Tuesday, March 20, 2012

From the Home Front

So Katherine read my Subsidiary and Birth Control post and asks:
"I should also mention that with abortion we wish to make it illegal as it violates the dignity of the unborn, but...and this is a big BUT Catholics will not physically force a person away from an abortion clinic because this violates the person's freewill. If a person chooses to sin (however grave), then that is their choice and between them and God."
See, this is something that gives me pause from time to time. Because of the precarious nature of the unborn child's environment, there is really no way for the following analogy to work. But...
If you saw a mother raise a knife and indicate, by her voice, demeanor, actions, etc, that she was about to stab her child to death in front of you, wouldn't you rush over and yank the child out of harm's way? Perhaps you would even strike the woman in order to keep a greater harm from being done. No one would say that you shouldn't have done that because in doing so you "violated that mother's free will." Isn't abortion comparable? The situation--a mother with a knife/pill/suction machine raised against her child--is the same; the only difference is whether the child is 4 weeks' gestation rather than 4 years old, and we don't believe that makes any difference in the humanity of the victim.
A sin is a choice for a person, yes. Speaking unkindly or self-abusing or what-have-you are different from murder, though. In the case of abortion and murder, there's an unwilling victim in addition to the woman who chose to do this to herself.
On the other hand, I don't see how you can physically force a woman to continue a pregnancy.
I promise I'm not baiting here; I'm genuinely curious as what the difference is. :) It's something I've had going around and around in my head for a couple of months now, and I still haven't quite figured it out.
I've thought a little bit about your question and it is a good one. And I think it comes down to a question of defense so I looked up the Catechism's stance on defense. Here's what it says:
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…. the one is intended, the other is not.”
If you have a child who is outside it's mother and it's mother is intent on killing him/her, you would naturally rush to the defense of the child by either removing the child from the situation or preventing the mother from doing harm. You're intent in this case is to preserve the life of the innocent child. You do not intend to harm the mother but if that is what happens then you have double effect since in the altercation you unintentionally killed the mother.
This doesn't play out the same in the case of the unborn. If you are intending to defend the unborn by killing the mother, then obviously you don't have a legitimate defense. But this is if your intention is to kill. You raise the obvious that you're intention (I don't mean you specifically but a more general sense of the word) would be to perhaps restrain her or physically force her to continue the pregnancy. This is a violation of her free will.
The Catechism has this to say about free will between persons (and one can infer that this also means physical force as well). Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings.
1738 Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.
In other words, you're at a catch 22. You either violate her free will or you kill her in order to defend the innocent. But you don't have double effect on your side so you really can't kill her nor can you violate her right to exercise freedom even in moral matters as this doesn't respect the mother's dignity. It's a sore spot I know. The most we can do is hope that the civil authority will begin to recognize that the unborn are persons and place limits.
And the government to some extent is slowly recognizing the rights of the unborn. We have the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and WIC also recognizes the unborn as an additional dependent when looking at a family's finances. It's small steps, but that's better than no recognition.
And as you said before in both situations the idea is to defend the child. The difference here, I think, is how you would handle the mother. In one instance you cannot defend the child without simultaneously hindering the mother's free will. Perhaps a closer scenario to abortion is taking the pill. You cannot force women to stop taking the pill because that would hinder their free will. You can, however, decide not to supply her with the pill and give her information about the pill. With abortion, you can't restrain a woman but you can offer her a free sonogram, counseling, and not supply her with the means to get an abortion (ie. don't take her there or not support/ protest the clinic). And this is what people are doing to both respect the mother's dignity and defend the child even if the child dies because of the mother's decision. No, it's not a physical defense like in the case of the already born child, but it nonetheless a defense.
I hope that makes sense. I'm not a theologian so I won't pretend to be; these are just my thoughts.

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I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!