Monday, January 9, 2017

It is that time of year again.

On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to our Constitution extended to woman’s decision to have an abortion, overruling the abortion laws in many states. SCOTUS did recognize that states do have an interest in the potential human being growing inside the woman and allowed states to pass laws making abortion illegal during the third trimester. This time frame was later changed in another ruling allowing states to intervene only after the fetus becomes viable around the 23rd or 24th week.

This is only possible because we, as a society, have never officially defined when a human life begins. Some believe that life begins at conception. Others believe that the fetus becomes a person at some undefinable moment between twenty weeks to actual birth. There are some who believe that partial birth abortions are perfectly fine. Partial birth abortion is where a fully grown baby is partially born backwards and then the spinal cord is snipped before the head is fully removed. The most disturbing group of people believe that we should be able to abort babies anywhere from twelve months to twenty-four months post partum. Yes, that means being allowed to kill a child up to two years of age.

Abortion for a Catholic is a non-negotiable. We are not allowed to participate in one. We are not allowed to support one. We are not allowed to vote for someone who openly supports this action. There are many Catholics today who ignore this. There are many who believe it is far past time for the Church to get with the program and change some of its archaic teachings.

Abortion for every American should be a non-negotiable. The American ideal is that all humans are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our Constitution recognizes the fact that each human life is valuable and that a person cannot be deprived of their life without due process of the law. Our court system has recognized that at some point a fetus is a human life but intentionally leaves that point as vague as possible to allow as many abortions as possible.

We all can agree that a fetus becomes a human being at some point. This point has to be a definite point that applies to all fetuses and the only point that is definite is conception. Conception is the same for each and every person. Fetal viability is not. Some fetuses will survive earlier than others. The same goes for a hard time mark like the third trimester. It is wrong to say that a baby can be aborted thirty seconds before the beginning of the third trimester and not be aborted thirty seconds after the beginning of the third trimester. The same argument applies to life beginning at actual birth. Babies born one hundred days premature survive more and more with the advancement of modern medicine.

Officially defining when a human life begins ends the debate on abortion. If this country were to ratify into law that a human life begins at conception the constructional protection each human is recognized to have would immediately extend to the unborn. A person seeking an abortion would have to prove in a court of law what crime, punishable by death, an unborn baby had committed before the abortion could be granted. Short of undeniable proof that a continued pregnancy puts the mother at great risk of death or serious bodily harm, there isn’t much an unborn baby could do to warrant a death sentence.

The ramifications of officially defining when a life begins is what gets pro-lifers to start to side with the pro-choicers. If an unborn baby is a human life and has the full protection of the law any activity a mother engages in that is known to cause injury or defect to that baby could be viewed as neglect or abuse by the mother. In other words, if a mother drinks to a certain extent, smokes, uses recreational drugs, or any number of other activities that medical science has proven to be harmful to a developing human that mother could be prosecuted for a crime. Habitual offenders could be sentenced to incarceration until the baby is born. A zealous prosecutor could even move to take the child away from the mother as soon as it is born because of the neglect or abuse. The matter only gets more and more complicated when we begin to look into things like in vitro fertilization when a human is conceived outside of the womb and medically implanted, or when fertility drugs cause multiple embryos to implant at one time. Both procedures help struggling couples have a child but would be highly questionable if life begins at conception were the law of the land.

But not doing the right thing just because it is hard or complicated is never ok. Every day more humans die in this world because of our inaction and inability to make a decision. Almost 60 million babies alone in the United States have been murdered since the Roe vs Wade decision in 1973 made it legal to do so. Forty-four years it has been legal to kill children as long as you do so before they take their first breath.

As a good friend once told me, “I don’t want to make abortion illegal. I want to make it unthinkable.” Amen to that.

Every day Catholic clergy and laity pray Psalm 95 as part of our Liturgy of the Hours. In it we pray –

For forty years I have endured that generation;

I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts have gone astray,

And they do not know my ways.’

So I swore in my anger,

They shall not enter into my rest.

How much longer will God continue to endure us?

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