The Journey series
This week’s Mustard Seed looks at the right to life in light of James 2:15-16. If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
Surely, if there is a right to life, there is a right to the minimum necessities to sustain it. A person’s right to life hasn’t been observed if they are deprived of food, water, shelter, or clothing. I would add to these the right to belong and, for children, to be nurtured. I believe this is innately, even if not consciously, understood by all. I believe it to be at the root of the debate on abortion. The right to life is not fully achieved at birth; the child must be nurtured and nourished for many more years. Someone must assume responsibility for a child’s life from birth to maturity. That is the traditional role of the family.
I recall from my teens that we well understood the cause and effect relationship between sexual activity and pregnancy. People were less willing to take the risk and more willing to accept the consequences. Our desires were curbed by the relatively high probability of severe consequences.
There were still occasions when hormones overrode intellect. Scientist went to work solving that problem, as it is wont, by reducing the risk and removing the consequences; contraception and abortion were born. Scientific methods isolate relevant factors and insulate them from contingencies. The goal was simplified to avoidance of an unwanted birth. The sequence; release of ovum, introduction of spermatozoa, uterine implantation, gestation, and birth; was examined. If any one of these stages is interrupted birth is prevented. Mechanical and biological interventions were developed for each of these stages. The scientific goal was met, but at what cost? The biological chain was broken but the emotional, psychological, and sociological chains still bind.
Science told us how but has no say in whether. Several moral dilemmas arose. Is it right to intervene in procreation? What are the consequences? Is a foetus a person with inherent rights? How do the rights of the child balance against the rights of the mother? Who ought rear the children of unwanted pregnancies? What happens when what ought happen doesn’t happen?
Contraception removes fecundity from sexual consideration. A woman’s fertility cycle becomes moot. The context of family dies. Commitment dissolves. Sex is reduced to a few moments’ pleasure rather than a venture in a life-long mutual journey. Women are objects of desire and orgasm is a brief ecstasy. Abortion tackles the dilemma of society’s obligation to unplanned children by denying the humanity of the foetus. It removes all future obligations by denying the child the light of day. Health, emotional, psychological, and sociological side effects of abortion are largely disregarded.
Pro-life advocates say the merging of sperm and ovum immediately creates a unique human. Abortion is not an issue of the mother’s autonomy; it’s denial of the unborn child’s right to life. The right to life originates beyond human authority and must be held absolute. In the scales of justice no amount of inconvenience outweighs a life. Occasionally an unborn child will die in an attempt to save the mother’s life but the intent must always be to preserve life.
Many pro-life advocates consider birth a victory. Others recognize that to end there is insufficient and uncharitable. Equal right to life is the very basis of social justice and society must bear the burden of sustaining it. The pro-life battle will not be won until child bearing and rearing receive the same recognition, respect, and resources we give our economy. The gift of life is greater than the gift of things yet family continually cedes ground to commerce.
Science reduced the risk of pregnancy but increased the risk to physical, mental, and societal health. A baby can be prevented or removed from the womb but the culpability of one’s actions remains. The consequences of sexuality were not eliminated; they were merely transformed into less immediate, more subtle, and more devious forms. Accepting our obligations and limitations will bring us more peace faster than continually shunning and skirting them. We can learn to live in harmony with our world or we can fight a continuous battle to bend it to our will. The more we bend the world to our whims the more tension there is to snap back at us. The more paths we open the less clear they become.
Next week: Right to Liberty
Peter T Elliott