When it comes to protecting the right to life of the most vulnerable human being in our midst, the infant in the womb, there is no “middle ground” or “common ground” to be found. Human dignity must be protected and upheld.
Imagine for a moment that you are a physician or a nurse in a fairly typical operating room. Lying on the operating table before you is a young woman who is eighteen weeks pregnant. You are also eighteen weeks pregnant and will, in a matter of months, welcome the child within your womb into the world. Turning to your patient, you dutifully begin the surgery that has been scheduled—an abortion.
Apparently, for at least one physician, this is no mere thought experiment. Driven by “feminist pro-choice” ideology and desensitized by years of performing such abortions, this is the experience of a pregnant abortionist who writes for a popular pro-abortion blog. She describes the graphic and shocking details of her experience in the following words:
I realized that I was more interested than usual in seeing the fetal parts when I was done, since they would so closely resemble those of my own fetus. I went about doing the procedure as usual…I used electrical suction to remove the amniotic fluid, picked up my forceps and began to remove the fetus in parts, as I always did. With my first pass of the forceps, I grasped an extremity and began to pull it down. I could see a small foot hanging from the teeth of my forceps. With a quick tug, I separated the leg. Precisely at that moment, I felt a kick—a fluttery “thump, thump” in my own uterus…There was a leg and foot in my forceps, and a “thump, thump” in my abdomen. Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely…It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics…It was one of the more raw moments in my life.
This disturbing “raw moment” is disheartening and troubling, to say the least. Her account reveals the gruesome reality of what is happening in clinics throughout the world. Every ounce of this doctor’s body (and her baby’s body) reeled at what she was doing and vociferated that her actions were evil.
No euphemism made in reference to abortion can completely hide the gruesome reality of the choice that is made when a physician or mother chooses abortion. This is not “preventative health,” “choice,” “women’s rights,” “reproductive medicine,” or “health care.” It is one thing—murder—the killing of an innocent, vulnerable, and dependent human being. The experience of this physician has depicted in the “rawest” of terms the scientific fact that, along each of the developmental stages (zygotic, embryonic, and fetal), that which is in the womb is a human being. But somehow, the truth has not hindered her from continuing her gruesome task. She writes, “Doing second trimester abortions did not get easier after my pregnancy; in fact, dealing with little infant parts of my born baby only made dealing with dismembered fetal parts sadder.”
To think that this mother continues to murder innocent children dependent upon the nurturing and loving care of their mothers is absurd, incongruous with the truth, and irresponsible. The disconnect between reality and the freely chosen action of this abortionist is striking. Knowing what she knows, one cannot help but wonder how she can even look at herself in the mirror, gaze upon her child, or make eye contact with the mother of her next victim. She clearly knows she is dismembering children when she performs abortions, and still she continues her grisly work. Seemingly, there is no rational choice here, only a blind commitment to ideology, and a stubborn refusal to accept the innate dignity of the child she knows she is killing. This account epitomizes the characterization of abortion as betrayal, as was articulated by Richard Stith in the Winter/Spring 2009 edition of the Human Life Review. It is difficult to imagine a more poignant example of betrayal than this pregnant physician’s choice to continue doing abortions. She continues to betray women. She betrays the healing profession. She betrays her own motherhood. Here is the betrayal of life itself.
Rather than betrayal, a recent experience of another abortionist yielded integrity and courage. Such is the story of Abby Johnson, the former executive director of a Planned Parenthood clinic inBryan,Texas. When recently assisting an ultrasound-guided abortion, Abby had an experience that would change her perspective on abortion forever. In aNovember 7, 2009,interview with Fox News she described her encounter with reality in the following words:
My job was to hold the ultrasound probe on this woman’s abdomen…when I looked at the screen, I saw a baby…about thirteen weeks…I saw the probe going into the woman’s uterus. And at that moment, I saw the baby moving and trying to get away from the probe…and I thought, “It’s fighting for its life.” Then all of a sudden, I mean, it was just over…and I just saw the, I just saw the baby just literally, just crumble, and it was over…
Thankfully, Abby was not indifferent to her experience of watching a fetus desperately fight for survival when threatened by those entrusted to his care. I am grateful that Abby responded with integrity when she came face-to-face with the gruesome reality. Through ultrasound, she saw that abortion is not mere removal of tissue, but the killing of a developing human being who is vulnerable and utterly dependent upon a nurturing and loving mother. Perhaps it is not surprising that Abby’s new pro-life convictions have led her to be persecuted in the press, by her former employer, and even by members of her own Church. Now, rooted in her own personal experience of the long-established, scientific fact that pregnant women are mothers who carry innocent children, she is facing her persecutors square on and with great integrity. She has become an outspoken advocate for the unborn.
These accounts call to mind the season of Advent, which can be aptly characterized as a celebration of Mary’s pregnancy. Much like any mother who joyfully anticipates the birth of her child, during Advent, Catholics joyfully anticipate the quickly approaching birth of Mary’s son, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are familiar with the Gospel of Luke’s account of Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, who carried John the Baptist in her womb. Upon Mary’s arrival, Elizabeth’s infant “leapt in her womb.” What a stark contrast this is to the abortionist’s infant, who kicked in her womb, as the grim task performed by his physician mother was carried out. I believe that these stories serve as timely reminders of what is at stake in the fight for life.
In January of 2012, we, as a nation, marked the thirty-ninth anniversaries of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Arguably no court decisions have ever betrayed human dignity, and the true mooring of all law—the natural law—as did these decisions of the Supreme Court. As Catholics and citizens who love life, we continue to be concerned about the effect the recent passage of so-called health care reform legislation (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), will have on the unborn, and upon those physicians who refuse, in conscience, to take innocent human life. In spite of recent victories by pro-life politicians, as of this writing, it remains more likely than not, that any such health care reform will eventually include the use of taxpayers’ dollars to expand funding for abortions, even though abortion can never be true health care.
Such striking stories remind me that, when it comes to protecting the right to life of the most vulnerable human being in our midst, the infant in the womb, there is no “middle ground” or “common ground” to be found. Human dignity must be protected and upheld. Protecting life and the dignity of persons is a fundamental responsibility of the State and of any law that is just. Either abortion is murder, or it is not. Either taxpayers are forced to fund abortions with their health care dollars, or not. Either we support politicians who believe abortion is a right possessed by women, or we do not. In increasingly banal ways, we willingly cooperate in the killing of innocents, or we do not. In short, as individuals and as a nation, we betray the vulnerable, or we have the integrity to protect them.
As human beings who have a responsibility for our fellow men and women, we cannot keep private our convictions about the great good of life. Our public life ought to be guided and formed by our deepest convictions, be they based in faith or in reason. There is, perhaps, no greater attack, nor greater betrayal of human dignity, than abortion. Whether motivated and guided by faith, or by reason, or by both, all have a responsibility to uphold the dignity of others with great resolve and integrity. After all, if it is true that the gauge of society is how it treats its most vulnerable, is it not at least equally true that the integrity and character of each person is revealed by the degree to which he or she is committed to the weak, innocent, and vulnerable?
I suggest that in a lot of ways each of us is very much like the two women in the true accounts I have shared with you. We know what happens at the hand of the abortionist; an innocent human life is extinguished prematurely. Like them, and as with all things, we are faced with a choice. Will we cooperate in the betrayal of millions of women and children, and support abortion by voting for pro-choice politicians; by being inactive in the pro-life cause; by failing to support women with difficult pregnancies; or by supporting legislation that promotes abortion? Or will we have the integrity to personally support politicians who are truly pro-life, regardless of party affiliation; to encourage parishioners to vote according to the USCCB’s guidelines in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”; to speak out against pro-abortion legislation; and to pray that the minds and hearts of all involved in the abortion industry will be open to the truth?
These are the choices all Americans face. I hope that all Catholics and citizens of our country will have the probity of Abby Johnson, making every reasonable effort to defend the infant in the womb. The truth demands such integrity. Our integrity demands courageous resolve. When it comes to abortion, the world demands a choice: betrayal or integrity.