The debate and controversy over abortion might seem relatively new, something arriving in the last century, but in the ancient world the practice of abortion wasn’t entirely uncommon. Both the Greeks and Romans engaged in it, as well as infanticide. The early Christians, unsurprisingly, forbade abortion and infanticide. The morality of protecting human life within Christianity is a constant from our foundation to the present day, but how that life is protected has changed. In our earliest days the Church would take care of women or abandoned babies, helping them along the way. Today we protest and petition Caesar, whereas in the ancient days Christians protested the action, but petitioned the heart. Therein lies the difference.
With all the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its utility to a community contrasted against the abortions it provides, there’s one question few people have asked: Why has Planned Parenthood supplanted the Church? Why is it that a pregnant woman, unable to provide for her pregnancy, is sooner found knocking on the door of her local clinic rather than her local church? Even if she doesn’t seek abortion and instead seeks medical aid, the Church seems to be the last place she’ll go. It seems that we’re faithful to our roots in keeping our morality, but not in living our morality.
What is the greater harm to the world; a doctor selling the parts of a baby, or a Christian refusing to provide church funds to help a pregnant woman because she “conceived in sin?” Perhaps we could argue over which is worse – and certain trafficking and profiteering in human body parts ranks up there – but it’s impossible to deny that our actions are somewhat responsible for the current evils. What if, when a woman needed prenatal care, she knew she could go to her local Church and they could at least get her in with the right services? What if she knew a local member who would employ her and give her maternity leave, without fear of losing her job? What if she knew that all her needs – and the needs of her child – could be met by the simple act of walking into a Church? Even with the State’s blessing on abortion, surely we’d see abortion rates plummet.
Perhaps our problem is we see the abortion debate as a debate over an issue and not over persons. Abortion, as a term, is quite abstract. As someone trained in philosophy I can sit here and provide solid arguments on why a fetus is a human being with certain rights and never once mention religious reasons, but such a debate often ignores the realities of the world. After all, once aware a Holocaust was taking place in Europe, the world did not engage in academic debates over whether it was right or wrong, but acted against it. Likewise, there is no real debate over the rightness or wrongness of abortion, everyone, at some level, knows it’s wrong. But few, especially within the Church, are taking action against it beyond calling for legislative change. I believe we act this way because we treat abortion as an issue and not as a crisis of humanity.
Yet, abortion is a crisis in every sense of the term. That a woman feels her only resort is to kill her child in order to get by in life indicates she faces crises in her life, that pregnancy is the last one and she cannot handle it. Abortion is the act of taking one life, but always takes two souls; the body of the child is crushed and destroyed and the soul is lost, but the mother’s soul faces years of pondering and regret thereafter. Abortion is always a tragedy, for both the child and mother, for while the two are separate, they are linked.
The solution to ending abortion is to act as our forefathers did, to engage the person and serve the community. Where our ancestors had an advantage – they were unified and didn’t have thousands of denominations to overcome – we are disadvantaged, but the present time requires us to put aside some differences for the common good. Perhaps we can pool our resources and begin to offer an alternative, a better organized alternative, to Planned Parenthood. While we may never be unified in the time of the Divine Mysteries, perhaps we can find enough unity to protect life and bring a little more light into this dark world.