The Morality of and Culpability for Abortion

There are many entries on this blog about pro-life arguments, news items on life issues, and the like.  That is of course all good and necessary, but I will, at least for this entry, do something a bit different. 

I begin with three stories.  The first:

A few years ago early one morning I stood across the street from the Cabbagetown Women’s (Abortion) Clinic with a sign in protest of abortion.  I remember seeing a cab pull up, and out came a young woman probably in her late teens or early twenties.  On her face was an expression of terror.  It was quite clear that she did not want to be there, yet she walked across the street alone into the clinic.  Several other women I have seen entering that clinic have had similar faces. 

The second:

A while back, LifeSiteNews posted a video of former US president Bill Clinton facing a unversity aged crowd with many pro-life students.  These students were respectively giving him a hard time for his opinions about abortion.  President Clinton responded by shouting back at them something to the effect of: “You don’t care about those women who have abortions.  If you had your way then every woman who had an abortion would be thrown in jail.”  I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

The third:

Every day around the world, thousands of young human beings are ripped, sucked, and detroyed violently within the wombs of their mothers.    Mercilessly they are torn to bits by metal utensils and powerful vacuums by doctors who swore they would never intentially harm anyone during their practice.  This happens nearly 100,000 times every year in Canada, and nearly 1,000,000 times every year in the United States.

I think that these three stories all reveal some very important things, some more disputed than others.  First, that abortion is a terrible evil and can never be condoned.  (I will not delve into the arguments here.  That has been done at length elsewhere.)  Second, that many women go to the abortion mill because they are scared, pressured, alone, and without support.  Third, there is a belief among the pro-abortion-rights world, perhaps with good reason some of the time, that pro-life people do not care about the women involved in abortion, and that the pro-life people actually would like to see women who have had abortions be punished for it.  I have faced these accusations myself on more than one occasion.

These realities are the basis of my reflection, and I believe that everyone who cares about the abortion question should reflect upon them as well.  This post is directed towards everyone, and is not intended to be a polemic or argumentitive piece.  I wish to incite no hostility towards anyone here.

In the abortion debate, we need to make a clear distinction between the morality of the act of abortion, and the culpibility of one who perpetrates such an act.  And that also in a cold legalistic sense, there may be varying degrees of culpability.  For instance, consider an act of causing bodily harm to another person.  I don’t think any reasonable person will say that it is a good thing that someone gets beat up or is harmed physically.  However, we need to look at circumstances to see whether the person who caused the bodily harm is culpable.  If that person was being threatened and reacted in a reasonable way by using force, then we usually will not say that he is guilty.  Or if his force were excessive, we may punish him yet, but to a lesser degree than if it were unprevoked.  If someone causes bodily harm for no good reason, then he should be punished as the law allows. 

Likewise, in cases of abortion, there perhaps are times where the women involved are not entirely culpable, or not culpable at all.

There is an important difference between abortion and the type of activity I used in the analogy.  That difference is that sometimes assulting someone is justified and allowed by law, and rightly so.  For if one is being attacked he needs to defend himself.  Abortion, I maintain, is never justified and ought never to be allowed by law.  Again, I intend to make no arguments here.  They are made elsewhere.  Let it suffice for now, at least for the sake of discussion if you are inclined to disagree, that abortion always entails the killing of an innocent human being who poses no threat to anyone.  And so, it ought never to be allowed.  (In those rare cases where the life of the mother is in serious danger and life-saving non-abortive procedures will also kill the unborn child, let us not forget the principle of double effect.)

Yet, not every woman who has an abortion, as I have mentioned already, can be considered entirely culpable for it.  The crucial distinction between the morality of abortion and the culpability of the women who have abortions therefore is made.  I entreat everyone to ponder this. 

If you are pro-life, don’t judge for a moment women who have an abortion.  Don’t blame her for being a slut.  Don’t call her a murderer.  Doing so is completely unhelpful, except maybe for your own pride (the bad kind).  If you are pro-choice and inclined to think like President Clinton above, please know that there are a growing number of pro-life people are increasingly aware of the troubles women go through which lead them to the abortion mill.  And that an increasing number of pro-lifers are spending more and more energy trying to help and support the women in those desperate situations both before and, if necessary, after abortion.  They have no interest in condemning the women.

Nonetheless, pro-lifers will continue to increase their efforts in revealing the unfortunate truth that abortion destroys an innocent human life.  We cannot refrain from this.  We in Canada cannot stand by and do nothing as 100,000 of our brothers and sisters are taken from us every year before they have a chance to see the light of day.  And our American friends cannot stand around while the same fate awaits 1,000,000 of their brothers and sisters every year.

So, to conclude, I reiterate the terrible and widely unacknowledged truth that abortion kills an innocent human being.  I also reiterate that women who go to the abortion clinic are often not entirely culpable as they often have no other choice.  So often their closest family and friends threaten to abandon them over the child, or offer no support for the severe economic challenge an unexpected child will bring. 

I hope that President Clinton was simply uninformed when he said that all of the pro-lifers would have the post-abortive women thrown in jail.  My experience with the pro-life movement reveals a far more caring and reasonable approach, while never compromising on the fundamental pro-life position.  I sincerely hope that my experience reflects an increasing trend within the greater pro-life world.

Take care, and God bless.

2 Comments on “The Morality of and Culpability for Abortion

  1. I am sorry to have to disagree, but mothers ARE responsible for every act of prenatal homicide which they commit, with the exception of the rare circumstance in which a young mother is literally forced to kill her child. The fact that many people, accepting abortionist lies and propaganda, believe that they are doing nothing wrong when killing an unborn child or at least doing something that is less wrong than murder, does not make them any less responsible morally for the crimes which they are committing. Rather it argues for holding them accountable for their crimes, but imposing significantly lighter penalties on them.

    I find the inability or unwillingness of people in the unborn human rights movement to hold mothers (and presumably fathers) criminally liable for choosing to inflict lethal violence on their own children highly disturbing. If we do not treat the crime of prenatal homicide as a real crime, we are doing a severe disservice to the unborn and we will NOT be able to protect them from this violence. Millions of innocent lives will be lost over the years who could have been saved if we had supported strong, rather than weak, statutes.

    The whole idea behind holding mothers and fathers, along with criminal abortionists and anyone else who aids and abets, liable for their crimes is not so much to prosecute them for having killed unborn children, but to prevent them from doing so. The whole purpose is to save lives. The ONLY way I believe we can stop the crime of prenatal homicide is to deter mothers from even trying to kill their children, through threat of criminal prosecution, and then apprehend those who are not deterred and attempt to break the law anyway.

    Holding only criminal abortionists liable for killing or attempting to kill unborn children will stop some abortion crime, but not all of it. It will certainly be a lot less effective than attacking both sides of the criminal transaction. Additionally, if mothers are not liable, there will be NOTHING at all we can do about mothers killing or attempting to kill their unborn children by themselves.

    Not holding parents criminally accountable for their killing or attempted killing of their unborn children will provide those children with only partial, not full, legal and physical protection for their lives and rights. All other human beings have full legal protection for their lives. Is it fair that the poor, helpless, innocent, dehumanized unborn should enjoy legal protection that is substantially inferior to that which is enjoyed by all other members of the human family?

    Finally, if we do not hold accountable and prosecute mothers (and fathers) for killing or attempting to kill their unborn children, we will be essentially legally permitting them to do this. How can we supporters of unborn human rights take a position which is essentially the same as that of the pro-abortion movement?

    Abortion crime can be massively suppressed, but we must hold everyone accountable for their actions if we really intend to stop this terrible destruction of human beings.

    • Joe, thank you for your comment.

      I agree with you that abortion is crime, plain and simple. It is first degree murder. Society at large should know this and understand why, and perpetrators of abortion should be prosecuted as any other person who breaks the law. That includes the abortionists, the women who go for the abortion, and anyone else who helps them accomplish the abortion.

      The sad reality is that this is not the case, and probably won’t be for some time to come in Canada. There is no law on abortion in Canada. People everywhere are told that there is nothing wrong with it. Many sadly buy into this. Furthermore, the terrible circumstances that some women are faced with when they become pregnant unexpectedly drive them to despair.

      How can we look at a woman in our times faced with such circumstances and call her a murderer? It may be true to a certain extent, but what good does that do? This is even more urgent a question since we are aware of the terrible psychological and spiritual trauma abortion can cause. Other than driving her to even greater despair, or hardening her heart, what does it do? My hope is that every woman who has had an abortion acknowledges her terrible mistake for what it is – murder – and does what she can to stop other women from doing the same. However, at least in our completely screwed up times, there are gentler ways of going about doing that.

      If threat of criminal prosecution is truly the only way to deter people from having abortions, then so be it. Unfortunately there is no sign of that happening right now. Please God it will happen sooner rather than later. But until then, we have to be careful with how we approach the issues discussed here.

      One last thing. I am not suggesting that only the abortionists be held accountable. I didn’t include them in my original post because I wanted to focus on the women here.

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