February 2019 Pulse
Last month, Democrats in New York passed a bill that allowed women to abort their infant for any reason and at any point of pregnancy up to the moment of birth.
‘A standing ovation for abortion?’, writes Ashely McGuire in USA Today. ‘That’s what New York’s Reproductive Health Act got in the Senate chamber when it passed last week. Lawmakers and bystanders stood and applauded a law that legalized abortion all the way up until birth, for any reason.’
This lunacy has spread to the state of Virginia where Democrats there tried to emulate their counterparts in New York by issuing a bill to revise existing abortion laws. On The WTPO’s Ask The Governor, Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Governor, in support of the bill, openly made this shocking comment:
So in this particular example, if the mother is in labour, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if this is what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.
Commenting on the governor’s remarks on the proposed legislation, Ben Shapiro writes in The Daily Wire: ‘This is pure infanticide … This is a statement that a fully-formed infant, born alive, ought to be murdered if the mother says the infant ought to be murdered.’
The Daily Wire reported that the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, a Democrat and nominal Catholic, also advocated for the new legislation following her gubernatorial counterpart in New York. In addition, this new legislation also seeks to repeal current laws against the gruesome practice of partial abortion. As Steve McCann explains, this means that the law would now allow ‘delivering a healthy baby alive then killing it by crushing its skull and suctioning out the brain as it emerges from the womb.’
Alluding to the Wade decision of 1973, Governor Ralph Northam said in a press conference (to applause from the audience) that this new legislation will protect the full autonomy of women. Since Roe v Wade, states across America have been exploring how permissive they can be with their abortion laws.
This new abortion law signals western liberal society’s further descent into barbarity. It exemplifies what Pope John Paul II provocatively described more than twenty years ago as the ‘culture of death’ in his encyclical letter The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). This is a culture that inflicts unconscionable violence on human life and conspires against the weak, the sick and the vulnerable, often in the name of personal autonomy and liberty.
The devaluation of human life has long been given voice by scholars like Peter Singer who is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. In his controversial book entitled Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (1994), Singer repudiates the view that human life is sacred and that all human lives have equal claims to preservation. His staunch advocacy for the legalization of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia is evident in many of his writings.
Challenging the precepts of traditional morality, Singer replaces them with the ‘new commandments’ that stem from the preference utilitarianism he espouses and promotes. For example, the ‘old commandment’ which says that we must treat all human life as of equal worth is replaced by the new, which insists that the worth of human life varies considerably.
The old precept ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is replaced by Singer’s new dogma that we should bring children into the world only if they are wanted. Note the passive voice in the statement (‘if they are wanted’) that engenders ambiguity: wanted by whom? The mother? The parents? The state?
Christians must roundly and resolutely condemn any legislation that allows an innocent child (whether unborn or born) to be killed ‘for any reason’ and in the name of personal autonomy.
The human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) and endowed with inviolable dignity and worth. Scripture categorically prohibits homicide (Exodus 20:13) because human life is sacred. As Pope John Paul II has rightly pointed out, ‘Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual.’
The Church has throughout her history consistently, unequivocally and unreservedly opposed and condemned abortion and infanticide. For example, in the second century document called The Didache, we find this injunction: ‘Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn child.’ Echoing this clear instruction, the great theologian of Latin Christianity, Tertullian, writes:
For us [Christians], murder is once and for all forbidden; so even the child in the womb, while yet the Mother’s blood is still being drawn on to form the human being, it is not lawful for us to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder.
In similar vein, the sixteenth century reformer, John Calvin, condemns abortion in the strongest possible terms when he writes: ‘The foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy.’
In our time, theologians like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have likewise condemned the killing of innocent children by abortion. ‘Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb,’ writes Bonhoeffer in Ethics, ‘is a violation of the right to life which God has bestowed on this nascent life … And is nothing but murder.’
Edward Scharfenberger, the Catholic bishop of Albany, has written to the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to express his deep concern about the new law:
Although in your recent State of the State address you [Gov. Cuomo] cited your Catholic faith and said we should ‘stand with Pope Francis,’ your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church. Once truth is separated from fiction and people come to realise the impact of the bill, they will be shocked to the core. By that time, however, it may be too late to save the countless lives that will be lost or spare countless women lifelong regret.
Christians must join their voices to this venerable chorus to oppose such legislations. They must see abortion and infanticide for what they truly are, namely, the wanton murder of innocent children. Together with Vatical II they must see abortion and infanticide as nothing less than an ‘unspeakable crime.’
The Church can never be passive or silent in the face of such an atrocity. She must protest against and oppose the culture of death, for as Pope John Paul II has again put it so eloquently and powerfully: ‘Every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart.’
Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.