Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square
Last Sunday, the Lay Action Committee at my parish distributed a leaflet on the moral side of end of life and abortion legislation. Four bills were highlighted.
It was reported that the Death with Dignity Act had failed, but specifics on the legislation were not reported. Suicide is illegal in order to assist those who attempt it, mandating that they be treated. It also stops greedy family members from profiting from driving a loved one to suicide. The law does not foresee a compassionate solution that allows a terminally ill patient to end their suffering (including someone with profound permanent lithium intoxication). There is a danger that health care cost minimization might take advantage of such provisions, but safeguards can be included to prevent that. The main objection is religious, not moral, the sovereignty of God over life and death. The fear is that ending one’s life will send one to eternal punishment. This assumes that God is an Ogre. If you drop that assumption, the objection to death with dignity goes away.
The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Act seeks to ban the dilation and cuttage abortion used in the second and third trimesters. President Obama promised to do something about this federally in his second debate with Senator McCain, but he could not get or did not try to get legislative support. Thank you Tea Party and Senator McConnell. This matter will likely not succeed as a state matter, nor should it. The best place for it, like the partial birth abortion act, is federal law with time limits listed for both types of abortions, after which only induction abortions would be allowed. Call it the fetal baptism act.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act seeks to define life at 20 weeks, when the pain receptors in the fetus lead to a reflexive reaction against pain. This is also a measure that cannot be done at the state level, although the Congress could pass it. It makes more sense, however, to simply mandate that fetuses after this time be given pain management and at later stages only be terminated by induction. See above.
Public Health - State Funding for Abortions - Prohibitions and Exceptions essentially extends the Hyde Amendment to state funded Medicaid abortions, which are now allowed. I suspect that the Medical Charities Fund would pick up the slack. Even if it did not, abortions are not expensive. Most self-fund. You are more likely to pay for an abortion by patronizing an establishment with minimum wage workers than by paying your taxes. The amount of any taxpayer’s contribution to any single abortion is so small as to not be morally significant. This is a show victory and I doubt the votes are there to change it.
About a page is devoted to the abortion issue as a whole. It starts from the premise that abortion is the most important moral issue. It may be, but it is certainly not the most important legal or political issue. States have little room to act except to try to provoke an overturning of Roe v. Wade and that is neither desirable nor likely. The goal of ending federal primacy on the issue would end it for all equal protection measures. While this may excite those who don’t like the overturn of bans on sodomy and gay marriage, I find their desire to constitutionalize the tyranny of the Catholic mob repugnant. As for the likelihood, Associate Justice Gorsuch is more likely to follow Kennedy than Scalia on these issues, along with Roberts and Alito (and Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer and Ginsberg). Thomas is pro-life, but does not buy the Federalist Society approach.
The document cites a Gutmacher Institute study on why abortions occur. Less than 7 percent are for the life and health of the mother. The rest are for social and economic reasons, the standard finding being 72 percent economic and the rest social. Social means that women either don’t want to be mothers or be caught in adultery or girls (and their parents) don’t want to let it be known that they are sexually active. The way around both of these is decent childcare for workers and students (including Catholic high schools and colleges) and a living wage (as Pius XI dictated), which the Agriculture Department estimates at $1000 per month for each child. That should be the level of the child tax credit and it should be paid with wages. If you want to get rid of abortion, do that. Also, quit demonizing teen sex, which should seem obvious but is not for moralists, some of whom are more anti-sex than pro-life.
The teaching on abortion is not as cut and dried as the Church dictates. In Torah, abortion is mandated if adultery is suspected. The woman is given bitter herbs to drink. If they cause an abortion, she is to be stoned. This could have happened to Mary if Joseph had insisted. Likewise, it would have happened to the woman caught in adultery if Jesus had not gotten rid of her accusers. Talk about Karma! In the Middle Ages, abortion was allowed until quickening. It was only Pius IX that prohibited it for all of pregnancy. Hardly 2000 years of history. As for conception, the better marker is gastrulation, when twinning is no longer possible, when the central control of development is begun by the mesoderm (and as Aristotle would say, the soul) and when hybrids die before acquiring souls. The moral principle is that you must protect life if uncertain. Gastrulation appears to provide enough certainty.
Maryland rates are likely due to the number of poor people and the number of people who cross state lines to use clinics here. Do something about poverty, as above, and the rate will go down.
Catholics for Choice believe that criminal penalties for abortion are uncalled for. Being pro-choice and pro-abortion are different things. Being pro-abortion is a belief that it is the go-to method of birth control for tees and single women who want to build their futures without a child. Give these women and girls enough money and support (and their partners) and abortion will vastly decrease until only hospitals will be doing the procedure for valid medical reasons. Being pro-choice is to also object to the hijacking of the issue by the Republican Party, who uses it mainly for electoral advantage, with no real thought for the unborn beyond the occasional Quixotic bill and with no consideration of raising family incomes instead.
The issue of the law endorsing abortion or not is based on hierarchical thinking, not reality. I dealt with the funding issue above as did August Fagothey, although he covered paying taxes to a government that allows abortion rather than funding, but his analysis applies well to both. It is not significant enough to damage anyone’s freedom of religion. As for Planned Parenthood, federal funds are well segregated under OMB rules. The pro-life movement and Trump are looking for a cheap win to keep the masses happy. We should not keep endorsing such fraud.
By all means, contract your State and Federal Representatives and Senators, but use these facts instead.