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Christians Have as Many Abortions as
Everyone Else, Catholics Have More
A new study by The Center For Reason (www.CenterForReason.com ) finds that Christians have just as many abortions as their non-Christian counterparts. The study concludes that in the year 2000, Christians were responsible for 570,000 abortions. Catholics were found to be the worst offenders, with abortion rates higher than the national average.
With over one million abortions being performed in the US each year, this issue has dominated the political landscape. In recent years the rhetoric has escalated, with the pro-life movement becoming a flagship for Christian morality and ethics. The prevailing Christian doctrine--that abortion is murder--has polarized the issue, firmly placing the vast majority of Christians on the pro-life side of the debate.
Incendiary comments by some of the more outspoken Christian figureheads have sought to portray abortion as an evil perpetrated by the non-Christian left. In response to this, The Center For Reason, a private research group, undertook a study to test the premise: Christians have fewer abortions than non-Christians. The results disproved the premise.
The study, available as a downloadable report, reveals that Christians have just as many abortions as non-Christians. Data analyzed for all fifty states show that the rate of abortion is the same in the most-Christian segments of the population as it is in the least-Christian. The most-Catholic segments, on the other hand, showed significantly higher abortion rates.
All data sources used in the study are publicly available, and are referenced in the report. All raw data and calculated values are tabulated in the report, to allow full verification of the results.
The report, titled The Landscape of Abortion, may be downloaded.
This research was undertaken to test the premise: Christians have fewer abortions than non-Christians. This topic was chosen in response to the very-public stance of certain far-right Christian groups, who assert that abortion is an evil perpetrated by the non-Christian left.
The results disproved the premise. It transpires that Christians have just as many abortions as their non-Christian counterparts. The study concludes that in the year 2000, Christians had approximately 570,000 abortions. Within the Christian segment, Catholics were found to have abortion rates significantly higher than the national average.
Posted by Center for Reason at Friday, March 10, 2006
Abortion Law, History &
Religion: Abortion Has Always Been With Us
In primitive tribal societies, abortions were induced by using poisonous herbs, sharp sticks, or by sheer pressure on the abdomen until vaginal bleeding occurred. Abortion techniques are described in the oldest known medical texts.2 The ancient Chinese and Egyptians had their methods and recipes to cause abortion, and Greek and Roman civilizations considered abortion an integral part of maintaining a stable population. Ancient instruments, such as the ones found at Pompeii and Herculaneum, were much like modern surgical instruments. The Greeks and Romans also had various poisons administered in various ways, including through tampons.
Socrates,4 Plato and Aristotle2 were all known to suggest abortion. Even Hippocrates, who spoke against abortion because he feared injury to the woman, recommended it on occasion by prescribing violent exercises.2 Roman morality placed no social stigma on abortion.
Early Christians condemned abortion, but did not view the termination of a pregnancy to be an abortion before "ensoulment", the definition of when life began in the womb. Up to 400 AD., as the relatively few Christians were widely scattered geographically, the actual practice of abortion among Christians probably varied considerably and was influenced by regional customs and practices.5
Evolving Position of the Christian Church
St. Augustine (AD 354-430) said, There cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation, and held that abortion required penance only for the sexual aspect of the sin.6 He and other early Christian theologians believed, as had Aristotle centuries before, that "animation", or the coming alive of the fetus, occurred forty days after conception for a boy and eighty days after conception for a girl. The conclusion that early abortion is not homicide is contained in the first authoritative collection of canon law accepted by the church in 1140.6 As this collection was used as an instruction manual for priests until the new Code of Canon Law of 1917, its view of abortion has had great influence.6
At the beginning of the 13th century, Pope Innocent III wrote that quickening the time when a woman first feels the fetus move within her was the moment at which abortion became homicide; prior to quickening, abortion was a less serious sin. Pope Gregory XIV agreed, designating quickening as occurring after a period of 116 days (about 17 weeks). His declaration in 1591 that early abortion was not grounds for excommunication continued to be the abortion policy of the Catholic Church until 1869.
The tolerant approach to abortion which had prevailed in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries ended at the end of the nineteenth century.7 In 1869, Pope Pius IX officially eliminated the Catholic distinction between an animated and a nonanimated fetus and required excommunication for abortions at any stage of pregnancy.
This change has been seen by some as a means of countering the rising birth control movement, especially in France,8 with its declining Catholic population. In Italy, during the years 1848 to 1870, the papal states shrank from almost one-third of the country to what is now Vatican City. It has been argued that the Pope's restriction on abortion was motivated by a need to strengthen the Churchs spiritual control over its followers in the face of this declining political power.8
Early Legal Opinion
Historically, religious beliefs coloured legal opinion on abortion. From 1307 to 1803, abortion before the fetus moved perceptibly or "quickened" was not punished under English common law, and not regarded by society at large as a moral problem.9 Because most abortions took place before quickening, punishment was rare.10 Even if performed after quickening, the offense was usually considered a misdemeanour.2 This was the case until the nineteenth century; the entry of the state into the regulation of abortion has been relatively recent.11
Two prominent legal cases from fourteenth century England illustrate prevailing practices at that time. In both the "Twinslayer's Case" of 1327 and the "Abortionist's Case" of 1348, the judges refused to make causing the death of a fetus a legal offence. The judges were, in this pre-Reformation period, all Roman Catholic.
In 1670, the question of whether or not abortion was murder came before the English judge, Sir Matthew Hale. Hale decided that if a woman died as a result of an abortion then the abortionist was guilty of murder. No mention was made of the fetus.12
This tolerant common-law approach ended in 1803 when a criminal abortion law was codified by Lord Ellenborough. The abortion of a "quick" fetus became a capital offence, while abortions performed prior to quickening incurred lesser penalties. An article in the 1832 London Legal Examiner justified the new laws on the grounds of protecting women from the dangerous abortion techniques which were popular at the time:
"The reason assigned for the punishment of abortion is not that thereby an embryo human being is destroyed, but that it rarely or ever can be effected with drugs without sacrifice of the mother's life."12
In the United States, similar legislative iniatives began in the 1820s and proceeded state by state as the American frontier moved westward. In 1858, the New Jersey Supreme Court, pronouncing upon the states new abortion law, said:
The design of the statute was not to prevent the procuring of abortions, so much as to guard the health and life of the mother against consequences of such attempts.12
During the nineteenth century, legal barriers to abortion were erected throughout the western world. In 1869 the Canadian Parliament enacted a criminal law which prohibited abortion and punished it with a penalty of life imprisonment. This law mirrored the laws of a number of provinces in pre-Confederation Canada; all of these statutes were more or less modelled on the English legislation of Lord Ellenborough.13
Pressure for restrictions was not coming from the general public. Physicians were in the forefront of the crusade to criminalize abortion in England,14 the U.S.15 and Canada.16 They were voicing concern for the health of women and the destruction of fetal life. However, there is substantial evidence that medical men were concerned not only for the welfare of the potential victims of abortion but also to further the process of establishing and consolidating their status as a profession.17 Women were turning to midwives, herbalists, drug dispensers and sometimes quacks to end their pregnancies, and doctors wanted to gain control over the practice of medicine and elevate the status of their profession.18
Race and class were also factors in the passage of the new wave of anti-abortion laws. Abortion was increasingly being used by white, married, Protestant, middle and upper class women to control their family size. Nativists (those who were native-born to the new country) in Canada, for instance, voiced their concern about what they called the race suicide of the Anglo-Saxon population9 in relation to the burgeoning French-Canadian and foreign immigrant populations. Anglo-Saxon women who refused maternity by employing contraception or abortion were condemned as traitors to the race. Accordingly, the Canadian parliament made contraception illegal in 1892, following the example of the U.S.
Another interpretation of the trend toward more restrictive abortion legislation focuses on nation states demographic concerns. Powerful social pressures for population increase meant that the concern was perhaps more for the quantity of human beings than for the quality of human life.19
In the words of the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves:
.just at a time when womens increasing understanding of conception was helping them to avoid pregnancy, certain governments and religious groups desired continued population growth to fill growing industries and new farmable territories.20
Despite its criminalization, women continued to regard induced miscarriage before the fetus quickened as entirely ethical, and were surprised to learn that it was illegal.21 Women saw themselves as doing what was necessary to bring back their menses, to put themselves right. In the words of historians Angus and Arlene Tigar McLaren,
Doctors were never to be totally successful in convincing women of the immorality of abortion. For many it was to remain an essential method of fertility control.21
Women continued to have abortions in roughly the same proportions as they had prior to its criminalization.5 After it was criminalized, abortion simply went underground and became a clandestine and therefore much more dangerous operation for women to undergo.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, European views on the restriction of abortion were spread by the colonial powers throughout Africa, Asia and beyond.2 The strict prohibitions of Spain are reflected in many statutes decreed in South America, for example. Toward the end of the 19th century, China and Japan, at the time under the influence of Western powers, also criminalized abortion for the first time.2
American historian James C. Mohr makes the point that from an historical perspective, the nineteenth centurys wave of restrictive abortion laws can be seen as a deviation from the norm, a period of interruption of the historically tolerant attitude towards abortion.22
From the second half of the 19th century, through World War II, abortion was highly restricted almost everywhere. Liberalization of abortion laws occurred in most of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the 1950s and in almost all the remaining developed countries during the 1960s and 1970s. A few developing countries also relaxed their restrictions on abortion during the same period, most notably China and India.23
A number of factors have been recognized as contributing to this liberalizing trend.24 Attitudes toward sexuality and procreation were changing, and the reduced influence of religious institutions was a related factor.24 In some countries, rubella epidemics and thalidomide created awareness of the need for legal abortion. In others, there was concern about population growth. Illegal abortion had long been a serious public health hazard,25 and eventually women being injured or dying from unnecessarily dangerous abortions became a concern. Arguments were made in favour of the right of poor women to have access to abortion services. More recently, womens right to control their fertility has been recognized.24
While the pace of abortion law reform has slowed, the overall movement is still in the direction of liberalization. Recently, however, restrictions have increased in a few countries.24
As often happens when rapid social change occurs, the movement to legalize abortion has generated resistance and a counter movement. Strenuous efforts are being made to increase restrictions on abortion and to block further liberalization of laws, especially in the United States. [and] the former Communist countries,.but [anti-abortionists] are also highly visible in Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy. and other developed as well as developing countries.24
The degree of liberalization has varied from country to country. Abortion laws are usually grouped according to indications, or circumstances under which abortions can be performed. The most restrictive laws either completely ban abortions or restrict them to cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to the womans life. Other laws also consider risks to the physical and mental health of the woman or her fetus. Some also allow abortion for social-medical or economic reasons, as in the case where an additional child will bring undue burdens to an existing family. The broadest category allows abortion on request (usually within the first trimester).
1. George Devereux, A Typological Study of Abortion in 350 Primitive, Ancient and Pre-Industrial Societies, in Therapeutic Abortion, ed. Harold Rosen, New York: The Julian Press Inc., 1954.
2. H.P. David, Abortion Policies, in Abortion and Sterilization: Medical and Social Aspects, J.E. Hodgson, ed., Grune and Stratton, New York, 1981, pp.1-40.
3. Nan Chase, Abortion: A Long History Cant Be Stopped, Vancouver Sun, May 1, 1989.
4. Wendell W. Watters, Compulsory Parenthood: the Truth about Abortion, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1976, p.52.
5. Deborah R. McFarlane, Induced Abortion: An Historical Overview, American Journal of Gynaecologic Health, Vo. VII, No. 3, May/June 1993, pp.77-82.
6. Jane Hurst, The History of Abortion in the Catholic Church: The Untold Story, Catholics for a Free Choice, Washington, D.C., 1983.
7. Wendell W. Watters, p.79.
8. Ibid, pp.92-3.
9. Alison Prentice et al, Canadian Women: A History, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Canada, pg.165.
10. Donald P. Kommers,Abortion in Six Countries: A Comparative Legal Analysis,in Abortion, Medicine and the LawFourth edition, J.D. Butler & D.F. Walbert, eds., Facts on File, N.Y.1992, p.312.
11. Janine Brodie et al, The Politics of Abortion, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1992, p.9.
12. Jimmey Kinney.Ms., April 1973, p.48-9.
13. A. Anne McLellan, Abortion Law in Canada, in Abortion, Medicine and the Law, op. cit, p.334.
14. Donald P. Kommers, p.317.
15. James C. Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
16. Constance Backhouse, Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and the Law in Nineteenth Century Canada, Womens Press, Toronto.
17. Terry, England, in Abortion and Protection of the Human Fetus 78, (S. Frankowski and G. Cole, eds., 1987).
18. James C. Mohr, p.244.
19. Wendell W. Watters, p. xv.
20. Boston Womens Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves, 2nd ed. (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1971), p.216-7.
21. Angus McLaren and Arlene Tigar McLaren,The Bedroom and the State: The Changing Practices and Politics of Contraception and Abortion in Canada 1880-1980, M & S,Toronto.,1986, p.38-9.
22. James C. Mohr, p.259.
23. Stanley K. Henshaw, Induced Abortion: A World Review, 1990, Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 2, March/April 1990, p.78.
24. Stanley K. Henshaw, Recent Trends in the Legal
Status of Induced Abortion, Journal of Public Health
Policy, Summer, 1994, pp.165-172.
From a liberationist, feminist, and Catholic point of view, this article attempts to understand the decision of abortion. People are constantly testing their principles and values against the question of abortion. Advances in technology, the rise of communitarianism and the rejection of individualism, and the commodification of children are factors in the way in which the abortion debate is being constructed in society. The paper offers solutions to end the ugliness of the abortion debate by suggesting that we would be able to progress further on the issue of abortion if we looked for the good in the opposing viewpoint. The article continues with a discussion of Catholics For a Free Choice's position on abortion, and notes firstly that there is no firm position within the Catholic Church on when the fetus becomes a person; secondly that the principle of probablism in Roman Catholicism holds that where the church cannot speak definitively on a matter of fact (in this case, on the personhood of the fetus), the consciences of individual Catholics must be primary and respected, and thirdly that the absolute prohibition on abortion by the church is not infallible. In conclusion, only the woman herself can make the abortion decision.
Catholic conscience feminist fetus abortion technology
The question of a new ethic of abortion is one I will be approaching from a Catholic, feminist, liberationist perspective. Catholic, in the sense that my religious tradition is Roman Catholic and I am deeply dedicated to the social justice and intellectual tradition that is part of that faith. Feminist, in that what I ask myself when I look at a social problem is, what effect will a value or a policy have on women's wellbeing. Therefore, in the discourse on abortion I am more inclined to pay attention to what this says about women, although this does not mean that I ignore the fetus or think fetuses are without value. From a liberationist perspective I ask the same question: what effect does a principle, value or policy have on those among us who are poorest, marginalised, and most vulnerable. In the abortion debate in the developed world we have concentrated on the effect of technology, particularly medical technology. There are people in a whole part of the world, however, for whom these technological questions are totally meaningless. Instead the question is one of day-to-day survival, whether one can care for a family, and whether one can bring new children into the world and care for them well.
Is there a new ethic of abortion? Do we need a new ethic? Or are we experiencing new situations, new events and new circumstances that have arisen since the late sixties and early seventies when abortion became legal in many countries? These new situations have provided each of us with challenges from whatever perspective we approach the abortion question. They provide us with challenges to the basic values and principles that underlie our support or opposition to legal abortion and to the morality of abortion. In American and European society, much of what we see as new realities gets tested in the prism of abortion. Whether that is appropriate or inappropriate, that is what happens.
My perspective on the place of individual conscience in the abortion debate derives from my own Catholic, feminist, liberation principles. The principle of conscience certainly is Catholic, and it certainly is religious. Most faith groups that have a theologically centred reality include the central notion that an individual answers personally to God for what that individual has done. Since individuals answer for their behaviour, then those individuals must have the freedom to act on their deeply held, reflected beliefs. Conscience is not laissez-faire behaviour. It involves deep reflection on one's values, one's faith, and one's circumstances. The question of whether we bring new life into the world or whether we don't, of whether we have an abortion or whether we don't, is a moral question and one's conscience is the best guide for making such a decision.
There is more than one important value at stake in the abortion decision. We can look at abortion in a very negative way, regarding it as evil, for example, when people talk about the lesser of the two evils. Or we can say that, when one faces a pregnancy in which there is a need to decide whether to continue with it or not, one is confronted with two or more important values. The value of life is there, which is a deep and important value for most people, and this includes the value of the fetus's life and the value of the woman's life. Physical life is not the only value. I come from a Christian tradition in which Jesus Christ died for the sins of all humanity, and God chose that his son's life was taken, so we do not have a system in which death is viewed as the worst thing that can happen. One can respect life but understand that life can be taken, and one can see values that are greater than or equal to the life of the fetus as being worthy of exploration by individual conscience.
When we talk about technology, the discourse continues to be focused on the fetus rather than on women. This is because technology to make women's lives better is not part of the medical or scientific agenda. However, I am very supportive of technology that relates to fetal life and newborn children's lives. One of the things that someone who respects individual conscience would say on this matter is that woman are competent, able, moral agents, but they have not always been recognised as such, and their competency is still questioned in some quarters. Therefore when it comes to something as profound as the abortion decision, it is critical that in a social and legal construct we look for policies that affirm the capacity of women to make complex moral decisions without intrusion by state or by faith. Advice gratefully accepted, dictates rejected. There are other ethical matters at play in the universe today besides principlism. For example, there is such a thing as feminist ethics. I was once scolded by the US feminist Christian ethicist Beverly Harrison for holding a conference on applied ethics. She reminded me that all ethics is applied and that ethical principles derive from experience, not from the abstract level. There needs to be an interplay between the abstract and objective sphere, and the experiential sphere. We hear very little about the experiential sphere when we talk about abortion and the derivation or the setting of moral principles and values.
I want to make a few remarks about some of the new circumstances and situations against which people now test their principles and values as related to the abortion question. One is the rise of the concept of fetal-maternal conflict. Twenty years ago we did not talk about fetuses and mothers being enemies or adversaries. We assumed a commonality of interests between mother and child, or mother and fetus. Now we live in a world in which we assume conflict between the pregnant woman and the fetus. Another element is the rise of concern over infertility, as opposed to the concerns about controlling fertility. When abortion became legal we were much more concerned about the ability to prevent pregnancy and have fewer children. Now we are much more worried as a society about whether women and couples who want babies are able to have them.
Included in this is the increasing commodification of children as products. It is a very important part of the identity of many people within Northern, Western societies to have the right kind of child, at the right time, with all the right characteristics, to prove that we are good people. This affects the way in which abortion is regarded. There are also technological advances in contraception as well as abortion. I would hope that in the future one of the things we will see is that, as abortion becomes more readily available, women will be able to seek and have abortions much earlier in pregnancy. We are also facing new challenges to contraception in that many consider some contraceptives to be abortifacients and this then becomes a dilemma. We may not have to worry about late abortions in the future, but we may need to worry about whether even early abortions will occur and whether new contraceptive methods will be accepted as contraception.
We are also facing the rise of the concept of communitarianism and the rejection of individualism, the rejection of rights even with the notion that rights theory is a conflictive model of human relationships and needs to be eradicated. This affects how the abortion issue and ethical arguments related to abortion are constructed. We face an enormous backlash against feminism and the achievements that feminism has made. That affects the way in which we talk about abortion and what we think about women's rights relative to abortion. In my most futuristic thinking I believe we face the question of the very definition of abortion. If we can produce children outside of a woman's uterus, what is the definition of abortion in those circumstances? Is the definition of abortion the removal of a fetus from an unwilling host? Or is the definition of abortion the death of the fetus? That becomes a critical question, and people will have to come to grips with their deepest ethical values.
Part of the new ethics of abortion is how the abortion debate is going to be conducted in society. People on all sides of this question have faced one of the most divisive, polarised, ugly, and sometimes violent debates. This ugliness, polarisation and certainly verbal violence, is something in which both those who support abortion and those who are opposed to abortion have participated. As a result, we have had a discourse on abortion that is really puny, in which most decent people, both pro-life and pro-choice, have been left behind and out of the discourse.
Those who are opposed to abortion talk to each other most of the time, those of us who are pro-choice talk to each other and not the other most of the time. If there were to be anything new in the ethics of abortion, I would say it should be an ethical commitment to rational, civil discourse and an openness to curiosity on the part of partisans on both sides of the question. None of us is curious enough about what someone who disagrees with us thinks on this issue. The majority of the time, when we listen to someone with whom we disagree, our mind is immediately constructing how to destroy the argument of the other. But the reality is that we are facing a highly complex issue. That does not mean one cannot have strongly held values which support one position or another. But there is good in the concerns, values, and principles of those who are opposed to abortion as well as in the concerns, values and principles of those who support abortion. We probably could get a lot further on this issue if we started to look for the good in the other's position rather than for the ways in which we can destroy that with which we disagree.
I would now like to describe Catholics for a Free Choice's (CFFC) position on abortion. Catholics for a Free Choice's position on abortion is appropriately complex; it is not easy to reduce it to a sound bite. Even the sound bite most often used by those who are opposed to legal abortionabortion on demandis hard to understand. I think it is usually a pejorative meant to characterise those who favour legal abortion as extremists or abortionists. In our minds, CFFC is not for abortion on demand. We think abortion is a serious moral matter which requires reflection, including dialogue with partners and trusted advisors. It is not a casual event. We firmly believe that women are moral agents and as a matter of law should be allowed to make the decision whether or not to have an abortion with minimal state intervention. If this is how one defines abortion on demand, then one would conclude we are for abortion on demand.
The corollary to this is the charge by those who are pro-choice that those who are opposed to legal abortion are anti-woman. And indeed, I would say that those who are opposed to legal abortion do not fully recognise women as moral agents. But are we in the pro-choice community well served by reducing the abortion discussion to pejorative ways of defining others' positions?
Abortion is a complex moral matter. It cannot be reduced to either absolutism: rights of the fetus nor rights of the woman. For CFFC, a central value in this complex matter is the recognition that women are competent, capable moral agents who must be recognised as having both the moral and the legal right to make the decision about whether or not abortion is justified in their specific circumstances. Some women will make decisions others evaluate as good; some women will make decisions others evaluate as bad. No one, however, can make this decision for a woman.
In a Catholic theological context and in the realm of morality this respect for women as decision makers on the abortion question is based on a number of facts:
There is no firm position within the Catholic Church on when the fetus becomes a person. This can be confirmed by reading The History of Abortion in the Catholic Church: The Untold Story, a CFFC publication by Jane Hurst1; A Brief, Liberal, Catholic Defense of Abortion by Daniel Dombrowski and Robert Deltete2; the Declaration on Procured Abortion, published by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1974) and numerous other books, articles, etc.3 The preponderance of scientific, medical, sociological, and philosophical writing leans strongly to the position that fetuses do not possess the characteristics most commonly cited as markers for personhood. Women, however, are clearly persons, with the right to be treated as moral decisionmakers.
The principle of probablism in Roman Catholicism holds that where the church cannot speak definitively on a matter of fact (in this case, on the personhood of the fetus), the consciences of individual Catholics must be primary and respected. (See Catholic Options in the Abortion Debate, by Daniel Maguire,4 and The tradition of probabilism and the moral status of the early embryo by Carol Tauer, in Abortion and Catholicism, edited by Patricia Beattie Jung and Thomas Shannon.4)
The absolute prohibition on abortion by the church is not infallible. Therefore we defend the right of Catholics to take positions on the morality and the legality of abortion which differ from that of the church. The latest proof that the position is not infallible is the fact that early drafts of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae did say it was an infallible position, while the final version excluded this claim.5
Within Catholics for a Free Choice, people hold different views on the morality of abortion. Some believe abortion can only be morally justified in a few circumstances: when the woman's life or health is in danger, or in cases of incest or rape, for example. Some believe it is justified in a wide range of circumstances. Some believe it is almost always justified and that a woman's right is near absolute. The organisational position is that none of these positions should be asserted dogmatically, nor should they be binding on the conscience of a pregnant woman. Each abortion decision stands on its own and must be evaluated in light of the woman's circumstances and conscience and in light of her belief about the issues. While there is no moral right to abortion, there is a moral right to make decisions, including the decision to have an abortion.
In the legal realm, CFFC favours laws on abortion that support the right of women to decide whether to have an abortion with minimal state involvement. Because we believe abortion is a moral matter on which people may legitimately hold differing views, we think it is the responsibility of the state to protect the right to choose, but not to make the decision for women. We are as opposed to forced abortions, such as those which take place in China, as we are to forced pregnancy as preached by the church.
There is no perfect law. Generally, we favour more liberal rather than more restrictive laws. We believe women can be trusted to make good decisions and do not need their pregnancies micromanaged by the state. In fact, we believe most states are profoundly unqualified to make this decision for women. The risk of coercion when the state is involved in reproduction is great. We do not think the state is competent to evaluate fairly the reasons a woman may give for an abortion, and, again, are prepared to leave the judgment about whether an abortion is right or wrong to the woman. We accept that some women may make bad decisions. We believe most women make good ones.
We have never opposed laws that limit abortion after viability, so long as abortion is available to save a woman's life and health. We have never opposed any of the moderately liberal and somewhat restrictive laws on abortion in Europe, even though we think they are too restrictive. As a practical matter, we are concerned with countries, particularly in the developing world, where abortion laws are so restrictive that women are dying as a result of illegal abortions.
We do not believe that women's moral agency requires that abortion be legal without regulation throughout the nine months of pregnancy. We understand the function of law as teacher. In this context, laws that respect women's moral agency, while expressing respect for the increasing value (not rights) of fetal life as a pregnancy advances, make sense. Thus, if abortion is legally available without restrictions in the early stages of pregnancy, and, in serious circumstances regarding the health or life of the woman, is available later in pregnancy, we believe that women's autonomy and moral agency are most likely adequately respected.
We also recognise that most of the world's religions have positions that respect the right of women to make this decision and believe that laws against abortion will violate generally accepted religious values and beliefs such as conscience.
We do not think abortion as such is a moral good, although, as I said above, it can be a morally correct decision. As reform Catholics, we are suspicious of the way in which language has been used to degrade and demean people in the church. We have always favoured the positivefor example, Matthew Fox's idea of original blessing, as opposed to the institutional original sin.6 We are careful to use the word evil very rarely, if at all. We'd probably use it only in relation to grave social injustices that are systemic, rather than in reference to individual moral actions. Therefore, we would never refer to abortion as evil.
We do think abortion is to be avoided by engaging in responsible sexuality, including the use of contraception. However, once a woman is pregnant, the moral decision needs to be based on circumstances and moral beliefsnot prohibited or condemned because one was irresponsible.
We think the question of abortion is surrounded by moral hypocrisy, not just on the part of the hierarchy, who hide the truth about Catholic theology and insights on this question, but on the part of most Catholics. Few believe in the absolute prohibition of all abortions. Most admit to some moral exceptions. Once one accepts that there can be exceptions, the question really becomes who will decide which exceptions are legitimate. Moreover, fewer still are willing to see laws against abortion that would actually be enforced. Would any of us say that women who have abortions should be tried and sentenced to prison as murderers? Do we see no moral distinction between abortion, especially early in pregnancy, and the murder of infants and children by their fathers and mothers? Can we hold such distinctions and still truly say we believe fetuses are people? I must confess that I do not understand those who are opposed to allowing women to make the decision about abortion and yet call themselves reform Catholics, saying they want to see women treated as equals in the church, and claiming to care deeply about eliminating poverty and marginalisation. I have a hard time respecting their views and their actions as justice-seeking.
I hope this begins to answer the questions regarding the position Catholics for a Free Choice takes on abortion. For further information, I would like to direct readers to our websitewww.catholicsforchoice.orgwhere we have many articles that address the issue of individual conscience, abortion, and the Catholic tradition.
Part of this article first appeared as Abortion: articulating a moral view, by Frances Kissling, in Conscience: A Newsjournal of Prochoice Catholic Opinion, 2000, volume XXI. Reprinted by permission.
Frances Kissling is the President of Catholics For a Free Choice, Washington, DC, USA.
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Catholic options in the abortion debate. CFFC briefing for
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March 25 1995.6.? Fox M. Original blessing. Santa Fe, NM:
Bear Publishers, 1983.
Abortionhas, in my opinion, been one of the largest debatable issues in AmericanSociety. There are so many aspects andviews to examine before one can even begin to form their own opinion. Politician's views are quite different thanthe views of a religious person. Ibelieve the most important aspect to consider is the medical side of abortion. There are so many medical facts that makeabortion very dangerous. Personally, Iam pro-life. I do not think there isany reason for an abortion because there are so many other alternatives. After researching the facts, and seeing themedical, political and religious views, I believe most of our society wouldagree with me in saying abortion should not be an option.
Clinicalresearch provides a growing body of scientific evidence that having an abortioncan cause psychological as well as physical harm to women. Many times, after anabortion, women feel worthless and victimized because they failed at the mostnatural of human activities- the role of being a mother. Many women who have had an abortion alsosuffer from PAS ( post-abortion syndrome). Women suffering from PAS may experience drug and alcohol abuse, personalrelationship disorders, sexual dysfunction, repeated abortions, communicationdifficulties, damaged self-esteem and even attempt suicide. Even using anesthesia, 97% of womenexperience pain during an abortion. They may experience complications such as bleeding, hemorrhage,laceration of the cervix, menstrual disturbance, inflammation of thereproductive organs, and serious infection. Death of the mother is the most serious danger of abortions, but hasbeen very rare. Some evidence has beenshown that abortion can increase the risks of breast cancer.
I believe it is hard to understand the political views of
abortion. In my opinon, politicians will often saywhat they
think the public wants to hear, and not what they truly
believe. There have been many lawsuits about...
To what extent may Christians use utilitarian arguments in defending or rejecting abortion?
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy and expulsion of an embryo or of a foetus. . It may be either spontaneous, when it is known as a miscarriage or induced when it is a deliberate termination of pregnancy.
There are various perceptions regarding the question of whether induced abortion is ethical at all and if it is, in what situation is it ethical.
In this essay I will be looking at utilitarian arguments in defending and rejecting abortion from a Christian perspective, but also looking at modern non-theological reasoning as a comparison.
Religious views on abortion
Different denominations of the Church have varying views on abortion:
The Roman Catholic Church
The United Reformed Church
A wide range of views is recognized among its members but claims there is a difference between a foetus almost ready to be born and one in the early stages of pregnancy.
Some abortion is necessary but it should be taken seriously.
The Methodist Church
Abortion may be the lesser of two evils in the following
After the restoration of democracy, the changes in everyday Spanish life were as radical as the political transformation. These changes were even more striking when contrasted with the values and social practices that had prevailed in Spanish society during the Franco years, especially during the 1940s and the early 1950s. In essence, Spanish social values and attitudes were modernized at the same pace, and to the same degree, as the country's class structure, economic institutions, and political framework.
To say that Spanish social values under Franco were conservative would be a great understatement. Both public laws and church regulations enforced a set of social strictures aimed at preserving the traditional role of the family, distant and formal relations between the sexes, and controls over expression in the press, film, and the mass media, as well as over many other important social institutions. By the 1960s, however, social values were changing faster than the law, inevitably creating tension between legal codes and reality. Even the church had begun to move away from its more conservative positions by the latter part of the decade. The government responded haltingly to these changes with some new cabinet appointments and with somewhat softer restrictions on the media. Yet underneath these superficial changes, Spanish society was experiencing wrenching changes as its people came increasingly into contact with the outside world. To some extent, these changes were due to the rural exodus that had uprooted hundreds of thousands of Spaniards and had brought them into new urban social settings. In the 1960s and the early 1970s, however, two other contacts were also important: the flow of European tourists to "sunny Spain" and the migration of Spain's workers to jobs in France, Switzerland, and West Germany.
Outsiders who still thought of Spain as socially
restrained and conservative were surprised to note the...
Small and large pro-choice
organizatoins you can vivist, join, volunteer, financially
Here are 13 large and small pro-choice organizations you can visit/join/volunteer/financially support:
Special thanks to RH Reality Check and to all the people
and organizations who relentlessly persevere, often risking
and sometimes giving their lives, to protect womens
rights and reproductive choice.
With the terrible events that unfolded over the holiday weekend still reverberating across the country, it is timely that the Christian Research group LifeWay would release the findings of a survey they conducted concerning abortion and the demographics of abortion when it comes to religion. The study was co-sponsored by Care Net, a pregnancy center support organization. Some of their findings:
On the plus side, and probably surprising to many on the right of this issue who frequently share horror stories of women secretly having abortions while good Christian men are powerless, the majority of women based their decision to terminate a pregnancy (regardless of their religious affiliation) on the influence of the father of the unborn child. The influence of the father in this case was followed by the influence of a medical provider. So women who end up terminating a pregnancy arent, on the whole, a part of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
There is much more ambivalence when it comes to how safe it is to talk with a pastor about such issues and how applicable local congregations religious teachings are when dealing with the ramifications of terminated pregnancies.
This is not a good number.
Doesnt sound like the church is considered welcoming to many women dealing with very tough decisions. Maybe there is another way to look at this? When Christian Post asked an anti-abortion group, heres how they spun this news.
"I'm not surprised but I don't think that necessarily reflects anything bad about churches," Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life organization that organizes an annual pro-life rally in Washington D.C., told The Christian Post Wednesday.
Or maybe its tied to this reality:
Turns out Jesus liked to talk smack about people behind their backs. Its perfect that the president of the March for Life would just go straight to judging the women instead of judging their religious institutions inability to actually come through and provide an atmosphere that practices what it preaches. Heres Jeanne Mancinis Twitter account. Usually pretty active, got super quiet during the Planned Parenthood Christian terrorist act. Strange, right?
Finally, heres the religious preference breakdown of their survey:
It wont be surprising to most on the left that the
Christians that kill people in order to protest killing are
hypocrites. But this is a nice survey to pass around to your
more religious friends since it was conducted by a Christian
organization and you can at least get around that usual
right-wing rhetorical device of saying your evidence is
biased against the Church.
Abortion Reporting. Introduced in 16 states: IN, IA, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OR, SC, TN and TX. Passed at least one chamber in NC and SC. Enacted in IN, MN
Sex, Race or Genetic Selection: Introduced in 13 states CO, IN, IA, LA, MA, MS, MO, NY, OH, OR, SD, TX and WV Passed at least one chamber in IN and LA
Minors Access to Reproductive Healthcare
Introduced in 14 states: CO, FL, IN, IA, MO, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, TX and WA. Passed at least one chamber in CO, IL, IA, NV and WA. Enacted in IL, OR and TX
(ENACTED) OREGON: In May, Gov. Kate Brown (D) approved a law that prohibits mental health care professionals from engaging in sexual orientation conversion counseling with anyone younger than 18. The law is in effect.
Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers
Introduced in 22 states: AL, AR, CO, IL, IN, IA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NY, NC, OK, OH, OR, SC, TN, TX and VA. Passed at least one chamber in AL, AR, MO, TX, VA and WI. Enacted in AR, IN, OH, OK, SC and TN. Vetoed in MT
Public Funding of Abortion for Low-Income Women
Introduced in 10 states: AK, MD, MI, MN, MO, NH, OR, PA, VA and WV. Passed at least one chamber in IA and VA. Enacted in AK and MD
Requiring Abortion Coverage
Introduced in 3 states: NY, OR and WA. Passed at least one chamber in WA
Restricts Abortion at 20 Weeks Postfertilization or at Another Specific Gestational Age
Introduced in 16 states: IL, IA, KY, MA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, SC, TX, VA, WV and WI. Passed at least one chamber in OH and SC. Enacted in WI and WV
Introduced in 16 states: IN, IA, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OR, SC, TN and TX. Passed at least one chamber in NC and SC. Enacted in IN, M N
Introduced in 31 states: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, GA, HI, IA, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MO, MS, MT, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TX, UT, VA and WA. Passed at least one chamber in CA, CO, HI, MD, MT, NH, NY, OR. Enacted in AL, AR, CA, ME, NC, OK and UT
(ENACTED) OREGON: In June, Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed a bill that requires sexual abuse prevention education for students in grades K12. The measure is in effect.
Introduced in 18 states. Limits Contraceptive Coverage: AZ, CO, IA, MT and NJ. Protects Contraceptive Coverage: CT, MA, MN, MT, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, RI, VA and WA. Notice about coverage: NH and NY
(ENACTED) OREGON: In June, Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed a bill that requires health plans to cover prescriptions for a full year of prescription contraceptives. The law takes effect in 2016.
Protections for Confidential Medical Care within Insurance
Introduced in 4 states. Confidentiality: IL, MA, NM and OR. Enacted in IL and OR
(ENACTED) OREGON: In June, Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed a law that protects the confidentiality of individuals insured as dependents on health plans. The law, which allows enrollees to request confidential communications for sensitive health services, is in effect.
Fetal and Pregnant Woman Assault
Introduced in 17 states: AL, AR, CO, FL, HI, IN, KY, MI, MT, NH, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, WA and WV. Passed at least one chamber in AR, CO, NH and OR. Enacted in MT
OREGON: In April, the House approved a bill that would increase the penalty for strangulation when the perpetrator knows the victim is pregnant. The measure awaits action in the Senate.
Liberty finds no refuge in a jurisprudence of doubt...The essential holding of Roe v. Wade should be retiained and once again reaffirmed. - Sandra Day O'Connor
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