Catholic teaching emphasizes what I call the "preferential option for life": the doctrine that human life is sacred from conception to natural death. The prolife movement is all about emphasizing this fact as well and has done heroic work over the past four decades keeping this fact before the eyes of the world.
But not all conservative thought takes the sanctity of human life from conception to death as seriously as the prolife movement does. Many agendas emphasize other goods over the right to life in all sorts of disordered ways, resulting in moral chaos.
To illustrate, imagine the prolife movement was led by people who talked the way the leaders in American gun culture routinely talk after every massacre in a school, theatre, or other place full of innocents. Imagine some horrendous scene of slaughter as a Dr. Kermit Mengele's clinic has the lid pried off it before the eyes of a horrified public. The outcry of revulsion goes up as a shaken nation, reacting to the grotesque news, calls for a re-consideration of our current abortion regime so that horrors like this will never occur again. A press conference is called, and a representative of the prolife movement, a well-educated physician, ascends the podium to address the press. While gun ownership and abortion rights aren't isomorphic—and while an analogy is just that—consider if this were nevertheless the way prolife leaders at least spoke to such horrors.
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Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press:
Over the past few days we have seen some very unfortunate images from the press about the admittedly bad conditions in Dr. Mengele's clinic. We join the nation in horror, grief, and prayer for the victims of this tragedy. We can all agree that this individual (and I stress individual) was not acting in a way that does credit to the medical profession. And while the emotional reaction of the public is certainly understandable, we must also be careful not to let emotions rule us, lest we be stampeded into doing something rash and endanger our God-given Constitutional rights to privacy and freedom that we must honor as much as our precious right to life.
This is particularly important since, regrettably (and I speak as a leader in the prolife movement who strongly favors responsible use of medical technology by law-abiding citizens) some in the prolife community are unscrupulous in their eagerness to politicize tragedies like this. To them I say, with a suffering nation, "It's too soon to talk about this! People need time to heal!"
I also note the odd priorities of those who focus on this tragedy with its horrifying images that are so easily used to whip up emotion while ignoring the far greater death tolls that result from disease, old age and other causes.
Or consider this as well: It has been estimated that between 50-80 percent of fertilised eggs fail to implant in the uterus. If one accepts (as I certainly do) that life begins at conception, and that a fertilized egg is in some sense a human being, that means more people die from failure of eggs to implant in the uterus than all other causes combined. More people have died of implantation failure than have ever drawn breath.
My point is this: Abortion kills only a fraction as many people as implantation failure. Indeed, all forms of crime and murder combined, even including wars, don't get close to the number of people killed by implantation failure. So what is the point of multiplying more futile laws against abortion when we make no effort to stop this from happening? Why focus so much energy on abortion? Clearly, the logical conclusion is: If you cannot stop some deaths from happening, why try so hard to stop others from happening?
Some, for instance, have called for more laws restricting access to abortion. But we already have significant abortion restrictions in place. And yet none of them were able to stop this tragedy. When abortion is outlawed, only outlaws will do abortions. Abortions have always happened, are still happening and always will happen. What will more laws do? Nothing.
No. As a deeply prolife person, I am against throwing resources after this futile exercise in social engineering, as in our oh-so-successful wars on drugs and poverty. Instead of bandaid attempts to deny freedom to law-abiding citizens, what truly prolife people need to do is recognize that evil begins in the heart and understand you can't do anything to stop it by limiting our access to morally neutral tools and technology. The only real solution lies in the soul. There will never be a world without abortion, so unless we focus on the soul, it's only going to grow worse and worse. Therefore, the truly prolife person will agree with me that our first step should be to abandon the attempt to overturn Roe, or close clinics, or pass laws restricting abortion. All these things are exercises in futility since people have always gotten abortions and always will. Any law without a 100 percent effectiveness rate is a pointless law. Instead, the truly prolife person will seek unrestricted access to abortion for anybody at all times, no questions asked.
Some extremists in our ranks will also say that we must at least go on attempting to control access to abortion with such remedies as laws and government controls on so-called "abortion technology". But this kind of extremism—I speak as a deeply prolife person—overlooks the God-given right to freedom—freedom our Founders fought for and our brave troops strive to preserve—that beats in the heart of every American. We must remember that, tragic as a Dr. Mengele is, it is wrong take away freedom from law-abiding citizens in a wrong-headed attempt to stop evildoers. We must not cut a great road through the law to get after the devil. We must not let this tragedy stampede us into ceding our God-given rights to a controlling nanny state that invariably does badly what a free market does well.
The right to liberty is a right for all. Limit it in any way, and the terrible law of unintended consequences is the result. Just as nobody would say that, say, the second amendment only applies to some American citizens but not others, so we cannot say that the state should be able to pry and demand to know why people want to gain access to so-called "abortion technology". If it does, the next step will be concentration camps and gas chambers. We must not act rashly lest we create a situation of tyranny far worse than the temporary difficulty that has currently panicked our nation.
So, for instance, some have taken the opportunity to further politicize this tragedy by calling for a ban on RU-486 and various abortifacient drugs. But none of that would have stopped this alleged tragedy either. Indeed, had RU-486 been available to the women supposedly harmed by Dr. Mengele, they never would have walked through his door in the first place.
Such pharmaphobia again makes the blunder of blaming the morally neutral tool. Abortifacients don't kill people. People kill people! RU-486 is a vital tool in many mental health treatments. All banning it will do is keep these important tools out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. If we ban abortifacients people will still find a way to abort. Blaming the morally neutral tools because a few million bad apples misuse them is like blaming spoons for making people fat.
Moreover, many abortions are precipitated by mental illness that could otherwise be treated with these tools. Indeed, the only way to stop a bad person with RU-486 is a good person with RU-486. So the obvious remedy to our abortion crisis is to face the fact that more RU-486 means less abortion! We should make it freely available to all—indeed subsidize the manufacturers of abortifacients—and pray that the hearts of those inclined to use it for abortion will be converted to use it wisely. It's all we can really do. Anything other than more "abortifacients" leads straight to tyranny. To paraphrase a great thinker, "Your dead kids don't trump my RU-486 rights."
The bottom line: You can't outlaw evil. When you do, you only create more evil. Indeed, do you realize that Hitler outlawed abortion? Is that what we want our country to become: Nazi Germany? Don't some of my zealous brethren in the prolife movement realize that if you give the state the power to impinge on abortion in any way whatsoever, you also give it the power to enslave and kill us? Indeed, even the slightest imposition must be fought, including the attempt to market drugs that counter the abortifacient effects of RU-486. Do the people advocating these "thin end of the wedge" attempts to divide women from their basic Constitutional liberties not see that there are only two options available?
- Our current regime of abortion on demand (with regrettably, the occasional alleged Dr. Mengele—though, in fairness, there are some very credible people who suggest that the whole "revelation" of the "horrors" of his clinic are very likely a hoax created by unscrupulous members of the prolife movement itself as a false flag operation to discredit abortionists);
- Utopian attempts at social engineering that will lead directly to a Christian Taliban regime like that described in The Handmaid's Tale.
In conclusion, as a person profoundly committed to the prolife cause, I call for
- calm in the wake of this alleged tragedy;
- an end to the cynical exploitation of such events by so-called "prolife" people;
- an end to all attempts to repeal Roe vs. Wade and other laws or restrictions;
- total availability of so-called "abortificients" (which, in fact, are morally neutral medical tools) to every woman of any age, no questions asked;
- federal subsidies for their manufacturers and distributors; and
- above all, prayer that no one will misuse these tools.
With trust in the God of Life, we join a grieving nation in prayer, secure in the faith that there is nothing more we can possibly do.
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The prolife movement's witness to the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death has been and continues to be heroic. It is past time that conservative Christians let that witness permeate their thinking about all matters pertaining to life and death, not merely our thinking about the life and death of the unborn. We would not stand for the sophistries depicted above for one second if they were used by our leadership in the prolife movement (and no leader in the prolife movement would think of using them). We must not stand for these sophistries when the leaders of gun culture continue to trot them out every time some fresh gun massacre adds its small contribution to the 30,000 dead from gun violence in the US every single year. We must be more than anti-abortion. We must be fully pro-life!