Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

This can’t be right. You feel it in your gut. States touting as “progress” legislation abolishing any protection for infants born alive during a late-term abortion. And now no physician need be present for any abortion. Isn’t that something Roe v. Wade (1973) was supposed to guarantee?

Even Roe v. Wade, without the benefit of ultrasound technology and advances in genetics and embryology which reveal the obvious humanity of the unborn, acknowledged a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of viable infants, even at an intended abortion.

How have we come to the point in our society where legislators and heads of state can celebrate such callous and gruesome disregard for our common humanity as an advance for “reproductive health” or the “rights” of anyone?

How does the natural process by which we are all conceived and formed come to be reduced to “reproduction”? No new human being is a reproduction. Even identical twins with the same DNA are never just mirror images. They have their own unique personalities and, in the eyes of the believer, their own souls.

In the wake of recent “abortion expansion” legislation in New York State, likely to be copied in other states, I raise some questions now, not primarily as a Catholic or even a believer in God. Many atheists and agnostics stand up for the humanity of the unborn, incidentally, because the science and experience behind it can no longer be reasonably denied. People from many different backgrounds and persuasions, however, have been shocked by how radical the new legislation is. Laws, however, tend to follow culture. Without cultural shift, laws are unlikely to be changed.

So where do we go from here? I think for a long time many in our society have accepted, without question or debate, some false and toxic assumptions in our discourse about women’s health and rights, the reality of unborn life and the incidence of abortion. On examination, we will see that they do not hold up well to the scrutiny of reason, science and experience. What follows is merely the tip of the iceberg, but we have to start somewhere.

If we see something living, we tend to wish it well. It is not in our best nature to want to destroy life. People, it is true, can be cruel sometimes and insensitive to living, sentient beings. Perhaps it is unbridled curiosity or a latent sense of power that impels a child to tear the wings off of a butterfly. Does this give us some pause as adults to reflect whether it may be our own fallen nature that tempts us to assert control over other defenseless beings in this way, including those who share our humanity, without questioning whether we should do so just because we can?

The unforeseen consequences of the recent legislation essentially dehumanizes the unborn by removing legal consequences against those who would destroy them among, for example, victims of human trafficking, through domestic violence or in various forms of experimentation that ominously recall the Nazi era.

I wonder what those who celebrate this legislation have in mind as they flatter themselves for bringing some kind of “equality” to women? Equal to what or whom? How does any person achieve “equality” at the expense of de-equalizing (destroying) another human life?
If participation in this world’s material benefits demands of a woman a radical restraint or denial of her life-giving nature, how does this free her really to be a woman, and not an effigy of the male model of success? The world then belongs only to those who can compete on men’s terms — and her child, by implication, has no rightful place at the table of life, if she, the mother, is to claim her own life. What society has ever long survived in pitting women as if at war against their own children?

Frederica Mathewes-Green takes this further, arguing that, in most actual cases, abortion is not the choice that a woman would make except to please or conform to the desires or comfort of others — the boss, the boyfriend, the embarrassed parents. The burden is on her to “funnel away” the inconvenience her pregnancy poses. Her article is well worth reading:

We pray and work for an increasing awareness of the humanity of the unborn and press for laws and social service supports that assist women who bring the gift of life to us all. At the same time, I think we need to start questioning and challenging many of ideological assumptions that have fomented the kind of legislation that has been falsely marketed as “progressive” and “liberating” to women. What we are now seeing — and in the light of the abominable public behavior of two prominent governors in recent days —  are the undesirable consequences of these ideologies, which are not based on a sound anthropology and where science and human experience really are.

On full display under pink city lights is a celebration of the death of the unborn, a mockery of the unique and true humanity of women and their unborn children — and in their own right. What kind of civilized society denies a woman the right to bring to the table of humanity both the gift of herself as woman and the children she alone is privileged to bear for the human family? The world belongs to everyone. It is a world in which men, women and children — all humans from conception to natural death — ought to be welcomed, if we believe in and are committed to radical equality, without having to earn or prove their inherent humanity in which all, our Founders well understood, are created equal. Of course, they also believed in God.