After much thought and prayer and reading and listening, I have come to a place where I’ve achieved some kind of peace of mind and soul over the abortion question.
I know that, in all conscience, I cannot say that the deliberate terminating of a pregnancy is always wrong. And here I have to say that I take exception to the language that talks about “killing a baby in the womb”. That kind of language is designed to arouse certain emotions and, for me, it puts pressure on me to “confess” I am in favour of killing babies when that is the furthest thing from my heart. There has been great talk about not allowing emotions to cloud our judgement on this issue so I would ask that the Pro-Life lobby stop using such emotive terms when they promote their cause.
I hope I am a considerate, caring compassionate person who utterly values the dignity of every human being and treats people accordingly. So, although I know I’m not going to win many friends by voicing my earnestly arrived at opinions, I ask that anybody reading this will accept that this opinion is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time.
For me, there are a number of factors to be taken into account.
Something that seems to be forgotten in all of the to-ing and fro-ing about the whole question is the actual implications of pregnancy and childbirth. Those who claim that abortion is wrong in all and every situation don’t seem to have thought ahead as to what a woman going through an unwanted pregnancy and giving birth goes through in those nine months. A lot of us who have had very much wanted pregnancies would have to admit it’s no walk in the park! Pregnancy can be a time of discomfort and pain, loss of self-confidence, raging hormones and wild emotional swings – all taking their toll on our own emotional, mental and physical health as well as on our relationships. And “the agony of childbirth” is so named for good reason. It has often been said that the only reason most women go on to have more than one child is that a blessed amnesia sets in about the agony of giving birth! So what must it be like for somebody who abhors every second and is utterly terrified about the future?
When you say that a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy must allow that pregnancy to become a baby who must be born, just think what you’re sentencing that woman to. (I can totally accept that many women who thought about abortion but went on to have their babies had a change of heart and came to love – or at least put up with – the pregnancy and loved the child by the time of his birth – but can you claim that would always be the case?)
Secondly, who ARE these people who seek abortion? Are they just thoughtless, careless, immoral beings who have no regard for the sanctity and the dignity of human life? Are they girls/women who live a debauched lifestyle of indiscriminate, unprotected sex and who don’t want to take any responsibility for their actions? Is Ireland full of such people and are they only waiting for the opportunity to have clinics on their doorsteps so that they can have regular abortions? Those who don’t want to allow abortions into the country under any circumstances must think so, as they fear we’ll be “opening the floodgates to abortion on demand”.
I mix with quite a variety of people in my everyday life and, while I’m not naive enough to believe no such people exist, in all honesty, I haven’t met too many of them. On the surface, some may seem so, but there’s a strong core of morality in most of the people I meet.
So who does that leave? It leaves girls/women for whom allowing a pregnancy to continue causes them absolute terror, horror and anguish for some reason.
I can think of the young, terribly immature, vulnerable girl, lacking in coping skills and without much self-worth, so needy that she allows her “fella” to “do it to her” (that’s how they often see sex – not an act of mutually desired intimacy!) She’s not yet mature enough to be responsible for her own life, let alone the life of another being. Will you be there for her in the middle of the night when she lies awake terrified about the future – not understanding what’s happening to her body and terrified by thoughts of what’s to come?
I can think of the harried mother of young children, who is already nearing breaking point, who’s already afraid she’s not caring properly for the children she’s got because she’s so over-burdened by life. Another pregnancy may not end her life but it may have dire consequences on her ability to care for her existing children, not to mention another mouth to feed. Will you be there to look after her children one day a week so that she can rest up during this pregnancy? And will you continue to help her care for her children after the new baby is born?
I can think of the rape victim, who knows that the “growth” inside her carries genetic material of the rapist. Will you be there to deal with the disgust she feels – a disgust that leaves her hating her own body?
I can think of the woman who knows that the child growing inside her cannot survive when s/he’s born. Are you going to sit with her as she suffers all the pains and agony of pregnancy and childbirth knowing that it will end with death?
I’m not trying to pull on the heartstrings here – but I DO want people to “look ahead” when they say abortion may never be permissible. The compassionate heart has to ache for them.
But, you say, God has decreed that life is sacred from the moment of conception till it reaches its natural end. Only God has the right to determine who lives. One look at the wars that have been waged “in the name of God” and the executions which have taken place with the blessings of organised religion (thus the” will” of God?) seems to dilute that argument somewhat.
It is never permissible to interfere with the will of God. I agree. But, who is it who discerns the “Will” of God? Is it not the case that, over the centuries, what was deemed to be God’s “Will” has changed – what was once anathema is now accepted as a truth? Although I have absolutely no doubt that those who work to discern God’s will for all religious codes of practice do so with honesty and sincerity and much prayerful reflection, I have to ask how do they reach the decision that they HAVE discerned God’s Will? How do they inform themselves? What sources do they go to in order to reach their decisions?
Scripture obviously has to be the primary source. What clarity do they find there as to when “life” begins?
Is it possible that another source of their information, Tradition – is, in fact, a Tradition that is made up of practices and beliefs that always need to be re-examined in the light of humanity’s deepening understanding of itself?
When they look for the signs of the times, can they conceive of the notion that the dialogue they engage in is only with people who, basically, share the same world-view, and, as such, are bound to reinforce their already existing beliefs?
(Coming from a lifetime of blind acceptance of and attempted obedience to the teachings of the church, I find that I still have to fight my internal voices that scream “You’re being guilty of the sin of pride and arrogance for daring to question!” Paradoxically, that’s what reassures me I’m RIGHT to follow the questions that arise within me! It’s not easy for me to go against the teachings of my church.)
Although I realise that the genetic code for a new human being is present from the moment of conception, I cannot accept that this is now a new life. I truly have the belief that it is POTENTIAL new life and I would love to believe that each potential new life was one that was desired and wanted with hearts filled with love.
But I keep coming back to the cases where, allowing the development of that new life would actually cause serious emotional/physical/psychological and maybe even spiritual damage to the woman going through it. In all conscience, I don’t think I have the right to say “You must go through with it because somebody else has decided it’s God’s will that you do”.
Does that make me a supporter of the killing of babies?
No. I would never, in a million years, support the destruction of human beings. But when it comes to the protection of already living beings over potential lives, I have to come down in favour of those already alive.
Even if I WERE to see the termination of a developing life as a killing, the justice system does not assume that in each and every case the person who has ended another person’s life is guilty of murder. A person has to be tried to determine whether a killing may have been self-defence. Yet we wish to say that every woman who has a termination- no matter what she perceives to be the consequences of allowing a baby to develop inside her- is guilty of murder. No argument for self-defence is ever permissible. Is that just?
It used to be a source of pride to me that I lived in a Catholic country. But that was before I opened my eyes and realised that “Catholic”, in the Irish context, really meant that we hid away and denied anything that didn’t fit in with the “clean-living, pure- we all think with one mind ” picture we wanted to paint of ourselves. Those who had pregnancies outside of marriage were locked up like criminals; children who had nobody to rear them properly were put out of sight in institutions; youngsters who were taught to be totally obedient to their elders were brutally abused by some of those they particularly had to obey and that abuse was covered up by those who should have known better. The list goes on.
I no longer want to live in a “Catholic Country”. I want to live in a country which is accepting of all religions and none – a country where all who sincerely seek the truth feel welcome and valued in their diversity-where no-one feels either superior or inferior because of his/her beliefs.
I want to remain a Catholic, but a Catholic who takes responsibility for my own beliefs – who never again allows somebody else to do my thinking for me and tell me what I must believe . I love my church community – I love the celebration of the Eucharist and the familiarity that the Catholic way of being in relationship with my loving God affords me. But I can never again close my eyes to the realities of the human condition in all its messiness. In the case of termination of pregnancy, I cannot accept that one size fits all, that life begins at the moment of conception and that, from that second on, the potential life has equal rights with that of the already living woman.
I imagine there are a number of women in Ireland today who are hurting badly from the language that is being used by some in the Pro-life campaign. Even if a person felt that the greater good was served by not allowing a pregnancy to continue, it would take a very, very self-assured, strong, confident woman not to be hurt by having a label like “Baby-killer” levelled at her. To you I say this is one Irish Catholic who does not, in any way, stand in judgement over you. My heart goes out to you because it can’t have been an easy decision to make or an easy path to follow.
I fully acknowledge that my views are not in accordance with those of many people in this country. I fully accept that they are emotionally driven – that I have not referred to the objective biological/medical/theological/ethical/moral arguments that have been presented by experts in the various fields during this time of debate and decision making. I think I have heard them all. In the end though, I think it has to come down to each person searching deep within his/her own heart in order to find out where s/he stands on this, one of the most deeply emotionally driven questions we can ever ask ourselves. Ultimately, we are creatures who live by our emotions, aren’t we?