May 2015 Pulse
Ms Emily Letts, an abortion counsellor, did a video on her first-trimester abortion that was undertaken at the clinic where she works. “I feel super good about the abortion,” the 25-year-old Emily told Philadephia Magazine. “Women and men have been thirsting for something like this. You don’t have to be guilty.”
The video went viral.
Emily’s jubilant account of her experience exudes Promethean pride. “I could have taken a pill,” she says, “but I wanted to do the one that women were most afraid of. I wanted to show it wasn’t scary – and that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story. It’s my story.” The exhilarated Emily exclaimed that she was in awe of the fact that she could make a baby, and that she could make a life.
Of course, what Emily can make, she can also destroy. And she had no qualms about aborting her child simply because it felt right to her. “I knew what I was going to do was right, ‘cause it was right for me and no one else.”
Emily’s story gives flesh to what pro-choice advocates have been arguing all along! In fact, the convoluted arguments of feminist scholars like Beverely Wildung boil down to two simple axioms. The first has to do with the woman’s right to her own body, and the second is autonomy, which is upheld as sacrosanct.
This central dogma, which says that the woman has the right to choose abortion, is often accompanied by what Allan Bevere calls emotivism. This refers to the idea that all moral decisions are nothing more than expressions of preference or feeling. Furthermore, for pro- choice advocates, what is important is having the choice, not what choice is being made.
The ability to choose is liberating because it signals the control that a woman has over her life and her body. She has the right to decide on what commitments she wants to make and what lifestyle she wants to pursue. Again, Emily exemplifies this. “Once I caught my breath,” she says in the video, “I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion. I knew I wasn’t ready to take care of a child.”
Closely connected to reproductive autonomy is a person’s right to privacy. The woman’s body is her private property, it is argued. Therefore, just as no one has the right to intrude into a person’s private property, so no one can interfere with what a woman does with her own body. The woman must be left to decide on her own. A Christian ethicist has helpfully summarised the assumptions of the modern libertarian view thus: “A right to abortion is integral to a woman’s adult, mature responsibility and autonomy.”
Such arguments, however, gravely and quite tragically miss a most important consideration: Can the foetus be seen as something whose death can be lawfully and morally chosen by anyone, even its mother? The rhetoric of procreative choice cannot dismiss as arbitrary the questions raised by Christians and others concerning the moral status of the foetus.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church poignantly states that “Human Life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” The Christian who believes that life begins at conception must also insist that the foetus is a human being worthy of value, respect and protection.
In focusing on the rights of the woman, pro-choice advocates have dismissed as irrelevant that of the unborn child. They have consequently violated the rights of an innocent human being who is unable to voice its protests and who is powerless in protecting itself. They have failed to accord dignity to the unborn child, whose life is as precious as its mother’s, and therefore must be valued and protected.
For the Christian, the intentional killing of an innocent human person made in God’s image is always an intrinsically evil act. But the Christian must surely regard abortion – the intentional killing of innocent and defenceless unborn human children – as having a unique kind of moral gravity.
Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. This article was first published in the Methodist Message.