Gospel of Life -- Study Guide
Abortion is issue number one
This paragraph makes a key assertion that is critical to understanding
the entire document, namely, that while there are many "life issues," all of
which are interconnected and all of which require our active concern, abortion
and euthanasia are in a special category, are "preeminent threats," and call for
urgent, priority attention.
This is not the first time the bishops have made this assertion. In 1989, in
on Abortion, the bishops stated, "At this particular time, abortion
has become the fundamental human rights issue for all men and women of good
will. …. For us abortion is of overriding concern because it negates two of our
most fundamental moral imperatives: respect for innocent life, and preferential
concern for the weak and defenseless."
This theme had been set forth in the 1974
Declaration on Procured Abortion published by the Sacred Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, which stated, "The first right of the human
person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one
is fundamental - the condition of all the others."
In The Gospel of Life
(Evangelium Vitae, 1995), Pope John Paul II pointed out that there is a
wide array of life issues and attacks on human dignity about which we must be
actively concerned. He then, however, points to abortion and euthanasia as
attacks of "another category" and of "extraordinary seriousness." He explains
what he means as follows:
"It is not only that in generalized opinion these
attacks tend no longer to be considered as "crimes"; paradoxically they assume
the nature of "rights", to the point that the State is called upon to give them
legal recognition and to make them available through the free services of
health-care personnel. Such attacks strike human life at the time of its
greatest frailty, when it lacks any means of self-defence. Even more serious is
the fact that, most often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of
and with the complicity of the family—the family which by its nature is called
to be the 'sanctuary of life' (n.11).
The Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities of the US
Bishops has always pointed out the priority of abortion, and the most recent
version of the plan
A Campaign in Support of Life) explains it this way:
"Among important issues involving the dignity of human
life with which the Church is concerned, abortion necessarily plays a central
role. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always
gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, no. 57); its victims are the most
vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that
those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and
priority to this issue of justice.
"This focus and the Church's commitment to a consistent ethic of life complement
one another. A consistent ethic of life, which explains the Church's teaching at
the level of moral principle—far from diminishing concern for abortion and
euthanasia or equating all issues touching on the dignity of human
life—recognizes instead the distinctive character of each issue while giving
each its proper place within a coherent moral vision."
Yes, it's killing
The bishops point out in this paragraph that "supporters of
abortion and euthanasia freely concede that these are killing even as they
promote them." We have provided here a few of the many examples proving that
- In 1963, before Planned Parenthood publicly supported
abortion, it stated, "An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun.
It is dangerous to the life your life and health. It may make you sterile so
that when you want a child you cannot have it."
[Planned Parenthood ~ World Population, Plan Your
Children for Health and Happiness, 1963]
- Thomas Emerson, the Yale professor who argued Planned
Parenthood’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut
in 1965, insisted that recognition of a contraception privacy right would not
threaten any state’s anti-abortion legislation. There was a difference, he said,
because abortion involves "killing a life in being" [N.E.H. Hull and Peter
Charles Hoffer, Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American
History (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, October 2001)]
- In 1997, Faye Wattleton, former president of PPFA, said "I
think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that
abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of
our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus, but it is
the woman’s body, and therefore, ultimately her choice." [Ms., May/June 1997]
- on the Phil Donahue show, when former director, Faye
Wattleton responded to the statement: "It's not a frog or a ferret that's being
killed. It's a baby," with "I am fully aware of that. I am fully aware of that."
(Donahue Transcript # 3288, 1991)
- "...The abortion-rights folks know it, the anti-abortion
folks know it, and so probably, does everyone else. One of the facts of abortion
is that women enter abortion clinics to kill their fetuses. It is a form of
killing ...you're ending a life." Ron Fitzsimmons, Executive Director, National
Coalition of Abortion Providers, New York Times, 26 February 1997
- "After 20 weeks (4-½ months) where it frankly is a child to
me, I really agonize over it. ... On the other hand, I have another position,
which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is: 'Who owns
the child?' It's got to be the mother." -- Abortionist James McMahon, interview
with American Medical News, July 5, 1993.
- "While abortion takes life, it enables life to reproduce
itself successfully, not on nature’s terms but on human terms," writes Alexander
Sanger in his recent book, "BEYOND CHOICE: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st
Century" (New York: Public Affairs, 2004). "The unborn child is not just an
innocent life. While it is the epitome of human destiny and the greatest
potential joy that humanity can create, it is also a liability, a threat, and a
danger to the mother and to the other members of the family. In order to
survive, humanity has necessarily taken pre-born life to preserve other life all
throughout its evolutionary history."
- "Abortion always has been and continues to be another way of
choosing death over life….It is morally acceptable that a woman who gives life
may also destroy life under certain circumstances….As Artemis might kill a
wounded animal rather than allow it to limp along miserably, so a mother wishes
to spare the child a painful destiny."
(Ginette Paris, The Sacrament of Abortion, Dallas:
Spring Publications, 1992, pp.51-56).
- [Euthanasia] "Active euthanasia. Taking steps to end your
life, as in suicide…If you wish to deliberately leave this world, then active
euthanasia is your only avenue…[W]hether you bring your life to an abrupt end,
and how you achieve this, is entirely your responsibility…(Derek
Humphrey, "Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted
Suicide for the Dying," Eugene, OR: The Hemlock Society, 1991, pp.20-21).
Why do we need to be concerned about many different issues?
Why are abortion and euthanasia more urgent problems than other attacks on
Do you find it surprising that some people will promote abortion while at the
same time admitting that it kills a child?
Click here for article by feminist Naomi Wolf, Our Bodies, Our Souls,
calling on supporters of abortion to be honest about what it is.
Click here to see the US Bishops' web page regarding the priority of the right
to life as a concern of the Church.
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