05/07/2004: "Pro-Choice sticking point"
I'm definitely a pro-life person (just ask my Mom and brother, both pro-choice) and I stand behind those who try to overturn Roe v. Wade. But there's been one pro-life argument lately that I've been struggling with: Can someone be pro-choice but personally opposed to abortion? The general thought is that if you believe the fetus is a life, how can you turn your back on that life? To use an parallel, it doesn't matter if someone is pro-slavery, they shouldn't have the "choice" to have slaves because we believe that every person deserves freedom from slavery.
My sticking point is this: Can we say with assuredness, outside of our religious beliefs (and this is key), that life begins at conception? I'm not so sure we can. Most of the arguments for that belief are religiously based. So, while I believe that life does begin at conception, am I going to far by forcing that belief on others? Am I forcing my religion on them?
While I don't make this argument (as I said, I'm pro-life), I can see how someone could in good conscience make this argument. On the other hand, the thought of this being a reasonable argument troubles me to the core. It just feels SO wrong.
Anyone have any guidance? Is there a good non-religious argument for conception being the ONLY possible moment that a life begins? There are three times that different people suggest life begins: conception, when sustaining life outside the womb is viable, birth. Why must conception be, from a non-religious perspective, be the only possible moment life begins?
Where this all comes from is that I think we as Catholics must be VERY careful when it comes to religious freedom. We're on top of the list of faiths that various groups are trying to legislate away. The current California debacle regarding Catholics Charities being forced to provide birth control to employees is an example of this.
To illustrate the point a different way, what would you choose if given the following choice:
-Choice 1: Roe v. Wade stands as is but full religious freedom is kept in tact.
-Choice 2: A coin flip determines whether abortion is legal or not but if it is legal every employer must pay for them (if they want it for birth control, it's only a matter of time...).
I'd be very tempted to take choice #1. Religious freedom is by far the MOST important constitutional right we have. We should be willing to make a LOT of legislative compromises that we don't like to ensure that this fundamental right is preserved. This is particularly true when we consider that history has proven that morality can't be legislated. As long as our Catholic faith can legally be practiced without government interference, we can continue to evangelize people and help them to NOT choose the wrong, but legal, choice. On the other hand the minute we're force to compromise our faith because of the legal ramifications, we left with trying to legislate morality, which as previously stated, doesn't work. We MUST maintain the legal right to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matt 28:19-20) I can't stress enough that his is THE most important right we have.
So to finally come full circle, as tempting as it is to make what seems like a very obvious distinction about when life begins, we must be confident that it is indeed NOT a religious distinction. We must be vigilant in ensuring that the government is never allowed to make a religious decision, even if it is one in our favor.
So I return to my original question: does someone have a good argument, that is in no way based upon religion, that definitely demonstrates that life begins at conception? Answering this question puts to an end the "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but believe in the right to choose" argument.
Or, if you'd like to take a different route: Is there are good argument why religious freedom should be ignored (since when life begins is one if we can't get a good answer for the previous question) for the abortion issue?
Or to sum up the entire entry in one word: HELP!?!