Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why Abortion is the Issue

Following upon the post with respect to the seamless garment theology, this post is an attempt to put into words something that I feel in my gut.

Three years ago, I became aware of the grisly reality of abortion and of the massive extent of abortion throughout the world. Where I was before that, I really can't say because abortion had not really entered my consciousness in any way that affected it strongly.

For some reason, a simple attendance at one talk on abortion changed all of that. And from that point, I began to read. I plan on listing the books I have read on abortion and rating them, because some have had a marked effect upon me and I think some are worth reading more than others. But that is for another day.

Something in the last book I read has stuck with me. The book was Who Broke the Baby?, a pro-life classic by Jean Staker Garton. In the very last chapter, entitled The Choice, she writes about the effect that the choice of legalized abortion has and is having upon society. And something became extraordinarily clear.

The legalization of abortion, forty years ago in this country of Canada and 37 years ago in the US, marked the beginning of a cataclysmic change in thinking. This was the point at which we decided that we, as human beings, could have the last word about the value of life. Before that, every life was granted equal value - - it was even written in the American Constitution.

The traditional Western ethic has always placed great emphasis on the intrinsic worth and equal value of every human life regardless of its stage or condition. This ethic ... has been the basis for most of our laws and much of our social policy. The reverence for each and every human life has also been a keystone of Western medicine. - A New Ethic for Medicine and Society, California Medicine, Official Journal of the California Medical Association (Sept. 1970)

Never has any society shown such humane consideration for human life, manifested in social policy, in the law, and in the treatment of the sick and dying as the culture of the western hemisphere, rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Legalized abortion changed all that. Since we decided that a woman can decide whether or not her baby's life has value and she can therefore decide to terminate that life if that value is not sufficient for her, now all life can be subject to the scrutiny of individual judgment. Abortion changed our thinking that life is intrinsically valuable, and since we allowed the doubt that some lives are not valuable, we opened the door to all the other ways in which life can be devalued. Embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization which chooses some fertilized embryos and discards the rest, induced labour and the subseqent death of disabled infants, euthanasia of infants as is performed in Holland, euthanasia and assisted suicide for those whose lives at the other end of life don't seem worth living. All of these issues became possible because we allowed abortion.

The devaluing of new life in the womb has opened the door for the devaluing of all life that is not deemed worth living. Before legalized abortion, we thought that all life was worth defending, that life itself was the value. Since legalized abortion, only life that is regarded by others as valuable is worth defending. The sick, the marginalized, the abandoned, the terminally ill, the depressed, they all are now potential suspects and victims on our scale of human value.

Abortion is the cutting edge, the initial wedge, for "the new ethic." It is the tip of the iceberg in the proposed revision of what it means to be human. Despite all the rhetoric about abortion being a matter of private morality, it has far-reaching public implications. If what we are interested in is a stop-gap measure, then abortion seems reasonable. If what we desire are results, then abortion seems like an answer. But it is an option that does not exist in a vacuum, for it involves the sacrifice of not only the unborn child but a way of life, an entire ethic... In the acceptance of abortion-on-demand, there occurs a subtle but profound shift in the attitude of society toward all people who are unwanted, imperfect, and dependent.... When we choose to offer death as an alternative to suffering, the list of those who qualify under "the new ethic" expands greatly. - Who Broke the Baby? by Jean Staker Garton

Twice in the last week, I have come across two completely different people who spoke of abortion's effect upon society as similar to the mushroom cloud of Hiroshima. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, no one anticipated the aftermath of that event. No one was prepared for the numbers of people who would survive but live lives with irreparably damaged bodies, with cancers caused by the radiation; no one anticipated the numbers of medical personnel that would be required to look after those affected by the bomb; no one was prepared for those who would suffer psychologically from this event, living with constant nightmares and held imprisoned by fear.

The same is true of abortion; seen as a measure to help women solve their problem of an unexpected pregnancy, abortion leaves in its wake damaged and broken women, men who feel guilt and regret at their lost fatherhood, siblings who know or feel the loss of brothers and sisters and the guilt that comes from knowing that they are the survivors of the abortion holocaust. We are only just beginning to see the effects of the abortion epidemic: breast cancers that may be traced to induced abortion, subsequent premature deliveries of babies who may have disabilities, infertility in many women who have had induced abortions, and that is not even mentioning the numbers of individuals we have lost to society, people we will never know because they didn't get a chance to live.

And perhaps the worst fallout from this mushroom cloud of abortion is the hardness of heart that has developed in us as human beings, our indifference to the tragedy.

Evil, suffering, violence - all these are bad in a society, but what is far worse is becoming used to them, tolerating them, and learning to live with them. Then apathy becomes appealing; withdrawal becomes enticing; silence becomes tempting. We become as the crowd around the cross at Golgotha. We recognize the injustice, we see the suffering of the innocent and abhor the violence of the act, but like those on the day of Christ's crucifixion, we do nothing. - Who Broke the Baby? by Jean Staker Garton

Yes, abortion is the issue because it is the point at which we cast aside our respect for life; by allowing the small, dependent life in the womb to be terminated at will, we declared open season on all life. In effect, we said "It's your call."

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