Beyond questions of politics, abortion fundamentally remains a moral issue that Christians have a duty to oppose.
by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
This month, we observe the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Of all the things that will be said about this court case in the days ahead, one thing remains beyond dispute: Abortion is the issue that will not go away.
Indeed, 40 years after the Supreme Court handed down its decision, most Americans consider abortion to be morally wrong, and a large majority wants significant restrictions on its availability. As long as this is the case, Roe v. Wade cannot be considered as “settled.”
There is another reason as well: The fundamental ruling of Roe v. Wade rests upon a falsehood, namely that we cannot tell when the life of a human being begins. Today, we know beyond doubt that a child in the womb is precisely that a child. No constitutional system can rest secure when it is premised on what is widely believed by many to be a lie.
And there is a third reason: No legal system can be truly committed to human rights if it supports the principle that it is acceptable to intentionally kill the innocent. Roe v. Wade not only accepts this principle, but elevates it to a constitutional right.
During the recent U.S. elections, some pro-life candidates poorly articulated their position and lost, and some pro-abortion candidates embraced their position to an extreme and still won. For this reason, some have suggested that a candidate in the future cannot hope to be both pro-life and successful.
The grand illusion regarding the abortion issue is that it can be treated exclusively in political terms. Because abortion is fundamentally a moral question, we should expect it to be resolved in accordance with philosophical and ethical principles.
Certainly, many of those who voted in favor of abortion rights were acting according to their own principles. For nearly two centuries, philosophers of both the left and the right have laid the groundwork for society’s acceptance of abortion.
In the 19th century, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels argued that the traditional family structure oppressed women. The only way women could gain true equality, they said, was to be “liberated” from the responsibilities of motherhood and family, and by finding employment outside the home. For these writers, the demands of family life made true equality impossible.
On the other side, the libertarian philosopher John Stuart Mill likewise believed that the communal demands of family life made true individual freedom impossible.
Whether socialist or libertarian, both sides saw family as the problem and agreed that the solution was for women to escape motherhood and family. And so today, on both the left and the right, we find those who maintain that “liberation” depends upon the absolute power to control fertility and therefore depends upon the availability of legal abortion.
Within the Christian tradition, we understand that, in regard to the transmission of human life, we are called to cooperate with our Creator and that no person is entitled to claim absolute control over another human life already called into existence. The life of every human being is first and foremost a gift of the Creator.
In these circumstances, the responsibility of Catholics remains clear: It is to articulate a clear, consistent understanding of Catholic social teaching in regard to the dignity of the human person, marriage and the family. It is our responsibility to do this in season and out of season, regardless of which political party may benefit. As Catholics, our course must be set by our Church’s moral compass and not by partisan political calculation or advantage.
And what of the Knights of Columbus? We are called to be what our name implies to be faithful, to be steadfast, to come to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves and to remain on the field until the field is won.