The Case Against Abortion

(In light of today’s commemoration of Saint Margaret of Castello, patroness of the unborn, and of Arizona’s recent instantiation of pro-life laws protecting the unborn from conception – causing rage amongst those who consider abortion a fundamental ‘right’ – here are some bold and clear words from contributor Carl Sundell. Like many moral questions, abortion may be reduced to one fundamental principle, from which all else logically and inexorably follows. Editor)

No sane person ever imagines that an innocent child ought to be killed. The Declaration of Independence tells us that we all have the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Moreover, nobody ever imagines that the right to pursue happiness includes the right to kill another human being as the means to obtain that happiness. One cannot even begin the pursuit of liberty or happiness until one has secured first the right to live. The right to life, therefore, trumps all other rights.

The issue of whether or not abortion is wrong hangs upon the answer to one single question. Is the fetus inside the mother a human being, and a separate human, or is it merely a collection of cells that belong to the mother, much as any other collection of cells that belong to her, such as the tips of her fingernails that the mother is free to snip off and toss in the trash? The Supreme Court in its infamous Roe v. Wade decision did not determine the answer to this question. Since then (sixty million legal abortions later) the debate has raged from one end of the spectrum to the other; from the belief that life begins at conception (the view of the Catholic Church and many outside the Church), all the way to the view that we are not really human until one month after birth (according to Princeton’s Professor Peter Singer). But the humanity of the unborn child is not less real inside the womb than outside.

In her article “Life: Defining the Beginning by the End,” (First Things, May 2003) Maureen L. Condic, Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, rightly points out that many Americans are resigned to abortion being a matter of personal choice rather than a matter of law. That Americans have come to that conclusion is not surprising, given that this view is favored both by a dominating liberal media able to condition public awareness without significant opposition and by a powerful political party dedicated to the right to kill the innocent unborn.

Condic’s central argument is that both the start and end of human life can be defined by something specific to both processes. When life ends, usually with the brain or heart ceasing to function, there is no doubt that life has ended. What defines death is not the death of individual cells (which continue to live after death for a time, as is evident in the case of organ transplants). Rather, death should be defined as the moment that the principle that coordinates and governs the life force within us ceases to function.”

The very principle that defines when death occurs must be the same principle that defines when life begins. The term “fetus” refers not to something that is not human, but rather to a human in the womb. When a mother refers to this thing called fetus, she naturally refers to it as her baby, not her fetus. If the fetus dies, she feels the death of her baby, not the death of a collection of uncoordinated cells.

Death has occurred. By the same token, it ought to be true that when that force begins to exist, human life has begun. “Embryos are in full possession of the very characteristic that distinguishes a living human being from a dead one: the ability of all cells in the body to function together as an organism….”

The only way to explain how abortionists can justify their work is to realize that they have persuaded themselves the fetus in not really human. Their art of persuasion must be very powerful indeed as they remove the fetus, limb by bloody limb, and head from torso, out of the mother’ womb. Abortion is by far the greater sin than the euthanasia of the elderly. The abortionist does not just take away a life, but seventy or more years of God-given life yet to come. The Hippocratic Oath that physicians take to do no harm to a patient should apply to the unborn child as much as to the rest of us, and it is a terrible peculiarity of our age that it does not. The final thing to remember is the eminently reasonable and consistent urging of Jesus: we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Therefore the only reasonable and consistent point of view for an abortionist to have is that his work is justified because he would prefer to have been aborted himself.

But if this is not nihilism and a sickness unto death, what is it?

Since Roe v. Wade has been struck down, the matter has been returned to the authority of the separate states to decide whether abortion should be regarded as a crime against humanity. The states are then obliged to begin the debate and make it public in such a way that the fake media cannot control, influence, or misrepresent the arguments presented, and so that the voters may hold the politicians to the test of moral honor or … heinous immorality.

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Carl Sundell is Emeritus Professor of English and Humanities at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. The author of several books including The Intellectual and the Gunman, Four Presidents, and Shaw versus Chesterton, he has published various articles in New Oxford Review and Catholic Insight. He currently resides in Lubbock, Texas where he is developing a book of short essays for students of Catholic apologetics