Why It’s Hard to Believe Abortion is Wrong

I used to not think about abortion – at all. It just wasn’t on my radar.

Then I started considering the Catholic Church and one of my real objections is that I didn’t want to believe abortion was that wrong. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I thought it was wrong but I wanted to think it was a legitimate, if regrettable, personal decision which I had no business interfering in. I didn’t want to believe that abortion killed a living human being. I definitely didn’t want to change my beliefs.

It’s such a massive issue. If every tiny embryo and fetus is actually a human person, albeit still growing (but then who isn’t?), then what is happening all over the world is nothing less than infanticide on an industrial scale. It would be the sort of wholesale slaughter of the most vulnerable and innocent. At a conservative estimate, there were about 42 million abortions last year. That’s seven holocausts every year. What do you even do with that?

Changing our beliefs is a very scary thing to do because it demands we change our lives too. If I start believing abortion is wrong, then that requires I do something. If I believe that abortion is the killing of an innocent and precious human being, then I have to treat it like that. But what could I possibly do? What could possibly be enough?

So I give out all the excuses. I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others (even though that means I’m not even living my own beliefs). I don’t want anyone to think I don’t care about women (even while baby girls are being killed at far higher rates precisely because they are girls). I don’t want to be distracted by politics when there’s evangelism to do (even though Christ says what you do to the least of these, you do unto me).

But that’s exactly what they are: excuses. Because if abortion really is the evil we say it is, then there is no effort, no expense, no sacrifice too great to try and stop it. But I am a selfish person and I am fond of my own comfort. It’s so much easier to assume it’s not so bad than to believe that something so evil could be happening all over the world – let alone that we must do something about it.

fetus

It would be scary enough if it changing our beliefs changed our future actions but it also changes the way we see and understand our past. That’s so scary because our very identity is rooted in the stories we tell about ourselves – who we are, where we come from and what we value. Our narratives shape our identity.

We don’t want to believe abortion was wrong because what does that say about us? What sort of people condone – and even encourage – the killing of children? We think we are so enlightened and good but if abortion is wrong, then at the centre of civilisation is an unimaginable evil. How could we let that happen? How can so many vulnerable and hurting women be taken advantage of like that? How could our society treat precious children as disposable and modifiable commodities? How can we – who preach love and peace and tolerance and equality – commit seven holocausts every year without blinking an eye?

Maybe some people get a perverse delight out of believing that society is corrupt, but I don’t. Who would want to believe that? It’s not exactly a pleasant thought. If given the choice I’d rather believe all is well than find myself implicated in the silence over murder of innocents, along with the very people we should be able to trust: our world leaders, doctors, international aid organisations – our parents and grandparents who passed these laws.

And yet, I must believe the truth, regardless of the consequences. An embryo or fetus is a person with such much dignity as you or I. Why? Because it is human and it is alive. That makes it a human being, even at the earliest stages of development, and all human beings deserve the right not to be killed. That right “trumps” every other right.

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The pro-life argument is that simple.

But its consequences are massive, which is why we would prefer not to believe it is wrong.  It’s hard, but I think you and I both know that “but I don’t want to” is the crappiest reason around. We know that… we just have to start acting on it.

But it makes me ask two questions.

Firstly, what can I do? I know I must do something. One cannot be apathetically pro-life. That should be a contradiction in terms because if life really is at stake, then what is more important?

Secondly, what can we do to make it easier for people to change their beliefs? Is there anything we can do? How do we explain how all this happened? How do we make the consequences slightly easier so that can it be that tiny bit easier for people to change? Or is it always meant to unimaginably shocking – precisely because it is? What do people think?

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32 responses to “Why It’s Hard to Believe Abortion is Wrong

  1. There are lots of things that you can do to bring the abortion rate down. If you look at where in the first world that abortions are lowest, such as Holland, some clear patterns emerge: healthy respect for sexuality; freely available contraception, including to teenagers; full and free sex education; and excellent health care.

    Another is to remove the stumbling blocks to keeping a pregnancy. Find ways to keep people in school and not have their university choices affected; decent wages; decent child care; good health care; and good maternity leave provisions. Not leaving women in a situation where they’re forced to rely on charity or food stamps, or where their children are not going to fall into poverty.

    The best way known to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies is to give girls lots of economic opportunities. But since one person can’t agitate to overhaul society, it’s probably easiest to start with the smallest steps known to work – freely available contraception and information about the body. It would probably be easy to find women’s healthcare groups that need a volunteer.

    Best of luck and I hope you help change some lives.

    • Thanks for commenting! 🙂 I think that you are absolutely right that the surrounding causes and societal conditions are very important. I shall have to think more about this!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. You can’t just say don’t have an abortion and then not educate people properly on the responsible ways of managing their personal choices before you ever get pregnant. Also, if a woman is pregnant, she needs to feel as though she and her baby will not be hanging on for dear life and will be hurled into poverty. Like it or not, there are issues on both sides of the issue that each group needs to address if they want to solve this problem, or at best, reduce the size of the issue. You have to start somewhere and fighting certainly hasn’t helped us come up with a solution.

  2. Laura, you brought up some great points in this article – thank you.
    I’ve found from experience, that if you tell God that you want a job (like doing something pro-life) then he’ll send you a job. Please drop in to the Australian website I’ve been helping to update and say ‘hi!’ (Still a work in progress.but I’d love to see a comment from you..)
    This, plus posting pro-life messages on FB is the “job” the Lord sent when I told him I was ready to go to work for Him.
    http://www.hlps.org.au/

    • Yes, you’re right! God always provides opportunities if we pray for the opportunity to do good! It’s a great website too. 🙂

  3. Hi Laura,
    As a Catholic I always knew in theory that abortion is wrong. But it was only when I became a mother myself that the wrongness hit me viscerally. For several year now, a small group of pro-lifers pray outside our local hospital where abortions take place. We hold pro-life placards, showing a a baby in the womb and slogans such as “Have Mercy on the Unborn”, We pray, we sing hymns, we say the Rosary. We call this a pro-life prayer vigil. We are not confrontational. Sometimes women shout at us when they see us; I often think this might be because they are suffering from the wounds of an abortion themselves. My thinking is, like yours, that each of us has to do something. Not everyone wants to actually stand on the pavement and be heckled at. But that is an open witness that is intended to jolt people and make them think. There are other ways of supporting the pro-life cause: donate a regular amount monthly to a pro-life organisation; distribute leaflets for pro-life organisations; support life conferences; engage in on-line debates etc etc. There is a wonderful book called “The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God” by Ruth Pakaluk, published by Ignatius Press, which shows you what one woman convert to the Church found time to do for the pro-life cause, while raising 6 children and battling cancer. An inspiring read (and it might give you ideas!)

    • Thank you! 🙂 There is some wonderful ideas in their to think about, and I will have to check out that book. Thanks for commenting!

  4. In reply to Bodycrimes (what is a “body crime?”), the picture you paint of Holland is not entirely accurate. I have a Dutch son-in-law and have read articles by academic, Dr Joost Van Loon on the subject. The Dutch often record abortion under other headings, which disguise the figures. Also, there are faith schools in Holland which teach respect for the body through chastity rather than free contraception; and there is a growing Muslim population which does not subscribe to a hedonistic Western approach to sex. My daughter also tells me that the Dutch are very conservative, despite their seemingly tolerant laws; teenage pregnancy is frowned on and the state does not give financial help to young single mothers, as in the UK.

    • I have many colleagues in Holland and visit there often. You’re right that it’s a much more conservative country than is typically painted by outsiders, who can’t reconcile that with their tolerance for drugs and sex.

      The reason is that the Dutch are pragmatic and have pursued harm minimisation strategies. In other words, they will do what produces the most desirable outcomes, choosing the lesser of two evils. Clean needles and condoms in prisons, for example, which accept that prisoners will have sex and take drugs however harsh the prison regime. This approach results in much lower rates of AIDS than in prisons elsewhere which hold to the moral line, over actual human behaviour.

      As a result, Holland has far fewer abortions than the US, however you count them (as D&Cs or whatever) and teenage pregnancy both (which is what we all desire). So does Germany and the other middle European countries. What is striking about the Dutch experience is that they decided, at a government level, to make a push to reduce unwanted pregnancies. It was an effort that involved the entire health and education service and included as a central plank a decision to discuss sexuality openly and to make it easy to access contraception. You can read an abstract on the system, which was recognised as a success more than 20 years ago:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7971545

      If you treat reproductive issues openly, generously and as a health issue, you get consistently better outcomes, as has been proven internationally.

  5. Where you’re really right here, Laura, is that it is an incredibly hard journey. I’ve made it as well, and cringe at what I was. For me the key was in the realization that are really only two events in a pregnancy, conception and birth, the rest is a (more or less) linear process without objective demarcations. For me that means that I can’t accept (in theory, anyway, although it is a major improvement) such things as onset of pain, 20 weeks, and such. It’s an all or nothing thing for me.

    Part of it for me was the realization that barring a miracle, I was never going to have a child, in theory being a male I still could but how likely am I to end up married to a woman in her childbearing years anymore? That’s a personal reason which won’t work for you obviously.

    I still have trouble with the use of government force in the area (I can’t really explain why) because I do believe every abortion is better categorized as infanticide. In truth I think it has more to do with education and knowledge of right and wrong than anything else.

    Still, it’s hard, and I congratulate you on making the journey early in your life. And thanks for writing about it, as well.

    • Thanks NEO! 🙂 When you say you still have trouble with the use of government force in the area, what do you mean? And I absolutely agree that beyond conception and birth, there is no “natural” point when you could say, oh look, now it’s a child. We are all growing, just at different rates. 😉

      • It’s nothing really but a bit of a hangover from my pro-choice days. 🙂 If I think for a second or two so that I remember that a fetus is a person it goes away. 🙂

        But if I don’t my inbred opposition to the government say, “Who are you to tell her how to use her body?”. It’s simply a matter, for me and probably others of remembering that. Simple but hard too, sometimes 🙂

  6. I believe one of the most important points we can make is how the Church promotes a consistent ethic of life. Showing how the life issues are connected is more likely to be convincing to someone who is pro-life on other things (as opposed to a more confrontational approach). Regarding abortion in particular, the suggestions of “bodycrimes” about removing the stumbling blocks to keeping a pregnancy are an important way of showing support for both the mother and the child. One of the ugliest things about the way abortion is politicized (at least in the US) is how mother and child are pitted against each other, as if you’re only allowed to care about one or the other.

    In the same vein, it should be added that the right to life in Church teaching is much bigger than simply the right not to be killed, although it certainly includes that. The right to life is fundamentally based on human dignity as bearers of the image of God, and so it includes the right to the basic necessities for a life worthy of that dignity. And it neither begins nor ends with birth.

    • Thank you Julia!! I completely agree and want to write more on this in the future. It is disagraceful that both “sides” often act like they only have enough compassion for born or unborn, mother or child. What I can’t understand is how you can be against abortion but in favour of capital punishment, for example – and that’s not even getting started on the sort of rampant economic injustice we see all over the place. All life is sacred and worthy of dignity. 🙂

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  8. Ladies, before you set out to seduce a man, ask yourself whether you are prepared to take responsibility for the consequences of your loving act in a loving manner. Secondly, before you seek an abortion, consider how you often feel somewhat overpowered by men in our society, and consider how hypocritical you will feel to absolutely overpower the human life within you who is totally dependent upon you for its care. God bless!

    • Thank you Saintly Sages for commenting. 🙂 To be fair, this isn’t always the situation but it is important to remember that there are consequences of our actions.

    • Ladies, before you set out to seduce a man, ask yourself whether HE is prepared to join you in taking the responsibility for the potential consequences of your shared love. Unless you are in a committed relationship, the answer will most likely be “no”. In that case, “no” is your best answer to the seduction. (So often we forget that it takes two to tango)

  9. Powerful! I have a very strong reaction to abortion since my Mom had me as a result of a toxic pregnancy, which could have ended her life. She chose to keep me! It is hard to think that I was so close to dying. It is even harder to know that so many babies are aborted because they are inconvenient.

    • I am so glad she did!! Praise be to God! 😀 No wonder you care about this so much – and so you should! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  10. I can SO relate to this – abortion was something that just wasn’t on my radar either, for a long time! But as I began to take my faith more seriously, I realised as you have that there is no place for apathy where pro-life is concerned.

    Your post made me think of this video, which I think is an inspiring reminder that life is precious and there are people out there who value it immensely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Sp8RcDK5fWY

  11. I became very prof-life after the birth of my first child. I’d never supported abortion, but it wasn’t until I felt my own child in the womb and gave birth to a very real and living person that I realized I must be part of the solution to this tragedy.

  12. Another great post Laura. Required reading for all, but particularly Catholics, should be Humanae Vitae and then Evanglium Vitae. A consistent ethic of Life is a must. Abortion cannot stand without first “buying into” an acceptance of Contraception.

    Ultimately, to be pro-Life is to be pro Life in the personal (no contraception or abortion personally and TONS of prayers for hearts and cultures to change) and then social activism (with family, friends, social media, voting booth and presence at abortion facilities).

    God bless. Thanks for another excellent post!

  13. Pingback: Why It’s Hard to Believe Abortion is Wrong | Worms·

  14. I see a few Catholic members here quite fluent with the Catholic history. Abortion is an old issue. Wasn’t there any documentation on how the issue was treated in the first century when the 12 apostles were still alive? After all, rape is an old crime. There must have been many women considering this option since humanity came to existence. In the Old Testament, it was simple, because the rapist must be forced to marry the victim for a life-time punishment (Deut 22:28-29), an interpretation assuming the woman is ugly. In any case, when there was little social support back then, this could have been a good option for Jews. However, in the first century when churches were built up locally to provide the social support, things must have changed in Greece. What did they do? There’s no record at all? I am not a historian, so someone may be willing to help. Thanks!

    • There was indeed a variety of immorality in the early churches. The way they handled it was to draw upon the authority of the apostles to hand the unrepentant over to Satan. After all, the church was not the government back then. The apostles didn’t expect that the church and the government would be one later. The Holy Spirit seemed to have ceased His work following the deaths of the 12 apostles, although baptism and rebirth through the Spirit probably has continued to this day, the reality of which is, however, much more difficult to verify. I am always excited to know disciples and apostles who have direct experience with God and are able to receive knowledge from them, either the Son or the Spirit or both. I am not claiming to have such access. However, a few minutes ago, an inspiration came to mind about how the early churches functioned. That’s why I am replying now.

      • Well, I forgot to relate it to abortion. I don’t have the historical evidence to show how they handled the unwanted but innocent children. In my opinion, adoption is probably the best way to go so as not to further victimize the rape victims. However, if adoption is not possible due to the absence of volunteers within the first month of pregnancy, then the children can be treated as orphans to be raised through public services.

        • I understand that the social cost is high in the aftermath. This is why rapists must be severely punished to balance the cost, in which case longer jail time, which means higher total production while in prison, is preferred. Prisoners are supposed to work and produce to incur surplus in the Department of Correction. However, this is already a bit off topic, so I am stopping here. Abortion is still an option, but paid pregnancy is then waived. This is where there’s no known good solution anyway. That’s why rape should be considered equal to murder, but not serious enough to deserve death penalty, in which case the law might be considered an encouragement for murder following rape. Where death penalty is absent, the gap of 2-3 years in jail time between the two crimes is probably reasonable.

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