Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Abortion Debate with a Former Catholic

This debate is only a subset of a much larger discussion which involved several people. I decided to post it here because it tended to stay on the general topic rather than veer off into endless trails as most online debates tend to do. The interlocutor, "J", began with a complaint about the Church having some requirement on how Catholics vote. He mentioned a recent newsletter which outlined the Church's teachings on the non-negotiables when it comes to supporting issues with our votes. However, his subsequent statements showed a belief in the justification/necessity of legal abortions, as he confirmed, "I support abortion at reasonable times because Christ calls me to have compassion for the suffering of women", and stated that, for some women who are not ready to have a baby, abortion "is her only way out". That makes my initial response/questions relevant and appropriate. My words in black, his words in green. I am only quoting the portion between him and me, and I have removed sidebars and combined repetitions from both of us for the sake of "brevity".

Re: Questions in response to John Martignoni’s October 6 email newsletter
I am a former convert who has stepped away from the Church for many reasons. One reason is that I cannot wrap my head around the anachronistic idea that Jesus, who predated democracy, would set requirements on how we vote in a secular election.
Protestants and Orthodox have no such requirement that one must vote against abortion to be in good standing with their faiths. Ironically, Protestants oppose abortion at higher percentages than Catholics.
I'm not a monster that wishes to seek the blood of babies. I too wish for a world in which abortion never happens. But life is tough and complicated, and answers are never black and white.
This is why I ask these questions:

1) Do you agree that pregnancy is a time of great fear, emotional side effects, and physical side effects for women, and that this fear is what drives many women to have abortions?

2) Though it’s against Catholicism, do you agree that there is no realistic hope of reducing the number of abortions unless we make contraception more available?

3) Can you say with 100% certainty that abortion is NEVER medically necessary?

4) Catholicism may not require it. But if we oppose abortion, don't we then need to provide increased welfare for poor, single women who can barely afford their own health, and now are punished with unwanted children because of pro-life policies? Doesn't pro-life become a policy of hate if we do not provide this welfare?

5) Invoking logical consistency, don't pro-lifers need to oppose war and police murders with the same vigor as they do with abortion? Yes, I understand abortion affects more numbers. But it's the CONSISTENCY of logic that is the key here. Why should we listen to you on abortion when you don't support Black Lives Matter, for example?

6) Bans have not worked with alcohol, weed, and guns. Why do you believe a ban will work with abortion? Furthermore, why don't Catholics call for bans on contraception and porn? Again, the CONSISTENCY of logic is key.

7) In the VP debate with respect to abortion policy, Tim Kaine said, “[W]e [Hillary and Kaine] really feel like you should live fully and with enthusiasm the commands of your faith. But it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everybody else.” What’s so wrong about this statement? What’s so wrong about separation of faith and politics?
I appreciate your thoughtful responses.

1) I don't agree that it *is*, because for many women it's not. But I can agree that it *can be*. Why does that make it okay to kill an unborn child?

2) No. Making contraception more available has made MORE *need* for abortion. Follow the stats. Increased contraception use shares a striking correlation with the legalization and an increase in abortion. Contraception has been increasingly available how long? And abortions has decreased by how much in that time?

3) Yes. It is NEVER medically necessary to terminate a child for the sake of terminating a child. There may be times when the only option to save a mother is to remove the child (ectopic pregnancy), and it is permissible to spare the life of the mother in this case, with the unfortunate consequence of losing the child.

4) There is no link between pro-life movements and people who do not want to provide welfare for those in need. The Church teaches the need to help others just as much as it teaches the sanctity of ALL human life, from womb to tomb.

5) Logically speaking, no, they don't (even though many do). In logical consistency, a person only need to recognize that, without the fundamental right to life and to be born, no other rights matter. In logical terms, can you explain why any person's life matters if he/she did not have the fundamental right to be born in the first place?

6) Your position isn't logical. The right to life is not so insignificant to a person's right to smoke pot, is it?

7) There's nothing wrong with keeping faith out of politics, as long as you don't mind politics ruling over your faith. The problem, however, is that Catholics serve God, not man, and so we primarily form our opinions based on God's Law, and then let our politics stem from that. Otherwise, we set "man" (ourselves) up as our own "god" and risk rejecting our own Creator. But in terms of abortion and what Kaine said, do you not believe it is the role of the government to protect ALL life? If not, then surely you are willing to renounce your position on providing for the poor/hungry/needy/etc.?

1. You recognize the fear, and I hope that you recognize that perhaps we shouldn't be so judgmental of women who seek an abortion as a result. Women feel trapped by pregnancy, their futures forever altered by childrearing. I wouldn't wish this suffering on anyone. Perhaps the pro-life movement will gain traction if it reaches out and ministers to the fears of pregnant women, rather than being the movement of "no you can't".

2. There is no Biblical prohibition against contraception, and Humanae Vitae, much like Vatican II, is proving to be a disaster. Protestants accept contraception and are doing just fine, and the Orthodox allow it as long as there's a dispensation and it's not done selfishly. 

3. Pregnancy causes depression, anxiety, weight gain, and a whole host of emotional, physical, and hormonal problems.

4. I'm glad to hear that pro-lifers wish to help people in all life stages. I have heard Catholic pro-lifers say (to paraphrase) that 1) there is no moral obligation to subsidize sloth by expanding the social safety net, 2) that individuals should not delegate their charity to the government because it would then not constitute a good work, and 3) that as long as they have opposed abortion, then they can wash themselves clean of any subsequent issues that follow because the abortion issue is primary. I firmly believe that the pro-life movement will gain NO ground unless pro-lifers support increased welfare for poor mothers.

5. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution starts with "All persons born in the United States..." Therefore one must be born to have rights.

6. My position is logical. The fact that bans in other areas have not worked, calls into question whether a ban on abortion will truly work. All it will do is cause women to seek abortion underground, putting them in danger. A Pakistani Irish woman died because doctors would not provide an abortion a few years ago. With an absolute ban, women will die.

7. I'm not sure. There are libertarians who believe that the government shouldn't always step in with nanny state laws, and that people should be allowed to drive motorcycles without helmets, for example. The government should protect people, but it should also protect the civil rights of people.

8. Show me the magisterial doctrine that says that Catholics must oppose abortion not just individually, but politically...If the Magisterium hasn't spoken on the issue, then it's not forbidden. That's my point.

'J', I asked a few questions and I would appreciate you answering them directly, just like I directly answered yours. They will be repeated in my resonses below:

1 - I recognize the fear that some women have. The Church and other Christian communities have support groups for these fearful mothers. Project Rachel comes to mind. The question is, why does fear make it necessary or okay to kill an unborn child?

2 - Why does the Bible need to teach about contraception in order for anyone to follow the stats to see that increased availability of contraception shares a simultaneous increase in abortion? Your point was that increasing the availability of contraception could give us a hope of decreased abortions. But in reality, the opposite has been true.

3 - You are making a rather broad sweeping statement about pregnancy that I don't think you can defend (about depression, in particular), but lets pretend all of that is true. Why does that make it okay to kill an unborn child? Wouldn't it be better to offer counseling to the mother instead of killing her child? Abortion ALSO leads to depression, and sometimes suicide. So, killing the baby isn't solving the crisis you present which you assert is caused by pregnancy. You still have not explained why those things make it necessary to kill the child, especially in light of the fact that abortion leads to worse emotional pains AND the death of a human baby AND the fact that there are other methods of treating depression that don't involve killing anyone.

4 - Well, I can't imagine where you would have gotten any notion that the Church doesn't support welfare for the poor. I think you are confusing that with asking the government to do our good works for us, instead of doing them ourselves? At any rate, I don't see a need to pay the government to do our good works for us.

5 - Why is only the 14th Amendment relevant? And why is it relevant at all if the people guaranteed a right under it never had the fundamental right to be born in the first place?

6 - Why are bans in other areas relevant to a ban on abortion? Are you saying that because a ban on something isn't assured of success that we should therefore allow the action? Murder is illegal (there is a current ban on murder, as it were). Yet, people murder each other every day. Should we therefore lift the ban on murder and make it legal...and provide for “safe and legal” murders? No, your position is not logical here.

7 - Again, why do people's Civil Rights matter if they did not have the fundamental right to be born in the first place?

8 - Why would any Church doctrine, or lack of one, make it okay to kill another human being?
The Church does not tell people how to vote. The Church teaches Truth, and reminds us that we are culpable for our actions. To vote for a pro-abortion candidate because they support abortion would be formal cooperation, and the voter would incur guilt.
That having been said, the Magesterium has been anything but silent on the topic of abortion and the sanctity of all life and the rights to life of the unborn. I'm going to assume you don't have a Catechism of the Catholic Church and post a word-searchable one HERE. Catechism paragraphs 2270-2275, and 2322-2323 deal explicitly with abortion. There are many others that deal with killing, the respect for life, etc...

I want to reiterate that my goal is not to promote abortion. Rather my belief is that nothing in Catholic teaching, or broader Christian teaching, mandates how to vote. Second, nothing in Catholic teaching states that abortion takes precedence over all other issues.

In addition, I also believe there are serious flaws in pro-life thinking that cause it to remain unpopular. Only 20% of America supports an absolute ban.

Pregnancy is a time of great fear. As a man, I cannot imagine the fear that a woman goes through while pregnant. Pregnancy is a time of physical and emotional pain and suffering. How could I possibly judge a woman, then, for having an abortion, when she is not physically, emotionally, or financially ready? To her, it was her only way out.

I know that pregnancy often happens to those who are not qualified or ready. I have compassion for the child who cannot turn to her parents due to cultural shame, the poor young woman who can barely afford healthcare, or is too emotionally immature or impoverished to raise a child. I have compassion for the rape and incest victim, and firmly believe those women should not be punished for the mistakes of others.

I believe that the government should not step into such a private matter as the decision to be pregnant and raise a baby. We're talking about the uterus, an intimate and private zone. The government already intrudes into too many areas. Why here? 

Next is the Catechism. Although CCC 2273 states that "The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation," the CCC does not forbid reasonable regulation of that right.

CCC 2274 states that "the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being." But how far is "as far as possible?" There is wiggle room.
Reasonable Catholic minds can differ on how exactly to implement the Church's teachings on abortion.

Let's now discuss the flaws in pro-life thinking.

I firmly believe that if you wish to force women to have their babies, then you must provide welfare for them. I am appalled by Catholics I've talked to who oppose this idea because we should not delegate our charity to government. I've heard some say we should not subsidize sloth. Sorry, I don't see Jesus in this thinking. 

Regarding absolute bans, let's be clear. An absolute ban will only cause women to seek abortion underground, putting them in further danger. 

Women have already died due to the lack of availability of abortions. Look up the story of the Pakistani woman who died in Ireland because doctors would not provide an abortion. Her life was clearly in danger due to pregnancy complications. Do you still argue that abortion is never medically necessary? Your pro-life policy just killed a woman. How pro-life is that?

Yes, absolutely you must evaluate the strengths and flaws of a policy before implementing it. Absolute bans have not worked. Alcohol prohibition did not work. Gun bans are not working in Chicago. Reagan's war on drugs didn't work. Jailing people for weed is not working, and only serving to further the cycle of inner-city poverty.

And why are we not calling for bans on prostitution and pornography? First, because they do not work. But second, the lack of vigor exposes the fact that abortion advocacy has usurped the true mission of the Church--to evangelize and convert souls to Christ. 

Regarding the 14th Amendment, yes, I agree, there is no right to be born in the first place. Perhaps that is a flaw to be addressed. But the job of government, like I posted earlier, is not only to protect people, but to protect their rights from infringement. The right to terminate pregnancy is settled law under Roe v. Wade.

'J', you barely skirted around one, maybe two, of my questions…you simply ignored most of them. I will ask them yet again, in direct response to what you have just written, and I will insist that you directly answer them this time if you want to continue this discussion.

You say that your goal is not to promote abortion, but you also say that you support it, and all the points you make argue for its justification/promotion. You also argue that Catholics and other Christians should/do have the right to vote for politicians who promote abortion. So, my previous replies and questions to you are relevant.

I’m not sure why you think it’s relevant that only 20% of Americans support a full ban on abortion, or that there are flaws in the pro-life movement. Why does that matter? Why does that justify killing an unborn child?

We have already acknowledged that pregnancy can be a time of fear and can lead to emotional and physical suffering. So is abortion…even more so. So, if your goal is to protect women from emotional and physical suffering, why would you support something that leads to emotional and physical suffering??  No one is saying that we should judge anyone else. Pro-lifers are pushing for the right to life of all humans, not for judgment. And why is adoption not a viable “way out”? Why do you believe that abortion, which causes emotional and physical suffering, is the “only way out”?

I am glad we share compassion. For the vast majority of unwanted pregnancies, the reality is that these women were having sex by their own choice. Asking people to accept the consequences of their actions is not wrong. It is part of learning. Would it not be better to teach them to abstain from sex when they do not want to become pregnant, instead of supporting the killing of their unborn child, thereby causing them emotional and physical suffering?

For the rape victims, why is it okay to punish the unborn child with death? Asking a rape victim not to kill her child is not a punishment, but a plea for life and mercy towards an innocent child. Did that unborn child cause the rape? You say you don’t want to punish a woman for the mistakes of others, but you believe it is okay to punish the innocent child for those mistakes? Do you, or do you not, believe the innocent should be punished for crimes they did not commit, or actions they did not take?

If you believe the government intrudes enough into private matters, why would you support a candidate who wants the government to subsidize or pass laws on a private matter? And, no, we are not just talking about a uterus. We are talking about the life of an unborn human being who did not put him/herself into that uterus, and whether they have a fundamental right to life.

How do you reconcile the “reasonable regulation of…the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual” with legalizing the death of innocent unborn human individuals? (Keep in mind, you authoritatively cited Catholic doctrine.) And are you actually saying that the intentional killing of an embryo can be construed as caring for the life of an embryo? Defending and caring for and healing, as far as possible, an embryo, which has an inalienable right to life, necessarily excludes the intentional killing of it. Abortion is not compatible with the Catholic teaching on the right to life. There is no wiggle room on abortion.

As to the pro-life movement in general, pro-lifers are not against providing for the welfare of those in need. Many of them oppose the governmental regulation of those things, because many of us believe that we can provide for the welfare of others better than the government can, without the government regulating it. Catholics have been helping the poor for millennia. Why do we need government involvement on providing charities for which we already provide?

Absolute bans on abortion don’t cause women to seek underground abortions. Women choosing to kill their unborn babies might cause them to do that, but a ban on abortions is not a cause for someone’s choice. And, again, why is adoption not an option? Why can’t we provide for the life of the child while simultaneously offering a young mother a “way out” of her predicament?

Yes, some women have died during pregnancy. Many women have ALSO died while having abortions. So, your argument here is self-refuting. By your own argument, you cannot possibly support abortions without completely contradicting yourself.

You keep saying we must evaluate failures of other policies when deciding a ban on abortions, but you cannot support your assertion with any relevant facts or logic. You are comparing bans on the right to own or possess something with a ban against the killing of a person. That is not a logical comparison. Comparing it to the sins of pornography and prostitution is closer, but you are wrong that the Church would not want to ban these things. You have also put yourself in a position of implicitly supporting child prostitution. Do you believe that since bans on prostitution might not work, that we should just allow child prostitution? Why are previous bans, and their failures, relevant to the fundamental right to life of every human person?

So, you do not believe that people have the fundamental right to be born in the first place. Then, upon what basis do you defend ANY rights of any person? Without the fundamental right to life, why do other rights matter?
And upon what basis do you complain against Catholic pro-lifers who DO believe people have the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death? You are basically complaining against Catholics for accepting Catholic doctrine.

Regarding the questions that have still gone unanswered, I have bolded them in my last 2 replies to make it easier.  This is the third time I am asking most of them.

The reason abortion should be banned is because it is the killing of an innocent baby human being, and ALL humans should have the right to live. There are alternatives to abortion (counseling, material assistance, adoption, etc.) offered by various charities and organizations. There is no good reason to intentionally kill an innocent human being. There is no good reason to support a political candidate who believes killing an innocent human being is okay. There is no good reason to allow our tax dollars to fund abortions.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Answering How to Best Approach the Abortion Issue

I ran across this post/question on a social media outlet. "JH" favors option #2 in his proposition to gradually reduce the number of abortions.  But has that actually ever worked?

JH’s proposition:

"This is particularly aimed at…the pro-birth brigade.

First of all: Can we agree that we all want fewer abortions? We could even aim for zero abortions in the long run.

The discussion then becomes how best to achieve this goal. There seem to be two opposing schools of thought.
1) Legislate against abortion. This is typically led by the religious right. The problem is that they go further and seek to deny education to women on abortion, contraception, sexual health, anything sex related at all really.

2) Allow abortion up to a date determined by viability of the foetus and provide educational resources to women (and men) in order to prevent pregnancy in the first place. This is typically led by the more liberal groups who use secular reasoning rather than emotional rhetoric to address the issue.

Which is most effective in reducing unwanted pregnancy, particularly among teens? Why is that?"

My response:

Yes, we can agree that we want fewer abortions and want to aim at zero in the long run. However, as a Christian who believes that all life is sacred, and as a human that believes all human beings have the fundamental right to life, I believe zero abortions should be the beginning goal.

First, we should understand each other in terms of what we mean by “abortion”. I understand abortion to be the intentional killing of an unborn child.

I don’t agree with your presentation of the “two opposing schools of thought”.

1) Legislating against abortion is appropriate because abortion directly denies the right to life of certain human beings (those not yet born, and even of those partially born). It isn’t necessarily the “religious right” who are for this; rather it is a position held by those who defend every human’s right to life. Would it be fair to say that “the right to life of all humans is typically only held by the religious right”?

It’s disingenuous to say that the “religious right” want to deny education on sexual matters to women. That is a gross misrepresentation. What they actually want is to educate women (and men) on the sanctity of Marriage, the two-fold purpose of Marriage and the marital act, and respect for sexuality as it has been given to us by God. They want to teach men and women not to abuse or make a mockery of their sexuality. They also do not want to mislead people into thinking that they approve of extra-marital sex by providing things (contraceptives, access to abortion, etc.…) that would encourage extra-marital sex. Further, many in the "religious right" believe that parents are the best educators for their children and they don't want a one-size-fits-all approach on sexuality being delivered to their children by people who do not share common views on morality.  You might disagree with the “religious right” on their views of sexuality and our origin, but to say they do not want to educate women just because they don’t teach what *you* might think is correct is disingenuous.

I would argue that the “religious right” do more educating on abortion than anyone else does. In fact, the vast majority of actual information I have been able to find on what abortion actually is, does, and looks like, has come from groups which might be described as “the religious right”. Those opposed to the “religious right” seem opposed to the spread of such information. So, I would say you have it backwards there.

2) Allowing abortion up to a certain date determined by the viability of the foetus is subjective and it still denies the right to life of a living human being. Who gets the final say what “viability” means? And why is that certain point of development different from another point of development? Why are humans who cannot survive outside their mother’s womb, for example, denied the right to live? Are they unworthy of life just because they depend on someone for nourishment? Infants who can live outside their mother’s womb are no less dependent upon someone else for sustenance.

Providing educational resources to *prevent pregnancy in the first place* is an excellent idea! The problem is that the “religious right” you referred to earlier is the only group that does this. They teach abstinence from sex until Marriage, which happens to be the best, safest, most effective method for avoiding pregnancy. Others seem to believe that teaching teens/adults about contraceptives, and providing those contraceptives, will somehow reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. The problem is that the opposite is actually true. Since the dawn of contraception and education about it, people seem to have taken that as permission, or sorts, to have sex at will, regardless of Marriage, and unwanted pregnancies have risen. Contraception gained popular status between the 1930’s-1960’s, and abortion shortly followed. The two have shared what appears to be a correlation ever since. No amount of contraception availability and education has reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies or abortions, ever. It’s not because contraceptives aren’t effective in and of themselves. It’s because, in my opinion, providing them and teaching about them sends the message that we expect everyone to engage in the very act that leads to pregnancy…while expecting that act not to lead to pregnancy. It makes more sense to teach people to avoid the act that leads to pregnancy in the first place, until they are ready for that responsibility, doesn’t it? That’s not “emotional rhetoric” used to address this issue; that’s logic.

Legislating against abortion and educating men and women about the reality of sex and what sex actually leads to (pregnancy) is the best option, particularly among teens. This teaches them that all humans have the right to life and that having pre-marital sex can lead to pregnancy, even if they have access to contraceptives. The reality is that no amount of contraceptive access and education has done anything to reduce the number of abortions. The “religious right” position, however, has had actual results in closing down some abortion clinics. So, they at least have some positive results they can point to in ending abortion.

Image courtesy of "The Looking Spoon".