The Journey series
For the Greater Good
This week's Mustard Seed is the first in a series exploring abortion arguments. Today, I write a general overview. Issues relating to coerced or forced intercourse, genetic abnormalities, and hereditary disease are beyond it's scope.
The most effective proactive approach to avoiding pregnancy is abstinence. Intimacy, however, challenges one's will. Odds favour a women not becoming pregnant from one random sexual act. "I might, but I probably won't," is a powerful rationalization in the heat of passion. Some version of St Augustine's prayer, "Oh Lord, make me chaste, but not today," was probably prayed just prior to many unplanned pregnancies.
Other unplanned pregnancies occur despite contraceptive precautions. Leaving aside all the moral, psychological, physiological, and philosophical implications for now, the pill, used as prescribed, is 99% effective. Statistically, using the pill as directed through 20 years of fertility yields a 20% probability of becoming pregnant at least once during that time. Because people make mistakes, the reported effectiveness is only 91%. Every year nine people of every hundred using the birth control pill become pregnant. Using this figure, there is an 85% chance that a woman relying on the pill for 20 years will have an unplanned pregnancy.
Unplanned pregnancy leaves three options: 1) Give birth and raise the child. 2) See the baby to term and put it up for adoption. 3) abort the child. Abortion is always a reactionary option. Nobody plans to get pregnant in order to have an abortion. The woman who chooses abortion weighs their anticipated life with their pregnancy against the life they anticipate without it.
I believe the unborn child, from the time of conception, is a person made in the image of God and intentionally killing them is expressly forbidden by the 5th commandment, Thou shalt not murder. At the same time, I must heed James 2:15-16, "If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?"
Is it just for society to demand a woman, under force of law, must see her pregnancy through to birth without also ensuring her the means? In any situation, decisions must be made from what is rather than what should be. It does not help to claim the parents should have behaved differently, they didn't. that attitude will also be of little service to the child. Forcing a woman to bear a child does not of itself ensure a good outcome. It may be true that the child was conceived by a voluntary act and, therefore, the parents should be responsible for the child's upbringing. That does not guarantee they will or can. To demand the child be brought to term and surrendered for adoption is a harsh penalty for a moment's indiscretion.
We all make mistakes. Society fares better by helping us recover from our errors rather than insisting we pay for them, especially when the burden is onerous. Without helping people reach their full potential in spite of their unplanned pregnancy, we will never eliminate the scourge of abortion. Passing laws against abortion before providing the necessary supports will make criminals of some parents and condemn some innocent children to miserable lives.
Education along with pregnancy and child support are essential to the pro-life fight. I believe we assume moral culpability for the suffering of many families if we demand legal protection for unborn children without also promoting chastity, responsible family life, and social support for unplanned pregnancies with even greater vigour. We may, in fact, bear moral culpability for the abortions themselves.
Next week: Catholic marriage and unplanned pregnancy.
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Peter T Elliott