent cultural sexism, a hurdle we have thankfully overcome in today’s enlightened society.

A new study claims having an abortion is safer than giving birth. Raymond and Grimes found that between 1998 and 2005 one woman died for every 11,000 or so babies born, while only one woman in 167,000 died per child aborted. The authors of the study did not intend to indicate that abortion is the prudent choice for safety-conscious Americans, but the implication is unavoidable. One can hardly imagine that institutions such as Planned Parenthood will do anything other than advertise such conclusions. Noticeably absent from the study is any interest in and concern for the mortality of the children.

I have had many conversations with confused Catholics over the position of the Church concerning voting for candidates who are pro-choice. Because of the technical meaning of the term “proportional reason,” there is a lot of room for confusion. Due to this lack of clarity, many Catholics take “proportional reason,” turn it into “proportionalism,” and decide to weigh a whole package of issues and place personally-determined weights on them to construct a formula that allows the individual to vote for the person they were going to support anyway. This phenomenon is a reality for both conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans.

With 65 million Catholics in the United States, a voter turnout of 27 to 30 million Catholics in any given presidential election, it is absolutely clear that if Catholics actually stood without exception for life, then the United States would be a pro-life Republic. As it is, we rationalize our decisions far too often and convince ourselves that prudential issues—about which there is room for reasonable disagreement—are on the same level of importance as those issues on which we cannot compromise. It seems that the continued slaughter of the innocents in the United States is a problem perpetuated, in part, by Catholics. After all, Catholics account for nearly 30 percent of voters in every national election. Any pollster will tell you they can make all the difference in the final outcome.

The foundation of this point of view—that of relativism with respect to the most foundational of rights, the right to life—is based on a view of our lives that fails to consider the fact that this life is preparation for the next. The callousness of those who ignore the actual death of children in favor of pursuing some sort of theoretical solution that might correct the social conditions that supposedly prompt the need for abortion is truly astounding. While it’s laudable to seek improvement in economic or social conditions, we cannot deny that when we try to find merely a sociological explanation of the abortion issue, some quick and easy “solution,” we are endangering the eternal souls of those involved. Justifying abortion in this way contributes to the slow self-destruction of a population that is barely replacing itself, and inhibits the introduction of life and hope and love into the world by promoting destruction and death.

It’s simple. How do we eliminate the conditions that make abortion possible? By making abortion impossible.

We are an economically motivated people. We live in an economically motivated country. As long as the cheap and easy solution of abortion exists as a possibility, it will always be difficult to motivate that portion of the populace already prone to choosing the easy way out to consider the hard choice of responsibility: either in providing for the child personally or by offering him for adoption. For all of our thirty-nine years of trying to better the conditions that make abortion “necessary,” each year, the aggregate number of abortions remains stubbornly high—some 1.2 million induced abortions a year in the United States. And because of our current administration’s support of the Mexico City Policy and the UN Population Fund, we are now in the business of exporting our own self-destructive depravity, packaged to third world nations as a solution to poverty.

As bad as the problem is, we have reason to hope. The prayers of millions of pro-life Christians cannot go unheard. We must believe that the Lord has this travesty in his providential hands and that he will bring from it what is necessary for the salvation of souls. But we really should be giving God more to work with. I often wonder if what the Lord is seeking through all this is the conversion of Catholics. It is too easy to look outside ourselves for the cause and locus of the problem. After all, I’m pro-life, right?

But, how often am I using those exceptions about remote material cooperation with evil? How often am I supporting a company that gives money to Planned Parenthood or some other pro-abortion organization, convincing myself that if I were to eliminate all the guilty companies from my sphere of support then I would hardly be able to function. True enough, but doesn’t that reasoning just feed a callous Phariseeism that allows me to judge others harshly without actually changing anything in my own life? I’m not sure that the permissibility of remote material cooperation means that nothing in my economic life should change. The simple fact is, I don’t have a serious reason for eating Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. I cannot legitimately get around supporting them without some mental machination. In fact, if I can’t find an ice cream company that refuses to support Planned Parenthood, I suppose I shouldn’t eat ice cream or I should make my own. Because as it turns out, there are no grave reasons for eating ice cream.

The allowance of remote material cooperation with evil exists to allow Catholics to live in a fallen world. But, it is not permission to avoid personal sacrifice in confrontation with evil.

The pro-life movement must lead by example, but shooing away any objectionable practices of private companies because we really like their products, and we think we can squeeze supporting them into remote material cooperation, is not a great example to set. The Church has proven in its history that the times of its greatest growth are always fueled by martyrdoms. We would be poor Catholics indeed if we offload the entirety of that sacrifice on innocent fetuses. I think they’ve given enough.

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