"Sebastian's Point" is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life.
All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column.
Joe Kral, m.a.
15 February 2018
Why Partial-Birth Abortion Bans Are Needed in the States: A Moral Perspective
When partial-birth abortion bans first appeared in the 1990’s, part of the pro-life movement voiced concern that these types of legislative initiatives were merely educational bills. In essence, it educated society on the horror of the extremes that abortionists would go to kill a child, but generally, it would not stop any abortions. In Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal partial-birth abortion ban, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, opined that one reason why the original Nebraska partial-birth abortion ban was struck down was that it also outlawed other forms of dilation and evacuation abortion procedures[i].
Despite concerns that legislation such as this may not stop one abortion, there are valid reasons to pass such bills that go beyond the education of the public regarding the horrors of the extreme lengths abortionists will go to in order to produce a dead child. One article[ii], “The Moral Case for States to Pass Partial-Birth Abortion Bans,” has been published to urge states to pass such legislation even though a federal ban has been enacted and approved by the United States Supreme Court.
With the advent of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos[iii] detailing how the abortion industry is flaunting the federal law regarding harvesting of fetal organs in order to obtain undamaged organs it has become clear that more states need to pass such legislation in order to prevent the child from suffering another indignity, to be used as an organ farm. As was pointed out in “The Moral Case for States to Pass Partial-Birth Abortion Bans,” the unborn child receives a double indignity, not only is the child killed but also harvested for body parts. In addition to fetal organ harvesting, another very important reason for partial-birth abortion bans, which was not discussed, is how partial-birth abortion perverts the very act of birth.
While it is clear that partial-birth abortion is wrong insofar as it results in an intentionally and unjust killing of a child, what may not be so clear is that it clearly perverts the act of parturition as well. Birth is a beginning of sorts, not of life since the child is alive at conception, but rather of a more profound relation to others. While in utero, the child experiences a profound relationship with the mother since the child developed inside of her. It is the most intimate of physical contact and relation to another. But relation with others tended to be more muted. For example, the child could not experience physical contact with the father or siblings. In many ways, birth brings new life to these relationships and birth is a natural process, the literal physical expulsion of the child from the womb of the mother that both mother and child must go through in order to bring new life to these relationships within the natural order. But partial-birth abortion intentionally perverts this process.
It is interesting to note that in the original Roe v. Wade decision, the United States Supreme Court did not overturn Texas’ parturition statute and left it intact. The fact that the statute remained intact seems to indicate, at least at that time, the Court saw abortion and the act of killing during birth as constitutionally different in some way. It would also seem that birth, in their minds, was something to be protected since they did not overturn it.
Birth, as a natural process then, is designed to bring forth a living child; as a result, it is not natural for a child to be intentionally killed during the birthing process. Partial-birth abortion, then, thwarts the natural process of birth by making it a destructive act instead of an act that is open to the newness of developing an even more profound relationship between child and parents. It is in this way that it is immoral since it is not only the intentional and unjust destruction of the child but also the intentional and unjust perversion of an act meant to show the beauty of God’s creation to the world.
How exactly does it pervert this beauty? The biological differences between men and women also reflect differences in how those genders reflect the Divine. The mother’s role is particularly important as espoused by St. John Paul II when he says,
The woman, comprised as she is biologically, reflects the Divine power of nurture and the “bringing into the world”, an ability that the male simply cannot reflect. By taking the natural act of birth and intending it to become a killing process, one perverts the natural beauty of the Divine as reflected in the female. Additionally, the woman denies her divine reflection when she actively seeks an abortion. This can be understood more clearly when St. John Paul II states,
The reflection of the divine in the feminine can partly be found in the nurturing aspect of the mother.
Just as all men rely on God for existence, the child in the womb also relies on the mother for existence. As the mother births the child, bringing him/her to a more profound relationship with the biological father, she reflects the divine profundity of the Divine relationship. But this cannot be if the child is intentionally destroyed at birth.
“The Moral Case for States to Pass Partial-Birth Abortion Bans” does not discuss how this also harms the notion of birth. As stated above, birth brings the child into a more profound relationship with others. Yet, it seems with partial-birth abortion there is a double intention, not only to destroy the child in the process of birth but to destroy the child in such a way to harvest intact organs. Birth, in this procedure, has now become a deviant form of farming. Instead of reaping the benefit of life in a new relationship, birth becomes the reaping of death for the sale of organs.
It is apparent that the culture of death seeks inventive ways to dehumanize the unborn. It is horrific to witness people discuss how to obtain intact organs from a living child that deserves dignity and protection. This is why it is a clear case that the partial-birth abortion ban is more than just an educational tool to help inform the public at large. It is a tool that protects the sanctity of birth itself. Just like Texas, which just recently passed their partial-birth abortion ban, other states ought to follow suit.
[i] See Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S.124
[ii] See http://truthandcharityforum.org/the-moral-case-for-states-to-pass-partial-birth-abortion-bans/; retrieved February 2, 2018.
[iii] Videos may be viewed at http://www.centerformedicalprogress.org/cmp/investigative-footage/
[iv] Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 18
[v] Evangelium Vitae, no. 58
The woman's motherhood in the period between the baby's conception and birth is a bio-physiological and psychological process which is better understood in our days than in the past and is the subject of many detailed studies. Scientific analysis fully confirms that the very physical constitution of women is naturally disposed to motherhood - conception, pregnancy and giving birth - which is a consequence of the marriage union with the man.[iv]”
The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.[v]”