December 11, 2009

An Ongoing Absurdity

By Deacon Patrick Moynihan *
What follows is an attack on late-term abortion, not those hurt in its practice. The proper response to the men and women who have fearfully, ignorantly or mistakenly chosen to procure an abortion of any type is compassion and support, not public condemnation. Be assured, the ire of these words is directed only at the sin, in which we all participate to a certain degree on account of its social nature, not at those who have unfortunately succumbed to it. Abortion is always wrong, but we must keep in mind that it leaves more victims than the unborn in its wake. As in every case of our moral failings, we must hate the sin, not the sinner.

That said; I was appalled to read in the New York Times [12/4/09] that a colleague of Dr. Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor who was shot to death last May, has agreed to provide late-term abortions at his clinic. Feeling called to take up Dr. Tiller’s bloody mantle, Dr. Carhart told NYT reporter Monica Davey, “There is a need and I feel deeply about it.” The need to which Dr. Carhart is referring is to remove a child from the womb late in his or her gestation period, namely beyond the point that a child may be able to survive outside of the womb if he or she were delivered prematurely.

To avoid the increased legal scrutiny that comes with late-term abortion, commonly referred to as partial-birth abortion due to the methods used most often to perform it, Dr. Carhart hides in the legal ambiguity of what exactly is the point of viability and what constitutes a threat to the life of the mother. Many state abortion laws include these two concepts without giving a clear description of either. The only place Dr. Carhart seems to admit to the difference in performing these highly controversial abortions is in his fee structure, which increases the later in pregnancy an abortion is performed. He seems to be willing to be honest about the difference when it comes to dollars and cents.

As the NYT article points out, many who support abortion in general are troubled by the practice of late-term or partial-birth abortion. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it best when he famously decried on the senate floor that partial-birth abortion is just “too close to infanticide” to allow. It seems impossible that a different conclusion could be reached by anyone who has reviewed the procedure, which involves vacuum suction of the brain of the partially delivered child.

How exactly is there a need to pull children who have gestated beyond the point of viability from the womb and kill them? How is this not murder? Those who support this most abhorrent form of abortion speak of children feared to have horrible birth defects and mothers in threat of dying. Yet, the former is clearly euthanasia and the latter involves cases so complicated and rare that it would be unlikely that they could be handled at a clinic such as Dr. Carhart’s which sports a convenience-store styled sign that reads, “Abortion and Contraception.”

The fight to preserve the practice of late-term abortions, which represents less than one percent of all abortions, has nothing to do with their necessity. It is about the politics of abortion. Any admission that there is a point where abortion is wrong creates a basis for those who know it is wrong at every point to gain footing to work for the end of abortion completely. Staunch supporters of abortion defend this practice as an important trench in the ongoing war of attrition. Dr. Carhart’s comments are just the latest instance of their tactic of presenting murder as compassion.

But this is backfiring. The attempt to defend partial-birth abortion regardless of its overt grotesqueness and clear immorality has cost those dearly who promote abortion. It is has been referred to as the chink in the pro-abortion armor. Ever since Jenny Westberg’s simple cartoon drawing revealed the gruesomeness of the procedure, the war has turned in favor those who oppose abortion. Hopefully, Dr. Carhart’s hollow claim that he is providing a humanitarian service by performing abortions beyond viability will continue to tip the scale in favor of life. Certainly, his claim is absurd as his death shop’s sign.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan graduated Culver Military Academy in 1983, from Brown University with BA in Sanskrit and Classics in 1987, and from Providence College with an MA in Religious Studies [Theology] in 1999.

He taught Latin and English in a Catholic High School from 1987 to 1990, traded commodities, futures and options for an international trading company from 1990 to 1995 and directed a free Catholic mission school in Haiti for academically gifted children from the poorest areas around Port au Prince from 1996 to 2006.

Deacon Moynihan was ordained in October of 2001 as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Rockford [IL] where he was the director of formation and later the Office for the Permanent Diaconate from 2001 to 2006. He has since gone back to Haiti and is currently the president of The Haitian Project.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.