On Being Pro-Life: Part 1 of 2

Being anti-abortion is easy. Being pro-life is hard.

Ever since I found out the truth about abortion, I was against it. I have always believed that life begins at conception and that any force of man to end the life of another was nothing short of murder. To many of you reading this, you are likely to be quite familiar with the pro-life, pro-choice debate here in the United States. As we approach the anniversary of Roe V. Wade this debate will only intensify. On one hand you have the mostly Christian, mostly conservative pro-life establishment that seeks to overturn Roe V. Wade and all similar legislation. Most people who claim to be of religious affiliation or even claim to abide by some moral code will likely stand with the pro-life camp. The correlation between being religious and being anti-abortion rests in the belief that all life is sacred. Even if you aren’t fighting abortion due to certain religious convictions your stand against abortion probably comes from some innate feeling inside you that tells you life is worth preserving.

On the other hand you have a very diverse group of people in the pro-choice camp. I must emphasize that no matter their views, these aren’t ‘bad people.’ There exists many reasons why one might fall under the pro-choice persuasion; however, I am only going to address the top three.

  1. “It’s my body” The group that stands for the right of the mother to abort her child more than any other group usually falls into this category. The basic premise of this group is that every woman should have full control over her body and that no outside organization should be allowed to tell her otherwise. This group is the most popular group simply because of its ‘civil rights’ tone. This tone exists in that a mother’s right to choose, from this perspective, is a basic human right. The pro-life rebuttal is that the fetus is a human being deserving of the same rights and to abort what cannot speak for his or herself is an crime against such basic human rights. Because of the personhood of the fetus, this argument tends to collapse on itself.
  2. “It’s not my business” Surprisingly, this group exists as the second largest pro-choice subcategory. Quite frankly this is the libertarian view of abortion. The basic premise of this group is that everyone can decide for themselves and it is not one person’s place to decide for another. This category sounds kind of redundant in that it is basically the other-person-perspective of the first group. This group is a bit harder to define simply because many members of this group might be religiously affiliated and they might even be pro-life, at least from a personal perspective. Gasp… The unfortunate truth of this group is that a pro-life person becomes pro-choice when they begin to rationalize the issue on a person by person basis in saying “I would never have (or condone) an abortion but I can’t speak for everyone.” The problem here is that being pro-life is a principle of life and extends far beyond the reach of personal choice.
  3. “Just kill the damn thing” I am not going to spend much time on this one. They have zero respect for life at any state. This group stands for abortion, infanticide, eugenics, euthanasia, etc. The sad reality is that this position is rapidly becoming more and more mainstream. Because of groups like this we need prayer now more than ever.

If you are still following me here, you may have noticed that I have only spoken about respect for life (or the lack thereof) as it relates to abortion. The whole truth is that being pro-life extends far beyond the issue of abortion. In fact, something we ought to ponder for ourselves is that, “I may be against abortion but, am I really pro-life?”

This post is the first of two regarding the lesser-known facets of being pro-life that the movement at-large has neglected to speak about. I don’t want to slowly build up to my point because I spent a great deal of time laying the groundwork for this entire discussion. Therefore, I am just going to state my point and carry on to defend it.

The point: You cannot take or support the taking of birth control (for the reasons of controlling birth) and still be pro-life.

This is a hot button issue and quite frankly it is a position that I was not even familiar with until I met the girl who would become my wife. The Catholic Church is notorious for her anti-contraception position. What I think many people of faith fail to realize is that up until the early-mid 1900’s all Christians opposed the use of contraception. The practice became more common among Christians as the methods for the artificial regulation of birth became more accessible. Usually, when I bring this up in conversation there is an overwhelming assertion that taking hormone therapy is acceptable for such purposes as long as it isn’t being used to regulate birth. I think, largely enough, the jury is still out on that one. However, such ‘hormone therapy’ can become sinful if the party in question is actively having sex while undergoing such therapy. The sin rests in the fact that regulation of birth can become the unintentional side-effect of this therapy.

Pope Paul VI affirmed the Church’s position in his 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” or “On the Regulation of Human Birth.” In his encyclical he states:

We must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth. Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible – Humanae Vitae, 14

As we can plainly see, the issue of birth control goes beyond that of just a pill or other medicinal methods. In fact, this issue goes beyond women altogether. The more common examples of this are the use of condoms, vasectomies, and other male forms of temporary or permanent sterilization. Such practices are also very common among people of faith. I think the big question that remains is “what is the big deal?” Many Christians might wonder what is so ‘intrinsically evil’ about birth control and sterilization methods. It certainly makes sense from an economical point of view and let’s face it if God wants us to have more children, He will make it happen. Right?

“The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure:
The Creator himself… established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation. – CCC 2362

The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.
The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity. – CCC 2363

Being pro-life is an issue much bigger than abortion. In order to be truly pro-life we must be open to life in every facet of our own lives. In our own personal health and even in our marital relations we must live and act in such a way that allows for God’s design to work free from obstruction. Many of us will come to learn that God’s plan for our lives is rarely convenient, or easy, but in all situations it is meant to draw us to a more virtuous and morally-upright life. It has been said quite often that the marital relationship between husband and wife offers us a foretaste, or a reflection, of our relationship with God. Granted, our relationship with God is not sexualized but we are called to give ourselves totally to the salvific will of God. We cannot pick and choose the areas of our life that are ‘Christian.’ Likewise, we cannot pick and choose which parts of ourselves to give completely in matrimony. Like our faith, being pro-life is an all or nothing affair of body, mind, and spirit.

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