As ministers of the Gospel of Life, Priests for Life are concerned about misrepresentations of that Gospel by those who profess Christian faith and at the same time promote a "reproductive choice" of the destruction of human life by abortion. This "pro-choice" stance is defended by invoking freedom of religious belief and conscience, individual liberty, and the defense of the health and wholeness of the mother carrying the child.
What is the Choice?
We certainly support "reproductive freedom" in the sense that a man and woman must be free from coercion in making, before God, the personal judgment about the number and spacing of children they will bear.
But there is a big difference between choosing to have a child and choosing to kill a child. To determine whether one can have another child, before that child exists is quite legitimate. To eliminate them once they already exist is not legitimate.
Freedom of Religion and Conscience
Some appeal to "freedom of religion and conscience" to decide whether the baby in the womb is in fact a human being with the right to life. We point out that the humanity of the child is as definitive scientifically as the humanity of the parents. The point at which a unique life begins is clear from science.
To leave such a basic right as life, furthermore, to be determined by another's religion or conscience puts us all in danger. What do you say to a person who, "in conscience" no longer "believes" that you are human? Whatever you say is worthless to him, because he can say, "Why should I listen to a non-human?" If we do not allow the right to one's possessions to be subject to another person's religion, neither should one's right to life be so subject.
God has given us personal liberty as a tremendous gift which cannot be despised. The Christian message, proclaimed in Scripture, not only reveals the existence of such liberty, but shows that its fullness is found precisely in Christ. Redeemed and transformed by Him, we find ourselves sharing a life and liberty, which is no longer merely our own, but Christ's. (See Rom.12:2,Gal.2:20). Far from being separate sources of purely private liberty, we become one Body (Eph 4:15-16, 1Cor12:12). Our union with Christ does not squelch or destroy our personal liberty, but enhances and strengthens it. (Jn.8:31-32;14:12). By this very dynamic, we freely choose the love of Christ and one another, and this involves precisely the rejection of what is contrary to love and to the Gospel (Col.3:5-11). It involves the rejection of acts which destroy others. Abortion is one such act. Christian love ultimately means, "I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person." Abortion means, "I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself" (See 1Jn.3:11-12,16).
If a doctrine of liberty includes the destruction of the child in the womb, even when the child's humanity is acknowledged, why should it not also include the newborn, or you, or me. Where is the principle that would prevent the liberty that destroys some of us from destroying all of us?
The Woman's Well-being
Some defend the choice of abortion by appealing to the preservation of the mother's health or "wholeness."
We assert that one is never whole when one destroys another.
The promise of wholeness through abortion is false and illusory. Two decades of legalized abortion in America provide abundant evidence of wounded bodies and souls, and a wounded society.
Religion that is not grounded in reality is a disservice to humanity. Religions which present abortion as a legitimate choice, but ignore the fact that abortion harms women, will rightfully deserve the criticism made by some of our secular counterparts that such religion enslaves people and hinders authentic human progress.
Even more crucially, Churches that fail to discern the harm inflicted on women by abortion will be ill-suited to provide them the compassion, healing, and forgiveness they desperately need. More and more of our sisters and brothers are feeling and will feel the need for such healing. To whom will they turn? They will find little comfort from those who have opened the door to abortion or told them it is wrong only if they believe it is wrong. Unfortunately, the damage inflicted by abortion does not likewise yield to one's beliefs about whether it is real.
An international body of former abortion providers has formed under the title of the Centurions, who cry out, "Surely, these were innocent lives!" They are reaching the truth about abortion more quickly than some Christian communities. When our society has come to the dead end to which abortion leads, may the Church be ready to bring healing and lead the world once again to affirm and choose the Gospel of Life!