This time, the conflict is over the issue of legislation to protect the unborn based on gestational limits. In other words, should we support legislation that would prohibit abortions past a certain age, for instance, 24 weeks?
Campaign Life Coalition, which is the dominant pro-life group in the country, is adamantly against supporting this type of incremental legislation. Their reasoning is that this means one is actually stating that early abortion is therefore alright. They are very firm in their position and they maintain that gestational legislation is a compromise with evil.
Priests for Life Canada were asked to give their comment on this issue. They issued a press release last week that states:
Priests for Life Canada supports progressively, restrictive, and realistically attainable political goals as laid out by Blessed John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 73) to save preborn children in a hostile parliamentary environment. As Blessed John Paul II clearly states: “A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” Therefore, Priests for Life Canada believes it is necessary to recognize that such activity and goals are morally sound, theologically approved and pragmatically achievable.
To counter this statement, LifeSiteNews has printed an interview with John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn in the UK. Smeaton regrets that he supported such incremental legislation and he said the effect has actually proven to be worse; the number of late term abortions has increased since such legislation was passed, since doctors simply seek exceptions to the law and work around such legislation. Whether that increase in abortions is due to the law or whether the number of late-term abortions would have increased anyway in the past twenty years cannot be determined. I suspect that the changes in British society, increasing promiscuity amongst all age groups, the growing intolerance of birth defects, the immigration to the UK of cultures that seek sex-selective abortions are all factors that would affect the increase. The incremental legislation may have had some effect, but I hardly think the blame can be attributed entirely to one factor.
I read a joke recently which seems apropos:
An ardent pro-lifer died and arrived at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asked them if they had saved any babies from abortion during their time on earth. The person replied, "no I didn't manage to save any babies, but I didn't compromise my principles."
While the issue cannot be reduced to single-line humour, there is an irony there that is unavoidable. Many pro-life people that I have met refuse to work with each other because they have disagreements on principle. The result is that the pro-life community is fractured and that disunity results in weakness. As Abby Johnson said, she was stunned when she became pro-life to find out how divided people were. She said the other side, the pro-choice side, are very strong and united and that is why they can have such an effect upon the culture. It is time that we pro-lifers recognize that some of our differences have to be dispensed with and that we have to keep our eyes on the goal, which is to save lives.
As a good priest just wrote to me
Following the Church's teaching one tries to do the good that one can when it is possible. If one can do something to save unborn children's lives in the 3rd trimester one does that and then continues to work on saving them in the first two trimesters.