Sunday, February 9, 2014

Gestational abortion laws are not immoral

This week I came across a joint statement by Campaign Life Coalition and Alliance for Life Ontario. It was titled "WHY THE CASE FOR GESTATIONAL ABORTION LAWS IS MORALLY AND LOGICALLY INCOHERENT".

The title of the document sent off warning bells for me. I--along with many other pro-life people and pro-life organizations--am in favour of gestational, or incremental abortion laws.

The statement says that a gestational law is "intrinsically evil", and that a "gestational law is immoral". If this is true, then I would be a supporter of something both intrinsically evil and immoral. This is not the case.

As I continued to read the joint statement, I became more and more disturbed. The document itself isn't on line, but I'd like to quote a few paragraphs from it.
"we will never propose or support a gestational abortion law for Canada. We will never conclude that we must accept what is intrinsically evil so that some good may be achieved. Specifically, we reject the argument made to us by some pro-lifers that the faint and unrealistic prospect of the right to life of some unborn children being recognized in the Criminal Code of Canada at the current time justifies setting aside our longstanding opposition to affirming, in the same law, that some other unborn children may be lawfully killed." 
"A deliberate decision to propose, support, or vote for a gestational abortion law is a behaviour that is in itself immoral. Even if such a law might have some good effects, we can always refrain from engaging in such conduct altogether when to do so would itself not be immoral. If serious harm results from our refusal to participate in such conduct, we are not morally responsible for such consequences because no one can be morally required to sin. Our goal of establishing in civil law the right to life of all unborn children does not justify our use of evil means to accomplish that goal." 
"To counsel another person to choose an action as the lesser of two evils is immoral if both are moral evils, especially if the alleged “lesser evil” is an intrinsic evil." 
"We simply observe that a gestational abortion law would still affirm that a sub-class of unborn children may be lawfully killed, regardless of the motives of any particular legislator who may have voted for it, or of any pro-life activist who supported its enactment."
I respect a point of view different from my own. I believe that two people fighting for the same cause--the legal protection of pre-born children--can adhere to different strategies and ways of achieving the same end. For me to respect your viewpoint doesn't mean I have to agree with it, and vice versa. Both strategies are valid, and neither is morally or intrinsically evil.

I don't believe it is at all helpful though, for a pro-life organization to come out and attack another pro-life world view.

What is also troubling, is that this is an organizational statement, and not simply the view of a single person. It demeans and marginalizes pro-lifers who do not subscribe to CLC/AFLO's position.

This statement implicitly judges me as being immoral and supporting intrinsic evil. I am not and I do not. I am confident that my views are perfectly in line with Cardinal CollinsArchbishop MillerPriests for Life Canada, and my own spiritual director who is a Jesuit Priest and Canon Lawyer.

The other concern is that the statement can lead people--who might otherwise support gestational legislation--away from supporting a gestational approach, because they wrongly assume that if two large pro-life groups believe it to be wrong, then it must be wrong. This is very troubling indeed.

I believe in gestational legislation. Others do not. My conscience and my respected religious leaders agree with me. If others do not believe in gestational legislation as a valid strategy, that is fine. But making up reasons that are untrue to argue one's case, is not the way to persuade others to your viewpoint.


  1. Firstly, I highly recommend Clarke Forsythe's book, "Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square" (especially chapter 5, "The Challenge of Moral Perfectionism") to any pro-lifer who wants to engage in the debate over gestational limits or any other limits on abortion. Secondly, the arguments that CLC/AFLO use to oppose gestational limits are the same arguments that can and are used to oppose other abortion restrictions as well. A law that would leave a single preborn child outside of the law's protection (e.g. a law to ban sex selective abortions, or abortions on babies who feel pain, or partial birth abortions, or eugenic abortions, or coerced abortions etc.) could not be supported by CLC/AFLO according to the arguments they are using in this statement because none of those restrictive laws would eliminate all of the evil either. I just point that out so that people realize what they are buying into if they subscribe to this view espoused by CLC/AFLO.

  2. Jeannie, you make a very good point when you say that the statement by CLC/AFLO shows that these groups would not support any reasonable legislative protection for the unborn. This is a tragic situation for the pro-life movement in Canada. It is unbelievable that CLC and AFLO are in defiance of the statement made by Catholic leaders in Canada. Does anyone know what Canadian Bishops and Cardinals saying about this situation? Also, I wonder what Father Frank Pavone thinks of this appalling statement.

  3. Father Frank Pavone would be appalled. Right now Fr. Pavone is supporting and promoting a piece of legislation called “ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” which protects children in the womb from 20 weeks of development forward

    Why 20 weeks? This is what Father Frank Pavone says

    “ Because, given the fact that such babies can feel pain by that time, and that most of the public favors protecting such children from abortion, a majority of lawmakers are now ready to pass such a bill!

    And in fact they have passed it in ten states and even in the US House of Representatives!

    Let me say at the outset that of course, we are determined to protect every baby and stop ALL abortion.

    And we reach that goal step by step, by protecting now the babies that we are able to protect through legislation that we have enough support to enact. After all, they are persons, they deserve protection now, and the fact that others aren't protected yet doesn't mean they shouldn't be."