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“Personally pro-life”: Unity required among Catholics
At the Vice Presidential debate a few weeks ago, the candidates were asked, among other questions, to reflect on their Catholic faiths and the role faith has played in shaping their views on abortion. While both candidates brought up contentious, discussion-provoking points, none surpassed Joe Biden’s opening remarks. Describing himself as “personally pro-life,” Biden went on to say that each woman’s circumstances are different and that he has no right to impose his personal beliefs on those who choose to undergo an abortion.
I’ve been struggling with this type of answer for years; it is typical of most of the Catholics I know who personally believe an unborn fetus is a person who cannot be killed, but respect other people’s rights to differing opinions. For me, though, that position is untenable under Catholicism. Catholic social teaching holds as its primary tenet the fact that every human being, particularly one who cannot defend his or her self, reflects the dignity of God and is deserving of protection. No one is in greater need of such protection than the unborn—they can’t speak for themselves, fight back, or prove their worth.
Catholics also understand their obligation to defend others, but so few of them remember that ‘others’ includes the unborn. My question is this, then: How can we as Catholics say we recognize the life of the unborn, but approve of other people murdering those whom we stand to protect?
Standing by any injustice, no matter how small, equates to agreeing with and validating that behavior; the people watching others harm their fellow human beings are just as, if not more, responsible for any atrocities that unfold, if only because passive acceptance is in essence, support. There is no validity in calling yourself a supporter of human dignity if you do nothing to protect it.
During the Holocaust, more than 11 million people were savagely killed. In my opinion, the saddest and most disappointing part of this statistic is that all of those deaths were preventable—not one of those people would have died had enough other people stood up to the perpetrators. And then I think of abortion, which kills one in three American children. And, contrary to the common pro-choice quip, 99 percent of those children are killed not because of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, but because their parents simply do not want them. They do not want to be parents; a baby would inconvenience them. So we keep letting them die.
It’s as simple as that. We are killing for convenience; we are witnessing a genocide and no one seems to think it’s an issue because this is a personal decision that only the mother has the right to make.
I’m a woman, and I support women’s rights to absolute equality. But abortion is not just a woman’s problem, because it involves two lives. A woman has the right to choose when her own life is at stake, but she has no right to determine if another person lives, regardless of if she wants a baby, if she can afford it, or if she has a partner to help her raise it. Regardless of how much a baby is wanted, it is still a baby, still worthy of its own right to choose.
It is important to mention that I believe the only way to stop abortion is by offering mothers more choices. If we give women resources to take care of their children, continue with their education and enjoy their youth while raising a child, or, if they so choose, helping her put her child up for adoption, then abortion becomes a less appealing option.
And while that is important, the point I want to stress the most is that abortion is the only choice that’s wrong. It isn’t wrong because it encourages women’s rights or sexual liberty. It’s wrong because as a society, we are hurting a defenseless group of people to give women those rights. No matter how much a woman has the right to choose, she has no right to choose for a life that is not her own.
So the term ‘personally pro-life’ means nothing to me, if only because it’s an oxymoron. I can understand those people who support abortion because they believe a fetus is not yet a person. What I cannot support or understand, however, are those who know in their hearts that an unborn child is a person, and still feel it is acceptable to let other people murder them. That’s what frustrates me when I hear quotes like Biden’s. It’s a shame that a group of people so proud of their commitment to the weakest among us can so complacently watch them suffer.