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Valuing all human life

| Friday, January 27, 2017

On Tuesday, a very thoughtful response to Notre Dame Right to Life was published in The Observer. The author was countering Right to Life’s publicly declared support and move to partake in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Friday. I greatly admire the author’s courtesy in her writing, and her clear respect for the other side — this is the kind of person with whom it is possible to engage in public dialogue and civil discourse, even civil disagreement. Put this in contrast to the many who are unwilling to even consider that another’s beliefs are worth listening to — a prime example arose this past week when the Women’s March, in a show of brazen discrimination, decided to exclude pro-life feminist groups from participating, an act which drew criticism from both political sides for its blatant disregard of inclusivity.

The author of the article in question declared her respect for the intentions of Notre Dame Right to Life and those who “are pro-life in the fullest sense from the moment of conception until death,” but went on to attack the March for Life, which protests the Roe v. Wade court decision. She defends a women’s “choice” with her main claim stemming from the dangers of illegal abortion (which, she claims, women will undoubtedly turn to should abortion be outlawed). The author is absolutely right to argue that illicit abortions are unsafe, but where she errs is moving from that fact to the assertion that this justifies abortion.

She discusses the “cruel reality that restricting or altogether eliminating access to abortion unintentionally threatens the lives of women who fall into certain racial or socioeconomic groups.” What about abortion not just threatening, but directly and immediately destroying, the lives of millions of children who fall into all racial and socioeconomic groups? She urges people to “recognize that abolishing … abortion will have severe consequences that end up dehumanizing poor women and women of color whose lives have tremendous worth.” Is it not “dehumanizing” to kill and dismember the bodies of children of color, and all children, whose lives have tremendous worth? Women’s safety of course must be a concern, but it is wrong to use that as grounds to ignore the lives of the unborn. This argument is nothing more than a distraction from the fact that 56 million babies have never been given: a chance to live since Roe v. Wade. Yes, women must be given care and safety, no one denies that. But it does not come at the price of millions of innocent lives. It is a false dichotomy to maintain that there can only be one or the other abortion, or women dying in the streets. This is precisely why the new GOP Congress is striving to defund the abortive-laden Planned Parenthood and then direct those same funds to local community health centers which offer much more comprehensive women’s healthcare, and outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 20 to 1.

The pro-choice movement (at least, its more reasonable members) does have intentions of valuing life. But it is too limited a view. One cannot truly value all life until one values — well, all life, and by all life, I mean all life, including the unborn as well as women, those of different races, different socioeconomic statuses, etc. Back-alley abortions are a problem, yes. But let’s deal with that issue after we’ve established the basic grounds that all humans have an inherent right to life to start with, based on their fundamental human dignity.

This is why I am going on the March for Life on Friday. I uncompromisingly value all people — children, adults, women, men, poor, rich, those of color, those of different religion, those of different values and ideals — and not just certain groups who happen to fit my agenda. I thank the author of Tuesday’s article for her sincere and considerate thoughts, and I echo her closing sentiments, with one modification, wherein she encourages us all to “be open to productive conversations about how we can best defend and value [all] human life.”

John Paul Ferguson


Jan. 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • what no really

    I still fail to see how discourse can be civil when, while admiring her courtesy and respect, you say she supports child murder.


    • Punta Venyage

      The key question in the abortion debate is : “What is the unborn?”

      It’s perfectly possible to have a civil and logical discussion discussing this.

  • Annette Magjuka

    I am a 60 year old lifelong Catholic. When I was in high school (early 70’s, before the birth control pill was even widely available). I used to march in Right to Life events because I, like you, saw abortion as murder. Our Catholic faith asserts that life begins at conception, and that all life must be sacred. Each Catholic is called to be serious about conscience formation, as this is the way we attend to the state of our immortal soul. Each of us is accountable for our actions and choices. Catholics must examine our consciences on a daily basis, in prayerful review of past actions and in a willingness to do God’s will going forward. We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to support and bless us. When I was a sophomore at Notre Dame, (’76), my mom got early onset breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, radiation and chemo. Then, she missed a period. She thought she was pregnant. Her doctor was horrified. He said, “You cannot have a child. With all the chemo in your body, there is no chance of having a normal child.” Back then there were no instant pregnancy tests. You had to have blood drawn and wait three days for the answer. Those three days, my mom suffered inconsolably. She was truly in The Dark Night of the Soul. She was surrounded by her family, priest, and doctors. It was truly horrible. She ended up not being pregnant. But that experience made me know that there are circumstances where the answers are not so simple. And I decided that each pregnant woman must be in charge of this most intimate, personal decision. I guess it comes down to, “Whom do I trust? Politicians like Pence et al, who want to make secular LAWS controlling women’s bodies? Or the woman herself? I choose the woman herself. There are far too many unintended consequences for making laws that choose the life of a fetus (or even a fertilized egg) over the life of a mother. There are horrific unintended consequences for this. For example, there are Catholic hospitals who will deny care to a woman with a crisis in delivery if it could harm her fetus. Recently (on the Samantha Bee show)I saw a Catholic priest, when asked for his opinion of a specific case, say, “Sometimes a mother just has to die with her baby.”
    I live in Indiana. Pence passed a bill making it mandatory for women to treat their miscarriages the same way they treat dead bodies–they would have to have a burial, etc.! In some very Catholic countries, women who cannot prove they did not cause their own miscarriages are in jail! These women cannot be acceptable collateral damage for passing laws that, on the face, seem just. Women are people. We are not baby incubators to be regulated by priests, bishops, or lawmakers. We have agency and must have the right to act as our consciences dictate. Whom do I trust to do this? Women, not Pence.

    • Punta Venyage

      I think most would agree that the situation you describe with your mother is terrible and should perhaps be evaluated independently as it is an exceptional example.

      But are you suggesting that the majority of abortions happen under similar circumstances?

      It’s inferentially unsound to make a general pronouncement on the basis of outliers.

      I think there is room for a middle ground to consider abortions under exceptional circumstances (mothers life being threatened, disease, rape, etc,) ; though these situations should not dictate the basis for the GENERAL rule as they represent the vast minority of abortions.

      • Annette Magjuka

        And whom do you suggest would “evaluate independently” the terrible, outlier situations? Who would even be in charge of determining which cases constitute “outlier” cases worthy of review? Would you decide? The Catholic bishops? Politicians like Pence and Trump? I have mulled this over for many decades. My conclusion, as a pro-life Catholic, is that the woman herself, in consultation with her own conscience; and relying on the supports of her chosen clergy, family members and doctors, must make the call. Notice Pence and Trump are not involved, as they should not be. Politicians have an agenda that is not compatible with supporting individual women’s needs. The woman must take charge of her own life and have agency over her willingness or ability to carry a particular child at a particular point in time. The church must be vigorous in its insistence on lifelong
        conscience formation.

        • Punta Venyage

          Who decides? How do republics and democracies decide on other legislation?

          You would want to vote on establishing objective and concrete criteria – this shouldn’t be difficult for you to imagine.

          Again, you could perhaps say it depends on if the mother or child’s life is proven to be at risk. You could say that it depends on if rape was involved (which, still might not be a strong enough case to end a life, assuming you think the unborn is considered a life at some stage at or between conception and birth, but should still be considered). It is very straightforward to come up with general categories that capture the types of outlier experiences you describe while excluding the cases of pure inconvenience.

          IF the unborn is considered a human life (which, you are fair to argue against, if you’d like, and this is really the central premise for the entire debate), then this emotional appeal of let the individual decide according to subjective conscience is completely irrelevant. We don’t let citizens decide, according to their own individual conscience, to end other people’s lives (actually we throw people in jail for doing this as it’s homicide), so why is your case different?
          ^Unless, again, you can demonstrate that the unborn should not be considered a “human life”, which is a fair point to discuss.

          • Annette Magjuka

            I am not irrelevant, and neither is my argument. You make my point by listing terms of the law that most women would totally reject.

          • Punta Venyage

            ^ You have made no argument. Just assertions of “should” and “must”.

            I have presented you with premises and conclusions which you have failed to address.

          • OGSwaggerDick

            “We don’t let citizens decide, according to their own individual conscience, to end other people’s lives” literally how we decide the death penalty. Might want to revise your argument.

            Punta you seem to like to argue a lot but you can never take down the OG.

          • Punta Venyage

            I was clearly not referring to the death penalty and you conveniently dodge the actual argument and point being made.

  • Samantha Friskey

    I find this line problematic: “Back-alley abortions are a problem, yes. But let’s deal with that issue after we’ve established the basic grounds that all humans have an inherent right to life to start with, based on their fundamental human dignity.” I don’t like the idea of pushing to the back burner women jeopardizing their health and their lives, and while I understand what you are trying to communicate, the wording personally seems poorly stated.

    • Annette Magjuka

      The statement asserts the rights of a fetus as more important than the life of the mother. This is not OK.