For me, it has always seemed a personal decision, something a pregnant woman, or a couple, should decide for themselves. But now it is so different -- it has become a religious/political litmus test.
Why does a government, or state leaders, have the right to deny women access to abortion clinics, to determine what women do about a baby-to-be? Many state leaders are now competing with other state leaders to enact numerous rules on where, how and when a pregnant woman should have an abortion – if at all. Women can’t decide about their own bodies. I can’t think of any parallel rules that exist for men about their bodies – like banning a vasectomy or limiting the purchase of condoms or Viagra. Women had to get a prescription for birth control pills.
Given the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the United State has allowed abortions for years.
I recently read a fascinating and significant op-ed column in the NYT by Gary Wills, a prominent professor of history at Northwestern University, who discusses the current angst toward abortion. He is the author of 50 books on Catholicism, the history of Christianity, and American history and politics.
I will quote him at length, because he gave me an entirely new view on abortion I have never read before. Wills writes:
“What is the worst crime a society can commit? Some people (I among them) would say the Holocaust, the cold methodical murder of six million people just for being Jews.
“But some Catholics and evangelicals say they know of an even greater crime — the deliberate killing of untold millions of unborn babies by abortion. They have determined that a fetus is a person and abortion is therefore murder. This is a crime of such magnitude that some Catholic bishops are trying to deny the reception of Holy Communion by the president of the United States for not working to prevent it.
“No one told Dante that this was the worst crime, or he would have put abortionists, not Judas, in the deepest frozen depths of his Inferno. But in fact, he does not put abortionists anywhere in the eight fiery tiers above the deepest one of his Hell.
“This is not a singular omission. No one told “Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John” or Paul, or any other New Testament author, that he should condemn this sin of all sins. Nor did any author of the Old Testament raise this alarm, with the result that we do not have Moses or Jesus on record as opposing abortion. Nor did any of the major definitive creeds.
“In 1930, Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Casti Connubii, forbade all ways to prevent procreation, lumping them together with the condemnation of Onan, who prevents his widowed sister-in-law from childbirth by coitus interruptus. But the Vatican was embarrassed by scholars who noted that what was attacked there was a violation of the duty of Levirate marriage, to continue his brother’s line. The Vatican has never again tried to connect abortion with Scripture. “
I, myself, went through a transitional thought period about abortion. In my younger years, I was very absolute, courtesy of the Catholic church. Abortion is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Then I decided my views should not predominate over others’ concerns, so I said I couldn’t have an abortion, but I understood why others may want or need one. And now I am out of my absolutist stage and think having an abortion is simply an individual’s or a couple’s right to decide.
One particular event in Phoenix, AZ, helped with my new decision. A woman with four kids had another pregnancy – an ectopic one. Doctors told her she and her baby could absolutely not survive. Either abort the baby, or, if she does not do that and comes to term, both will die.
The woman was in a Catholic hospital, run by nuns, and the nun CEO decided the doomed fetus can be removed. The doctors totally agreed and it occurred. The mother lived; the fetus died.
The local bishop was aghast that an “abortion” occurred, and not only removed the nun from her CEO job at the hospital, but excommunicated her.
Evidently, he thought abortion was such a sin that two people -- the unborn baby and the mother of four -- both should die, which, by the way, would result in four kids without a mother.
What kind of a moral decision is that?
It’s not. He wanted two to die because of h his church’s rules. I thought morality was trying to save lives, and not let some people die because of church rules. It was an absurd decision.
But this righteous feeling in America by some church groups, particularly the evangelicals and Catholics, that abortion is the greatest sin is plunging forward. Just think of the recent Catholic bishops’ conference whose majority members decided to draft a document that would result in denying communion to President Biden
because of his stand that an abortion is an individual decision.
If Wills is right, and I think he is, if neither Moses nor the Old nor New Testament, nor Jesus, nor other religions, mentioned abortion as a terrible wrong, then why are some of our churches and the anti-abortionists and pro-lifers imposing a new standard on our society today – one that proclaims abortion is the greatest evil?
I don’t buy it.