Abortion is Offensive to Human Dignity
The worst offense against human dignity today is the scourge of abortion. It leaves at least five victims, in various senses of the word: the mother, the father, the child, and the abortionist, and the whole community.
The human person is a marvel. Out of all beings, we stand apart as being made in the image and likeness of almighty God. We have sentience and powers of abstraction. But we also have worth from the very first moment of human life: conception. This worth is not dependent on any specific virtue or action.
Biology Class Review
It seems that millions of people skipped high school biology. So, here is a brief sex-ed class. During sexual intercourse, the volume of the ejaculate of a man contains a sperm count of 39 – 928 million. These cells are alive, but they are not human persons. This seminal fluid then makes the journey to the ovaries of the woman, where there is an ovum, or egg. The ovum is a living cell, but it is not a human person.
If the ovum has been recently released and the conditions are good, fertilization might take place. Each of those millions of sperm cells contain all the genetic code of the man and the egg contains all the genetic code of the woman. When a sperm breaks through the membrane of an ovum, the result is neither sperm or egg, neither father nor mother. The decidedly earliest moment of the existence of a new human person is this single-celled zygote: a unique, unrepeatable human person
The Key Question: Is the Zygote a Member of the Human Family?
This brings us to the crux of the matter. If the zygote is not a member of the human family, then no moral justification is necessary. If this zygote is a member of the human family, then the intentional killing of this organism is morally illicit and unthinkable.
Common sense, based on biological fact, will confirm that the zygote is not merely constituent parts or a “possible” human being. The zygote has the full genetic material of a new human person and fulfills the biological conditions of life: order, response to stimuli, cellular reproduction, growth and development, regulation, homeostasis, and energy processing. This zygote has DNA that is unique from the mother or father. Suffice it to say, the zygote, small as it may be, is a tiny human person.
From our first moment, as a single-cell organism, we are human beings with unique, unrepeatable DNA. We have intrinsic worth as human beings. Prior to the laws of society, every human person has natural rights, the chief among these being the first right: the right to life. All other rights flow from this one.
The Smallest and Weakest Among Us
Can we love our neighbor as ourselves if we are condoning the smallest and weakest in our society? The common good of the society dictates that we uphold natural rights and view the human person, no matter how small, as intrinsically dignified. How we treat the smallest and weakest of our society judges the merits of a society.
The Many Victims of Abortion
Abortion claims more than one victim. The victims of abortion are the mother, father, child, abortionist, and the broader community.
First, the mother is a victim. Society, and sometimes friends and family members, has led her to believe that she can only be happy if she chooses to have her child killed. We call this action “choice.” I do not claim to say that most women like this choice. There are a marked few in society that like abortion, though this evil does exist. Whether chosen or coerced, the mother takes a pill or has her child burned, ripped, or sucked out of her body.
The deepest instinct of a mother is to protect her child. No matter what psychological coping mechanisms are put in place consciously or subconsciously following an abortion, this scar leaves a lasting mark on the psyche and soul of the mother. Thanks be to God, there is always healing and forgiveness. One need only ask and allow the healing to begin.
The second victim of abortion is the father, setting aside cases of rape or incest. One of the more nefarious lies of our society is that abortion is a “women’s issue.” It naturally takes a man and woman to create a human child. A father has the same natural inclinations to protect his child. He grieves the loss of his son or daughter just as strongly as the mother, if he is honest with himself.
He may choose to coerce the mother of his child to have an abortion for various reasons which all amount to fear, discomfort, or inconvenience. The biological and moral imperative of fatherhood must transcend fear, discomfort, or inconvenience if defense of human dignity is ever to be fully restored.
The third victim of abortion, of course, is the child. The small human person, completely innocent, full of potential, is killed with the permission of his or her parents. God, forgive us for allowing such a thing.
At the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. in 1994, St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) delivered these powerful remarks about abortion:
“The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.”
The great saint went on to hope that we might give until it hurts, with a smile. Her vision for America was that it might be a sign of peace for the world by ensuring that “no child will be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away.”
The fourth victim of abortion is the abortionist. Many have convinced themselves, against medical science, that the child within the womb is not human. Still others acknowledge that they are intentionally killing a human being but continue to do so. In either case, this egregious sin has a deleterious effect on the human soul. Hitmen are paid to kill their target and show as little remorse. Yet, we have no problem saying that the action of the hitman is immoral and harmful to a well-ordered society.
The Whole Community
Finally, we are all victims of abortion, as a community. Our culture will not recover until we put this modern-day genocide behind us. Quoting the great Mother Teresa once again, “Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.”
If we, as a collective community, accept abortion, we will not be free to love. Love requires selflessness. Love requires us to be uncomfortable and to suffer for the sake of another or with the other.
The Way Forward
In our current culture of death, we allow a woman to kill her unborn child for the sake of convenience. There is no medical reason for the intentional murder of the preborn; this has been well-founded. And so, what is left but convenience, steeped in fear and discomfort? How can we ever hold our neighbors or ourselves to a higher standard on anything else? We allow human persons to be snuffed out. How can we expect charitable or selfless behavior in any other arena of human activity?
Only when we cultivate hearts of love, selflessness, and courage can we hope to rebuild the inviolable battlements around the core of our culture: human dignity. Humanity will fail and continue to descend into madness until we take the worth of human life seriously.
There Is Help, Healing, And Hope
“I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision…The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.”– Pope Francis
If you’ve experienced the pain of abortion, there is hope and the opportunity to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. Project Rachel is a ministry of the Catholic Church to those who have been involved in abortion. Please visit their website HERE to find resources.