Pro-Life and Pro-Choice


“I have come to bring life and to bring it more abundantly” (John 10:10)


Today, especially in these United States, we find Americans sharply divided over many issues, but perhaps no one issue has loomed larger than the issue of abortion. And nowhere has this division become more problematic than among American Christians themselves, with not just one church differing from another (fundamentalist Protestant churches sharply opposed to abortion being permitted for any reason whatsoever, while more liberal “mainline” churches generally taking a more openly “pro-choice” position) but with views even differing within the membership (particularly between the bishops and many of the faithful at large) of the Roman Catholic Church, America’s largest denomination.

        None of this is to say that any of the “pro-choice” members of all these churches are “pro-abortion” any more than the fact that most Americans believe that their country has the right to defend itself, if necessary, by military means mean that most Americans are “pro-war.” Or does the fact that among those who most ardently proclaim their pro-life stance we also find those who claim the right of unlimited gun-ownershipand the correspondingly high U.S. homicide rate, many times higher than countries with strict gun lawsmean that they are “pro-murder”?  Nevertheless, we even find some American Catholic bishops ready to excommunicate any Catholic politicians who also happen to believe (based on statistical studies of many countries where, under at least some circumstances, abortions are permitted) that the best way to reduce abortions is to reduce poverty and to increase the availability of health care services. (Whether this approach would actually work in an America obsessed with an exaggerated sense of individual freedoms is another matter.)

        However, it seems to me that beyondor perhaps we should say “beneath’these more immediate political issues there is deeper and more fundamental theological problem. It has to do with what we take to be God’s will and the structure of the universe he created. We know, for example, that the beginning stages of life are extremely precarious. In the course of nature, it seems that well-over half (perhaps as high as 80% or so when we are talking about the pre-embryo stage) of human conceptions are spontaneously aborted because of various causes, among them being genetic “mistakes” and incompatibilities. Yet, on that account, assuming that God is still in charge, would one be justified in calling God “pro-abortion”?  (Either that, or end up as an atheist concluding, as did the mad philosopher Nietzsche, that God is either a “murderer” or “is dead.”)

        Instead, I would suggest that the basic characteristic of randomness or “chance  (quantum indeterminacy) that underlies the natural world is a necessary component or factor not only in the evolution of life, but in the appearance of human freedom. God could have created a mechanical world, where nothing would ever die, and where everything worked perfectly, but with the end product being so many robots. Or to put another way, the abundance of life that God willed to exist seems to be concerned more with quality rather than just quantity. Otherwise our world would have ended up being nothing much more than a vast sea of amoebas. Instead, God seems to have favored choice, with its potential for ill as well as good, over lock-step conformity.

        Yet there is a price to be paid, and that cost is a certain tolerance for human perversity.  Perhaps this is why St. Thomas Aquinas, many centuries ago, suggested that wise rulers might tolerate prostitution lest greater evils occur, as they inevitably will, outside the law or despite it. Yet today, some bishops in Africa, along with the evangelical fundamentalists, want to outlaw homosexuality in all forms and (according to a law being proposed in Uganda) even execute some of the more flagrant lawbreakers.  Realizing that most bishops today are bureaucrats and lawyers rather than theologians or philosophers, perhaps it is not all that surprising that at least some of them are so keen on marginalizing those Catholics, and especially those Catholic politicians, who, by means of promoting the quality of life for all, want to try to control or reduce abortion rather than engage in a futile effort to outlaw it entirely.


R W Kropf   11/28/09                                      Pro-Life & Pro-Choice.doc        09-11-28.html