In his scholarly article Abortion and Catholic Social Teaching, Father THOMAS D.WILLIAMS, L.C. talks about abortion as a social justice problem.
Father Thomas gives six characteristics to illustrate the uniqueness of abortion:
"1. Abortion deals specifically with the destruction of innocent life. This differentiates discussion of abortion from many other related social justice issues. We are not discussing the killing of enemies, as in war, or “guilty life,” as in capital punishment, with all the moral considerations that must be brought to bear on these cases. This is why then- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in June 2004 wrote: “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”18 Though all life is precious, moral theology has always differentiated the destruction of “innocent life” as particularly heinous and always and everywhere worthy of condemnation. 19 No one can “in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.”20 No one is more innocent and defenseless than an unborn child.
2. A further distinguishing factor of abortion as a social phenomenon is the sheer magnitude of the problem. Though completely reliable statistics are unavailable, conservative estimates place the number of legal abortions performed worldwide each year at 25–30 million, a figure that alone makes abortion a social problem of staggering proportions. “Humanity today offers us a truly alarming spectacle,” wrote Pope John Paul, “if we consider not only how extensively attacks on life are spreading but also their unheard-of numerical proportion.”21 An isolated murder would be a social problem, but one of reduced proportions. A serial killer would pose a more serious social problem still. But yearly killings in the millions cry out for immediate and decisive action. The volume of abortions underscores the social nature of the problem, and makes abortion one of the most serious social-justice issues not only of the present day, but of all time.
3. Unlike other instances of massive killing of human life, like terrorism or serial killing, which stand clearly outside of the law, abortion enjoys legal sanction. Abortion involves the systematic, hygienic, legal elimination of human life. Pope John Paul II wrote of the novelty of this menace, due to its internal nature. “They are not only threats coming from the outside,” he wrote,“from the forces of nature or the ‘Cains’ who kill the ‘Abels’; no, they are scientifically and systematically programmed threats.”22 Later, he remarked on the peculiarity of abortion as a legal right. After listing a series of terrible threats to human life, such as poverty, malnutrition, war, and the arms trade, he then contrasted them with a new class of threats on life. Not only are these attacks on life no longer considered as crimes, he wrote,“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.”23
4. A fourth distinguishing aspect of abortion is its arbitrary division of human beings into those worthy of life and those unworthy. Abortion deals not with the random killing of unrelated individuals, but the circumscription of an entire class of human beings (the unborn) as non citizens and non-persons, excluded from the basic rights and protections accorded to all other human beings. In this way abortion mimics the great historical tragedies of all time, which always began with the denigration of an entire class of people as unworthy of life or freedom. Historically the greatest social evils perpetrated on humanity—genocide, racism, abortion, anti-Semitism, sexism, slavery—have always violated the principle of equality, relegating an entire sector of the human family to an inferior status, with a dignity lower than the rest. Since human rights flow from human dignity, once dignity is called into question, equal rights cannot but share in the same fate. If human dignity depends on anything other than simple membership in the human race—be it intelligence, athletic ability, social status, race, age, or health—we immediately find ourselves in the situation of having to distinguish between persons.
5. Abortion even distinguishes itself from related bioethical questions such as euthanasia and assisted suicide because of the absence of the possibility of informed consent. The status of the unborn as voiceless and most vulnerable adds a further dimension to the discussion of the morality and gravity of abortion. Here the bioethical category of“autonomy” cannot be applied, since unborn children have no way of speaking for themselves.
6. Finally, abortion differs from other major social ills such as unemployment and divorce because of its relative invisibility. Not only are the victims themselves voiceless, those who perpetrate abortion have no interest in speaking publicly about it, and neither do the women and girls who abort. It takes place behind closed doors and relies on persons and institutions uninvolved in the process to speak out. Yet even legislators are squeamish about frank discussions of the phenomenon of abortion, and pro-life advertising is banned from most network television. Abortion takes place behind closed doors, and is hushed in public. As in the case of slavery, the social injustice of abortion relies on the courage of persons and institutions uninvolved in the process to speak out."