Love: alternatives and responses to abortion
Students For Life of America
Abortion Changes You
Pope's Words at Prayer Vigil for Unborn
"Respect, Protect, Love and Serve Life, Every Human
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address that
Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening in St. Peter's Basilica at the celebration of
first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. This year the celebration was
preceded by a prayer vigil for unborn life and by the exposition of the Blessed
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With this evening celebration the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the
new Liturgical Year, starting with its first season: Advent, the period that
commemorates the coming of God among us. Every beginning brings a special grace,
because it is blessed by the Lord.
In this Advent Season we shall be granted once again to experience the closeness
of the One who created the world, who guides history and who cared for us to the
point of deigning to become a man.
This great and fascinating mystery of the God-with-us, indeed, of the God who
becomes one of us, is what we shall celebrate in the coming weeks journeying
towards holy Christmas. During the Season of Advent we shall feel the Church
which takes us by the hand and - in the image of Mary Most Holy, expresses her
motherhood, enabling us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of
the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.
While our hearts look forward to the annual celebration of Christ's Birth, the
Church's Liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord
who will come in the splendour of glory. For this reason in every Eucharist we
"announce his death, proclaim his Resurrection until he comes again", we watch
in prayer. The Liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on
our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole of Sacred
Scripture ends, on the last page of the Revelation to St John: "Come, Lord
Dear brothers and sisters, our gathering this evening for the beginning of the
journey through Advent is enriched by another important reason: together with
the whole Church we wish to celebrate a solemn prayer vigil for unborn life. I
would like to express my gratitude to all those who have accepted this
invitation and to those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and
safeguarding human life in its various situations of frailty, especially when it
is newly conceived and in its early stages. Precisely, the beginning of the
Liturgical Year helps us live anew the expectation of God who took flesh in the
womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself little, who becomes a child; it
speaks to us of the coming of a God who is close, who chose to experience human
life from the very beginning in order to save it totally, in its fullness. And
so the mystery of Lord's Incarnation and the beginning of human life are closely
and harmoniously connected and in tune with each other in the one saving plan of
God, the Lord of the life of each and everyone.
The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in a surprising way, that
every human life has a very lofty and incomparable dignity.
In comparison with all the other living beings that populate the earth man has
an unmistakable originality. He is presented as the one unique being, endowed
with intelligence and free will, as well as consisting of material reality. He
lives simultaneously and inseparably in both the spiritual and the corporal
dimension. This is also suggested in the text of the First Letter to the
Thessalonians that has just been proclaimed: "May the God of peace himself", St
Paul writes, "sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept
sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:23).
We are therefore spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the
possibilities and limitations of our material condition, while at the same time
we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome him
within us. We are active in earthly realities and through them we are able to
perceive God's presence and to reach out to him, Truth, Goodness and absolute
Beauty. We savour fragments of life and happiness and yearn for complete
God loves us deeply, totally and without making distinctions. He calls us to
friendship with him, he makes us part of a reality beyond every imagination and
every thought and word: his divine life itself. With feeling and gratitude, let
us be aware of the value of every human person's incomparable dignity and of our
great responsibility to all. "Christ, the final Adam", the Second Vatican
Council states, "by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love,
fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear… by his
Incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each man".
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 22).
Believing in Jesus Christ also means seeing man in a new way, with trust and
hope. Moreover, experience itself and right reason testify that the human being
is capable of understanding and of wanting, conscious of himself and free,
unrepeatable and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly realities, and who
demands to be recognized as a value in himself and deserves always to be
accepted with respect and love. He is entitled not to be treated as an object to
be possessed or a thing to be manipulated at will, and not to be exploited as a
means for the benefit of others and their interests.
The human person is a good in himself and his integral development must always
be sought. Love for all, moreover, if it is sincere, tends spontaneously to
become preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. This explains the
Church's concern for the unborn, the frailest, those most threatened by the
selfishness of adults and the clouding of consciences. The Church continually
reasserts what the Second Vatican Council declared against abortion and against
every violation of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be
guarded with the greatest care" (ibid., n. 51). Cultural trends exist that seek
to anaesthetize consciences with spurious arguments.
With regard to the embryo in the mother's womb, science itself highlights its
autonomy, its capacity for interaction with the mother, the coordination of
biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of
the organism. It is not an accumulation of biological material but rather of a
new living being, dynamic and marvelously ordered, a new individual of the human
species. This is what Jesus was in Mary's womb; this is what we all were in our
mother's womb. We may say with Tertullian, an ancient Christian writer: "the one
who will be a man is one already" (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not
to consider him a person from conception. Unfortunately, even after birth, the
lives of children continue to be exposed to neglect, hunger, poverty, disease,
abuse, violence and exploitation. The many violations of their rights
sorrowfully wound the conscience of every person of good will.
In the face of the sad view of injustices committed against human life, before
and after birth, I make my own Pope John Paul II's passionate appeal to the
responsibility of each and every individual: "respect, protect, love and serve
life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice,
development, true freedom, peace and happiness!" (Encyclical Evangelium vitae,
n. 5). I urge politicians, leaders of the economy and of social communications
to do everything in their power to promote a culture ever respectful of human
life, to obtain favourable conditions and support networks for the acceptance
and development of life.
Let us entrust our prayers and our commitment to unborn life to the Virgin Mary,
who welcomed the Son of God made man with her faith, with her maternal womb,
with her attentive care, with her nurturing support, vibrant with love. Let us
do so in the Liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where
truth lives with us - adoring the divine Eucharist in which we contemplate
Christ's Body, that Body which took flesh from Mary through the action of the
Holy Spirit, and was born of her in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum
Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
US Bishops on Freedom of Choice
"A Good State Protects the Lives of All"
BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 12, 2008 - Here is the statement Cardinal
Francis George, the president of the U.S. episcopal conference,
published today at the end of the bishops' three-day fall assembly.
* * *
"If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor;
if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman
keep vigil." (Psalm 127, vs. 1)
The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this
moment of historic transition and look forward to working with
President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the
common good of all. Because of the Church's history and the scope of
her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for
economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws
around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision
of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for
women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and
foster peace at home and abroad. The Church is intent on doing good and
will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others
working for these goods.
The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A
good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those
members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was
removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was
bad law. The danger the Bishops see at this moment is that a bad court
decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than
the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.
In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced
that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any
"interference" in providing abortion at will. It would deprive the
American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to
enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry. FOCA
would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with
their tax dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by
government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in
Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be
outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial-birth
abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion.
Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting
the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have
lethal consequences for prenatal human life.
FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of
conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal
convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of
unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions
and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further
divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.
On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of
one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors
who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because
they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a
medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual
consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and
men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all,
The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the
economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for
families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted
ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by
President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will
be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it
destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured
only when the life of every human being is legally protected.
Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders
will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be
seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.
This statement is written at the request and direction of all the
Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with
good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those
in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to
themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again
our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of
our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires
and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based
upon good reason and good will for all.
Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those
who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in
government. Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our
elected "watchman." (Psalm 127) May God bless him and our country.
Opening Address of US Bishops' Fall Meeting
"No Political Order Conforms Fully to the Kingdom of God"
BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 10, 2008 - Here is the address Cardinal
Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S.
episcopal conference, gave today upon opening the bishops' fall general
assembly, being held in Baltimore through Thursday.
* * *
Dear Brother Bishops:
At the opening session of the recently concluded Roman Synod on
the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, Pope Benedict
XVI reflected on Psalm 118, that magnificent chorus praising the law,
the order, that unites us to God. "The Word of God," the Pope said," is
solid, it is the true reality upon which to base one's life. Let us
recall the words of Jesus: '...Heaven and earth will pass away, but my
words will not pass away'…It is words that create history, it is words
that give form to thoughts…the Word of God is the foundation of
everything, it is the true reality. And to be realists, we must truly
count on this reality."
The Holy Father offered these reflections in the face of bank
closures, the collapse of giant corporations, the uncertainty of
political regimes, with full awareness of the insecurity and suffering
of so many around the world. His words echoed what he had told us in
our own country last April, when he constantly directed our thoughts
and actions toward the Word of God made flesh, whom the Pope called
The Pope invites us to place our hope in what lasts forever. We
have recently finished a contest for the presidency in which both
candidates invited us to hope in change. Perhaps that is the difference
between a vision that looks at what is ultimate and one that, by the
very nature of things, is most concerned with what is less than
ultimate. No political order conforms fully to the Kingdom of God.
Separation is built into our faith itself, yet we can hope and work and
pray that things political and economic not impede or contest the
things that are of God.
We come to this Assembly in the interim before a new presidential
administration takes office in our country. Symbolically, this is a
moment that touches more than our history when a country that once
enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should come to
elect an African American to the presidency. In this, I truly believe,
we must all rejoice. We must also hope that President Obama succeed in
his task, for the good of all. The odds against success are formidable.
We are internally divided and, in a global order, we will be less the
masters of our economic and political fate. Nevertheless, we can
rejoice today with those who, following heroic figures like the Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were part of a movement to bring our
country's civil rights, our legal order, into better accord with
universal human rights, God's order. Among so many people of good will,
dutiful priests and loving religious women, bishops and lay people of
the Catholic Church who took our social doctrine to heart then can feel
vindicated now. Their successors remain, especially among those who
quietly give their lives to teaching and forming good and joyful
children in Catholic schools in African American and other minority
We can also be truly grateful that our country's social conscience
has advanced to the point that Barack Obama was not asked to renounce
his racial heritage in order to be president, as, effectively, John
Kennedy was asked to promise that his Catholic faith would not
influence his perspective and decisions as president a generation ago.
Echoes of that debate remain in the words of those who reject universal
moral propositions that have been espoused by the human race throughout
history, with the excuse that they are part of Catholic moral teaching.
We are, perhaps, at a moment when, with the grace of God, all races are
safely within the American consensus. We
are not at the point, however, when Catholics, especially in public
life, can be considered full partners in the American experience unless
they are willing to put aside some fundamental Catholic teachings on a
just moral and political order. The hubris that has isolated our
country politically and now economically is heard, but not usually
recognized, in moral arguments based simply and solely on individual
moral autonomy. This personal and social dilemma is not, of
course, a matter of ultimate importance, for America is not the Kingdom
of God; but it makes America herself far less than she claims to be in
At our meeting last spring, we heard statisticians tell us that
the Catholic Church is a laboratory for our society. What the Church
looks like today, in her ethnic composition, her economic situation,
her generational cohorts, the entire country will look like in twenty
five to thirty years. This gives Catholics a perhaps prophetic
perspective on our society's life and concerns. In Holy Scripture, a
true prophet's life is always marked by suffering. What is of major
importance to us, as bishops of the Church, is that the Church remain
true to herself and her Lord in the years to come, for only in being
authentically herself will the Church serve society and its members, in
time and in eternity.
In working for the common good of our society, racial justice is
one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice, especially for the
poor both here and abroad, is another. But the Church comes also and
always and everywhere with the memory, the conviction, that the Eternal
Word of God became man, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, nine
months before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This truth is celebrated in
our liturgy because it is branded into our spirit. The common good can never be adequately
incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally
killed at choice. If the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision that
African Americans were other people's property and somehow less than
persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be
president of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and
fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common
This is the fiftieth year since the calling of the Second Vatican
Council by Blessed Pope John XXIII. The Pope looked at a divided world
and hoped that the Church could act as Lumen Gentium calls us, as the
"sacrament of the unity of the human race." Those who would weaken our
internal unity render the Church's external mission to the world more
difficult if not impossible. Jesus promised that the world would
believe in him if we are one: one in faith and doctrine, one in prayer
and sacrament, one in governance and shepherding. The Church and her
life and teaching do not fit easily into the prior narratives that
shape our public discussions. As bishops, we can only insist that those
who would impose their own agenda on the Church, those who believe and
act self-righteously, answerable only to themselves, whether
ideologically on the left or the right, betray the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our episcopal conference is given us in the Church's canon law so
that we might have an instrument for shaping spiritual unity, for
creating the bonds of affection that help us to govern in communion
with each other, especially in a divided world and in a Church that
knows dissent from some of her teachings and dissatisfaction with
aspects of her governance. As we all know, the Church was born without
episcopal conferences, as she was born without parishes and without
dioceses, although all these structures have been helpful pastorally
throughout the centuries. The Church was born only with shepherds, with
apostolic pastors, whose relationship to their people keeps them one
with Christ, from whom comes authority to govern the Church.
Strengthening people's relationship with Christ remains our primary
concern and duty as bishops. We extend that pastoral concern,
especially at the beginning of a new administration and a new Congress,
to Catholics of either major party who serve others in government. We
respect you and we love you, and we pray that the Catholic faith will
shape your decisions so that our communion may be full.
We meet amidst enormous challenges to our Church, our country and
our ministry, but that is, to some extent, always the case. Sometimes
I've been tempted to think that bishops should be given, at their
consecration, not crosiers but mops! What we are given before the
crosier, if you recall, is the Word of God in written form, held above
our head so that it may permeate our spirit. With you, I pray that all
the topics we consider in our meeting now and all we do in the
difficult days to come will be done together in the charity of Christ,
who is the source of our unity and our strength. In so governing, in
calling all to join us in listening to the incarnate Word of God from
within his body, the Church, what we do now will have consequences for
eternity; and we will be good shepherds to our people, good servants in
our society and good disciples of Our Lord.
Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Supreme Knight's Letter to Biden
"Today, Children of All Races Are Denied Recognition as 'Persons'"
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 19, 2008 - Here is an open letter
addressed to Senator Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for vice
president, from the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl
It was published today as a full-page ad in various U.S.
* * *
Dear Senator Biden:
I write to you today as a fellow Catholic layman, on a subject
become a major topic of concern in this year's presidential campaign.
The bishops who have taken public issue with your remarks on the
Church's historical position on abortion are far from alone. Senator
Obama stressed your Catholic identity repeatedly when he introduced you
as his running mate, and so your statements carry considerable weight,
whether they are correct or not. You now have a unique responsibility
when you make public statements about Catholic teaching.
On NBC's Meet the Press, you appealed to the 13th Century writings
St. Thomas Aquinas to cast doubt on the consistent teaching of the
Catholic Church on abortion.
There are several problems with this.
First, Aquinas obviously had only a medieval understanding of
and thus could only speculate about how an unborn child develops in the
womb. I doubt that there is any other area of public policy where you
would appeal to a 13th Century knowledge of biology as the basis for
Second, Aquinas' theological view is in any case entirely
with the long history of Catholic Church teaching in this area, holding
that abortion is a grave sin to be avoided at any time during pregnancy.
This teaching dates all the way back to the Didache, written in
second century. It is found in the writings of Tertullian, Jerome,
Augustine and Aquinas, and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican
Council, which described abortion as "an unspeakable crime" and held
that the right to life must be protected from the "moment of
conception." This consistent teaching was restated most recently last
month in the response of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to
remarks by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Statements that suggest that our Church has anything less than a
consistent teaching on abortion are not merely incorrect; they may lead
Catholic women facing crisis pregnancies to misunderstand the moral
gravity of an abortion decision.
Neither should a discussion about a medieval understanding of the
few days or weeks of life be allowed to draw attention away from the
remaining portion of an unborn child's life. In those months, even
ancient and medieval doctors agreed that a child is developing in the
And as you are well aware, Roe v. Wade allows for abortion at any
during a pregnancy. While you voted for the ban on partial birth
abortions, your unconditional support for Roe is a de facto endorsement
of permitting all other late term abortions, and thus calls into
question your appeal to Aquinas.
I recognize that you struggle with your conscience on the issue,
have said that you accept the Church's teaching that life begins at
conception - as a matter of faith. But modern medical science leaves no
doubt about the fact that each person's life begins at conception. It
is not a matter of personal religious belief, but of science.
Finally, your unwillingness to bring your Catholic moral views
into the public policy arena on this issue alone is troubling.
There were several remarkable ironies in your first appearance as
Senator Obama's running mate on the steps of the old state capitol in
His selection as the first black American to be the nominee of a
party for president of the United States owes an incalculable debt to
two movements that were led by people whose religious convictions
motivated them to confront the moral evils of their day - the
abolitionist movement of the 19th Century, and the civil rights
movement of the 20th Century.
Your rally in Springfield took place just a mile or so from the
Abraham Lincoln, who in April 1859 wrote these words in a letter to
"This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave,
consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it
not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it."
Lincoln fought slavery in the name of "a just God" without
embarrassment or apology. He confronted an America in which black
Americans were not considered "persons" under the law, and were thus
not entitled to fundamental Constitutional rights. Today, children of
all races who are fully viable and only minutes from being born are
also denied recognition as "persons" because of the Roe v. Wade regime
that you so strongly support. Lincoln's reasoning regarding slavery
applies with equal force to children who are minutes, hours or days
away from birth.
The American founders began our great national quest for liberty
declaring that we are all "created equal." It took nearly a century to
transform that bold statement into the letter of the law, and another
century still to make it a reality. The founders believed that we are
"endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights," and that
first among these is "life."
You have a choice: you can listen to your conscience and work to
the rights of the unborn to share in the fruits of our hard-won
liberty, or you can choose to turn your back on them.
On behalf of the 1.28 million members of the Knights of Columbus
their families in the United States, I appeal to you, as a Catholic who
acknowledges that life begins at conception, to resolve to protect this
unalienable right. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these
issues personally with you in greater detail during the weeks between
now and November 4.
Carl A. Anderson
History of Church Teaching on Abortion
US Bishops Issue Fact Sheet
WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 4, 2008 - Here is a fact sheet issued by
the U.S. episcopal conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, which
clarifies the Church's constant teaching on abortion.
The fact sheet responds to a misrepresentation of Church teaching
made in remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during an Aug. 24
interview on national TV.
* * *
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Since the first
century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured
abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.
Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a
means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).
In response to those who say this teaching has changed or is of
recent origin, here are the facts:
-- From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished
themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and
infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching
and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the
Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas,
condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church
-- To be sure, knowledge of human embryology was very limited
until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological
theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century
BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over
time to turn the matter from a woman’s womb into a being that could
receive a specifically human form or soul. The active formative power
for this process was thought to come entirely from the man -- the
existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was
-- However, such mistaken biological theories never changed the
Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every
stage. At the very least, early abortion was seen as attacking a being
with a human destiny, being prepared by God to receive an immortal soul
(cf. Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”).
-- In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage
was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine. He knew of
theories about the human soul not being present until some weeks into
pregnancy. Because he used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old
Testament, he also thought the ancient Israelites had imposed a more
severe penalty for accidentally causing a miscarriage if the fetus was
“fully formed” (Exodus 21: 22-23), language not found in any known
Hebrew version of this passage. But he also held that human knowledge
of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such
theories to risk committing homicide. He added that God has the power
to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the
Resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children
will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God.
-- In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas made extensive use of
Aristotle’s thought, including his theory that the rational human soul
is not present in the first few weeks of pregnancy. But he also
rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage, observing that it is
a sin “against nature” to reject God’s gift of a new life.
-- During these centuries, theories derived from Aristotle and
others influenced the grading of penalties for abortion in Church law.
Some canonical penalties were more severe for a direct abortion after
the stage when the human soul was thought to be present. However,
abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil.
-- From the 13th to 19th centuries, some theologians speculated
about rare and difficult cases where they thought an abortion before
“formation” or “ensoulment” might be morally justified. But these
theories were discussed and then always rejected, as the Church refined
and reaffirmed its understanding of abortion as an intrinsically evil
act that can never be morally right.
-- In 1827, with the discovery of the human ovum, the mistaken
biology of Aristotle was discredited. Scientists increasingly
understood that the union of sperm and egg at conception produces a new
living being that is distinct from both mother and father. Modern
genetics demonstrated that this individual is, at the outset,
distinctively human, with the inherent and active potential to mature
into a human fetus, infant, child and adult. From 1869 onward the
obsolete distinction between the “ensouled” and “unensouled” fetus was
permanently removed from canon law on abortion.
-- Secular laws against abortion were being reformed at the same
time and in the same way, based on secular medical experts’ realization
that “no other doctrine appears to be consonant with reason or
physiology but that which admits the embryo to possess vitality from
the very moment of conception” (American Medical Association, Report on
Criminal Abortion, 1871).
-- Thus modern science has not changed the Church’s constant
teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and
reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the
human species begins with the earliest embryo.
-- Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at
conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s
opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life
has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to
a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social
doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital
punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration.
Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect
or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such
as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities)
is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights. Such a claim
undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and
Veto Prompts Pastoral Action
by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
On the day of my return (Monday, April 21) from the exhilarating
experience of participating in Pope Benedict’s pastoral visit to the
United States, I learned that Governor Kathleen Sebelius had vetoed the
Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act (HS SB 389), which had been passed by
significant majorities in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature. Last
week, an attempt to override the governor’s veto failed in the Senate
by two votes.
Governor Sebelius in her veto message claimed: “For years, the
people of Kansas have asked their elected officials to move beyond
legislative debates on issues like abortion.” From her veto
message, I received the impression the governor considered it a waste
of the Legislature’s time to pass a statute that attempts to protect
some women by making certain they have the opportunity to be
well-informed: 1) about the development of their unborn child; and 2)
about abortion alternatives available to them. Evidently, the governor
does not approve of legislators devoting energy to protecting children
and women by making it possible to enforce existing Kansas laws
regulating late-term abortions.
The governor’s veto message demonstrated a lack of respect to the
members of the Kansas General Assembly who had carefully crafted and
resoundingly passed the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, as well as
to the many Kansans who find it more than an embarrassment, in no small
part due to several previous vetoes by Governor Sebelius of earlier
legislative efforts to regulate abortion clinics, that Kansas has
become infamous for being the late-term abortion center for the Midwest.
What makes the governor’s rhetoric and actions even more troubling
has been her acceptance of campaign contributions from Wichita’s Dr.
George Tiller, perhaps the most notorious late-term abortionist in the
nation. In addition to Dr. Tiller’s direct donations to her campaign,
the governor has benefited from the Political Action Committees funded
by Dr. Tiller to support pro-abortion candidates in Kansas.
In her veto message, the governor took credit for lower abortion
rates in Kansas, citing her support for “adoption incentives, extended
health services for pregnant women, providing sex education and
offering a variety of support services for families.” Indeed, the
governor and her administration should be commended for supporting
adoption incentives and health services for pregnant women.
However, the governor overreaches by assuming credit for declining
abortion rates in Kansas. Actually, lower abortion rates are part of a
national trend. Our neighboring state of Missouri has actually had a
steeper and longer decline in its abortion rate.
Governor Sebelius’ inclusion of public school sex education
programs as a factor in the abortion rate decline is absurd. Actually,
valueless sex education programs in public schools have been around for
years, coinciding with increased sexual activity among adolescents, as
well as increases in teen pregnancy and abortion. On the other hand,
the governor does not acknowledge the significant impact of mass media
education programs, such as those sponsored by the Vitae Caring
Foundation, or the remarkable practical assistance provided by Crisis
Pregnancy Centers which are funded through the generosity of pro-life
What makes the governor’s actions and advocacy for legalized
abortion, throughout her public career, even more painful for me is
that she is Catholic. Sadly, Governor Sebelius is not unique in being a
Catholic politician supporting legalized abortion.
Since becoming archbishop, I have met with Governor Sebelius
several times over many months to discuss with her the grave spiritual
and moral consequences of her public actions by which she has
cooperated in the procurement of abortions performed in Kansas. My
concern has been, as a pastor, both for the spiritual well-being of the
governor but also for those who have been misled (scandalized) by her
very public support for legalized abortion.
It has been my hope that through this dialogue the governor would
come to understand her obligation: 1) to take the difficult political
step, but necessary moral step, of repudiating her past actions in
support of legalized abortion; and 2) in the future would use her
exceptional leadership abilities to develop public policies extending
the maximum legal protection possible to the unborn children of Kansas.
Having made every effort to inform and to persuade Governor
Sebelius and after consultation with Bishop Ron Gilmore (Dodge City),
Bishop Paul Coakley (Salina) and Bishop Michael Jackels (Wichita), I
wrote the governor last August requesting that she refrain from
presenting herself for reception of the Eucharist until she had
acknowledged the error of her past positions, made a worthy sacramental
confession and taken the necessary steps for amendment of her life
which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and
actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion.
Recently, it came to my attention that the governor had received
holy Communion at one of our parishes. I have written to her again,
asking her to respect my previous request and not require from me any
additional pastoral actions.
The governor has spoken to me on more than one occasion about her
obligation to uphold state and federal laws and court decisions. I have
asked her to show a similar sense of obligation to honor divine law and
the laws, teaching and legitimate authority within the church.
I have not made lightly this request of Governor Sebelius, but
only after much prayer and reflection. The spiritually lethal message,
communicated by our governor, as well as many other high profile
Catholics in public life, has been in effect: “The church’s teaching on
abortion is optional!”
I reissue my request of the faithful of the archdiocese to pray
for Governor Sebelius. I hope that my request of the governor, not to
present herself for holy Communion, will provoke her to reconsider the
serious spiritual and moral consequences of her past and present
actions. At the same time, I pray this pastoral action on my part will
help alert other Catholics to the moral gravity of participating in
and/or cooperating with the performance of abortions.
© The Leaven
Of 'Moral Ecology' and the Human Embryo
by Father Thomas Berg November 6,
Our good friend Dr. Robert George delivered the annual Erasmus
lecture for the Institute on Religion and Public Life at the Union
League Club in New York City on October 29. I was delighted to
attend. The lecture-presented to a standing room only crowd of
over five hundred guests-was entitled "On the Purposes of Law and
Government: First Principles and Contemporary Challenges." You
can read more about it on the Mirror of Justice blog, at a posting by
Rick Garnett. Eventually, it will be published in First Things.
Dr. Robert GeorgeDr. George began by reminding us that "the
obligations and justifying purposes of law and government are to
protect public health, safety, and morals, and to advance the general
welfare -including, preeminently, protecting people's fundamental
rights and basic liberties." Though public well-being requires
that the role of government be limited, Dr. George emphasized that
government has an inalienable responsibility to maintain "a reasonably
healthy moral ecology." Indeed, history has demonstrated over and
over again that democracies can only flourishing in the fertile soil of
a vibrant moral culture-or moral ecology. A properly
functioning-limited-government achieves this, he affirmed, by
supporting "the work of the families, religious communities, and other
institutions of civil society that shoulder the primary burden of
forming upright and decent citizens, caring for those in need,
encouraging people to meet their responsibilities to one another, and
discouraging them from harming themselves or others."
He then went on to explore how our resolution of the two most
fundamental moral questions of the day-our understanding of the nature
of marriage, and our convictions regarding the moral status of the
human embryo-will constitute a remarkable bellwether test of the
vibrancy of American moral ecology.
Now, I think we can all agree that debate on these two great moral
issues of the day is on-going, especially with regard to the latter.
Debate over the status of the human embryo is, in fact, two-pronged.
First there is the metaphysical question: what is the human
embryo. Dr. George-who will soon be publishing a new book on the human
embryo-articulating a view held by millions of Americans, responds that
the embryo is an individual human being, a member of the species homo
The second is a moral question: what is the moral status-or
worth-of the human embryo, especially when considered prior to
implantation in the womb, a circumstance artificially contrived when
embryos are created in the laboratory.
In answer to this question, again, millions of Americans share the
conviction that, even in an embryonic state, human beings bear a moral
worth which precludes any possibility of their being deliberately
submitted to harm or destruction.
I find today that secular bioethicists more often than not will
concede to our insistence on the metaphysical question. On the moral
question, however, they quite consistently hold to the party
line: embryonic stem cell research is no more controversial than
once was organ donation or the derivation of vaccines from aborted
fetal tissue. Science has often been controversial in the past,
but was generally allowed to move ahead; today's controversial
science-particularly embryonic stem cell research-should be treated no
differently. And after all, this is about the pursuit of life-saving
cures isn't it?
And with breathtaking matter-of-factness many of the most vocal
proponents of embryo-destructive research address the debate over the
moral status of the human embryo as if it were not on-going, as if
millions of Americans did not happen to disagree with them, or as if
the debate-if ever there really was one-has been since resolved in
But we know things could not be further from the truth. Embryo
destructive research is not merely "controversial," and
embryo-destructive research cannot be simply allowed to proceed on the
grounds that "well, you can't please all the folks all the time,
Allegory of the Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos
I think a close collaborator and dear friend of ours, Dr. William
Hurlbut, is quite right when he asserts, as I have heard him insist on
a number of occasions, that a one-sided or "purely political solution
[to this issue] will leave our country bitterly divided, eroding the
social support and sense of noble purpose that is essential for the
public funding of biomedical science." Dr. Hurlbut sees a
long-term benefit for all of us as a nation in striving patiently to
achieve some kind of consensus. As he cogently insists:
We're entering the age of developmental biology. The embryonic
stem-cell conflict is just the beginning. It's the first symbolic
argument between science and moral concerns (in a new era). We need to
get this right.
We need to get his one right, indeed. We have every reason to
believe, in fact, that our resolution to the question of the
metaphysical and moral status of the human embryo will mark either the
latent vibrancy or proximate extinction of our American experiment in
Cardinal Pell's Response to Parliamentary
"I Enjoy the Right to Comment on Proposed Laws"
SYDNEY, Australia, SEPT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a
statement written by Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, in
which he welcomes a report clearing him of contempt of Parliament.
Cardinal Pell was referred to the Privileges Committee of the New
South Wales Legislative Council for comments he made during the debate
on the Human Cloning Bill earlier this year.
Answering questions at a press conference June 5, Cardinal Pell
pointed out that "Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation
must realize that their voting has consequences for their place in the
life of the Church."
Cardinal Pell’s comments were referred to the Privileges Committee
on June 6.
In its report to the state's upper house, the Privileges Committee
has found there is no contempt of Parliament in Cardinal Pell's
remarks, and has recommended that no further action be taken.
* * *
This response is written at the invitation of the Privileges
Committee of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of New South
I understand that the Privileges Committee is to inquire and
report on whether public comments made by me constitute a contempt of
Parliament. The terms of reference of the Committee refer to comments
by me contained in:
1. A written media statement issued by the Bishops of New South
Wales on June 4, 2007 to which I was a signatory, and
2. Comments attributed to me in articles published in the Sydney
Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph on June 6, 2007.
It is important to note at the outset that I issued the Bishops'
statement and participated in the press conference as a part of a
public debate on the Human Cloning Bill then before the Legislative
Assembly of New South Wales. Along with other citizens I enjoy the
right to comment on proposed laws on my own behalf and on behalf of the
community I represent. That is the essence of democracy. Therefore it
seems to me to be an extraordinary step for the Legislative Council to
require a citizen to justify his contribution to the debate or risk a
finding of contempt. Before returning to this point however, a brief
comment on the public debate which took place on the Human Cloning Bill
may be useful.
Public debate on legislation before Parliament
On 6 June 2007 by the Honourable Richard Torbay MP, Speaker of the
Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, referred to my comments in the
High profile and eminent people often make comments on legislation
before Parliament. That is the nature of a democratic society, which
enables people of all persuasions to voice their views.
Public debate about legislation before the Parliament does not
necessarily insult the House or its Members. Comments directed at
Members could be construed as reflecting on the character or conduct of
Members in Parliament. However, for such comments to be a breach of
privilege they must have dire consequences for Members, such as
impeding Members in their duties in the House.
I consider in this case that the comments made about the
legislation before the House have been made as part of the public
debate on a controversial issue and have not affected the rights of
Members to express their views and vote as they deem appropriate.
The Speaker's words would be equally applicable to comments
attributed to the convenor of the Coalition for the Advancement of
Medical Research Australia also contained in the Sydney Morning Herald
of 6 June 2007:
The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia
said there would be electoral consequences for politicians who did not
vote in support of research that could offer potential therapy for
spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease, and
'There are patients and their families who are also constituency
members and will not vote for them when the next election comes along',
said the advocacy group's convenor, Joanna Knott.
As I understand it no allegation of contempt has been made, nor is
being contemplated, in relation to the comments by the convenor of the
Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Australia.
Both my comments and those of the convenor of the Coalition for
the Advancement of Medical Research Australia are properly seen as,
adopting the words of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, "part of
the public debate on a controversial issue [which do not affect] the
rights of Members to express their views and vote as they deem
I need hardly remind Members of the Committee that votes in the
Parliament are almost always subject to party discipline. If a Member
of Parliament votes against party policy, that Member is subject to
sanctions which may be imposed by party officials outside the
Parliament, including expulsion from the party itself.
Similarly, by way of example, a parliamentarian who supported a
bill for capital punishment could hardly complain were his or her
membership of anti-capital punishment organisations to be forfeited.
I am not aware that the customs and conventions of the Legislative
Council have ever deemed such conduct by party officials or outside
bodies to be contempt of Parliament.
On the much lesser "offence" of making a bona fide contribution to
public debate, I do not believe that a citizen of this State has ever
been charged with contempt for views he has expressed on a
controversial bill. Nevertheless I will give Members of the Committee
an account of my views so that they may better understand why I regard
your requirements of me as both undesirable and unprecedented.
My comments on the Human Cloning Bill
My comments on the Human Cloning Bill were derived from the
conviction that Parliamentarians who legislate for the destruction of
human life (in any circumstances and especially in this case where no
cures from human embryos have been effected during many years of
research) are acting in a way that departs from the principles of both
the natural law known through human reason alone and Christian
teaching. The natural law principles and the teaching in question are
that human life should be accorded the full protection of the law
without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, age, condition of
dependency or stage of development.
I put forward this moral argument as a contribution to the public
debate because it is rational, an argument open to acceptance by all
people of no religion and any religion. I was not asserting some
supernatural dogma beyond human reason and seeking to impose it on the
general community. It would be a sad day for Australia if only members
of the Christian majority accepted the unique dignity of the human
person. But this is not the case. Defenders of human life -- from
conception to natural birth -- come from every section of the
As a Catholic archbishop I am also charged with ensuring that
Catholics know the moral teaching of the Church. The Church's teaching
on cloning states that the cloning of a human being is wrong and cannot
be justified by any known or imagined effects. The Church also teaches
that destructive experimentation on embryonic human beings -- cloned or
otherwise -- is an intrinsically evil act, because experimentation
involves their dismemberment and therefore mutilation and death.
In asking Catholic politicians -- and other Members of Parliament
who are Christian or who respect human life -- to vote against this
legislation, the New South Wales bishops were not calling for the
"enforcement" of Catholic beliefs, but reminding legislators to fulfil
the demands of justice and the common good that follow from the
inherent and equal dignity of every member of the human family. This
is exactly the basis on which the Church also calls on legislators to
protect the poor or to oppose racial discrimination.
In the press conference on June 5, after reading the joint
statement of the New South Wales Bishops, I faced repeated questions
about the consequences for Catholic politicians who did not follow the
natural law teaching of the Church on these matters, after being
reminded in a written question that on May 9, Pope Benedict XVI had
spoken about abortion in these terms: "It simply states in Canon Law
that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with going to
Communion, where one receives the Body of Christ".
In response, I pointed out factually that "Catholic politicians
who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has
consequences for their place in the life of the Church", while also
pointing out that legislating for abortion is not the same act as
performing an abortion, and supporting legislation for human cloning is
somewhat different again.
The phrase "consequences for their place in the life of the
Church" refers to the effect a seriously wrong decision has on the
personal relationship between that individual and God, and that
individual and the Church community to which he belongs. These
consequences need not be imposed from outside by a third party such as
a bishop or priest, but are intrinsic to the infraction itself and
loosen the person's bonds to the Church.
No one is compelled to be or remain a Catholic. Obviously
outsiders are not liable to Catholic discipline, and Catholics are able
in our situation of religious freedom to ignore or reject any Church
My task as a Catholic Archbishop is to point out that God judges
human conduct, as well as pointing out the importance of Catholics
following Church teaching on matters of faith and morals. The vast
majority of political matters are for the prudential judgment of each
individual Catholic, but the Church is unambiguous that there are
certain choices which are intrinsically evil and cannot in good
conscience be condoned or promoted by faithful Catholics -- the evil
being known through right reason itself, as well as through Catholic
It is possible that some Catholic politicians have been misled by
the theory of "primacy of conscience", allegedly an invention of the
Second Vatican Council, although the phrase can be found nowhere in the
documents of the Council.
It is difficult to know what this theory means, as everyone is
obliged to act as he thinks proper. Unfortunately, as the Jesuit
theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles writes, "the idea of conscience has
been deformed by some modern thinkers . . . [who] often depict
conscience as a supreme and infallible tribunal that dispenses us from
considerations of law and truth, putting in their place purely
subjective . . . criteria such as sincerity, authenticity and being at
peace with oneself". From this mistaken view some conclude that
Church authorities, and by implication God himself, must accept every
conscientious decision even when such a decision violates natural law,
the Ten Commandments, and important Church moral teaching.
Jurisdiction to commit and punish for contempt
I will now turn to the question of the Legislative Council's
jurisdiction with regard to contempt. I have taken legal advice which
is reflected in what follows.
I note that the letter of 27 June 2007 from the Chair of the
Privileges Committee of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Kayee Griffin
MLC, identifies my public comments concerning the Human Cloning Bill as
constituting the basis of an alleged contempt. I assume that the
reference to the Committee is to enquire whether those public remarks
come within the following description in Erskine May's Treatise on the
Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament (23rd ed., 2004 at
Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes
either House of Parliament in the performance of its function, or which
obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the
discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly,
to produce such results, may be treated as contempt even though there
is no precedent of the offence.
However Erskine May does not deal with the law of contempt of
Parliament as it applies to New South Wales. That statement of law is
to be found in the judgements of the High Court and the Privy Council.
A recent High Court discussion of the jurisdiction of the New
South Wales Parliament on contempt is to be found in Egan v Willis.
The history of the Parliament's powers was discussed at length by
Justice McHugh who reviewed the various authoritative statements of the
Privy Council and the High Court as to the limits of those powers.
These authorities show that (leaving aside any statute that the
Parliament itself might enact) the common law does allow the Parliament
to do what is reasonably necessary for the proper exercise of its
functions. What is "reasonably necessary" is to be understood "by
reference to what, at the time in question, have come to be the
conventional practices" of the Parliament.
However the authorities reject any notion that the common law
empowers either House to proceed against a citizen for statements made
in the past and outside the House. Justice McHugh quotes Mr Baron Parke
in the Privy Council who said: "The whole question is reduced to this
-- whether by law, the power of committing for contempt, not in the
presence of the Assembly, is incident to every local legislature."
In answer, the existence of such an "extraordinary power" was
emphatically rejected by the Privy Council, and there is no reason to
think that it has ever been a part of the practices of either House of
the New South Wales Parliament. This conclusion is reinforced by other
cases referred to by Justice McHugh.
The reasoning which supports this conclusion depends upon the
distinction between the powers of the Parliament at Westminster and the
powers of colonial parliaments, including that of the colony of New
South Wales from its establishment.
The power to commit and punish for contempt is a power of the
Parliament at Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments. This power had
its origins in that Parliament's prior status as a court, the High
Court of Parliament. But it has been long established that other
parliaments created elsewhere in the British Commonwealth do not
automatically possess this same power, simply by virtue of being a
Parliaments established under British law outside the United
Kingdom were established not as courts in any sense, but purely as
legislative bodies, typically with circumscribed powers. The New South
Wales Parliament had its origins as a colonial assembly and in these
circumstances Australian law confines the privileges of a parliament to
those expressly conferred by statute, or "necessarily incidental" to
its status, existence, and "the reasonable and proper exercise of [its]
In Australia the parliaments in every state except New South Wales
have enacted legislation to identify their powers and privileges, often
equating them to those possessed by the Parliament at Westminster.
Because the New South Wales Parliament has never enacted this sort of
statute, its privileges are confined to those "necessarily incidental"
to its status, existence, and "the reasonable and proper exercise of
[its] functions". The power to commit and punish for contempt only
accrues to the New South Wales Parliament if it meets this criterion.
In considering the powers of parliaments in relation to contempt
the courts have repeatedly held that there is a distinction between the
removal of an impediment to the performance of parliamentary functions,
and the punishment of past actions alleged to have had such an effect.
The former is a power the possession of which is "really necessary . .
. to secure the free exercise of [a Parliament's] legislative
functions", but the same is not true of the latter. The distinction
between defensive and punitive action has been applied in relation to
the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
In other words, the power to investigate, judge and punish alleged
past misconduct is an "extraordinary" rather than a "necessarily
incidental" power, and it is properly a judicial power belonging to a
judicial body. Because the Parliament of New South Wales was not
established as a court (as was the Parliament of Westminster), and has
not enacted legislation to grant itself the privileges of Westminster,
this power does not fall within its competence.
The courts have thus defined the kind of obstruction which would
constitute a contempt of Parliament as limited to an attempt made to
impede Members of Parliament from carrying out their duties freely. But
there is no evidence that any Member of the Parliament was impeded from
performing their duties or was in any way intimidated by my public
remarks about the duties of Catholic politicians in considering this
legislation. Quite the contrary.
It is also clear that the Legislative Council believed there was
no need to take "defensive" action against any of the participants
outside the Parliament, myself included, at the time of the debate to
prevent obstruction and to ensure a free and open vote on the
legislation. Certainly the Legislative Assembly, through its Speaker,
did not perceive the remarks as obstruction but rather as part of a
vigorous public debate as befits a democracy.
In a democracy such as Australia any citizen should be free to
argue publicly for certain policies on religious grounds; these
arguments to be accepted or rejected by legislators or electors as they
It is my submission that it is essential that religious leaders,
including myself, are free to express the position taken by their
Church or religion on matters of public interest and debate. To prevent
religious leaders from doing so has the effect of stifling religious
freedom and hampers effective and open debate on matters of public
One of Christianity's most important public services is to
preserve and strengthen Australia as a decent, prosperous and stable
democracy. It does this through its many works of practical service and
care, but also from time to time by regular participation in public
debate, usually by lay people, but sometimes through Church leaders.
So too legislators are free to use religious considerations in
deciding their position on legislation. I might add that the same
principle allows atheists, be they legislators or electors, to act on
the basis of their atheistic convictions when it comes to the formation
of legislation and public policy. If the right of legislators and
electors who are religious believers to do the same were to be denied,
then we would have informally mandated atheism as the unofficial state
religion. This is hardly compatible with the principle and practice of
Freedom of religion is not to be reduced merely to the freedom to
perform ceremonies on private property. As Professor James Hitchcock,
the distinguished American historian of the United States Supreme
Court, has observed, "if freedom of religion means anything, it surely
includes the right of every church to determine who is a member in good
standing". To deny that Christian churches and other faiths have the
authority to make such a judgement "is to deny religious freedom in a
This implies that for good reasons a Christian church, somewhat
like a political party or even a sporting club, has the right to
exclude a person or persons from membership, and to recommend that they
abstain from receiving Holy Communion or even, in some instances, to
refuse to give them Holy Communion.
One good reason for the high respect given to Parliaments in
Australia is that parliamentarians do not regard themselves as being
above the law of the land. For the same reason it would be incongruous
for Catholic parliamentarians to declare that they are above basic
Christian moral teachings, while still asserting their good standing in
In a democracy, any person can offer himself for public office. He
may be affected or unaffected by religion, sympathetic or hostile to
it. Our constitution imposes no religious test and excludes no
candidate by reason of his attitude to religion. Public office is open
to all. Things are no different when it comes to participation in
public debate. Every citizen is entitled to take part. No one is
excluded, including those who hold office within a religious community.
Although Australian life has been marred by sectarianism in the
past, Catholics here never suffered the centuries of persecution that
befell Catholics in Britain and Ireland, and nor have they been victims
of the mob-violence and church-burning that anti-Catholicism
occasionally produced in the United States. The idea that religion is
irrational and must be excluded from public affairs is not a native
Australian plant, and it would be regrettable if American or European
frames of reference were imposed on the very different situation of
religious life and public culture here in Australia.
Christians in Australia have long played an important part in
ensuring that fundamental human rights are respected and will strive to
continue this important work. My contribution to this public discussion
on human cloning was made in this spirit and tradition.
ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY
20 August 2007
 Robert P. George, "Political Obligations, Moral Conscience,
and Human Life", Voices 22:2 (Pentecost 2007), 15.
 Ibid. 16.
 Avery Dulles, S.J., "Truth as the Ground of Freedom: A Theme
from John Paul II" (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 1995), 5.
  HCA 71.
 Ibid. at , per Gaudron, Gummow and Hayne JJ.
 Ibid. at .
 Ibid. at  & .
 Namoi Shire Council v Attorney-General of New South Wales
 2NSWLR 639 at 643 (per McClelland J).
 Kielly v Carson (1842) 4 Moo PC 63 at 88-90; 13 ER 225 at
[ 0] See Barton v Taylor 11 AC 197; Willis & Christie v Perry
(1912) 13 CLR 592; Armstrong v Budd  1 NSWLR 649; and Gripps v
McElhone (1881) 2 (LR) NSW 18.
[1 ] Kielly v Carson loc. cit.
 James Hitchcock, "Freedom of Religion at Political
Crossroad", Women for Faith and Freedom, 10 June 2007.
Suffer the Children
September 4, 2007
Certain circumstances have me thinking a lot lately about the
unborn. I think of a married couple who are dear friends of mine.
Chris and Rachel have five beautiful children-the oldest daughter, when
out and about with her mom, is often mistaken for Dakota Fanning.
Rachel, as it turns out, is again having a baby. I still recall the day
only months ago when Chris proudly announced at a faculty meeting that
"number six" was on the way. But my friends received some hard
news a couple of weeks ago. In the course of a routine sonogram,
the doctor told them that their baby-Malcolm-had some grave health
Malcolm suffers from hydranencephaly-a rare condition in
which the brain's cerebral hemispheres fail to form and are replaced by
sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid. At just over five months of
gestation, Malcolm has a brain stem, but little more. He also suffers
The hard news, however, was not all that Chris and Rachel received
at the hospital. They were also pressured to "terminate" the
pregnancy-no less than three times in the very short interval between
concluding the examination and leaving the hospital. My friends
are staunchly pro-life; they responded-three times-that abortion was
simply not an option. Chris-a professor of philosophy and an astute
diagnostician of contemporary culture-described the whole ordeal to me
over the phone a few days ago. I am still pondering his closing
words: "It's very clear to me that we are not 'on our way' to the
age of a new eugenics; we are already immersed in it!"
Yes. We are now a eugenics culture. Most readers of this
column have heard-or directly experienced-any number of stories similar
to Chris and Rachel's. In the face of severe pre-natal defects, the
current default option in the minds of most healthcare professionals it
would seem-and tragically in the minds of more and more parents-is to
abort. This was vividly evidenced recently when doctors at a Milan
hospital mistakenlyaborted a healthy twin fetus instead of her sibling
with Down syndrome; the latter was eventually aborted as well after
they and the parents realized the mistake.
As I was pondering this incident, someone else brought to my
attention a story that stands as a living metaphor of the kind of
maternal love that was so appallingly absent in the case of the Italian
twins. It was a story about the recent fires in Greece. In
the tiny village of Artemida, most of the villagers were caught by
surprise. Many of them attempted a final, desperate sprint up the
surrounding hills where rescue workers later found at least 23 bodies.
Among the dead were four children-ages 15 to 5-and their 35-year-old
mother, Athanasia, her charred arms still wrapped around them-a
heartrending testimony to her love, and to her final, heroic attempts
to shield her children from a fiery death.
Maybe we can think of Athanasia as a kind of symbol of that
genuine love of parents who embrace the gift of human life-no matter
what the stage of development and no matter how negative the judgments
others might make about "quality of life." Some might say it is
compassion that moves parents to "terminate" a pregnancy when severe
pre-natal defects are diagnosed, putatively to spare that child,
themselves and their other children untold suffering. But this,
we know, is a terribly misguided sense of compassion.
Parents confronting the painful reality of bearing a child
prenatally diagnosed with a trisomy disorder like DownSyndrome or other
defects could be directed to a new resource I recently discovered. Mary
Kellett is founder of PrenatalPartnersforLife, a non profit,
non-denominational, pro-life support group for just such parents.
She formed the support group after her own son Peter was born with
trisomy 18. Expected to live only a few hours after birth, Peter is
today-as Mary describes him-"a giggling, smiling 2 1/2 -year-old who,
though physically limited, brings joy to his family every day."
She is currently co-sponsoring a nation-wide billboard campaign with
Prolife Across America to spread the good news about the gift each of
these children is meant to be. These are examples of the
billboards that will appear in the campaign.
BABES IN WOMB FEEL MOTHERS' ANXIETY AT FOUR MONTHS
Women who suffer stress during pregnancy transmit their anxiety to
their unborn child as early as 17 weeks, according to new British
research. Professor Vivette Glover of Imperial College London and a
colleague measured the stress hormone cortisol in the mother's blood
and the amniotic fluid around the baby. She found that as the mother's
stress rose, so did that of the baby, and the strength of the
correlation became stronger with advancing gestational age.
The researchers urge pregnant women to "lead a healthy, balanced
lifestyle", but that might be hard to achieve in an era of working
mothers. A recent survey of 1000 mothers-to-be by a British baby
charity found that pregnant women regularly felt stress at work. One in
10 said their employer was unsupportive when they announced their
pregnancy and a quarter felt under pressure from employers who expected
them to work just as they did before they became pregnant.
Professor Glover has previously shown a link between stress in
pregnancy and the baby's IQ. Babies of stressed mothers were also more
likely to be anxious and show signs of attention-deficit disorder. ~
London Times, May 31
The U.S. Congress first passed a
federal ban on the gruesome procedure known as partial birth abortion
in 1996, and again in 1997. Both times the Act was vetoed by
then-President Bill Clinton . In 2003, Congress passed the Partial
Birth Abortion Ban Act for the third time. It was signed by President
Bush, and immediately challenged by abortion advocates.
This particular Act was written to overcome the objections of the
Supreme Court when, in 2000, it struck down (by 5-4) the Nebraska ban
in Stenberg v. Carhart , for being overbroad (the statutory language
describing the banned procedure could be interpreted as including more,
common procedures) and lacking a health exception (where lower court
findings indicated disagreement on the medical necessity of the
procedure). The 2003 Act banned the following procedure:
an abortion in which the person performing the abortion (A)
deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until,
in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is
outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of breech presentation,
any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the
mother, for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person
knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and (B) performs
the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the
partially delivered living fetus.
On April 18, the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart held (5-4)
that the Act banning the partial-birth abortion procedure described
above is constitutional: the Act is not void for vagueness, does not
impose an undue burden, and is not facially invalid.
In addressing the “void for vagueness” challenge, the Court held
that the language describing the procedure was specific enough that an
abortion provider would know exactly what was prohibited: it required
delivery of a living fetus, to an “anatomical landmark” (head outside
the mother's body, or baby's trunk past the navel outside the mother's
body), an overt act to kill the child, which was intended by the
abortion provider. Because the language was not overly broad, and could
not be read to include other, common abortion procedures, the ban did
not impose an undue burden on any woman seeking a late-term abortion
(the presence of which would render the Act unconstitutional). Finally,
the Court held that Act was not facially invalid, or considered
“unconstitutional on its face,” because it did not impose a substantial
obstacle to late-term, pre-viability abortions.
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy made some noteworthy
comments about the government's interest in protecting human life, and
the devastating effects of abortion:
• Court precedent included the premise “that the government
has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting
• “The government may use its voice and its regulatory
authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman.”
• “Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in
the bond of love the mother has for her child…While we find no reliable
data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude
some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they
once created and sustained…Severe depression and loss of esteem can
• “Where it has a rational basis to act, and does not impose
an undue burden, the State may use its regulatory power to bar certain
procedures and substitute others, all in furtherance of its legitimate
interests in regulating the medical profession in order to promote
respect for life, including life of the unborn.”
The Congressional findings in the Act, which get deference in
judicial proceedings, included the finding that partial birth abortions
are never medically necessary. The American Medical Association said
that Partial Birth Abortions were “not medically indicated,” and “not
good medicine.” Therefore, while the Act contains a life of the mother
exception “whose life was endangered by a physical disorder, physical
illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical
condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself,” the Act does
not contain a “health” exception.
In the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence, the “health”
exception is so broad, that it includes mental health and emotional
The Court held that the absence of the health exception did not
render the Act unconstitutional: “Considerations of marginal safety,
including the balance of risks, are within the legislative competence
when the regulation is rational and in pursuit of legitimate ends…The
Act is not invalid on its face where there is uncertainty over whether
the barred procedure is ever necessary to preserve a woman's health,
given the availability of other abortion procedures that are considered
to be safe alternatives.”
Justice Ginsburg wrote a stinging dissent, which she read from the
bench, and which focused on the absence of a “health” exception in the
Act: “Today's decision is alarming…for the first time since Roe, the
Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman's
health.” But as the majority opinion pointed out, in light of the fact
that safe abortion alternatives exist, “A zero tolerance policy would
strike down legitimate abortion regulations, like the present one, if
some part of the medical community were disinclined to follow the
proscription. This is too exacting a standard to impose on the
legislative power…to regulate the medical profession.”
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, abortion advocates in
Congress are gathering cosponsors for the reintroduction of the
“Freedom of Choice Act,” which would codify Roe v. Wade , and bar the
government at any level from enacting any restriction on abortion.
Baby survives mistaken abortion in Italy
Church authorities in Italy have slammed a doctor involved in a
mistaken abortion attempt that left an Italian baby born at 22 weeks
fighting for his life after an erroneous diagnosis of a birth defect.
Playfuls quotes Italian news service ANSA as saying that the mother
decided to abort the fetus after it was mistakenly diagnosed with a
LifeNews adds that doctors are working furiously to save the baby which
survived the attempt.
However, the child subsequently suffered a brain hemorrhage and is not
expected to survive.
Careggi University Hospital in Florence, which is still reeling from
the discovery last month that three patients received organs from an
HIV-positive donor, defended the attempted abortion.
Doctors at the hospital performed two ultrasounds on the boy and his
mother and they said he had a defective esophagus.
However, during the abortion procedure it was discovered that the baby
boy was healthy and doctors desperately tried to resuscitate him.
According to The Australian newspaper, the boy was transferred to the
city's children's hospital because Careggi didn't have room for
follow-up care in the intensive care unit.
Hospital officials said their physicians advised the mother to have
further diagnostic tests but that she opted for the abortion after
consulting with a private doctor.
Doctors later said the ultrasound tests did not completely show the
baby's body and that an incomplete diagnostic test with an ultrasound
happens in one percent of the cases.
Catholic lawmakers and pro-life groups are accusing the hospital of
breaching Italy's abortion law, which allows late-term abortions only
when the mother's health is at risk or the fetus is shown to have
serious defects that constitute "a grave danger for the physical or
mental health of the woman."
The Catholic Church is outraged by the abortion and the Vatican
newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said a human life had been "thrown away
in the horrible bureaucracy of a culture that rejects diversity and
It condemned the physician who suggested the abortion as "not only
morally but also ethically censurable."
US Catholic newspaper tells readers not to vote for Guilani over
In another story, US Catholic newspaper, The National Catholic Register
is telling readers that Catholics should not support White House
hopeful Rudy Giuliani because of his support for allowing women access
to abortions, FoxNews says.
The National Catholic Register's editorial urges anti-abortion voters
to choose another candidate other than Giuliani.
"A Republican party led by a pro-abortion politician would become a
pro-abortion party," according to the editorial that appears on the Web
site and is set to appear next week in the newspaper's print edition.
Giuliani stated in 1999 that he does not see himself changing his
position on allowing women the right to a partial-birth abortion, which
occurs in the late term of a pregnancy. Last month, he told Fox News
that he would support a ban on partial-birth abortion if it contained
an exception for getting one if giving birth would endanger the life of
Indian court recognizes fetus humanity
in "landmark" ruling
In a ruling described by a Mumbai archdiocese representative as a
"landmark", the Indian Maharashtra State Commission has recognised an
unborn child as a consumer and therefore entitled to insurance coverage.
AsiaNews reports that the Commission which functions as a consumer
court in the western Indian state decided in favour of a woman claiming
compensation from her husband's insurance company for her unborn
grandchild, a car accident victim.
The judges made the decision in favour of the plaintiff in the case of
Kanta Mohanlal Kotecha v Branch Manager, United India Insurance. The
former is widow of Mohanlal, who had taken a comprehensive insurance
policy with the multinational before his death.
Kanta, the policy beneficiary, brought the case against the insurance
company, who had agreed to pay the stipulated sum for the death of her
husband, her son and his wife - who was seven months pregnant at the
time - but not that of the unborn child.
At an earlier hearing, Yavatmal district judges, had found in favour of
the insurance company.
Once called into consider her appeal, the Maharashtra State Commission
declared its intention to consider US law under the Unborn Victims of
Violence Act 2004 whereby personhood was granted to a human fetus. The
law "is not static but an instrument of socio-economic change", the
In its decision, the commission held that the unborn child in the womb
was living and therefore is considered a victim and the family entitled
Commenting on the ruling, Dr Pascoal, from the Mumbai Diocesan Human
Life Committee said that the "landmark ruling is to be hailed as a
defence of life.
He says the decision which recognises the value of unborn human life
"is a great victory for life".
Born too soon
By Carlo Bellieni
Wednesday, 03 January 2007
Increasing numbers of babies are born very premature or below weight.
Should we try to save them all?
Medical groups in Britain are calling for a debate about the treatment
and care of very premature babies, especially those born before 25
weeks. Most of these babies currently do not survive to leave hospital,
and survival before 22 weeks is very rare. However, the number born at
these very low gestations is increasing. This raises difficult issues:
pain for the babies if they are treated; futility of treatment when
death is likely anyway; emotional suffering for the parents; possible
court cases; and costs to the health system.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that
infant euthanasia should be legalised. The Nuffield Council on
Bioethics opposes active euthanasia but proposes: a) all babies born
before 22 weeks should be given palliative care only -- that is, they
should be allowed to die; b) babies born between 22 and 23 week should
only be given intensive care if the parents request it after thorough
discussion of the risks and if the doctors agree; c) for babies born
between 24 and 25 weeks parents should have the final say about
intensive care. The British Medical Association, however, opposes any
rule tied to the number of weeks gestation, saying every case must be
judged on its merits.
To get another ethical perspective MercatorNet
neonatologist Dr Carlo Bellieni, who has a special interest in
infantile pain, for his views on the treatment of these babies.
MercatorNet: It must
be very difficult to decide whether or
not to treat very premature babies. What principles do you use? Do you
think it is a good idea to set down a rule that all babies born before,
say, 22 weeks should be allowed to die?
Carlo Bellieni: It is
not difficult: we resuscitate babies on the basis
of their actual possibility of surviving. It becomes difficult if you
decide to resuscitate only those who will not have severe brain damage.
But is that ethical? At birth you cannot be sure of the prognosis. So
you finish up resuscitating only “normal” babies and only on the basis
of an hypothesis.
Last month we organised a congress in Bologna, Italy, with more than
500 neonatologists and neonatal nurses. The title was, Deciding in
Neonatology. From this congress it emerged that we cannot make
decisions about a very premature baby without seeing him/her -- without
assessing, through a rapid but accurate investigation, his/her actual
gestational age (GA) and his/her response to resuscitation. We know
that before 23 weeks GA the possibilities of surviving are few, but
errors can be present in assessing age before birth.
light does your research on infantile pain throw on
the case of a very premature baby needing resuscitation and intensive
care for a chance of survival?
Dr Bellieni: My
research shows that even in premature babies pain
should be considered and overcome. Moreover, we know that premature
babies are social beings and they need to be soothed and cared for;
they need the presence of parents. We studied a type of
nonpharmacological pain relief based on distraction and reassurance of
these babies and it is absolutely effective. We treat them as what they
are: persons. Anyway, we have such effective analgesic drugs and
treatments that believing that pain is a reason to let babies die is
MercatorNet: The issue
of pain in premature babies -- which is
recognised by the Nuffield Council -- raises the question of pain in
babies whose lives are terminated, especially in Britain where the law
allows induced abortion at any time during pregnancy if a fetus is at
"substantial risk of serious handicap". Some scientists deny that the
fetus feels pain; would they also have to deny the need for palliative
care for a baby born alive at 22 weeks?
(Picture below: Dr Carlo Bellieni)
Dr Bellieni: In
order to deny fetal pain, some philosophers say pain is impossible
without self-awareness, and as awareness begins when the baby is one
year old, they affirm that infants do not actually feel pain! But
physiological and embryological studies show that there is no evidence
to deny fetal pain, at least from 20 weeks of GA.
Sunny Anand, the pioneer of neonatal pain, devoted to this problem an
issue of the official journal of the International Association for the
Study of Pain in June 2006, to reaffirm that pain perception begins in
the second trimester of gestation. Anyway prejudice and resistance
against the recognition of fetal and neonatal pain are still present
and they are big foes to effective treatment.
MercatorNet: Are there
circumstances in which you would recommend
palliative care only? Should the possibility of long-term disability be
considered when deciding whether to treat a newborn?
Dr Bellieni: I
recommend palliative care when all therapies are useless
and the baby is dying. But, pay attention: someone may say that a
therapy is futile and should be avoided if its result is the survival
of a handicapped baby. This is why some call the period between 23 and
25 weeks of GA a “grey zone”. Babies born in this period have a
significant rate of survival, but also a significant rate of handicap.
I believe that a disabled life is worth living: most families of
disabled persons agree. But our fear of disability, which I call
handiphobia, dictates that “death is better than a life with handicap”.
This attitude accepts the sacrifice of all babies born before a certain
GA because they have a high risk of handicap. The Bologna congress
declared that this is unacceptable.
A recent Swedish study published in the US journal Pediatrics
shows that in hospitals where a selective resuscitation of babies aged
23-25 weeks of GA is performed, there is a higher rate of handicap
among the survivors, when compared with those hospitals where all
babies of the same GA receive intensive care. This is also due to the
fact that we have no sure prognostic tool at birth. So, we have moral
reasons to not abandon extremely premature babies, but the evident
absence of a reliable instrument to make a sure prognosis means that
such abandonment is wrong even from the clinical point of view: all
premature babies who can have a chance to survive -- that is, who have
a lung development which permits the resuscitation -- should be cared
should have the final say in a particular case -- the
doctors? parents? courts?
Dr Bellieni: Parents
are in a very difficult position. Doctors spend
years to learn what cerebral palsy is, and we assume parents can learn
it in few minutes; we urge them to decide while we ignore the
prognosis; we want them to be rational when they are stressed and
weary: it is absurd. Resuscitation must be decided on the basis of
objective data which only physicians can correctly analyse. Parents
must anyway be informed step by step about the evolution of the
clinical state of the baby, but they cannot have the last word. If a
baby is dying we can do nothing except give him/her comfort. If a baby
is not dying, but we have a high risk of disability, what should we
decide? There is nothing to decide: we must care and cure -- unless we
believe that disabled lives should disappear, through eugenic selection.
cost to the health system be a factor in deciding
on the fate of babies born under 25 weeks?
Dr Bellieni: A 25 week
old baby is costly, though less expensive than a
few years ago: “Between 1994 and 1996, the median treatment cost per
infant with birth weight 501 to 1500 g at the 6 project NICUs ...
decreased from $57 606 to $46 674; at the 4 chronic lung disease
hospitals, for infants with birth weights 501 to 1000 g, it decreased
from $85 959 to $77 250.”
However, a 2003 study found neonatal hospital costs averaged US$202,700
for a delivery at 25 weeks, and US$224,400 for a newborn at 500-700 g.
And there is also the cost of caring for a disabled person throughout
his/her life. Will this be ignored when politicians decide about the
right to life of these babies?
I hope that
economics will never be the starting point for deciding on neonatal
resuscitation. Nor should it be, any more than when we decide on a
strategy against AIDS or leukaemia. Human life cannot be measured with
MercatorNet: Is it
true that the number of these births is increasing,
and if so, what's behind this trend? Does IVF have much to do with it?
Prematurity is increasing, and the risk of being born
prematurely is greater with IVF. The trend towards later childbearing
also plays its part. Women are led to believe they can bear a child
whenever they decide to, but this is not correct. Of course, most
babies conceived in-vitro are well and healthy, but the percentage of
them with some health problems is greater than among the general
population. All scientific literature agrees with this warning.
V. Bellieni is a neonatologist, professor of neonatal therapy at
the Pediatrics school of the University of Siena, Italy. He is member
of the scientific board of the European Pain School. He has written
several books about the fetus as a person, which have been translated
into Spanish and French. His research on infantile pain has been
reported by The Times (UK), El Mundo (Spain), CNN, ABC, and many other
Abortion and Catholic
Interview With Father
Thomas D. Williams
ROME, SEPT. 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Abortion should occupy a key place
in the social doctrine of the Church, even though it is explicitly
mentioned few times in the "social encyclicals," says a theologian.
That is the view of Father Thomas D. Williams, dean of the theology
school at Rome's Regina Apostolorum university.
Father Williams was invited to present a paper on the relationship
between the abortion issue and Catholic social doctrine at an academic
conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,
together with the International Association for Catholic Social
The two-day conference, entitled "The Defense of Life: A Mission for
Catholic Social Teaching," opens today. ZENIT interviewed Father
Williams on the subject.
Q: Why is this conference necessary?
Father Williams: In his invitation letter, Cardinal Renato Martino
noted with great frankness that "the social doctrine of the Church, to
date, has not placed due emphasis on the defense of life from
conception to its natural end."
One of the most frequent questions I get, when people find out I teach
Catholic social doctrine in Rome, is whether or not I include the
question of abortion and specifically the encyclical "The Gospel of
Life" in my course.
People want to know what Catholic social doctrine has to say about life
issues, and especially about abortion.
Q: Does the abortion issue properly belong to the area of Catholic
social teaching? Isn't it a question for bioethics?
Father Williams: Traditionally abortion has not been included in the
sphere of Catholic social doctrine.
Remember that this area of study -- Catholic social ethics -- takes as
its fundamental point of reference a body of magisterial texts often
called the "social encyclicals," formally beginning with Pope Leo
XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," and extending, for the moment,
to Pope John Paul's 1991 encyclical "Centesimus Annus."
In the informal canon of "social encyclicals," the word abortion
appears a mere four times, and the topic is never addressed in any
depth. For this reason, it is usually excluded from courses of social
doctrine, and considered a topic for other disciplines.
Q: But being such an important social issue, why has abortion been
neglected in the social encyclicals?
Father Williams: Historically, the social encyclicals, and Catholic
social doctrine itself up to a point, grew out of a single encyclical
letter: Leo's "Rerum Novarum."
The other social encyclicals have sought explicitly to maintain a close
link with "Rerum Novarum" and were often written to commemorate
important anniversaries of Leo's text.
Both Pope Pius XI and Pope John XXIII called "Rerum Novarum" the "Magna
Charta" of the Church's social thought, and Pope John Paul II said that
it "created a lasting paradigm for the Church."
Because of the importance of "Rerum Novarum," later social encyclicals
have updated the ethical analysis of the social question in the light
of new realities, but generally following the categories set out by
"Rerum Novarum." Therefore the initial focus on the economic question
has never relinquished center stage in Catholic social thought.
Whereas "Rerum Novarum" ably addressed the worker problem, analyzing
the Socialist solution and reaffirming the Catholic belief in a natural
right to private property, it did not deal with a host of other
essential questions of social justice.
Leo had no intention of penning a comprehensive treatise on Christian
social ethics. "Rerum Novarum" was a thoughtful response to a pressing
pastoral concern, but to expect to find in it the pattern for Church
teaching on every social issue is to ask more from the document than it
can possibly give.
Q: Have efforts been made to fill in this gap?
Father Williams: First of all I must hasten to mention that the papal
magisterium has been anything but silent or neglectful of the abortion
On numerous occasions Pope John Paul II spoke out forcefully on the
question and his 1995 encyclical "The Gospel of Life" addresses the
matter of abortion in great length.
In that very same encyclical Pope John Paul explicitly tied the
abortion question to Catholic social thought. He draws a comparison
between abortion as a matter of social injustice and the worker
question, addressed by Leo in 1891.
These are John Paul's words, in No. 5 of the encyclical: "Just as a
century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their
fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their
defense by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person,
so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the
fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out
with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice."
Q: So the Church does regard abortion as a matter of social justice?
Father Williams: Absolutely. The guiding principle for the entire field
of Catholic social thought is the virtue of social justice, with its
articulating principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good.
The common good requires a social organization that provides for and
defends human rights, the first and most basic of which is the right to
Or let's take the Church's preferential option for the poor, which
enjoins Christians to pay special attention to those most in need.
Just as a mother or father dedicate a disproportionate amount of time
and energy to a child who is sick, without for that reason loving the
other children any less, Christians are called to focus their efforts
preferentially toward the most needy and defenseless among us.
Applying this principle to contemporary society, the social injustice
that most cries out to Christian conscience is the deliberate and
massive attack on the most vulnerable members of society, the unborn.
Q: But is abortion objectively any graver than other social injustices,
to which the Church also pays attention? Doesn't a consistent ethic of
life go beyond abortion?
Father Williams: The Church's defense of social justice embraces any
number of key life issues, and attention to one does not lessen the
importance of the others. Abortion, however, stands out among them as a
unique case meriting singular attention.
To quickly enumerate the reasons for this singularity, we must look
first at the simple magnitude of the problem: some 46 million legal
abortions performed every year in the world, which in and of itself
makes abortion a social problem of staggering proportions.
Second, it involves the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable
members of society.
Third, it perpetrates this evil systemically and legally, thus giving
abortion a veneer of moral legitimacy. Since the law informs people's
consciences, the legality of abortion perpetuates an anti-life
mentality and separates it from other crimes against life such as
terrorism, serial killing, human trafficking, and so forth.
Fourth, abortion repeats the historical error of taking an entire class
of human beings and devaluing them to a second-class status, deprived
of basic human dignity and the rights that flow from it.
Q: What does Catholic social thought offer to the debate on abortion
that bioethics doesn't? What is its specific contribution?
Father Williams: Since Catholic social teaching contributes so much to
this discussion, it is impossible for me to do this question justice
here. In its analysis of the socio-cultural, political, familial and
economic dimensions of human action, the Church's social teaching
offers invaluable points of reference for a public discussion of
As I mentioned earlier, the Church's teaching on the content and
requirements of the "common good" sheds important light on respect and
reverence for human life as a pillar of the just society.
Moreover, the principle of equality, based on the equal dignity of all
human beings, not only grounds our democratic system but also demands
that we deprive no one of this essential dignity.
Historically the greatest social evils perpetrated on humanity --
genocide, racism, abortion, slavery -- have always violated the
principle of equality, relegating an entire sector of the human family
to an inferior status, with a dignity lower than the rest. Since human
rights flow from human dignity, once the latter is called into
question, rights fall at the same time.
As a legal "right," abortion brings forth countless social issues
requiring a reasoned response: questions of conscientious objection,
the rule of law in a democracy, the pedagogical function of law, and
the role of moral truth in a democratic system, to name but a few.
And as regards politics, abortion again raises numerous moral
questions: the correctness of single-issue politics versus a "seamless
garment" approach, the possibility of being personally opposed while
publicly supporting abortion legislation, the reception of the
sacraments for publicly pro-abortion Catholic politicians, cooperation
in evil by voters and politicians alike, support for "imperfect" laws
regarding life, etc.
Q: Where do we go from here? How can abortion occupy its rightful place
in Catholic social thought?
Father Williams: The first and simplest step to take is to treat Pope
John Paul's great encyclical on life issues, "The Gospel of Life," as a
social encyclical and to include it in courses and symposiums on
Catholic social thought.
John Paul practically invited us to do this by comparing abortion to
the worker question of "Rerum Novarum." This single measure would be an
enormous step in the right direction.
The Australian Federal
facing a conscience vote
on the issue of embryonic stem cell research. (September 2006)
With the tabling of the Lockhart report and pressure from the
scientific community to shift policy on this matter it may help to get
the issue down to some basic points.
First, using embryonic stem cells for medical research is not a
scientific question, but a moral one.
Science is good at telling us how to do things. It can tell us how to
achieve certain ends and provide the means to do so. However, the
decision as to whether those ends are good ends or whether the means to
achieve them are ethical is not a scientific question.
Indeed, scientists have no special training in ethics and, as with
anyone, their perspective on these issues can be tainted by a variety
of factors: vainglory, pride, prospects of commercial gain. For
example, scientists were good at telling us how to build nuclear
weapons, but whether to use them or not is a moral, not a scientific,
question. In the stem-cell debate is it easy to be dazzled by
scientific claims and possibilities. These can never be the determiner
of the debate.
Second, the key issue is and always will be the moral status of the
This is an issue on which the Lockhart report spent considerable time
and effort. Yet here again science cannot determine an answer. Science
is good at mapping various stages in the development of the embryo. But
determining the moral status of the embryo cannot be separated from
philosophical and metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality.
Scientists often operate with quite primitive philosophical assumptions
and, again, have no special training in this area.
Nonetheless, the scientific evidence they provide on the stages of
development may be important for determining moral status. For example,
there is some appreciation that the point of embryo development where
its cells begin to separate to become the foetus and placenta is
significant, but how significant is still an open question. And where
such questions remain open moral caution may be called for.
Third, just because religious people hold a position does not make the
position religious. Religious people hold to many things, for example,
the value of marriage and the immorality of slavery. Most people hold
these positions; they are not exclusive to religious people.
Many religious people hold to the position that an embryo has a claim
to the status of a human being. However, this is not necessarily a
religious position. The Bible says nothing about the moral status of
the embryo. Neither do the other great teachings of the Christian
tradition. Nonetheless, Christians do generally hold that embryos
deserve the rights associated with human beings.
It has been in Christian societies that democracy and concern for human
rights have emerged. Christian societies led the way in the abolition
of slavery. It is not without aberrations, but in general the
Judaeo-Christian heritage of the West has served it well as a moral
guide in promoting positions we now take for granted.
Fourth, given there is no middle ground between respecting the rights
of the embryo and not respecting them, the debate will not go away.
As with the abortion debate, it will be difficult to find any middle
ground in this area. Either an embryo has the moral status of a human
being or it does not. Clearly at some stage in its development we all
accept that it does. The question, then, is when? If one accepts that
the moral status begins at conception, then the use of embryos for
experimentation, no matter how good the final goal, can never be
Such a matter can never be just the subject of private opinion because
we are talking about an issue of social policy. Attempts to make these
moral issues a question of private morality are as spurious as claiming
that slavery could be a private matter.
The Lockhart report claims that "in the face of moral diversity, it is
unjustifiable to ban embryo research and therapeutic cloning". One
might equally conclude that in the face of moral diversity extra
caution is required before proceeding. Alternative possibilities exist,
using adult stem cells.
The Federal Parliament was cautious in 2002 in establishing the present
limitations on stem-cell research. Nothing substantial has changed
Professor Neil Ormerod is director of the Institute of Theology,
Philosophy and Religious Education at the Australian Catholic
"ethical" embryonic stem
History or hype? This was the question swirling about the widely
publicised announcement by a Massachusetts company that it had mastered
a technique for creating "ethical" embryonic stem cells which could
break the logjam in America's stem cell politics. Nature rushed its
article into an on-line express edition. "We have demonstrated, for the
first time, that human embryonic stem cells can be generated without
interfering with the embryo's potential for life," said lead author
The CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, William Caldwell, delivered the
same message: "we do not destroy the embryo. That's the whole purpose
of what we perceive to be a major scientific breakthrough." Ronald
Green, a bioethicist at Dartmouth who heads ACT's Ethics Advisory
Board, gave it his imprimatur. "This technique overcomes this [ethical]
hurdle and has the potential to play a critical role in the advancement
of regenerative medicine."
However, after Richard Doerflinger, of the US Conference of Catholic
Bishops, dissected the Nature article it became painfully evident that
the company's own press release -- to say nothing of media coverage
around the world - was completely wrong. None of the embryos described
in the paper had survived. Nature hastily corrected the wording of its
own press release.
What Lanza's team had done was to biopsy an eight-cell human embryo and
gently remove a single cell -- a standard technique nowadays in IVF.
With this cell he created a stem cell line while the embryo continued
to develop normally. At least that was what he intended. In fact,
although 16 embryos were dismembered into 91 separate cells, Lanza
produced only two stem cell lines. "It was a very disruptive, very
wasteful, very inefficient procedure, and it left all the old embryos
dead, just like the old method did," said Doerflinger. He also claimed
that it was deceitful to post a picture of a mature healthy embryo
which had survived the removal of a single cell.
Criticism. Dr Robert LanzaIn a rare moment of consensus on the
controversial issue of embryonic stem cells, even supporters of
therapeutic cloning dismissed Lanza's work. "A pitiful attempt to look
morally acceptable, rather than do valuable science," sneered Glenn
McGee, editor of the American Journal of Bioethics. Some critics
compared Lanza's economy with the truth to the prevarications of
disgraced Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk. Although this seems
unfair, there is no doubt that the episode shows how credulous the
media -- even leading scientific journals -- can be about therapeutic
cloning. Lanza's work represented a small technical advance, but it
hardly passed muster as a "breakthrough".
Media coverage. The media has a short memory. Only last year the ethics
of this experiment had been thoroughly analysed in a major but
quickly buried -- white paper by the President's Council for Bioethics.
It was criticised then for potentially harming the embryo. The Council
also pointed out that the biopsied cell might be totipotent and could
therefore be an embryo itself, raising further ethical problems.
Furthermore, Advanced Cell Technology has a track record as a publicity
hound. A listed company which is perpetually in the red, it burst onto
the front page back in 2001 claiming that it had cloned a human embryo
and initiated a stem cell line. Nothing came of that extraordinary wave
of publicity, but it no doubt put ACT scientists in the rolodexes of
journalists across the world.
Significant advance. A development reported in BioEdge earlier this
month was far more significant, even though it has been totally ignored
by the media. Japanese scientists reported in another major journal,
Cell, that they had reprogrammed an adult mouse cell and converted it
into something closely resembling an embryonic stem cell. Scientists
from the Harvard Stem Cell group grudgingly acknowledged in a
commentary that it was a "significant step" "unencumbered by neither
the logistical constraints nor the societal concerns presented by
somatic cell nuclear transfer [ie, cloning]." If this success can be
replicated with human cells, it might indeed transform America's stem
tools raise serious concerns
Each year, more and more prenatal technologies become available
pregnant women that allow them to test whether their children will be
affected by certain diseases.
Approximately 450 conditions can currently be diagnosed in
by testing fetal cells, often through chorionic villus sampling (early
in the pregnancy) or through amniocentesis (later in the pregnancy).
Based on some pending technologies, this number may soon skyrocket to
nearly 6,000 diseases.
Such powerful medical tools raise some serious concerns: are
prenatal testing results rapidly becoming the equivalent of death
sentences for children in the womb? Prenatal testing does have its
valid uses and applications, but the temptation to misuse it is a
serious one, so the decision to carry out such testing must be made
very carefully, and within a limited set of circumstances.
'Conspiracy of eugenics'
Kaiser Permanente, a large managed health care organization,
a disturbing statistic regarding prenatal testing in a 2004 New
article. When their members in northern California tested their unborn
children for cystic fibrosis, some of them tested positive. Of those
parents who received a positive test result, a full 95 percent
terminated their pregnancies.
When couples learn they have a child affected by Down's
the figure is comparable. One argument made in favor of testing for
various genetic defects is that the couple can then mentally prepare
themselves better for what lies ahead once their child is born. But
these sobering statistics indicate that, at least for some diseases,
few children can run the gauntlet successfully.
Thus, while prenatal screening may seem to give couples more
it often actually takes choices away. Society's demand for physical
perfection places enormous pressure on couples to "conform to the norm"
by aborting less-than-perfect children. When medical professionals
advocate prenatal testing, the profession subtly communicates a message
that there may be certain lives that are not worth living.
This quiet "conspiracy of eugenics" is beginning to reach to
levels of society, affecting even Catholics and others of a strongly
pro-life persuasion. As Dr. John Larsen of the Department of Obstetrics
and Gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center put it in
the same Times article: "People will come into my office in
tears and say they've been against abortion their whole lives, but
they'll make an exception for themselves [when their baby is affected]."
Against the backdrop of this widespread and growing societal
pressure, how can we decide whether we should have prenatal testing
done or not? Some basic moral guidelines can be of assistance:
First, if prenatal testing is done with the intention of having
abortion when a defect is discovered, such prenatal testing itself
would constitute a gravely immoral kind of action. Even if no anomalies
were found, but a mother and father carried out prenatal testing with
the firm intention of aborting a defective child, they would be
culpable for a seriously sinful decision, and, if they were Catholics,
they would need to bring the matter to confession. The intention to
commit a serious evil, even if not ultimately acted upon because of
circumstances, constitutes grave sin.
Second, prenatal testing is permissible, indeed desirable, when
with the intention of providing early medical intervention to the
child. For example, the life-threatening disease known as Krabbe's
leukodystrophy can be successfully treated by a bone marrow transplant
shortly after birth. If a diagnosis of the disease is made by prenatal
testing, the family can initiate the search for a matched bone marrow
sample even before the child is born. That way, valuable time can be
saved, and the early intervention improves the likelihood of a good
Certain other diseases like spina bifida can be treated by
microsurgery on the baby while still inside the womb. Prenatal testing
which aims to provide diagnostic information to assist in the treatment
of an in utero patient represents a morally praiseworthy use of
this powerful technology.
Third, prenatal testing to help parents come to a more serene
acceptance of a child with a permanent disability would also represent
a morally legitimate use of this technology, provided the testing
itself would pose minimal risk to the unborn child.
When a couple discovers they are pregnant, they should
discuss the possibility that their child might have a disability. Such
discussions, together with prenatal test results, can go a long way in
helping them prepare for their child's birth.
There are various resources and Web sites devoted to offering
encouragement, and support to parents of children with special needs -
especially those whose children are diagnosed with genetic conditions
A nonprofit organization called Prenatal Partners for Life (www.PrenatalPartnersforLife.org)
was founded as a result of one mother's personal experience when she
learned her child had a disability similar to Down's syndrome. She
organized a network of compassionate, nurturing parents and medical
professionals who offer emotional and practical support to parents who
have learned that their child will have special needs. Such resources
can be of great comfort and assistance to parents who receive an
adverse diagnosis from prenatal testing.
Prenatal technologies are indeed powerful tools that must be
with great discernment and circumspection. When used appropriately,
these technologies can be a real source of assistance to growing
families. Those families that manifest an openness and receptivity to
every child God sends them, regardless of their imperfections and
ailments, provide a compelling and vitally important witness in our
troubled times. Children with special needs certainly bring
difficulties and challenges, but they also bring great graces, opening
our eyes to deep and important truths about life and the meaning of
earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral
work at Harvard. He is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Mass.,
and serves as the director of education at the National Catholic
Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
Vatican Criticizes New Stem Cell
It's Still Manipulation, Says Bishop Sgreccia
ROME, AUG. 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A new procedure in embryonic stem
cell research that does not destroy the human embryo is drawing
criticisms from the Vatican and Catholic bioethicists.
The scientific review "Nature" reported last week the results of an
experiment carried out by Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology Inc.
in Alameda, California, in which stem cells were derived from a
single-cell biopsy technique that left the human embryo intact. Earlier
techniques destroyed the embryo.
Called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, this process is already used
by in-vitro fertilization clinics to assess the genetic health of
Tests were made on the extracted cells, and stable embryonic stem cells
were developed, similar to those obtained from intact embryos which are
destroyed in the process.
The Lanza group carried out the experiment, after testing it on mice,
and on "spare" in vitro fertilization human embryos.
Nevertheless, the new technique has yet to address the issue of
manipulation that concerns Catholic bioethicists.
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life,
said Sunday on Vatican Radio that "the announced experimentations
continue to be in the terrain of in-vitro procreation, in the
production of embryos in-vitro, or of cloning, or of artificial
"That, from a point of view that is not only Catholic, but from a point
of view of bioethical reasons, is a negative factor," he said.
"If the result expected -- to reproduce cells, not embryos, namely,
only embryonic cells -- is the fruit of manipulation, of a process that
otherwise would result in an embryo, the objection of an ethical
standing remains entirely," Bishop Sgreccia said.
He said this because "such a result is obtained not by a biologically
evolutionary process, but by an artificially produced process, so that
it would be a question of 'artificiality upon artificiality.'"
Advanced Cell's method "doesn't solve the ethical problems" of
manipulation, Sgreccia said.
The bishop also warned that such a "biopsy can also harm the embryo."
"Before being able to exclude all this, it is necessary to carry out
appropriate experimentation on animals," he said.
Adult stem cells?
Bishop Sgreccia questioned the need to use human embryonic stem cells
"when we already know that stem cells for therapeutic use can be
obtained through normal stem cells of an adult individual, which we
find in the umbilical cord or in different parts of the human body."
He continued: "A great race is on to undertake these experimentations
on the human embryo, also because of the funds that are allocated, the
obtaining of which makes the experimentation pass as exempt from
ethical objections, even when there is no certainty of the scientific
"Nor can objections of an ethical character proper to this type of
procedure be excluded."
Roberto Colombo, director of the laboratory of molecular biology and
human genetics of the Catholic University of Milan, said that the
"study does not state that the embryonic biopsy is a highly risky
technique, as shown by all the reservations with which the
preimplantational diagnosis is received," reported the Italian daily
"So the principle of the correct assessment of risks-benefits would be
violated," he added.
The Italian newspaper observed, moreover, that no mention is made about
the ultimate fate of the "spare embryos" used in the experiment.
"The fact that their fate is not that of being implanted in the uterus
does not authorize anyone to consider them 'class B' citizens," Colombo
said, "and, therefore, 'material' for experimentation."
Defending the "Holy Grail of Life"
Interview With Dr. Josep Simón, President of FIAMC
BARCELONA, Spain, AUG. 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The International
Federation of Catholic Medical Associations is helping to organize a
world congress at the Vatican on the topic of stem cells.
The Sept. 14-16 congress, entitled "Stem Cells, What Therapeutic
Future? Scientific Aspects and Bioethical Problems," will be held in
conjunction with the Pontifical Academy for Life.
In this interview with ZENIT, Dr. Josep Simón Castellví,
a surgeon and the president of the federation of medical associations
(FIAMC), explained why research with embryonic stem cells is not
ethical and discussed the therapeutic possibilities that exist with
adult stem cells.
Q: What is the congress's objective on stem cells?
Simón: The congress, fruit of the work of my predecessor, Dr.
Gian Luigi Gigli, is being held jointly with the Pontifical Academy for
Life and seeks to shed light so that scientists and believers in
general may acquire an exact idea of what has been called "the Holy
Grail of life."
The human being is called to complete the world with his work, to fill
the planet with other human beings with whom he lives harmoniously.
However, the human being cannot and must not imitate God. This is
always very dear. And it is money, along with scientific arrogance and
at times a false sensation of doing good to humanity, that research is
carried out with human embryos.
Q: In what cases are therapeutic applications with stem cells morally
Simón: Embryonic stem cells exist to configure the embryo. Adult
stem cells exist precisely to regenerate tissues. If we confuse this,
we will develop bad science.
And, at present, only adult cells give results -- for example, in the
treatment of some leukemias, heart attacks, etc. Other stem cells, such
as those of the umbilical cord, have positive prospects though they are
still to be seen.
Q: Apart from the "no" to therapies that use embryonic stem cells, are
there other ethically worrying cases?
Simón: Science must not be apocalyptic, in the sense of always
seeing the risks of scientific advances. However, it must be realistic
and accept only what is acceptable.
Because the obtaining of embryonic stem cells requires the destruction
of the embryo, that is why we cannot accept either its use or its
research. Moreover, these cells are coordinated by a very complex
mechanism that, if not well controlled, gives place to aberrant
growths, tumors, etc. This is the reality.
Q: You have been elected recently president of FIAMC. What are the
priorities the federation will have in the forthcoming years?
Simón: My priorities are those of the Church, of the Pope, and
some are my own priorities, which are Africa and the preferential
option for mothers -- neither exclusive nor excluding, but preferential.
Thousands upon thousands of mothers die every year in childbirth for
lack of medical care. And thousands and thousands of families suffer
because of the sufferings of mothers before, during or after
Aborting the British: Calls
Mount for a Change to 1967 Law
LONDON, JULY 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Official data for 2005 show
a slight increase in abortion for England and Wales. The total number
of abortions on women resident in the two areas was 186,416, compared
with 185,700 a year earlier, a rise of 0.4%, according to information
published July 4 by the Department of Health.
In addition, last
year there were 7,937 abortions for non-residents of
England and Wales, mostly women from Ireland, which takes the overall
total for the year to 194,353. The great majority of abortions, 89%,
were carried out before 13 weeks gestation; 67% were before 10 weeks.
There were 137 abortions carried out for pregnancies beyond the 24th
Overall, the abortion rate was 17.8 per 1,000 resident women aged
15-44. In terms of age distribution the abortion rate was highest, at
32.0 per 1,000, for women in the 20-24 age group.
The government, through the National Health Service, paid for 84% of
abortions carried out in 2005. The majority, 79%, were carried out on
single women, a proportion that has been on the rise since 1995, when
it was at about two-thirds.
"The high percentage of abortions -- 66% -- within the first nine weeks
of pregnancy is clear evidence, if any were needed, that abortion is
provided on demand in the UK," said Julia Millington of the ProLife
Alliance. "And the marked increase in the number of early abortions
make[s] it difficult to regard this as anything other than abortion
being treated as a method of contraception," she added in her reaction
to the data in a press release July 4.
Another concern raised over the figures regards abortions carried out
on young girls. In 2005 there were 1,083 abortions performed on girls
under age 15. The Department of Health grouped together the statistics
for the last three years regarding abortions on girls under age 14. In
2003-2005, there were 33 abortions performed on girls under age 13, and
409 abortions on girls aged 13.
"It is shameful that the government should promote secret abortions for
girls under the age of consent and insist that their parents aren't
told," said John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the
Protection for Unborn Children (SPUC).
Smeaton decried the pressure on doctors to maintain strict secrecy
regarding abortions for young girls. In a SPUC press release dated July
5, Smeaton stated: "The Department of Health wrongly claims that health
professionals are required by law and by their professional code of
conduct to provide children under the age of 16 the same
confidentiality as people over the age of 16."
The official figures also revealed that 1,900 abortions were under
"ground E" of the law, which permits abortion if there is a risk that
the child would be born handicapped. The Department of Health revealed
that chromosomal abnormalities were reported for about 39% of cases
under ground E, and congenital malformations in about 45%.
Down syndrome represented 22% of all ground-E cases and was the most
commonly reported chromosomal abnormality. Some of the data for
ground-E cases was not released on an annual basis, due to the small
numbers involved. In the years 2003-2005, there were 11 abortions with
a principal medical condition of the congenital malformations cleft lip
and/or cleft palate.
The issue of abortions in the case of cleft palates received widespread
attention in 2004, when Anglican cleric Joanna Jepson took the police
to court in an unsuccessful effort to bring to justice doctors
responsible for the abortion of a 28-week-old unborn baby with the
Another notable item detailed in the statistics was the level of women
who have more than one abortion. In each year of the 2003-2005 period,
32% of women undergoing abortions had one or more previous abortions.
This proportion has risen from about 28% since 1995.
Increase in Scotland
Statistics recently released also show abortion on the rise in
Scotland. A total of 12,603 abortions were carried out in 2005, the BBC
reported May 24. This was 142 more than the previous year, and is the
highest level since abortion was legalized in 1967. Some 3,304
abortions were carried out on women and girls under 20, and of these
341 were for girls under 16.
Commenting on the data in the Sunday Times on May 28, Katie Grant
observed that abortion continues to increase despite all the millions
of pounds spent on sex education programs, and despite contraception
being freely available. Abortion, she noted, "is no longer being used
as a last resort but is increasingly treated as just another form of
The official reaction to abortion does not help the situation, added
Grant. All the government does is to promote more and more explicit sex
education and to hand out ever greater numbers of condoms, she
commented. This ignores the emotional scars of abortion on young girls.
"Indeed," Grant observed, "it could be argued that encouraging a girl
under 16 to have an abortion is a particular type of abuse."
In the face of high levels of abortion, calls have been made for a
change in the law. In June, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor did just
that when he met with the secretary of state for health, Patricia
Hewitt. The archbishop of Westminster told Hewitt that it was time for
Parliament to review the 1967 Abortion Act amid mounting concerns at
the frequency and number of abortions, according to an archdiocesan
press release dated June 21.
During the meeting the cardinal cited opinion polls showing that most
women in Britain want the law tightened to make it harder to terminate
"This is not primarily a religious issue," stated Cardinal
Murphy-O'Connor. "It is a human issue. Abortion is the wrong answer to
fear and insecurity. As a society we need to look at ways of supporting
women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.
"People know, perhaps instinctively, that the goodness of a society is
known not by its wealth but by the way which it treats the most
vulnerable of human beings, the ones with little or no claim on public
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would support a debate on the
law on abortion because he is "troubled" by the current legislation,
the Sunday Times reported June 18. Blair's view on the issue came after
a private meeting held Scottish Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien.
Nevertheless, "The government has no plans to change the law on
abortion," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, according
to a June 21 report by the BBC.
On July 3 the BBC reported that more than 60 British members of
Parliament have signed a Commons motion backing a review of the
abortion law, given the scientific and medical changes since it was
drawn up in 1967. Phil Willis, chair of the science and technology
committee in the Commons, said the issue should be looked at again,
warning it was unwise to ignore changing circumstances.
In the meantime, efforts by activists to use some of the more graphic
tactics common in other countries to protest abortion have run into
legal obstacles. Edward Atkinson, a 74-year-old pro-life campaigner was
jailed for four weeks after sending "offensive" pictures of mutilated
fetuses through the mail, reported the Independent newspaper on May 8.
The photos showed severed limbs and a fetus without its head.
The target of the photos, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, also punished
Atkinson, by removing him from a waiting list for a hip replacement.
Showing people the graphic results of laws that allow the killing of
hundreds of thousands of unborn babies is, it seems, too much for
Gustav Nossal: Cures, not clones, will flow from
On the eve of tomorrow's COAG meeting, Gustav Nossal suggests
that the door should not be closed on the next step in stem cell
science. July 13, 2006
In the four years since the commonwealth legislated to allow embryonic
stem cell research, Australian scientists have taken a huge leap
forward and are at the forefront of this global endeavour. Knowledge in
fields such as diabetes and diseases of the blood, heart, lung and
breast has advanced, and the legislation has allowed improvements in
in-vitro fertilisation technology, resulting in higher success rates.
Embryonic stem cell research is rich in promise. It has already
demonstrated its potential in the study of disease causation, in
development of new diagnostic methods and in basic research. In the
longer term, the possibility of new therapies for serious diseases is
real, though this will be the work of decades rather than of years.
Australia's prominence in the field was the result of a conscience vote
in the federal parliament in 2002. How can we ensure that our
scientists stay in their leadership position? Stem cell science has
advanced to the point where it is pushing against the boundaries of the
existing legislation. It is time for the next step. This involves a
marvellous new tool, validated in experimental animals, known as
somatic cell nuclear transfer, which has become controversial because
the first steps resemble those involved in cloning (for example, the
sheep Dolly). No responsible scientist would contemplate cloning a
human being, so why do we want SCNT?
In this technique, a single cell, for example a skin cell, is taken
from a person, say a patient with a particular disease. A second cell,
namely an egg cell, is obtained from an unrelated woman, usually as a
spare egg from an IVF program. The egg's nucleus is removed and the
nucleus of the skin cell inserted in its stead.
Then the egg is coaxed to divide and eventually embryonic stem cells
genetically similar to the skin cell donor are developed. The first
application of these methods would be to study the genesis of the
disease in question and to test new pharmaceuticals as possible
When research has advanced to the stage where curing a disease by a
stem cell transplant is possible (and I stress this is well into the
future), SCNT could be used to ensure that the transplanted cells,
genetically matched to the patient in question, would not be rejected
by the immune system, thus removing a formidable obstacle.
Recognising that embryo research was a sensitive area, the commonwealth
Government appointed former Federal Court judge John Lockhart to
conduct a review and to make recommendations. His committee received
more than 1000 submissions, met people of every shade of opinion on the
science and ethics of human embryo research, and gave due consideration
to societal values and the public good. Lockhart's committee consisted
of distinguished and highly qualified Australians from the fields of
science, law and ethics, including a Nobel laureate. Sadly, Lockhart
died soon after his report was handed down. The report put forward 54
recommendations, including one permitting SCNT under strict conditions.
To the considerable surprise of the scientific community, this key
element of the report appears to have been initially rejected by the
federal cabinet, although Prime Minister John Howard has kept the door
ajar by agreeing to an informed discussion in the Coalition partyroom
next month. Tomorrow, the Lockhart report will be discussed at the
Council of Australian Governments meeting.
Lockhart is not alone in his views. SCNT is allowed in 10 countries and
the report's proposals closely mirror existing British legislation. The
biggest concern of SCNT opponents is that scientists may use it for
reproductive purposes. In fact, Australian scientists fundamentally
oppose reproductive cloning. Moreover, the matter can and should be
clearly and firmly addressed, with precise legislation and a rigorous
Reproductive cloning is abhorrent and must be banned outright.
The situation has some similarities to the debate in the 1970s on IVF,
again a field in which Australia was a pivotally important leader in
research. In 2006, IVF is an accepted part of our lives, and this
previous example demonstrates the virtue of an acceptable legislative
framework to support emerging scientific technologies.
As a Catholic, I deeply value my nine years at a Jesuit school, and my
career as a medical scientist has further deepened my respect and
reverence for human life. Embedded in this value is the belief that
everyone should be given the opportunity to live as free from serious
illness as medical science can ensure.
I do not know whether or when stem cell science will provide the
breakthroughs we so earnestly hope for. I do know that the history of
science shows that significant discoveries assiduously followed sooner
or later provide practical benefits.
I am proud of Australia's achievements in medical research. Our
scientists would bring to the study of SCNT cell lines the imagination
and resourcefulness so characteristic of Australia's medical research.
Australian legislators must now decide whether our scientists will be
allowed to keep pace with the world's best or whether they will
gradually fall behind. Here's hoping for a change of heart at the
highest political level in the land.
Gustav Nossal, Australian of the Year in 2000, is professor emeritus in
the department of pathology at the University of Melbourne.
THE VATICAN has condemned the European
Parliament for voting to publicly finance embryonic stem
cell experiments, calling the decision “thick-headed secularism in
violation of human dignity”.
By a narrow 35-vote margin, the Strasbourg-based body on 15 June
approved a 50 billion euro budget for scientific research during the
period 2007 to 2013, known as the “Seventh Framework Programme”.
The vote – 284 in favour, 249 against, and 32 abstentions – came after
heated debate over whether the European Union should finance stem cell
research, only one of 10 research fields – including health, energy and
the environment – covered by the programme. The budget needs to gain
political approval from national ministers in the European Council
before the end of the year, after which it will return to the
Parliament for a second reading.
Catholic groups across Europe – including the Commission of Episcopal
Conferences of the European Union (Comece) – united with the Vatican in
denouncing the parliamentary decision.
In the first of two scathing editorials, L’Osservatore Romano, the
Vatican newspaper, said the vote reflected a “blind secularism” in
Europe that denied “the religious convictions of the majority” of
citizens and “the very principles inscribed in human nature”.
Robert Mickens at the Vatican
Cardinal Seeks Review of Britain's
Tells Health Secretary It's a "Human Issue"
LONDON, JUNE 21, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor met
with the British health secretary to discuss abortion reform and the
way bioethical decisions are reached in the United Kingdom.
The archbishop of Westminster told Patricia Hewitt in the private
meeting today that it was time for Parliament to review the 1967
Abortion Act in the face of mounting concern in the country at the
frequency and number of abortions.
"This is not primarily a religious issue. It is a human issue," the
cardinal said. "Abortion is the wrong answer to fear and insecurity. As
a society we need to look at ways of supporting women who find
themselves in an unplanned pregnancy."
According to a statement released by his press office, the cardinal
believes that the abortion legislation needs re-examining by
Parliament, as was recommended last year in a report by the Commons
Science and Technology Committee.
The cardinal's meeting with the health secretary follows polls showing
that most women in Britain want the law tightened to make it harder to
end a pregnancy.
"There are now 190,000 abortions each year -- more than 20% of all
pregnancies in the UK," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said. "There is
substantial and growing disquiet in Britain at the numbers of
abortions. Our laws should reflect this disquiet."
The cardinal also urged Health Secretary Hewitt to back his call for a
national bioethics commission, of the sort that exists in most Western
European countries, as well as Australia and the United States.
The cardinal believes that the current mechanisms are inadequate for
dealing with ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies such as
embryonic stem-cell research and genetic screening of embryos used in
Currently, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority and other
regulatory bodies give out licenses after deliberating on ethical
questions behind closed doors.
"There is public disquiet at the lack of openness and consultation over
important ethical issues affecting the future of society," the cardinal
The cardinal believes that a single statutory body is needed to provide
authoritative guidance to Parliament and the government, and to help
raise awareness in the media and in society at large of the complex
"Science is speeding ahead of our capacity for reflection," he said.
"We need a far broader public debate about these vital questions, which
touch on the very origin and sanctity of life."
Abortion cruel, law should change:
Most British people believe that too many abortions are being
carried out and want the toll reduced, according to a poll commissioned
by a British pro-life group.
Independent Catholic News reports that another key finding is that
women overwhelmingly want Government money spent on charities offering
alternatives to abortion, such as adoption.
The poll, carried out by CommunicateResearch for the campaigning group
Choose Life, found that 85 per cent want to see more help given to
women who want to keep their baby rather than further moves to make
The poll suggests that women will not be satisfied with a simple
reduction in the upper time limit of 24 weeks if that simply results in
an increase in early abortions. Most want to see fewer terminations
overall and wider availability of alternatives to abortion.
Seventy-eight per cent of women want a compulsory cooling-off period
between diagnosis of pregnancy and any abortion. 96 per cent of women
want a right to be fully informed of the medical risks associated with
Tory leader David Cameron and his predecessor Michael Howard have both
backed calls for a lower limit and the leader of the UK Church Cardinal
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is to meet Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt next
week to press for a tightening of the law.
Meanwhile, a Vatican foreign affairs official has called on members of
the United Nations' new Human Rights Council to demonstrate their
commitment to upholding human dignity by defending the right to life
and religious freedom.
Catholic News Service reports that Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo was
representing the Vatican at the inaugural meeting starting this week of
the new 47-member council charged with monitoring the human rights
situation around the world.
Archbishop Lajolo told the Council that recognition of the dignity and
value of each human being is at the basis of all human rights and of
all peaceful social orders.
The first human right, he said, is "the right to life from the first
moment of human existence, that is, from the moment of conception."
Human beings have value, dignity and rights simply because they exist,
he said. Their value and rights are not based on what they produce or
the relationships they have.
After the right to life, Archbishop Lajolo said, the right to freedom
of religion and conscience is the next important because it concerns
the most intimate part of a person's being and expresses his or her
relationship to God.
The Archbishop also called on wealthy nations to respect the human
rights of every person living in their country, "including immigrants."
Renowned neonatologist claims fetuses
Fetuses do feel pain, according to Professor KJS Anand, a
renowned neonatologist from the University of Kansas, who proved during
the 1980s that newborns feel pain.
In his latest study reported in the June 2006 issue of "Pain Clinical
Updates," official review of the International Association for the
Study of Pain, Professor Anand reports that fetuses also feel pain as
well, possibly even before late pregnancy.
Zenit reports that Professor Anand's conclusions are supported by
Professor Carlo Bellieni, neonatologist of Intensive Neonatal Therapy
at Sienna's Le Scotte University Polyclinic, who commented that the
"scientific evidence on the fetal pain" found in the study comes from
"the highest world authority" on the topic.
According to Anand, the study was carried out because "fetal pain has
so many implications that it requires a scientific appraisal
independent of the heated controversies regarding abortion, women's
rights, or the beginnings of human life."
"In a careful analysis of fetal behavior that relies upon memory and
learning as the highest-order evidence for psychological function in
utero," it can be "concluded that conscious sensory perception does
occur in the fetus," he said.
"Abortion," the article states, "or fetal surgery provoke robust
behavioral and physiological responses not unlike the fetal responses
to other aversive stimuli."
Anand is also critical of work that casts doubt on prenatal pain based
on the peculiarity of the fetus' nervous system.
Myths and Realities of the Abortion
Neither Safe Nor Sure, Argues a New Book
ROME, JUNE 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- One of the first acts of Italy's new
government was to announce the go-ahead for trials using abortion
pills. The pills go under a variety of names, including mifespristone,
Mifeprex and RU-486. Health Minister Livia Turco announced that a
number of hospitals would be able to import the pills for
experimentation, reported the daily Corriere della Sera on May 23.
The decision reverses the previous government's prohibition of the
trials, following a debate over the issue last year.
The announcement drew immediate protests. Francesco D'Agostino,
president of the National Bioethics Committee, while not going so far
as to completely condemn the use of the abortion pill, noted that
contrary to first appearances the pill is not all that safe for women
and that its use involves objective risks.
A May 24 editorial in the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper,
L'Osservatore Romano, declared that the decision adds another weapon to
the anti-life arsenal. It also criticized the haste with which the
decision was taken, and the lack of any effort to listen to contrasting
opinions on such a contentious issue.
Italy's decision comes as concerns over RU-486 are growing in the
United States. The pill has been linked to four deaths in California
and one in Canada. The deaths were the result of bacterial infections,
facilitated, according to a number of experts, by the use of the pill.
On May 11 scientists gathered to discuss what role the abortion pill
might have played in the deaths, reported the Associated Press that
day. Opinions were divided, according to the report, with some holding
that the use of RU-486 enabled the spread of the bacteria, and others
calling for more research before being able to make a decision.
Higher risk of death
James McGregor, an obstetrics professor at the University of Colorado
Health Sciences Center, said the risk of death from medical abortions
such as those caused by the pill is 1 in 80,000. This is significantly
higher than the 1 in 1 million risk from surgical abortions. "I
recommend we reduce or eliminate mifespristone, or at least consider
that," McGregor was quoted as saying by the AP.
In Congress, the House subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy
and Human Resources also heard evidence regarding the dangers involved
with the pill, the Washington Post reported May 17.
"Considering the evidence we have of deaths and serious side effects,
the maker of this drug should have taken it off the market long ago,"
said Michelle Gress, counsel to the subcommittee and spokeswoman for
its chairman, Mark Souder.
Souder is one of 83 co-sponsors of a bill that would force the drug off
the market. The bill goes under the name of "Holly's Law," after Holly
Patterson, an 18-year-old Californian who died of an infection after
using the pill.
According to a briefing paper prepared by the House subcommittee's
staff, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "has acknowledged
the deaths of eight women associated with the drug, nine
life-threatening incidents, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood
transfusions, and 88 cases of infection." The briefing paper noted that
these and other cases add up to a total of 950 adverse event reports as
of March 31.
Concern over RU-486 even came from an unlikely source: a New York Times
editorial. The reports of women's deaths, the April 10 editorial
commented, "are making the regimen based on RU-486 look a lot less
attractive than once thought."
Australia and UK approval
In spite of mounting evidence of the pill's dangerous side effects,
plans are under way for the importation of RU-486 into Australia.
Earlier this year the federal Parliament took away the health
minister's power to block imports of the pill, handing it over to the
Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian equivalent of the FDA.
According to a report in Tuesday's Courier Mail, a newspaper in the
state of Queensland, local women will be the first in the country to
have access to RU-486. Caroline de Costa, an obstetrician based in the
town of Cairns, declared she has received approval to make the pill
available from next month. De Costa plans to import supplies of RU-486
from New Zealand.
Meanwhile, in Britain, figures revealed that the pills accounted for
10,000 abortions in 2005. The data came from BPAS (formerly the British
Pregnancy Advisory Service), the country's largest abortion provider,
the Times newspaper reported May 29. The pills accounted for nearly a
third of the 32,000 abortions BPAS provided last year to women in the
first nine weeks of pregnancy.
BPAS Chief Executive Ann Furedi replied to criticisms over the
widespread use of the abortion pill. Quoted in an article published
Monday on the Web site "Spiked," Furedi declared the drug to be a
"safe, reliable, effective method of medical abortion."
Not so, says a book published this week in Italy: "La favola
dell'aborto facile: Miti e realt? della pillola RU486" (The Fable of
Easy Abortion: Myths and Realities of the RU-486 Pill).
The well-documented book highlights an interesting phenomenon in Italy:
a growing alliance between feminists and pro-lifers. Co-author Eugenia
Roccella comes from a strongly left-wing, non-religious background. She
was also a key figure in the women's liberation movement in Italy in
the 1970s. The other co-author, Assuntina Morresi, is a pro-life
The two united forces to publish the book, which brings together the
latest information on the dangers posed by use of the abortion pill,
both physical and psychological.
A key objective of the book is to dispel the notion that using the
abortion pill is some sort of easy solution. Some pro-lifers fear that
the pill makes abortion too convenient. And those in favor of abortion
defend it as an easier alternative to a surgical procedure.
In fact, Roccella and Morresi explain, abortions procured by chemical
means are more drawn out, difficult and uncertain than the surgical
alternative. Using the abortion pill requires repeated visits to a
clinic. And only in 3% of cases does the abortion take place within 48
hours of taking the first pill, according to FDA data.
The pill also normally causes symptoms such as abdominal pains and
cramps, nausea, hemorrhages, headaches and vomiting. The most painful
part of the process, when the fetus is finally expelled from the
mother's body, can last for hours.
According to the authors, a conservative estimate of the number of
deaths worldwide due to chemical abortions reached 13 (as of late
March). The real number could be higher, the book notes, since in
general the media have preferred to turn a blind eye to reporting the
deaths and other problems due to the pill.
The side effects of the pill are more than physical. Many women, 56%
according to a study cited in the book, actually see the corpse of the
aborted fetus. This traumatic experience can trigger nightmares and
flashbacks in women. If the pill doesn't prove fatal first.
Human Embryos Not Objects, Say
Destructive Research Does Not Respect Life
BRUSSELS, JUNE 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Research that requires the
destruction of human embryos is "not compatible with human dignity,"
say the bishops of Europe.
The bishops made this statement following the adoption of the budget
for research and technology development for 2007-2013 by the Industry,
Research and Energy Committee of the European Union, which allows for
funding for research on embryonic stem cells.
The budget, which forms part of the report on the Seventh Framework
Program, will be submitted for a final vote during the next plenary
session in Strasbourg, on June 14th.
"We reiterate our objection to EU-funding of research implying the
destruction of human embryos," said the communiqué of the
Executive Committee of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of
the European Community.
"Such research raises fundamental ethical and anthropological
concerns," the bishops said.
The statement continues: "Treating the human embryo as an object for
research is not compatible with human dignity.
"The EU should concentrate its joint research efforts on the many other
promising areas of research, also in other kinds of stem cell research,
which offer promise.
"By taking such a decision the EU would show that it respects the
fundamental values and grounds upon which some member states prohibit
or restrict this research out of respect for the inviolability of human
life and its dignity."
The communiqué is signed by the following prelates:
Bishop Adrianus van Luyn
Bishop of Rotterdam
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Bishop Piotr Jarecki
Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw
Mommy, what did you do during
By Daniel Mansueto
Tuesday, 30 May 2006
A war is being waged in Asia against unborn girls. Why aren't more
people enlisting to fight for them?
“Daddy, what did you do during the war?” is the challenge in question
form that the baby boomer generation rhetorically put to its fathers.
When raised by an adult who has never known war, the question comes off
as a smug accusation. Yet it serves the salutary function of reminding
us that we can expect to be asked one day to render an account, and to
be judged on how we acted when confronted with the great life and death
issues of our day.
With the question in mind of what should be done during a war, let us
consider the untraditional but very bloody war that is being waged
today in Asia against unborn girls. The introduction of sonogram
technology in Asia has resulted in the practice of aborting girls there
en masse. In China, for example, recent statistics indicate that for
every 100 girls that were born, 117 boys were born1. It is said that if
this disparity continues, by 2020 -- only 14 years from now -- there
will be 40 million more men than women in China (which correlates to
millions more girls than boys killed)2.
India has a similar problem. One study that includes a survey of the
literature notes that Indian demographers have found a “stark shift
towards excessively masculine sex ratios at birth between 1981 and 1991
from near normal” to as high as 124 boys per 100 girls in urban areas3.
Why is this happening? The study reports that in India “[l]ocal studies
and surveys show that the use of new techniques to detect the sex of
the foetus followed by the termination of a female pregnancy has become
common among educated and less educated, rich and poor and in rural and
urban areas.” This same study reports that “[d]emographic studies in
China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam since the mid-1980s have uniformly
shown an increasing rise in the proportion of male births and confirmed
that access to sex identification and abortion facilities is widespread
and permits new forms of intervention before birth.”4
One should not imagine that these millions of unborn Asian girls are
being aborted in the first trimester of pregnancy. Nearly all the
abortions that are done to “weed out” girls in Asia are gruesome late
term abortions of viable or nearly viable babies. We know this because
generally a sonogram exam cannot determine the sex of an unborn child
before the 16th week of pregnancy and in some cases cannot do so until
the 20th week or later.
The practice of aborting only girls focuses thought on the victims of
abortion and gives those victims an identity. They are not just
“foetuses,” they are girls. Few would deny that the use of abortion in
the service of search and destroy missions aimed at girls subjects
girls to a terrible injustice. But what is the injustice? Is it the
discrimination or is it the abortion? Even a moment's reflection leads
to the inescapable conclusion that the real injustice is not that girls
are selected but abortion itself. What is worse, wanting a boy or
killing a girl? The only way to preserve both the "right to an
abortion" and sex equality is to kill more unborn baby boys. This of
course would not save a single girl but, rather, would only increase
the killing of boys to even the score.
One would think that feminists would have something to say about sex
selection abortion given that its victims are almost exclusively
female. However, while there have been women who have spoken out about
the matter, the war on unborn girls is on the far, far back burner of
the agendas of activist women on the left -- if it is on those agendas
Hillary Clinton’s remarks to the plenary session of the 1995 United
Nations Fourth World Conference On Women are an example of how the
issue is not on the radar screen of American left-leaning activist
women when it comes to international feminist concerns. In those
remarks Ms. Clinton said “it is time to break our silence” and speak
out about wrongs directed specifically at women, such as infanticide,
the sale of women into prostitution, violence directed at women whose
dowries are deemed too small, the rape of women as a tactic of war,
domestic violence, and coerced abortion5. While alluding to a “history
of silence” concerning these problems, Ms Clinton choose to remain
silent herself about the use of sex selection abortion to effect the
slaughter of millions of unborn girls6.
But what can feminists like Ms Clinton say about sex selection abortion
given their commitment to the so-called “right to an abortion”? Some
feminists on the left say, not very loudly, that sex selection abortion
is wrong, and is permissible to outlaw, because it discriminates based
on sex. However, they cannot vigorously assert this argument without
jeopardising the “right to an abortion” because the logic of the
argument completely undermines that so-called “right.” If an unborn
girl has the right not to be discriminated against, she necessarily
also has the more fundamental right to life. And if unborn girls have
the right to life, it necessarily follows that all unborn children,
whether male or female, have the same right.
Others have also noted the silence that surrounds the practice of sex
selection abortion and the reason for that silence. A paper published
by the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics states that the practice
is “a particularly pernicious form of sex discrimination” but notes
“with some sadness” that “almost thirty years of progress on the matter
of sexual inequality has not led to any firm public policy proposals to
put an end to sex control in the United States or abroad.”7 According
to this source, the reason for this is that “it was widely argued by
many feminist-oriented scholars as well as other liberal thinkers that
any legal or policy actions taken against abortion for sex control
would put the abortion right itself at risk.” 8
Given the renowned commitment of pro-choice feminists to abortion and
the far- reaching pro-life implications of any argument against sex
selection abortion, it is sadly predictable that pro-choice feminists
raise no loud protest against the extermination of the female gender in
Asia. Men and women bear equal responsibility for ending this
extermination (and all other abortion). But if feminism means anything
it means protecting interests that are unique to the female gender. And
what greater interest does the female gender uniquely have than that of
being defended against systematic extermination? Incredible as it may
seem, pro-choice feminists believe there is a greater interest and that
that greater interest is abortion -- the very means by which the war of
extermination against the female gender is being conducted. What other
conclusion can be drawn from their silence concerning sex selection
abortion? The practice of aborting girls in Asia supplements an older
tradition of infanticide that for millennia was practiced against girls
and disabled children. It is beyond ironic that there are feminists who
aggressively support a means of extending and perpetuating this
barbaric ancient tradition on a mass scale.
The silence about what is happening in Asia is not consistent with any
ideology that seeks to protect the female gender but it is entirely
consistent with the “it’s all about me” ethos that underlies the
ideology of abortion. So that an American woman can be sure that a
child will never impinge on her “lifestyle” or career plans, nothing
must be said of the slaughter of countless millions of girls in India,
China and elsewhere in the world. And so it is that when faced with a
genocidal war on girls -- not a figurative war, but a real war where
real, live eighteen and twenty week old girls are being singled out and
killed in very large numbers solely for the sin of being female --
pro-choice feminists are AWOL.
Mommy, what did you do during the war?
Daniel Mansueto is an attorney and the President of the Board of
Directors of the East Los Angeles Pregnancy Center.
(1) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics,
discussed at 1/03 meeting.
(2) Laurel Bossen, Forty Million Missing Girls: Land, Population
Controls and Sex Imbalance In Rural China, ZNET (October 7, 2005).
Martin Walker, "The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration", Foreign Policy
(March/April 2006), p. 61.
(3) Elisabeth J. Croll, Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women, Oxford
Development Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (2001), p. 228.
(4) Croll, "Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women".
(5) First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Remarks For The United Nations
Fourth World Conference On Women.
(6) Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks For The United Nations Fourth
World Conference On Women".
(7) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics.
(8) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics.
Moms as Genetic Outlaws
Some Women Resist Pressure to
Abort the Less-Than-Perfect
PARRAMATTA, Australia, MAY 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Society increasingly
demands perfection, and babies diagnosed with problems are aborted more
often than not. Some women, however, resist the pressure and bear
children who suffer disabilities.
The stories of a number of these women are brought together by
Australian researcher and activist Melinda Tankard Reist in a book
titled, "Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics" (Spinifex
Press). First-person testimonies comprise the bulk of the book.
In her opening essay Tankard Reist, founding director of Women's Forum
Australia, gives an overview of the women who confront a society
fearful of disability and who decide to have babies without the genetic
stamp of approval. "They are, in a sense, genetic outlaws," she states.
The experience of some of the women also raises doubts over the medical
profession. Some received grave diagnoses regarding their unborn
children. Later, these children were born, either without any problems,
or with handicaps that were much less serious than predicted. Some
doctors even refused to help women who refused to abort children who
were diagnosed with disabilities.
In fact, with increasing frequency women's desires are ignored. Tankard
Reist recounts the case of one woman who didn't wish to be informed of
any possible problems before she underwent an ultrasound procedure. On
taking the image home she found on the image, nevertheless, a series of
annotations of possible abnormalities. The baby was later born free of
any of the conditions mentioned.
The upshot, the researcher states, is that prenatal screening, instead
of giving women more power -- part of the rhetoric of the "right to
choose" -- in practice puts pressure on them to conform to social
prejudices against the handicapped.
Also looming is another, more insidious, danger with genetic testing.
Screening and abortion become merely a part of the routine prenatal
program, Tankard Reist argues. Prior to prenatal testing the
possibility of abortion might not even be mentioned and when problems
are detected a full explanation of the options available might not be
Such was the case of Natalie Withers. Her fourth baby was diagnosed
with heart problems and other conditions. She told Tankard Reist that
the term "abortion" was not even mentioned; there was merely talk of
"inducing birth" -- at 20 weeks gestation. Only when Withers was in
labor was she informed that the baby might either be stillborn or die
immediately. Not until after it was all over -- the baby didn't survive
-- did Withers discover that children born with her daughter's
condition can survive and do well if they receive the right care.
Women, then, can become victims after innocently going along with the
attitude of "doctor knows best." Only too late do they discover that
their own interests and preferences are passed over in favor of the
conventional wisdom of perfect children, says Tankard Reist. And once
they wake up to what is going on, even well-educated women can find the
going difficult if they choose to go against the preferences of medical
Often the information given to women is slanted in such a way as to
encourage abortion. In many cases parents are not directed to groups
that would help them to understand better the nature of the
disabilities involved. That in turn makes it difficult for them to know
how their child might fare or what support is available.
Other difficulties involve coping with the trauma and anxiety of test
results that show possible problems. Tankard Reist cites a number of
studies showing that many woman who are told their children suffer from
defects suffer from serious shock, distress and panic. These
psychological pressures can even affect the mother's well-being, and
that of the unborn child.
The dangers involve physical risks too. Some observers question, for
example, the frequent use of ultrasound machines without an adequate
evaluation of the negative consequences. And amniocentesis, in which a
sample of the amniotic fluid is taken from the mother's womb for
analysis, can lead to the loss of the baby in 1 in 125 pregnancies,
according to one meta-analysis cited in the book. Another study showed
that this procedure caused up to four healthy babies to be miscarried
for every abnormality detected.
Sometimes the tests are simply wrong. A study of 300 fetal autopsies
found that the prenatal hypothesis concerning problems was confirmed in
only 39% of the cases.
The eugenic mentality behind the practice of aborting handicapped
children is sometimes more blatant. One survey of obstetricians in
England and Wales, for example, found that a third of them require a
woman, even before she undergoes prenatal diagnosis, to agree to abort
a pregnancy if the child were found to have a problem.
Behind such a practice lurks the belief that allowing these children to
be born would burden them with second-rate lives and bring misery into
the world. This gives rise to a form of new eugenics masquerading under
the appearance of health concerns, Tankard Reist warns. People who
follow such a line of reasoning, she adds, might end up acquiescing to
the selection and elimination of less-than-perfect children, a sort of
Such a mentality mirrors the increased desire for perfection in today's
society. Other manifestations of this trend include excessive dieting
and the ever-spreading use of cosmetic surgery. A number of prominent
geneticists and ethicists, including figures such as James Watson and
Peter Singer, openly favor the use of genetic techniques to design more
Ever-higher health costs also contribute to the pressure on mothers to
abort the handicapped. Parents who decide not to abort imperfect
children are sometimes made to feel irresponsible for "burdening"
Tankard Reist cites Australian geneticist Grant Sutherland, who
reckoned that preventing the birth of a child with Down syndrome saves
the community a million dollars or more. He has urged governments to
set up public clinics to screen pregnant women.
This financial pressure extends to other areas, such as the increasing
difficulties faced by people with genetic defects in obtaining life
insurance, or permission to adopt children.
A report in last Sunday's London-based Telegraph newspaper highlighted
the relevance of the problems raised in "Defiant Birth." Lisa Green was
35 weeks pregnant when her baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and
she was offered an abortion by doctors.
The doctor, recounted Green, only disclosed the negative aspects of
giving birth to the child. She rejected the advice, and two weeks later
gave birth to a baby, named Harrison, now 2 years old. He is, said the
newspaper, a "happy and healthy" child, according to the mother.
In an editorial published the same day, the Telegraph referred to the
practice of aborting babies in a very late stage of pregnancy. "It is
very difficult," it said, "if not impossible, to explain what makes
these 'terminations' different from the killing of children." Such
killings will continue, so long as the new eugenics mentality prevails.
* * *
[As part of a worldwide promotion, Melinda Tankard Reist's book
"Defiant Birth" will be presented in Rome on June 1 at 5:45 p.m. in the
Art Museum of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Via Acciaioli 2]
When lives are
By Matthew Mehan
Tuesday, 25 April 2006
Leading American journalist Ramesh Ponnuru analyses the current state
of the right to life in politics, universities, the courts, and the
press in this exclusive interview.
The abortion issue has been the elephant in the living room for the
last 30 years of public discourse in the United States. In his
riveting new book released this week, "The Party of Death: The
Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life",
Ramesh Ponnuru deals with right to life issues that have kicked up
blinding ethical clouds in the press, including Terri Schiavo, stem
cell research, freedom of conscience for politicians, Supreme Court
nominee battles, and especially the abortion debate. Mr Ponnuru is a
senior editor for the journal National Review and often appears on US
current affairs programs.
MercatorNet: For a start, "The Party of Death"? What or who makes
up this party?
Ramesh PonnuruPonnuru: The "party of death" refers to those forces in
our politics and culture that seek to undermine the right to life. The
phrase is adapted from Ronald Dworkin, the liberal legal philosopher.
He starts his book in defence of abortion and euthanasia by
acknowledging straightforwardly that they are "choices for death. "
The core members of the party of death are those who, like Dworkin,
explicitly deny that all human beings are equal in having a right to
life and who propose the creation of a category of "human non-persons"
who can be treated as expendable. The party's vanguard consists of
people such as Princeton professor Peter Singer, who thinks that
infants belong in that category. The party of death also has unwitting
allies. They support parts of its agenda without realising that they
are helping to devalue human life across the board.
MercatorNet: Why write this book now?
Ponnuru: There hasn't been a pro-life book for a general audience in
more than 20 years. A lot has happened since then. Stem cells have
become a topic of debate, for example. American politics has become
more polarised around abortion. End-of-life issues have become more
prominent. Under the circumstances, I thought it was worth trying to
explain why these issues are connected and how they have become more
and more central to our politics.
MercatorNet: If this is a "pro-life book" then do you agree with the
terms for political debate in the US? Are "pro-life" and
"pro-choice" the proper terms?
Ponnuru: These terms are imperfect, especially "pro-choice" — nobody
would ever describe the National Rifle Association as "pro-choice on
guns" — but they are where you have to start in making an argument.
MercatorNet: The first part of your book is a deconstruction of the
Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which held women had a right to privacy
that thus permitted abortion. Some argue that this case is no
longer the central concern in the abortion debate in the US. So
why showcase Roe v. Wade if you are trying to address today's debate
with stem cells and euthanasia and the like?
ImagePonnuru: Roe v. Wade and its progeny are the central political
issue when it comes to abortion. The courts are the principal obstacle
to an abortion policy that is more just, more protective of life, and
more democratic. And by enshrining an extreme form of "abortion rights"
as a supposedly fundamental principle of our Constitution, the Supreme
Court did a great deal to distort our understanding of stem cells and
euthanasia. If not for Roe, I doubt the US would have ended up a
country that cannot even bring itself to restrict cloning.
MercatorNet: How so?
Ponnuru: Without Roe, some states might have decided to allow abortion
on the theory that abortion, while bad, was in some cases the least bad
outcome of a problematic pregnancy, but, as a nation, we would not have
taken the view that human beings in the earliest stages of life had no
moral or legal standing and that we had a right to do with them
whatever we wanted. That premise pops up again and again in debates
over embryo-killing research, restrictions on which are sometimes said
to be unconstitutional.
MercatorNet: In the chapter "The Politics of Personhood", you write
that the central issue for the party of death is not the rights of
women over their bodies. Was this never the issue for the
party of death? If not, then what is?
Ponnuru: Let's imagine someone who takes the view that the human embryo
is a living human being with rights, but that women have a right to
control their own bodies that justifies their ability to abort that
embryo. You would expect that person to oppose embryo-destructive
research since no woman's body is involved in that question. But almost
nobody actually takes that view. They support abortion because they do
not believe embryonic and foetal lives have moral worth, not because
they place a high value on women's bodily autonomy. Indeed, they think
that it's an issue of women's bodily autonomy because they have already
decided that the foetus does not have the same right to life that you
and I do.
MercatorNet: "Moral worth"? Is that the same as the "sanctity of
life"? Why aren't these ruled out as religious arguments?
ImagePonnuru: A five-year-old has the same right to life that a
six-year-old does. To make that argument, I don't need to invoke any
religious authority: I just need to be able to explain why the
five-year-old and the six-year-old do not differ in any way that could
rationally justify recognising the right to life of one but not the
other. I argue, in the book, that human beings in the embryonic stage
of development don't differ from five and six-year-olds in any way that
could justify their killing. (Neither do people in a persistent
vegetative state.) That argument doesn't depend on religious premises
MercatorNet: Changing tack, you seem to make the case that the abortion
debate has not been a forthright one. Why do you think that is and how
has this lack of honesty changed the debate?
Ponnuru: Before Roe was decided, supporters of abortion dissembled
about the frequency of illegal abortions, the frequency of maternal
deaths from illegal abortions, and the history of abortion law. Since
Roe, they have dissembled about how far-reaching the Supreme Court's
decisions have really been, about the frequency and reasons for
partial-birth abortion, and many other matters. It is possible to make
an honest defence of abortion. But in our country, the social and
political success of the movement to defend abortion has depended on
MercatorNet: Do you think the pro-choice movement would have failed if
the party of death had been honest in the courts?
Ponnuru: The notion that the Constitution protects abortion can be seen
as a kind of higher lie itself. A certain amount of deception and
self-deception was necessary even in the courts.
MercatorNet: Obviously this book will cause a stir in pro-choice
circles. You mention in thanks at the close of the book a number
of pro-life organisations and leaders, saying that they may not agree
with everything in "The Party of Death". Do you think this book
will cause any controversy or disagreement in pro-life circles?
ImagePonnuru: Some pro-lifers will disagree with aspects of the book.
There has been a long-running debate among pro-lifers about the wisdom
of trying to move forward incrementally. I'm firmly in the
incrementalist camp, and that will probably be the biggest concern for
some pro-lifers. But I hope that those pro-lifers will find most of the
book to be valuable.
MercatorNet: Speaking of those with whom one disagrees, in your book,
the Democratic party is shown to have been taken over by the party of
death, which has caused great harm to the party's popularity, not to
mention moral standing with respect to abortion. Besides
your stated goal to have more just laws that protect life, do I detect
a desire on your part to revitalise the two-party system by freeing the
Democrats from the party of death? Is this book designed to
foment a purge in the Democratic party?
Ponnuru: One of the arguments I make in the book is that the Democratic
Party has made a terrible mistake, even from the standpoint of
self-interest, by letting itself be so thoroughly dominated by the
party of death. I am not calling for the Democrats to purge
pro-choicers; it would be hard for the party to purge a majority of its
members. I do think it should be more open to pro-lifers, accept some
restrictions on abortion, and be willing to submit to a democratic
resolution of the issue.
MercatorNet: Where in the future do you see the most opposition to the
pro-life cause? Will it be the courts? The universities? Abortion
advocacy groups themselves? Law journals and legal scholars such as
Ponnuru: The opposition comes from all of the institutions you mention,
but it's the courts and the legal culture that are the biggest
problems. Pro-choice academics and feminists can be beaten
democratically, if we get the chance.
MercatorNet: Finally, where do you see the most encouraging sign of the
turning of the tide, as one of your chapters calls it?
Ponnuru: One of the most heartening developments in the abortion issue
has been the increasingly pro-life stance that young people are taking.
Matthew Mehan is US Editor of MercatorNet.
Defending Humans From the Start
Interview With Vice President of Academy for Life
ROME, MARCH 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Life cannot be defended if one is
not aware of its beauty, says the new vice president if the Pontifical
Academy for Life.
Monsignor Jean Laffitte, formerly undersecretary of the Pontifical
Council for the Family, speaks in this interview with ZENIT about how
to defend life in the contemporary world.
Q: The Pope has given you a new mission: vice president of the Academy
for Life. Your task, among others, is to sensitize our contemporaries
to the gift of life. In your opinion, what are the great challenges in
the realm of defense of life?
Monsignor Laffitte: In my opinion, the great problem at present is the
loss of the sense of the beauty of life. Life cannot be defended if its
beauty is not perceived.
Life today has been transformed into a place for ideological struggle.
It was not always like this. Life is from the beginning a concrete
reality, which exists. The people around us exist. We are in
relationship with them. They represent in the world an objective wealth.
From the beginning, life calls for an essential attitude of acceptance
and love. Human life is never neutral. When one loses sight of the
character of immediate goodness of what exists and lives before our
eyes -- the beauty of the people who surround us and of those to whom
we are united by bonds of love and solidarity -- life is turned into a
place of ideological struggle.
How does this occur? To begin with, by a trivialization of human life.
It loses its specific character and one ends up by assimilating it to
any other manifestation of life, of any living being.
One no longer sees that, behind each human face, behind each person,
there is a singularity, a unique wealth in which believers recognize an
intention of God, a plan of love. Life is the gift of God's love to all
The first task is to try to give back, to the one who has lost it, the
notion of a real good that precedes us, that we have not chosen and, in
any case, that we have not chosen thanks to ourselves.
No one has ever decided to live. We are before a reality that invites
us to this gaze of love and acceptance. One cannot have a neutral
attitude to life. Life is not simply a biological phenomenon. A human
person cannot be considered simply under the aspect of his biological,
anatomical or cellular characteristics.
It is possible to do so, in the context of applied science, but when
one wishes to explain the truth of a man's life, one is obliged to
consider it in all that constitutes it, namely, his organism -- he is a
living being subjected to physical and biological laws -- but also in
what constitutes his specificity, his quality of rational creature,
gifted with intelligence and will, gifted with the capacity to love and
to enter into a relationship of communion with other men.
Q: Today, in a world in which science virtually enables us to order a
child a la carte, life becomes an object of consumption. What does
Benedict XVI propose to us in his first encyclical?
Monsignor Laffitte: If one perceives human life as a wealth, one does
not need to ask the origin of this wealth that precedes us. Therefore,
we address a complementary aspect very much connected to the topic of
the encyclical: the relationship between a human life and the author of
human life. God, who is the Creator of every life, is at the same time
the source of all charity and love.
There is also a very close nexus between life and love; in principle,
because life itself is a consequence of God's love; it is a gift, but
also because human life acquires all its meaning in a perspective of
Man is made to love the One who created him. He is made to love others,
his neighbor; he develops in love, he realizes all his potential in
love and considers with admiration the whole of creation, exercising on
it a type of lordship, subordinated of course to the divine Lordship.
But all this cannot be done except in respect for nature and in a
spirit of service to one's fellow men, which assumes that he is
animated by love.
This encyclical invites us to be aware that God is really love; the
life that comes from him is a direct consequence of that love. This
totally changes our outlook on human existence and its end, on the end
of life, on what animates us, on our profound intentions and on the way
in which we exercise our activity.
The encyclical draws our attention to the fact that life is within God,
life is communion, it is love. In God, life and love coincide because
divine love makes one exist; it is a love that leads to the existence
of beings that did not exist before.
It is not only an act of material causality. It is, formally, an act of
love that makes others exist.
Q: How can the sense of the beauty of life be rediscovered when it has
Monsignor Laffitte: We must identify the reasons that lead to the
alteration or loss of meaning.
At times there are reasons linked to the gravity of personal moral
choices that, wounding the soul, darken one's outlook on life and no
longer allow one to recognize its precious character.
Here a moral analysis could be made of this de facto state. More
generally, there are also obvious reasons connected to suffering,
trial, or injustice suffered.
There are circumstances in people's lives in which, without
responsibility on their part, they must face an objective difficulty to
perceive the beauty of life.
To understand them, we must admit that these situations exist.
Moreover, this experience of opacity of the beauty of life can come to
Every one might have to face in a moment of his life either the
sickness of a loved one, the death of a close person; the effects of
the sickness can hide from their eyes the beauty of life.
In these situations, the perception of the beauty of life takes place
through a process similar to that of faith. We believe and adhere to
the beauty of life, in the same way that believers adhere to the beauty
of God without seeing it. We do not see God but we know that his beauty
It is very rare for a person never to have reflected on the beauty of
life. But there are situations in which the difficult and painful
manifestations of certain ailments, of very serious sicknesses, of
men's injustice, or of any other circumstance, can rob from existence
what gives it its attraction in normal life.
The problem must not be considered in an isolated way. No one can face
a personal misery, an illness, a profound sorrow, in solitude. Man is
not a monad. He is in constant relationship with many other people, who
are more or less close.
Without pretending that the love of life perceived in others by a
person who is suffering make the latter's life immediately easier, at
least this gives him a vision of existence that is not reduced to the
precariousness of his own situation.
Obviously, this is not an effort to ask of the person who is suffering,
but a call to the people who are happier. Respect for the life of those
who are suffering is a necessary condition so that the latter will
perceive something of the beauty of life.
When a tested person receives help, loving attention, he will no longer
identity life with his suffering because, in his life, he will not
simply have suffering, but will also have the act of love he has
It is necessary to consider that, in the area of life, questions never
present themselves in an abstract way, but concretely: Every person is
involved in relations or situations in which he can exercise this
charity with his neighbor to which the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est"
From it one gleans what is at the center of all human existence, those
fundamental needs profoundly engraved in man's heart; among them, in
the first place, the desire to love and to be loved.
There are also other essential desires, such as that of being useful.
However, the desire to be loved seems to be the most deeply rooted.
One of the original and important contributions of the encyclical is to
show the primordial importance of being able to receive love. Love is
not only the unilateral movement of someone who gives and gives
himself. It is also the movement of someone who, giving himself, is
able to receive another love that sometimes precedes it.
In relation to God, on the other hand, this occurs always. We are
always preceded in our love by God, by the love we receive from him.
Present in the encyclical is the intention to show this double movement
of love, a unified movement that establishes a true communion between
the two terms.
The encyclical honors this dimension often forgotten in the arbitrary
focuses or very partial approaches of charity, or partial and often
spiritualist focuses, where it is imagined that love is simply the fact
Love, in its full and perfect _expression, is also reception and much
virtue is necessary to know how to receive and appreciate love from
others because it is a gift of God, a gift of the grace of God.
Why Abortion Bans May
the Answer Now
Clarke Forsythe on Judicial Strategies
CHICAGO, MARCH 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A pro-life legal expert who has
long battled abortion is warning against sweeping bans prematurely.
In fact, Clarke Forsythe believes such bans even might be
counterproductive in prudently pursuing the pro-life agenda.
Forsythe is an attorney, director of the Project in Law & Bioethics
at Americans United for Life and co-author of "The Tragic Failure of
Roe v. Wade: Why Abortion Should be Returned to the States," in the
fall 2005 issue of Texas Review of Law & Politics.
The evangelical Christian shared with ZENIT how he thinks a
step-by-step strategy and incremental legislation will save the most
unborn children now -- and pave the way for an eventual overturning of
Roe v. Wade.
Q: Should pro-life political efforts focus on piecemeal legislation or
sweeping bans such as the one in South Dakota? What sorts of laws can
withstand constitutional scrutiny in the current landscape?
Forsythe: Over the past 33 years, an incremental, step-by-step strategy
has proven to be the most effective.
Despite repeated attempts, sweeping bans haven't worked and can be
counterproductive. Given the pro-abortion majority on the Supreme
Court, abortion prohibitions before 2009 are premature.
An incremental strategy has been most effective because it simply
recognizes that that's how the American Framers made the legal and
political system. The constitutional structure of federalism,
separation of powers, and checks and balances means that change only
The Supreme Court is still dominated by a majority of at least five
pro-Roe justices: Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens and Souter.
We know that only two -- Scalia and Thomas -- have publicly stated that
Roe should be overturned, though even Scalia and Thomas are of the view
that the abortion issue is a state matter because the Constitution is
silent on the issue.
We don't know about Roberts or Alito. And we don't know if President
Bush will have another nomination before the 2008 elections.
Given those obstacles and uncertainties, pro-life legislative efforts
should focus on legislation that can put fences around Roe, reduce
abortions, protect unborn children, protect women from the risks of
abortion, encourage alternatives, and educate the public.
Essentially, legislative strategy should ask three questions: What will
effectively limit the number of abortions? What will raise public
consciousness? What will help reverse Roe?
Given current obstacles, state or federal abortion prohibitions at any
point before the 2008 elections will be premature.
A prohibition in the near future -- given the current composition of
the court -- will have a virtually certain outcome: It will never go
into effect, it will be struck down by the lower federal district
courts, which will be affirmed on appeal, the Supreme Court will deny
review, and the state will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of
dollars in attorney fees to the abortion clinics' attorneys.
There are several types of laws that can be enforced and make a
positive difference now -- such as parental notice, informed consent
and clinic regulations -- and states should focus on those types of
laws, until the legal and political obstacles change.
In addition, fetal homicide, or unborn-victims-of-violence, laws, like
the Lacey Peterson law in California, can protect the unborn child from
(the moment of )conception; they are enforced in 33 states today, and
many of those protect the child from the time of conception.
Q: Shouldn't anti-abortion statutes be repeatedly pursued and defended
in the courts to keep the pressure on judges and win the public
relations battle by demonstrating the radical nature of current
Forsythe: The right kind of abortion legislation should be pursued --
legislation that seeks to achieve one of the goals outlined above and
can actually be enforced and make a positive impact.
Unless there is some compelling reason related to the three questions
outlined above, legislation that has no chance of being upheld and no
chance of going into effect should be discouraged at this time. The
simple fact is that time and resources are limited.
The notion that the court can be "forced" to re-examine Roe in a
particular case is a myth.
It is also a persistent myth that the justices simply haven't been
"shown the right facts" and that "if they only saw the facts of fetal
development, they'd see the light." In the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart
case, the justices were presented with graphic testimony about fetal
development and about the impact of partial birth abortion on the
unborn child, and the majority proceeded to strike down the
partial-birth abortion laws of 30 states.
To put it another way, the problem with the pro-abortion justices is
not a defect in the intellect but a defect in the will.
As for the "demonstrating the radical nature of current abortion
jurisprudence," nothing has done that more clearly than the Nebraska
partial-birth abortion case in 2000; and hopefully the new case that
the court agreed to hear on Feb. 21, Gonzales v. Carhart, involving the
federal partial-birth abortion law, will amplify that public education.
Q: Has pro-life legislation actually saved lives -- or are the various,
limited laws that have been passed by Congress and the states more
Forsythe: Incremental, prudential legislation definitely saves lives.
Michael New's studies, published by the Heritage Foundation, provide
specific evidence that the drop of 17% to 19% in abortions during the
1990s was largely attributable to state legislation establishing fences
around the abortion license. As restricted as it has been by judicial
obstacles, pro-life legislation has achieved both those goals and more.
Within the very real and harsh and unconstitutional constraints imposed
by the Supreme Court, pro-life laws have protected important principles
to the extent possible, reduced abortions, kept the issue alive in the
states, kept pro-life Americans energized and mobilized in the
political and legislative arenas, recorded real votes of legislators on
real bills, and demonstrated that the Court has made a mess of the
issue, to say the least.
We have seen significant reductions in the number of abortions since
the high point of 1.6 million in the early 1990s.
Q: Do you think that the presence of five Catholics on the Supreme
Court will change the landscape of the abortion battle?
Forsythe: Maybe, but Justice Brennan was a Catholic and he gave us both
a constitutional right to contraception by minors and a constitutional
right to abortion.
Obviously, being Catholic doesn't guarantee that a justice will be
competent or prudent in expounding the principles of the American
Whether we're looking for a brain surgeon, a dentist or a judge, the
first question we should ask is whether they are competent, not whether
they have a certain religious label.
As jurists expounding American constitutional principles, Catholic
justices will base their legal judgments on principles based in the
text and history of the U.S. Constitution, because that's what the
American people ratified and preserved.
As Princeton professor Robert George has said, "The questions of
whether to vest courts with the power of constitutional review at all,
and, if so, what the scope of that power should be, are in important
ways underdetermined by reason. As such, [they] are matters to be
resolved prudently by the type of authoritative choice among morally
acceptable options -- what Aquinas called 'determinatio' and
distinguished from matters that can be resolved 'by a process akin to
deduction; from the natural law itself.'"
Q: Given the current state of the Supreme Court on the question of
abortion, would it be more prudent to shift pro-life resources into
life-care centers and other such initiatives that directly aid women in
crisis pregnancies and help foster a "culture of life"?
Forsythe: No. It's not either/or. Crisis pregnancy centers save lives
-- but so does policy. We must have both.
For example, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has tried to use
law to shut down CPCs. We must have the legal and policy work to
protect CPCs and build fences around the abortion license.
Public policy and direct services to women considering abortion are
crucial elements in a comprehensive cultural, educational, political
and legal strategy.
All those aspects contribute to the abortion problem, and all have to
be addressed with creative solutions.
Q: What sorts of changes are needed before federal courts will be more
hospitable to abortion regulations and restrictions?
Forsythe: We need to stop judicial activism. We need judges who will
faithfully interpret the law instead of devising their own social
It's a legal, political and cultural problem within a mass democracy
where political power is widely diffused by virtue of our
constitutional system, our federal system, and the separation of powers.
Since Roe, and perhaps before, the judicial class -- and the legal
academy, which produces judges -- have been among the elements of
American society most hostile to the humanity of the unborn child. Most
legal progress over the past 30 years has come through legislatures,
not the judiciary.
State and federal judges have to be changed. More pro-life public
officials -- who appoint judges -- need to be elected to office.
Public opinion needs to be strengthened in respecting fetal life and
realizing the negative impact of abortion on women. Again, it's not
either/or. Every effort has to be done to move the entire democratic
Down Syndrome and the
Pressure to Abort
Elizabeth Schiltz on Change in Attitudes
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, MARCH 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Many prospective
parents are waiting for years to adopt children with Down syndrome,
according to a recent article in the Associated Press.
So why is there an extended wait for kids with special needs, who are
usually more difficult to place with families? The reason might be: the
growing acceptance of aborting babies with Down syndrome.
Elizabeth Schiltz, law professor at the University of St. Thomas and
contributor to "The Cost of 'Choice': Women Evaluate the Impact of
Abortion" (Encounter Books), shared with ZENIT how aborting children
with Down syndrome has not only become justified, but is almost
considered a duty.
Schiltz also relayed her experience in receiving a prenatal diagnosis
of Down syndrome for her son.
Q: Why do you think it has become socially acceptable to abort a child
with Down syndrome?
Schiltz: Because, unfortunately, it has become socially acceptable to
abort any baby who disappoints the expectations of the baby's parents
for any reason, as the increasingly common practice of sex-selection
Down syndrome just happens to be a disability that is easily identified
through prenatal testing.
Not only have many come to accept that a woman faced with such news is
justified in aborting her child, some now go further and insist that
she has a duty to abort.
Bob Edwards, the scientist who created Great Britain's first in vitro
fertilization baby, gave a speech a couple of years ago at an
international fertility conference in which he said, "Soon it will be a
sin for parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of
genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the
quality of our children."
This is frightening. It signals an erosion of societal consensus about
our collective responsibility for vulnerable people.
Society will increasingly believe that a mother who forgoes an easy
abortion and chooses instead to give birth to a disabled child should
not look to the community for help. After all, it was her "choice."
Q: Has prenatal testing contributed to the problem?
Schiltz: Prenatal testing has made the population of children with Down
syndrome more vulnerable to abortion, because it's so easy to identify
them. But the real problem isn't the testing.
The real problem is using the results of these tests as part of a crude
"cost-benefit" analysis -- of balancing the "benefit" of giving birth
to a child with Down syndrome against the "cost" to the mother and the
Obviously, such a cost-benefit analysis ignores the fundamental truth
that every human is created in the image and likeness of God.
And, even on its own utilitarian terms, this analysis is often faulty
because it rarely involves adequate information about the realities of
living with Down syndrome -- either for the baby or the baby's family.
Brian Skotko, a Harvard Medical School student, published a pair of
studies in the medical journals Pediatrics and the American Journal of
Obstetrics and Gynecology just last year, concluding that few mothers
were satisfied with the manner in which their doctors delivered pre- or
post-natal diagnoses of Down syndrome, or the information provided by
their doctors when they gave these diagnoses.
I applaud efforts like the bill introduced in Congress last year by
Senators Brownback and Kennedy, called the Prenatally Diagnosed
Condition Awareness Act, that would require healthcare providers to
provide up-to-date, scientific information about prenatally diagnosed
conditions and referrals to support services.
I'd like them to amend the bill to add information about the waiting
lists for adoption of kids with Down syndrome.
Q: The Associated Press recently reported that many families are
choosing to adopt children with Down syndrome and sometimes have to
wait years. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?
Schiltz: I am thrilled that this has finally caught the attention of
the mainstream press. The newsletters and Internet listservs of Down
syndrome support groups have been talking about this for years.
In fact, I know a woman who runs an adoption agency, Huminska's Anioly,
that specializes in placing children from Polish orphanages in homes in
the United States.
When she heard about the waiting lists at American adoption agencies
for children with Down syndrome a couple of years ago, she started a
special program for children in Polish orphanages with Down syndrome.
In the States, there's another resource: the Adoption Awareness Program
-- Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Q: What was your experience in receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down
syndrome for your child?
Schiltz: I think my experience of receiving the prenatal diagnosis for
my son was somewhat atypical, because my doctors knew that abortion was
not an option for me. Even so, three things about the process were
First, there is a phenomenal amount of pressure to make decisions
quickly, because the whole system is geared to result in earlier and
therefore "safer" abortions. The pressure to act quickly in these
situations not only increases risk to the baby, but I think it must
often prevent parents from thinking through realistic alternatives to
Second, I was struck by how little positive information about life with
Down syndrome the doctors and genetic counselors were able to provide
me. Although my doctor was very supportive of my decision, neither she
nor our genetic counselor had any helpful information to share about
life with Down syndrome.
Third, even though I was pro-life, and even though I spent my whole
life loving my mentally retarded older brother, getting the actual
diagnosis was extremely traumatic.
For days afterward, I hesitated to put my hands on my belly. I felt as
though a stranger had moved in, and he frightened me. For weeks
afterward, I felt as though I had lost my entire identity.
I had never perceived of myself as a person with a child with a
disability. I had always perceived of myself as a person with "perfect"
children. I didn't know how I could continue with the life I had always
planned for myself.
But, gradually, I started to love that little "stranger" just as
strongly as I loved the old vision of what he would be. And, gradually,
I realized that my old self was still there, it just had some new
things to learn.
Personally, I'm glad that I was able to go through that trauma before
my child was born. But it's important to be sensitive to how
devastating this kind of news can be to any parent.
Q: How are people with Down syndrome an important and special part of
Schiltz: In her book, "The Child Who Never Grew," Pulitzer and Nobel
Prize winning author Pearl S. Buck wrote this about her mentally
retarded daughter: "[B]y this most sorrowful way I was compelled to
tread, I learned respect for reverence for every human mind.
"It was my child who taught me to understand so clearly that all people
are equal in their humanity and that all have the same human rights.
None is to be considered less, as a human being, than any other, and
each must be given his place and his safety in the world.
"I might never have learned this in any other way. I might have gone on
in the arrogance of my own intolerance for those less able than myself.
My child taught me humanity."
In addition to teaching me about humanity, I also think that my son has
taught me something about divinity. I think my love for him sometimes
provides a hint of what God's love for us must be like.
Like my love for my son, God's love for us doesn't depend on our
intellect, our accomplishments or our proximity to what society defines
People with Down syndrome wear their vulnerability on their faces. They
are a visible reminder that the image of God reflected in humanity
includes people of all sorts of intellectual capacities.
It would be an impoverished society indeed that succeeded in
eliminating such powerful teachers of both humanity and divinity.
On Vaccines Made From Cells of Aborted
"It is a Grave Responsibility to Use Alternative
VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a
sent by Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for
to Mrs. Debra Vinnedge, executive director, Children of God for Life.
The letter presents the following study conducted by
academy entitled "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells
from Aborted Human Fetuses."
* * *
Vatican City, June 9, 2005
Mrs. Debra Vinnedge
Executive Director, Children of God for Life
Dear Mrs. Debra Vinnedge,
On June 4, 2003, you wrote to His Eminence Cardinal
Ratzinger, with a copy of this letter forwarded to me, asking to the
Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith a clarification about the liceity
of vaccinating children with vaccines prepared using cell lines derived
from aborted human fetuses. Your question regarded in particular the
of the parents of these children to oppose such a vaccination when made
at school, mandated by law.
As there were no formal guidelines by the
concerning that topic, you said that catholic parents were often
by state courts, health officials and school administrators when they
religious exemptions for their children to this type of vaccination
This Pontifical Academy for Life, carrying out the
entrusted to us by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, in
to your request, has proceeded to a careful examination of the question
of these "tainted" vaccines, and has produced as a result a study -- in
Italian -- that has been realized with the help of a group of experts.
This study has been approved as such by the
and we send you, here enclosed, an English translation of a synthesis
this study. This synthesis can be brought to the knowledge of the
officials and organisms.
A documented paper on the topic will be published in
journal "Medicina e Morale," edited by the Center of Bioethics of the
University in Rome.
The study, its synthesis, and the translation of
material took some time. We apologize for the delay.
With my best regards,
Bishop Elio Sgreccia
* * *
Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Stem Cells
Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses
The matter in question regards the lawfulness of
distribution and use of certain vaccines whose production is connected
with acts of procured abortion. It concerns vaccines containing live
which have been prepared from human cell lines of fetal origin, using
from aborted human fetuses as a source of such cells.
The best known, and perhaps the most important due
its vast distribution and its use on an almost universal level, is the
vaccine against Rubella -- German measles.
Rubella and its vaccine
Rubella -- German measles --  is a viral illness
by a Togavirus of the genus Rubivirus and is characterized by a
rash. It consists of an infection which is common in infancy and has no
clinical manifestations in one case out of two, is self-limiting and
benign. Nonetheless, the German measles virus is one of the most
infective agents for the embryo and fetus.
When a woman catches the infection during pregnancy,
during the first trimester, the risk of fetal infection is very high --
approximately 95%. The virus replicates itself in the placenta and
the fetus, causing the constellation of abnormalities denoted by the
of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. For example, the severe epidemic of
measles which affected a huge part of the United States in 1964 thus
20,000 cases of congenital rubella , resulting in 11,250 abortions
spontaneous or surgical -- 2,100 neonatal deaths, 11,600 cases of
3,580 cases of blindness, 1,800 cases of mental retardation. It was
epidemic that pushed for the development and introduction on the market
of an effective vaccine against rubella, thus permitting an effective
against this infection.
The severity of congenital rubella and the handicaps
it causes justify systematic vaccination against such a sickness. It is
very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to avoid the infection of a
woman, even if the rubella infection of a person in contact with this
is diagnosed from the first day of the eruption of the rash. Therefore,
one tries to prevent transmission by suppressing the reservoir of
among children who have not been vaccinated, by means of early
of all children -- universal vaccination.
Universal vaccination has resulted in a considerable
in the incidence of congenital rubella, with a general incidence
to less than 5 cases per 100,000 live births. Nevertheless, this
In the United States, for example, after an
reduction in the number of cases of congenital rubella to only a few
annually, i.e. less than 0.1 per 100,000 live births, a new epidemic
came on in 1991, with an incidence that rose to 0.8/100,000. Such waves
of resurgence of German measles were also seen in 1997 and in the year
These periodic episodes of resurgence make it
that there is a persistent circulation of the virus among young adults,
which is the consequence of insufficient vaccination coverage. The
situation allows a significant proportion of vulnerable subjects to
who are a source of periodic epidemics which put women in the fertile
group who have not been immunized at risk.
Therefore, the reduction to the point of eliminating
rubella is considered a priority in public health care.
Vaccines currently produced using cell aborted
To date, there are two human diploid cell lines
were originally prepared from tissues of aborted fetuses -- in 1964 and
1970 -- and are used for the preparation of vaccines based on live
The first one is the WI-38 line (Winstar Institute
with human diploid lung fibroblasts, coming from a female fetus that
aborted because the family felt they had too many children. It was
and developed by Leonard Hayflick in 1964  and bears the ATCC number
CCL-75. WI-38 has been used for the preparation of the historical
RA 27/3 against rubella .
The second human cell line is MRC-5 (Medical
Council 5) -- human, lung, embryonic -- (ATCC number CCL-171), with
lung fibroblasts coming from a 14 week male fetus aborted for
reasons" from a 27 year old woman in the UK. MRC-5 was prepared and
by J.P. Jacobs in 1966 . Other human cell lines have been developed
for pharmaceutical needs, but are not involved in the vaccines actually
The vaccines that are incriminated today as using
cell lines from aborted fetuses, WI-38 and MRC-5, are the following: 
A) Live vaccines against rubella 
-- Monovalent vaccines against rubella Meruvax®
United States), Rudivax® (Sanofi Pasteur, France), and Ervevax®
(RA 27/3) (GlaxoSmithKline, Belgium)
-- Combined vaccine MR against rubella and measles,
with the name of M-R-VAX® (Merck, United States) and
-- Combined vaccine against rubella and mumps
under the name of Biavax® (Merck, United States)
-- Combined vaccine MMR -- measles, mumps, rubella
marketed under the name of M-M-R® II (Merck, United States),
Trimovax® (Sanofi Pasteur, France), and Priorix®
B) Other vaccines, also prepared using human cell
from aborted fetuses
-- Two vaccines against hepatitis A, one produced by
(VAQTA), the other one produced by GlaxoSmithKline (HAVRIX), both of
being prepared using MRC-5
-- One vaccine against chicken pox, Varivax®,
by Merck using WI-38 and MRC-5
-- One vaccine against poliomyelitis, the
polio virus vaccine Poliovax® (Aventis-Pasteur, France) using MRC-5
-- One vaccine against rabies, Imovax®, produced
Aventis Pasteur, harvested from infected human diploid cells, MRC-5
-- One vaccine against smallpox, AC AM 1000,
by Acambis using MRC-5, still on trial.
The position of the ethical problem related to these
From the point of view of prevention of viral
such as German measles, mumps, measles, chicken pox and hepatitis A, it
is clear that the making of effective vaccines against diseases such as
these, as well as their use in the fight against these infections, up
the point of eradication, by means of an obligatory vaccination of all
the population at risk, undoubtedly represents a "milestone" in the
fight of man against infective and contagious diseases.
However, as the same vaccines are prepared from
taken from the tissues of fetuses that had been infected and
aborted, and the viruses were subsequently attenuated and cultivated
human cell lines which come likewise from procured abortions, they do
cease to pose ethical problems.
The need to articulate a moral reflection on the
in question arises mainly from the connection which exists between the
vaccines mentioned above and the procured abortions from which
material necessary for their preparation was obtained.
If someone rejects every form of voluntary abortion
human fetuses, would such a person not contradict himself by allowing
use of these vaccines of live attenuated viruses on their children?
Would it not be a matter of true -- and illicit --
in evil, even though this evil was carried out forty years ago?
Before proceeding to consider this specific case, we
to recall briefly the principles assumed in classical moral doctrine
regard to the problem of cooperation in evil , a problem which
every time that a moral agent perceives the existence of a link between
his own acts and a morally evil action carried out by others.
The principle of licit cooperation in evil
The first fundamental distinction to be made is that
formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation is carried out when
the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person,
in the latter's evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent
with the immoral action of another person, without sharing in the
it is a case of material cooperation.
Material cooperation can be further divided into
of immediate -- direct -- and mediate -- indirect -- depending on
the cooperation is in the execution of the sinful action per se, or
the agent acts by fulfilling the conditions -- either by providing
or products -- which make it possible to commit the immoral act.
Furthermore, forms of proximate cooperation and
cooperation can be distinguished, in relation to the "distance" -- be
in terms of temporal space or material connection -- between the act of
cooperation and the sinful act committed by someone else. Immediate
cooperation is always proximate, while mediate material cooperation can
be either proximate or remote.
Formal cooperation is always morally illicit because
represents a form of direct and intentional participation in the sinful
action of another person . Material cooperation can sometimes be
-- depending on the conditions of the "double effect" or "indirect
action -- but when immediate material cooperation concerns grave
on human life, it is always to be considered illicit, given the
nature of the value in question .
A further distinction made in classical morality is
between active -- or positive -- cooperation in evil and passive -- or
negative -- cooperation in evil, the former referring to the
of an act of cooperation in a sinful action that is carried out by
person, while the latter refers to the omission of an act of
or impediment of a sinful action carried out by another person,
as there was a moral duty to do that which was omitted .
Passive cooperation can also be formal or material,
or mediate, proximate or remote. Obviously, every type of formal
cooperation is to be considered illicit, but even passive material
should generally be avoided, although it is admitted, by many authors,
that there is not a rigorous obligation to avoid it in a case in which
it would be greatly difficult to do so.
Application to vaccines prepared from cells of
In the specific case under examination, there are
categories of people who are involved in the cooperation in evil, evil
which is obviously represented by the action of a voluntary abortion
by others: a) those who prepare the vaccines using human cell lines
from voluntary abortions; b) those who participate in the mass
of such vaccines; c) those who need to use them for health reasons.
Firstly, one must consider morally illicit every
of formal cooperation -- sharing the evil intention -- in the action of
those who have performed a voluntary abortion, which in turn has
the retrieval of fetal tissues, required for the preparation of
Therefore, whoever -- regardless of the category to which he belongs --
cooperates in some way, sharing its intention, to the performance of a
voluntary abortion with the aim of producing the above-mentioned
participates, in actuality, in the same moral evil as the person who
performed that abortion.
Such participation would also take place in the case
someone, sharing the intention of the abortion, refrains from
or criticizing this illicit action, although having the moral duty to
so -- passive formal cooperation.
In a case where there is no such formal sharing of
immoral intention of the person who has performed the abortion, any
of cooperation would be material, with the following specifications.
As regards the preparation, distribution and
of vaccines produced as a result of the use of biological material
origin is connected with cells coming from fetuses voluntarily aborted,
such a process is stated, as a matter of principle, morally illicit,
it could contribute in encouraging the performance of other voluntary
with the purpose of the production of such vaccines.
Nevertheless, it should be recognized that, within
chain of production-distribution-marketing, the various cooperating
can have different moral responsibilities.
However, there is another aspect to be considered,
that is the form of passive material cooperation which would be carried
out by the producers of these vaccines, if they do not denounce and
publicly the original immoral act -- the voluntary abortion -- and if
do not dedicate themselves together to research and promote alternative
ways, exempt from moral evil, for the production of vaccines for the
infections. Such passive material cooperation, if it should occur, is
As regards those who need to use such vaccines for
of health, it must be emphasized that, apart from every form of formal
cooperation, in general, doctors or parents who resort to the use of
vaccines for their children, in spite of knowing their origin --
abortion -- carry out a form of very remote mediate material
and thus very mild, in the performance of the original act of abortion,
and a mediate material cooperation, with regard to the marketing of
coming from abortions, and immediate, with regard to the marketing of
produced with such cells.
The cooperation is therefore more intense on the
of the authorities and national health systems that accept the use of
However, in this situation, the aspect of passive
is that which stands out most. It is up to the faithful and citizens of
upright conscience -- parents, doctors, etc. -- to oppose, even by
an objection of conscience, the ever more widespread attacks against
and the "culture of death" which underlies them.
From this point of view, the use of vaccines whose
is connected with procured abortion constitutes at least a mediate
passive material cooperation to the abortion, and an immediate passive
material cooperation with regard to their marketing. Furthermore, on a
cultural level, the use of such vaccines contributes in the creation of
a generalized social consensus to the operation of the pharmaceutical
which produce them in an immoral way.
Therefore, doctors and parents have a duty to take
to alternative vaccines  -- if they exist -- putting pressure on
political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without
moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if
to the use of conscientious objection  with regard to the use of
produced by means of cell lines of aborted human fetal origin.
Equally, they should oppose by all means -- in
through the various associations, mass media, etc. -- the vaccines
do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so
alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the
of a human fetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the
As regards the diseases against which there are no
vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to
from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children,
indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to
However, if the latter are exposed to considerable
to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may
be used on a temporary basis.
The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive
cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience.
we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the
use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favoring the
of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children.
This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German
In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue
fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult
for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and
However, the burden of this important battle cannot
must not fall on innocent children and on the health situation of the
-- especially with regard to pregnant women.
To summarize, it must be confirmed that there is a
responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious
objection with regard to those which have moral problems.
As regards the vaccines without an alternative, the
to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should
be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is
in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one's own children but
and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the
as a whole -- especially for pregnant women
The lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should
be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their
marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material
cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active,
justified as an "extrema ratio" due to the necessity to provide for the
good of one's children and of the people who come in contact with the
-- pregnant women.
Such cooperation occurs in a context of moral
of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against
conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the
population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice,
must be eliminated as soon as possible.
 J. E. Banatvala, D.W.G. Brown. "Rubella," The
April 3, 2004, vol. 363, No. 9415, pp. 1127-1137.
 S.A. Plotkin. "Virologic Assistance in the
of German Measles in Pregnancy," JAMA, Oct. 26, 1964, vol.190, pp.
"Rubella , Morbidity and Mortality," Weekly Report,
vol. 13, p. 93.
 L. Hayflick. "The Limited In-Vitro Lifetime of
Diploid Cell Strains," Experimental Cell Research, March 1965, vol.37,
no. 3, pp. 614-636.
G. Sven, S. Plotkin, K. McCarthy. "Gamma Globulin
Rubella Virus; Production and Biological Control of
Attenuated Rubella Virus Vaccines," American journal of Diseases of
August 1969, vol. 118, no. 2, pp. 372-381.
 S. A. Plotkin, D. Cornfeld, Th.H. Ingalls.
of Immunization With Living Rubella Virus, Trials in Children With a
Coming From an Aborted Fetus," American Journal of Diseases in
October 1965, vol. 110, no. 4, pp. 381-389.
 J.P. Jacobs, C.M. Jones, J.P. Bailie.
of a Human Diploid Cell Designated MRC-5," Nature, 11th July 1970,
 Two other human cell lines, that are permanent,
293 aborted fetal cell line, from primary human embryonic kidney cells
transformed by sheared adenovirus type 5. The fetal kidney material was
obtained from an aborted fetus, in 1972 probably, and PER.C6, a fetal
line created using retinal tissue from an 18 week gestation aborted
have been developed for the pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus
vectors --for gene therapy.
They have not been involved in the making of any of
attenuated live virus vaccines presently in use because of their
to develop tumorigenic cells in the recipient. However some vaccines,
at the developmental stage, against Ebola virus (Crucell N.V. and the
Research Center of the National Institutes of Health's Allergy and
Diseases, NIAID), HIV (Merck), influenza (Medlmmune, Sanofi pasteur),
encephalitis (Crucell N.V. and Rhein Biotech N.V.) are prepared using
cell line (Crucell N.V., Leiden, The Netherlands).
 Against these various infectious diseases, there
some alternative vaccines that are prepared using animals' cells or
and are therefore ethically acceptable. Their availability depends on
country in question.
Concerning the particular case of the United States,
are no options for the time being in that country for the vaccination
rubella, chickenpox and hepatitis A, other than the vaccines proposed
Merck, prepared using the human cell lines WI-38 and MRC-5.
There is a vaccine against smallpox prepared with
Vero cell line -- derived from the kidney of an African green monkey --
ACAM2000 (Acambis-Baxter), a second-generation smallpox vaccine,
not approved in the US, which offers, therefore, an alternative to the
There are alternative vaccines against mumps
Merck, measles (Attenuvax, Merck), rabies (RabAvert, Chiron
-- prepared from chicken embryos, however serious allergies have
with such vaccines -- poliomyelitis (IPOL, Aventis-Pasteur, prepared
monkey kidney cells) and smallpox (a third-generation smallpox vaccine
MVA, Modified Vaccinia Ankara,
In Europe and in Japan, there are other vaccines
against rubella and hepatitis A, produced using non-human cell lines.
Kitasato Institute produce four vaccines against rubella, called
TO-336 and Matuba, prepared with cells from rabbit kidney, and one
prepared with cells from a quail embryo.
The Chemo-sero-therapeutic Research Institute
produce one another vaccine against hepatitis A, called Ainmugen,
with cells from monkey kidney. The only remaining problem is with the
Varivax® against chicken pox, for which there is no alternative.
 The vaccine against rubella using the strain
RA27/3 of live attenuated rubella virus, adapted and propagated in
human diploid lung fibroblasts is at the center of the present
regarding the morality of the use of vaccines prepared with the help of
human cell lines coming from aborted fetuses.
 D.M. Prummer O. Pr. "De cooperatione ad malum,"
Moralis secundum Principia S. Thomae Aquinatis, Tomus
Brisgoviae, Herder & Co., 1923, Pars I, Trat. IX,
Caput III, no.2, pp. 429-434.
K.H. Peschke. "Cooperation in the sins of others,"
Ethics: Moral Theology in the Light of Vatican II, vol.1, General Moral
Theology, C. Goodliffe Neale Ltd., Arden Forest Industrial Estate,
Warwickshire, B49 6Er, revised edition, 1986, pp. 320-324.
 A. Fisher. "Cooperation in Evil," Catholic
Quarterly, 1994, pp. 15-22.
D. Tettamanzi. "Cooperazione," in Dizionario di
S. Leone, S. Privitera ed., Istituto Siciliano di Bioetica, EDB-ISB,
L. Melina. "La cooperazione con azioni moralmente
contra la vita umana, in Commentario Interdisciplinare alia 'Evangelium
Vitae,'" E. Sgreccia, Ramon Luca Lucas ed., Libreria Editrice Vaticana,
1997, pp. 467-490.
E. Sgreccia, "Manuale di Bioetica," vol. I, Reprint
the third edition, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 1999, pp. 362-363.
 Pope John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae," no. 74.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.1868.
 The alternative vaccines in question are those
are prepared by means of cell lines which are not of human origin, for
example, the Vero cell line -- from monkeys -- the kidney cells of
or monkeys, or the cells of chicken embryos.
However, it should be noted that grave forms of
have occurred with some of the vaccines prepared in this way. The use
recombinant DNA technology could lead to the development of new
in the near future which will no longer require the use of cultures of
human diploid cells for the attenuation of the virus and its growth,
such vaccines will not be prepared from a basis of attenuated virus,
from the genome of the virus and from the antigens thus developed.
Some experimental studies have already been done
vaccines developed from DNA that has been derived from the genome of
German measles virus.
Moreover, some Asiatic researchers are trying to use
Varicella virus as a vector for the insertion of genes which codify the
viral antigens of Rubella.
These studies are still at a preliminary phase and
refinement of vaccine preparations which can be used in clinical
will require a lengthy period of time and will be at high costs.
D. Vinnedge. "The Smallpox Vaccine," The National
Bioethics Quarterly, Spring, 2000, vol.2, no. 1, p. 12.
G.C. Woodrow. "An Overview of Biotechnology as
to Vaccine Development," in New Generation Vaccines, G.C. Woodrow, M.M.
Levine eds., Marcel Dekker Inc., New York and Basel, 1990, see pp.
W.M. McDonnell, F.K. Askari, "Immunization," JAMA,
10, 1997, vol. 278, no. 22, pp. 2000-2007, see pp. 2005-2006.
 Such a duty may lead, as a consequence, to
recourse to "objection of conscience" when the action recognized as
is an act permitted or even encouraged by the laws of the country and
a threat to human life. The encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" underlined
"obligation to oppose" the laws which permit abortion or euthanasia "by
conscientious objection" (no. 73)
 This is particularly true in the case of
against German measles, because of the danger of congenital rubella
This could occur, causing grave congenital malformations in the fetus,
when a pregnant woman enters into contact, even if it is brief, with
who have not been immunized and are carriers of the virus. In this
the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children
responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent
of fetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.
Abortion and Depression
Interview With Theresa Burke
of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries (4th March, 2006)
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania. - A woman goes through psychological
stages in her relation with her unborn child as a pregnancy progresses
-- a factor often overlooked in the abortion debate.
So says Theresa Burke, the founder of Rachel's Vineyard Ministries, a
ministry of weekend retreats for healing after abortion.
In this interview with ZENIT, Burke discusses the relationship between
a woman and her unborn child, and the link between abortion and
Q: What is the nature of the psychological relationship between a woman
and the unborn child as it develops during the pregnancy?
Burke: Pregnancy is not a disease or an illness. It is a natural event
that has been going on for thousands of years, in every generation.
Women's bodies are instinctually programmed to nurture and sustain
life. The psychological relationship between the mother and her unborn
child is triggered by physical and hormonal changes, but also by the
woman's support system and culture.
For most women the first trimester is a time of anticipation and
excitement about the pregnancy, or anger and fear that an unplanned
pregnancy has occurred.
Ambivalent feelings are common: The mother marvels at the mysterious
fact that her body is capable of producing life; yet she may also feel
overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for another human being.
As the pregnancy progresses, the mother may have both positive and
negative feelings about the changes in the shape of her body. The third
trimester may include anxiety about the birth; concerns about the
health of her baby; worries about how her partner will adjust to the
new member of the family as well as financial concerns.
At the same time, the woman feels excitement and anticipation about the
forthcoming birth of her baby and the beginning of a completely new
phase in her life.
By the moment of birth, when the child is placed in a mother's arms,
the mystery, the wonder, the excitement all culminate in a powerful
bonding process as the mother joyfully welcomes a precious new life
into the world.
We could say that women also require the full nine months of pregnancy
to embark upon the emotional and psychological process that accompanies
motherhood. Together, both mother and child are going through a
dramatic and rapid developmental transformation.
Q: What roles do other factors, particularly the pressures from family
and boyfriends, plus economic problems, place on a woman's decision to
Burke: When we look behind the rhetoric of choice, we can more honestly
ask, "Whose choice is it?"
Recent research indicates that in 95% of all cases the male partner
plays a central role in the abortion decision.
Other studies, such as a July 2005 report in the Elliot Institute's
Post Abortion Review, reveal that up to 80% of women would give birth
if given support.
A former abortion-clinic security guard testified in Massachusetts that
women are routinely threatened or abused by the men who took them to
Too often, abortion is the choice of someone else in her life and we
hear most women say they had no choice but abortion.
In fact, murder is the No. 1 cause of death among pregnant women. Men
who have been convicted of the murder of their pregnant partners cite
not wanting to pay child support as the primary motive.
Such disturbing national statistics clearly indicate that there is a
high level of coercion driving women into unwanted abortions.
Without the consistent support of the baby's father or her own family,
many mothers fear they will not have the resources to provide for the
child. Given the poverty rates among single parents and the challenges
they face, this is a real problem.
In far too many cases, behind every woman having an abortion you will
find a host of persons that are very much involved in her "choice" and
often in manipulative in their persuasion.
This can be a younger woman's parents who threaten her with a
withdrawal of love or even eviction if she does not abort; the
school/mental health or health care professional who use the power of
their position to make abortion seem the rational, mature and only
decision that makes sense given her circumstances.
This is especially problematic when there is a hint of any health
problems with the unborn child. In these cases the pressure is often
quite strong to abort.
For women who are faced with severe fetal deformities, 95% of women who
are offered perinatal hospice will choose this form of support as the
more humane and emotionally desirable event. This avoids the
complicated grief brought on by late-term abortions, which is a
horrific experience for both mother and baby.
Q: What happens to the psychological relationship when a woman aborts?
And is there a difference between the effects of a spontaneous
Burke: When a mother is abruptly and violently disconnected from her
child there is a natural trauma. She has undergone an unnatural death
In many cases, she has violated her moral ethics and natural instincts.
There has been a crushing blow to her image of "mother" who nurtures,
protects and sustains life.
I have counseled thousands of women whose lives have been shattered by
the trauma of abortion, which they experience as a cruel and degrading
procedure. There is grief, sadness, heartache, guilt, shame and anger.
They have learned to numb themselves with alcohol and drugs, or master
their trauma through repetitions of it. Some re-enact their abortion
pain through promiscuity and repeat abortions, trapped in traumatic
cycles of abandonment and rejection.
Others stuff their feelings through eating disorders, panic attacks,
mental depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Some have suffered
permanent physical and reproductive damage that rendered them unable to
have children in the future.
Abortion is a death experience. It is the demise of human potential,
relationship, responsibility, maternal attachment, connectedness and
innocence. Such a loss is rarely experienced without conflict and
It would be simple-minded to think that getting over it could be free
from complication. In my book "Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of
Abortion," with David C. Reardon, we invite the reader into the
intimate heart of human experiences, a place where the abortion debate
When the polemics, the marches, the politics of freedom and rights are
over, there are emotional aspects of abortion which defy words.
The psychological and spiritual agony of abortion is silenced by
society, ignored by the media, rebuffed by mental heath professionals,
and scorned by the women's movement.
Post-abortion trauma is a serious and devastating illness which has no
celebrity spokeswoman, no made-for-television movie, and no platform
for the talk show confessional.
Abortion touches on three central issues of a woman's self-concept: her
sexuality, morality and maternal identity. It also involves the loss of
a child, or at least the loss of an opportunity to have a child. In
either case, this loss must be confronted, processed and grieved.
In a miscarriage, the mother has also suffered the loss of a child. The
difference is in the level of guilt and shame that post-aborted women
experience because of a deliberate and conscious decision to terminate
life; versus a miscarriage, which occurs due to natural causes.
With abortion, her loss is a secret. There is no social support or
consolation from friends or family.
It's important to note that there is also a high increase in
miscarriages following abortion. When a woman loses a wanted child
after an abortion experience, women frequently report complex grief and
depression because they believe the miscarriage is "God's punishment."
Q: What are the risks of depression stemming from the guilt of an
Burke: Because abortion is legal, it is presumed to be safe. Indeed, it
is commonly identified as a woman's "right."
This right, or privilege, is supposed to liberate women from the burden
of unwanted pregnancies. It is supposed to provide them with relief --
not grief and depression.
One of the big problems is that when women are assaulted by their own
natural reactions to their loss, they don't understand what is wrong
Many women go into treatment for depression, anxiety, or addictions,
but simply don't understand the roots of their illness. In many cases
they are drugged and diagnosed but never led on a path to healing and
Unresolved memories and feelings about the abortion become sources of
pressure that may erupt years later in unexpected ways. Unresolved
emotions will demand one's attention sooner or later, often through the
development of subsequent emotional or behavioral disturbances.
Professor David Fergusson, a researcher at Christchurch School of
Medicine in New Zealand, wanted to prove that abortion doesn't have any
He was surprised to find that women who have had abortions were
one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer mental illness, and two to
three times more likely to abuse alcohol and/or drugs.
Fergusson followed 500 women from birth to age 25. "Those having an
abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems,
including depression (46% increase), anxiety, suicidal behaviors and
substance use disorders," reads the research published in the Journal
of Child Psychiatry and Psychology.
Abortion is in fact responsible for a profound array of problems:
-- a 160% increase in rates of suicide in the U.S., according to the
Archives of Women's Mental Health, in 2001;
-- a 225% increase in rates of suicide in Britain, according to the
British Medical Journal, in 1997;
-- a 546% increase in rates of suicide in Finland, according to the
Acta Obstetrica et Gynecologica Scandinavica, in 1997.
In total, the average boosted suicide risk of these three studies is
This high suicide rate following abortion clearly disproves the myth
that termination of a pregnancy is safer than childbirth.
The best record-based study linking psychiatric admission rates
following abortion reveals that in the four years following pregnancy
outcome, women who abort are two to four times more likely to be
admitted for psychiatric hospitalization than women who carry to term.
Another record-based study reveals that even four years after abortion
the psychiatric admission rate remained 67% higher than for those women
who did not have abortions.
Aborting women were more likely to be diagnosed with adjustment
reactions, depressive psychosis and neurotic and bipolar disorders,
according to the Archives of Women's Mental Health, in 2001.
The risk for postpartum depression and psychosis during later wanted
births is also linked to previous abortion.
An average of eight years after their abortions, married women were
138% more likely to be at high risk of clinical depression compared to
similar women who carried their unintended first pregnancies to term.
This is according to the British Medical Journal of January 19, 2002.
In the category of drug and alcohol abuse, we see many women trying to
cope with their inner conflict and grief through a 4.5 times higher
risk of substance abuse following abortion.
And this is only based on those who are reporting substance abuse.
Think of all those who think that drinking eight glasses of wine each
night is simply a way to "unwind." This aspect was reported in the
American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, in 2000.
The results of the first international long-term, follow-up study led
by Dr. Vincent Rue reveals overwhelming evidence of post-traumatic
Statistics collected in America reveal the following:
-- 55% of those who had abortions report nightmares and preoccupation
-- 73% describe flashbacks;
-- 58% of women report suicidal thoughts which they relate directly to
-- 68% reveal that they feel badly about themselves;
-- 79% report guilt, with an inability to forgive themselves;
-- 63% have fears regarding future pregnancies and parenting;
-- 49% have problems being near babies;
-- 67% describe themselves as "emotionally numb."
An exhaustive review of many other studies and certainly clinical
experience indicates that for many women, the onset of sexual
dysfunctions and eating disorders, increased smoking, panic and anxiety
disorders, and an addiction to abusive relationships became the
souvenir coping styles which followed their experience with abortion.
Q: Is there a scientific or political reason for not wanting to study a
possible link abortion with depression, which has kept the research
from taking place?
Burke: As a society, we know how to debate about abortion as a
political issue but we don't know how to talk about it on an intimate
and personal level.
There is no social norm for dealing with an abortion. Instead, we all
try to ignore it.
One of the reasons we don't want to talk about the grief of women and
men who have had abortions is that we, as a society, are deeply
troubled by the abortion issue. While the vast majority believes that
abortion should be legally available in some circumstances, most are
also morally troubled by it.
According to one major poll, 77% of the public believes abortion is the
taking of a human life, with 49% equating it with murder.
Only 16% claimed to believe that abortion is only "a surgical procedure
for removing human tissue."
Even one-third of those who describe themselves as most strongly
pro-choice will still admit to believing that abortion is the taking of
a human life. This is reported by James Davison Hunter in his 1994 book
"Before the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America's
These findings suggest that most Americans put their own moral beliefs
about abortion "on hold" for the sake of respecting a "woman's right to
As a society we have chosen to tolerate the deaths of unborn children
for the purpose of improving the lives of women.
This moral compromise, however, is disturbed when women complain about
their broken hearts after an abortion. They make their listeners
uncomfortable and confused.
Depression over a past abortion forces us to look not only at the pain
of an individual, but the angst of our society. It is a deeply complex
and troubling issue. Most of us don't want to look too deeply.
Pro-choice advocates are often hesitant to recognize the reality of
post-abortion grief because they fear this may somehow undermine the
political argument for legal abortion.
Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, most abortion counselors will
tell women that psychological reactions to abortion are rare or even
nonexistent. Anything that might arouse discomfort or uneasiness is
Such facts, they fear, might "persuade her to withhold her consent to
In essence, the choice is made for her as they protect her from any
information that might dissuade her opinion.
The collusion of ignorance and denial perpetrates abuse and negligence
against women, facilitating the potential for deep and scarring trauma.
Q: Do you think this will be a deterrent for women considering abortion
to know the possibility of depression lies beyond the abortion?
Burke: I hope so. Women have a right to know the risks they face when
making an elective decision for abortion.
Any drug or medical procedure we "choose" to take is required by law to
have informed consent. This means that we know what is involved, what
the procedure is, and what the short- and long-term risks are. This is
In light of the disturbing statistics regarding mental health risks,
the increased risk in breast cancer, etc., it is obvious that
restraints and regulations are necessary for the protection of women's
reproductive and psychological health.
More importantly, I believe that women and men who have suffered the
loss of a child through abortion need to know that there is hope and
healing. They need to know that they are not alone.
In 1989, a panel of experts assembled by the American Psychological
Association concluded unanimously that legal abortion "does not create
psychological hazards for most women undergoing the procedure."
The panel noted that if severe emotional reactions were common there
would be an epidemic of women seeking psychological treatment. The
panel stated that there is no evidence of such an epidemic. Since 1989,
there has been no significant change in this point of view.
It seems obvious they have not been following the growth of Rachel's
In 2006 our organization will provide 450 weekend retreats for healing
after abortion. Each retreat will have between 12 and 25 participants.
That means that between 5,400 and 11,250 people will be coming forward
for treatment in the upcoming year.
Our ministry is growing at a 40% rate each year. In just the past seven
years, thousands of men and women have come for help as Rachel's
Vineyard has spread to Africa, Taiwan, Russia, England, Ireland,
Scotland, Spain, Portugal, South America, Canada and throughout the
There are hundreds of other post-abortion ministries popping up
everywhere. So regardless of what the APA thinks, those of us who are
in ministry know the truth. There is an epidemic that has gone
disgracefully ignored, misdiagnosed and untreated.
Abortion: A Law Unto Itself
Even Legal Parameters Are Being Ignored
NEW YORK, FEB. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Legalizing
was supposed to improve the lot of women, according to its proponents.
Recent data, however, increasingly reveal the perturbing trends in the
way abortion is being used.
One trend is the disproportionate number of
among blacks in the United States. A case in point is the information
recently by the Web site BlackGenocide.org, run by the Northeast branch
of Life Education And Resource Network (LEARN).
This group, headed by Baptist pastor Clenard Howard
Jr., highlighted the problem to coincide with the events marking "Black
History Month." Between 1882 and 1968, the site reckons, 3,446 blacks
lynched in the United States. That number is now surpassed in less than
three days by abortion.
Every day no fewer than 1,452 black children die as
result of abortion, and overall, 3 out of 5 pregnant African-American
will abort their child. Since the 1973 legalization of abortion in the
United States, more than 13 million black children have died as a
In fact, black women account for about 36% of abortions, though they
constitute about 26% of the female population (ages 15-44), the group
LEARN also affirms that the largest abortion
in the United States, Planned Parenthood, has situated 78% of its
in zones populated by minority communities. The group observes that
Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, was well known for her racist
"Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated," LEARN
quotes Sanger as saying. The group asks: "Is her vision being fulfilled
The group compares abortion to the practice of
Just as in 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court declared blacks to be an
class of beings, so too in 1973 the high court denied unborn children
status of personhood, information on the LEARN site contends.
Commenting on the slogan "pro-choice," Pastor
argues: "This carefully devised phrase was contrived to provoke our
zeal for freedom and the civil right to make choices freely." He
"I am all for freedom of choice, except when it comes at the expense of
innocent lives. Women who have been deceived into wrong choices and
who were never given any choice at all are the victims of pro-choice
Across the Atlantic, disturbing data on abortion
emerged. Earlier this month a study published in Spain showed that
of women who aborted in 2003 had previously undergone an abortion. And
research carried out by the Centro Superior de Investigaciones
demonstrated that this practice is on the increase, the newspaper ABC
Feb. 10. In 1991 the number of women who underwent repeat abortions was
Repeated use of abortion is most common in the older
groups. In 2001, no less than 30% of the women ages 30-39 who aborted
second-timers. But even among adolescents who aborted that year, 10%
According to the study, abortion is more common
women who are working, and those who are single. This latter category
for 54.4% of abortions in 2001, and this group's incidence of abortion
is rising fastest.
According to a report on the study in the
El Semanal Digital, dated Feb. 10, abortion has increased sharply in
In 1990 there were 37,231 abortions. By 2003 the number had rocketed to
The newspaper El País reported last Dec. 28
15.3% of pregnancies in Spain in 2003 were ended by abortion. An
side note on the continued rise in abortion -- the level in 2003 was
higher than in 2002 -- is that this occurred at the same time the
pill" was being widely distributed. In 2003 more than 300,000 doses of
the pill were distributed, El País reported.
Repeat abortions are also a problem in Italy. A
presented in Parliament revealed that there were almost 133,000
in the country in 2003, the Catholic newspaper Avvenire reported last
Although that number represented a 1% decline
with the previous year, a quarter of the procedures took place among
who had already aborted. Moreover, there is concern over the
number of abortions among the immigrant population. Almost a quarter,
of abortions took place among non-Italian women, even though immigrants
officially comprise only 4.5% of the population. Official data show a
of 32 abortions for every 1,000 women immigrants aged 15 to 49,
with 8.2 per thousand for Italian women.
Never too late?
Procedures in Spain also came in for attention last
when the British newspaper Telegraph published a series of articles
how women were traveling to that country for late-term abortions. An
10 article explained how the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the
largest abortion provider, was recommending hundreds of women to a
in Spain once they passed the 24th week of pregnancy. At that stage,
in the United Kingdom are not allowed.
Late-term abortions are also illegal in Spain, yet
seems that the Clínica Ginemedex in Barcelona regularly carries
out such operations. The clinic's staff members told undercover
that they had aborted fetuses up to 30 weeks old. Under Spanish law,
is illegal after the 22nd week unless there is grave danger to the
A subsequent report by the Telegraph on the issue,
21, revealed the case of a British doctor, Saroj Adlakha, who admitted
arranging an abortion for a healthy patient who was 31 weeks pregnant.
The same doctor also said that she was prepared to help arrange an
for an undercover journalist, who claimed to have a daughter with a
On the other side of the world, late-term abortion
came to light in the state of South Australia. The local Advertiser
last Oct. 28 reported that from 1998 to 2002 there were 377 abortions
out on women who had passed the 20th week of pregnancy. More than half
of these involved healthy babies. The mother's "mental state" was the
common reason given for justifying the abortions.
Dr. John James, vice president of Right to Life
said the figures "confirmed what we have always suspected." He told the
Advertiser: "The proponents of late-term abortion always insist the
of late-term abortions are done almost entirely for severe congenital
We have always maintained it is not the case and these figures show
it is not the case."
John Paul II dealt with the tragedy of abortion his
encyclical "Evangelium Vitae." "Among all the crimes which can be
against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it
serious and deplorable," the Pope noted in No. 58. "The Second Vatican
Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an 'unspeakable
The encyclical stated that the acceptance of
in today's culture, and in the law itself, reveals a crisis in
"which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between
and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake." The
continue to bear that out.
Babies Left to Die
Debate Over Abortion Is Rekindled in Britain
LONDON, JULY 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Abortion laws
at the center of a controversy in Britain after the Sunday Times
a series of articles on late-term abortions. The newspaper reported
20 on a number of cases where babies had been left to die unattended
having survived abortions.
The article quoted an unnamed midwife who claimed
her hospital had an unwritten rule of not aiding babies who survived
Another case involved a baby who survived for three days. The infant
nourishment, but no medical help. British law allows abortion up to 24
weeks, but permits them right up to the end of pregnancy in cases of
On June 27 the Sunday Times reported on the case of
healthy baby born after 25 weeks of pregnancy. The baby was only hours
away from being aborted, but the mother gave birth prematurely. The
Shortly after these revelations the British Medical
held its annual conference. According to information presented at the
by Dr. Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA ethics committee, 114
were terminated after 24 weeks in 2002, the Telegraph reported July 2.
Other data from 2002, published by the Sunday Times on July 4, revealed
that 1,354 babies of 22 weeks or more gestation, who may have been
of surviving, were aborted.
The conference subsequently debated a resolution
for babies surviving abortions to be given "the same full neonatal care
as that available to other babies." The motion was approved by 65.3% of
A July 4 editorial in the Sunday Times said there
nearly 185,000 abortions in Britain in 2002, the latest year for which
data are available. This means that nearly a quarter of conceptions
in abortion. This is one of the highest levels in Europe, and the
of abortions is rising.
Even the Sunday Times editorial, which argued in
of maintaining legal abortion, admitted that matters have gotten out of
hand. It cited an investigation by one pro-life activist, who asked
what they would do if they found they were pregnant just before a
holiday. "The answer was that they would have an abortion and go on
"This was not what the drafters of the 1967 act had
mind when specifying the conditions for abortion," noted the editorial.
The 1967 law allowed abortions when a baby would "harm the woman's
or mental health," or if it would harm other children the woman already
Change proposed to time limit
David Steel, who introduced the bill into the House
Commons that led to the 1967 abortion law, stepped into the debate with
an opinion article in the Guardian newspaper of July 6. He explained
originally the law's time limit for abortions was set at 28 weeks.
medical improvements on the viability of premature births, in 1990 this
was reduced to 24 weeks.
Steel still defends abortions, and even late
in the case of handicaps. But he admitted the need to rethink the
of later-term abortions, saying he tended toward the idea of lowering
limit to 22 weeks and of generally trying to restrict abortions to the
first 12 weeks.
Questioned in Parliament, Prime Minister Tony Blair
the matter of the time limit on abortions could be reviewed, BBC
July 7. But the prime minister's office explained that there was no
government plan to change the law.
Pro-life groups have had mixed reactions to the idea
lowering the time limit for abortions. The Society for the Protection
Unborn Children opposed Steel's proposal. In a July 5 press release,
Ozimic of SPUC commented: "Lord Steel's proposal is not aimed at
the numbers of abortions, as his call for a general ban on abortions
12 weeks was accompanied with a promotion of abortion on demand before
In contrast, the organization Life, according to the
of July 8, said: "Of course we welcome any measure which reduces the
of destruction of unborn children."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of
said he welcomed Blair's support for a review of the law, according to
a July 8 press release from the offices of the Catholic Church in
And Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff noted:
in fetal medicine reveal more and more clearly the humanity of the
child. Faced with this evidence, it is not surprising that so many
now call for a change in the abortion law." He added: "Tragically, our
present law has been used to sanction killing the unborn on a massive
I hope that people of all faiths and none will mobilize the political
to curb the practice of abortion which undermines the very foundation
a civilized society."
Two other recent events have contributed to the
of abortion in Britain. On June 28, BBC reported on new ultrasound
that produce vivid pictures of unborn children. The scans are being
by Stuart Campbell at London's Create Health Clinic. He showed pictures
of a 12-week-old fetus seemingly walking in the womb, as well as images
of unborn babies appearing to smile.
Campbell has developed a way to show
images of the unborn, as well as fetal movement. The scans have
for example, that from 12 weeks unborn babies can stretch, kick and
around the womb -- well before the mother can feel movement. Campbell
this shows that the unborn baby engages in complex behavior from an
stage of its development.
The scans have led Campbell to rethink his own
on abortion, the Guardian reported June 29. He is now opposed to
babies after the 14th week of pregnancy. "The more I study fetuses the
more I find it quite distressing to terminate babies who are so
in terms of human behavior," he said.
Another event causing widespread debate over
was the television broadcast of a film depicting an abortion. The
on April 5 said it was the first time that an abortion had been
in Britain. The woman undergoing the abortion was 4 weeks pregnant. The
program also included pictures of fetuses aborted at 10, 11 and 21
The program, "My Fetus," was made by Julia Black,
father founded an abortion clinic in London. She admitted having had an
abortion herself when she was 21. Even though she declared her support
for abortion, Black told the Telegraph: "I think the pro-choice
can no longer rely on just arguing abortion is a woman's right. They
to start engaging with the reality."
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, commenting in the
on April 11, admitted the provocative nature of the film, but hoped the
event would cause people to think seriously about what abortion means.
"Many, perhaps for the first time, will realize that abortion involves
the deliberate destruction of human life," he said.
It may be too optimistic to expect any immediate
to abortion laws in Britain. But recent events are forcing people to
reflect about the humanity of the unborn.
Aborting the Anencephalic Could Lead to Eugenics,
Interview With Humberto Vieira Over Brazilian Court
BRASILIA, Brazil, JULY 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The
by the Brazilian federal Supreme Court to allow the abortion of
fetuses -- those missing part or all of the brain -- could lead to even
worse developments, warns a pro-lifer.
Humberto Vieira, a member of the Pontifical Academy
Life and president of Brazil's Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association,
the potential impact of the July 1 court decision, in this interview
Q: The CNBB [Brazilian bishops' conference] has
a statement expressing surprise at the decision of Minister Marco
of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court, to authorize abortion in cases
of fetal anencephaly. Pro-life associations have also been surprised.
do you think of the government minister's decision?
Vieira: Not only the CNBB, but all of us have been
I have followed the whole process with Dr. Paulo Leao, president of the
Association of Catholic Jurists of Rio de Janeiro.
The question was on the agenda of the meeting of the
[Supreme Court] on the first day, and had been scheduled for 1 p.m. We
prepared for this meeting and also wrote a memorandum to give to the
When we were going to the headquarters of the court,
were told that the meeting had been brought forward to 10 a.m., and
the issue of anencephaly had not been addressed.
We were surprised immediately after by the news that
in these cases has been authorized. I imagine that the minister-relator
made the decision to allow abortion in cases of anencephaly in virtue
the arguments presented during the process. We know, however, that they
are unfounded and we have demonstrated this in the memorandum.
Q: Does the minister's decision mean that other
of abortion will have to be addressed in the future?
Vieira: Eugenic abortion is defended by those who
the improvement of the human race and [who] invest millions of dollars,
also in Brazil, to achieve their objectives.
This is a dangerous precedent, because it opens the
to other types of abortion, for example, of the physically or mentally
disabled, and even healthy human beings who, however, do not fit the
approved by eugenic groups.
The poor, the mutilated, and blacks, according to
groups, are "sub-races" and must not prosper, for which sterilization
compulsory abortion are instruments to contain these fringes of the
"After Hitler, eugenics has not disappeared. It has
renewed," said Edwin Black in his recently published book "The War
the Weak -- Eugenics and the North American Campaign to Create a
Q: What consequences can abortion have for a woman,
in the case of the gestation of a child with a serious illness, such as
Vieira: The abortion of anencephalic offspring, as
other kind of abortion, has very serious consequences for a woman. A
is not exempt from the consequences of abortion by the mere fact that
bears an anencephalic fetus.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who fought to have abortion
legal in the United States and who admits that he carried out 5,000
is today a defender of life and says that among the physical
of abortion is the laceration of the neck of the womb, caused by the
of dilators, the perforation of the uterus, uterine hemorrhages,
endometritis, incomplete evacuation of the uterine cavity,
or incapacity of the uterine neck, increase in the level of Caesarean
Among the psychological consequences associated with
are those relating to the post-abortion syndrome: fall in self-esteem
the fact of having eliminated one's own child; frigidity; hostility
one's husband or partner; guilt feelings or frustration of the maternal
instinct; nervous problems; insomnia; neuroses of various kinds;
illnesses; depressions; etc.
Many women who abort become desperate and attempt
not forgiving themselves for having killed their own child. These
are far more serious than those of gestating an anencephalic fetus.
Q: Why are the Church and pro-life associations
abortion in the case of anencephaly, a type of congenital anomaly for
at present there is no treatment?
Vieira: The Church and pro-life associations defend
life from fertilization until natural death. Every human being is loved
by God, regardless of the fact he is the bearer of anomalies.
Science states that from the fusion of the
with the ovum a new being originates. "At the beginning of the being
is a message that contains life and is life. And if this message is
this life is human," said professor Jérôme Lejeune, the
who discovered Down syndrome.
The Church, like all of us who are for life, bases
on the commandment "Thou shalt not kill."
Q: What can society and pro-life associations do to
to modify the situation of free abortion of anencephalic fetuses?
Vieira: The decision of the distinguished Minister
Aurelio, the relator who has given permission for the freedom of
in case of anencephaly, must be submitted to the STF's plenary, which
decide if it will be maintained.
The National Association of Catholic Jurists of Rio
Janeiro and the Pro-Life and Pro-Family National Association will
to the distinguished ministers of the STF a memorandum founded on
bases that are opposed to the false arguments presented for the
of the permission.
Other organizations that defend human life will also
their own arguments. We are certain that the distinguished members of
STF will make the right decision once the question is clearer.
Q: What risks are implied for a woman gestating an
Vieira: No other risk than those of a pregnancy with
fetus without anomalies. This is what gynecologists, medical
and experts affirm. All abortions, instead, imply physical and
consequences for a woman.
The hidden wonder of new life
The Tablet Interview with Professor
A pioneer of pregnancy scans has published
pictures of human beings in the womb. Professor Stuart Campbell told
Ridge how they have changed his view of early life – and of abortion
My brain has begun to grow very quickly now ... I’m
more often, and when I am I can hear conversations, loud noises and
I may even wake up if my mother taps on her abdomen …
These are the thoughts of a baby, 22 weeks in the
as imagined by Professor Stuart Campbell, Britain’s leading doctor in
field of obstetrical and gynaecological ultrasound. In his new book,
Me …Grow! Professor Campbell has written a week-by-week, first-person
of a foetus’s life from conception to birth, alongside a precise and
account of its physical and behavioural growth. The book is intended to
educate parents about foetal development, but it is also quite clearly
the expression of a doctor’s joy in the life of the unborn baby, dotted
as it is with quotes from the romantic poets and Shakespeare.
But the real wonder of the book is in the
Professor Campbell is Britain’s pioneer of sophisticated 3-D ultrasound
scans; these use the same ultrasound waves as traditional scans but
the reflected sound waves in volumes that can be displayed in three
It was the power of the images that he shows to pregnant women every
that inspired him to write the book, which shows photographs for each
the 38 weeks of pregnancy.
Their clarity and detail is extraordinary: at nine
(“I think I’m beginning to look more like a baby!”) you can see the
and elbow joints; a week later, the eyes and nose are clearly visible.
At week 11, the baby can be seen swallowing, yawning and sucking. By
third trimester (25 weeks onwards) it is shown, variously, with a
smile, a wide grin, a rather bored yawn and – at 38 weeks, facing
ready for birth – a very grumpy frown that seems to express frustration
with its growing lack of space.
When the book’s pictures were released last week,
were published in most newspapers, and splashed across the front page
at least two tabloids. In almost all cases the pictures were linked to
the abortion debate, despite the fact that not once do the words
or “termination” appear in the book.
“People tell me I was naive,’’ Professor Campbell
at his private fertility clinic in Devonshire Place, central London.
I only meant the book to be a celebration of life in the uterus as
by these exciting new scanning techniques. I really did not mean it to
be hijacked by the abortion debate.”
Campbell, a charming, mild-mannered Scot, knew
how that felt. In the course of his career the former head of
and Gynaecology at King’s College Hospital, London, has been held up as
the enemy by both the pro-life and pro-choice camps.
An early specialist in ultrasound scanning, it was
Campbell who introduced the routine pregnancy scan and the early
of foetal abnormalities – earning him, naturally enough, the ire of
who are strongly opposed to abortion. But now Campbell has become a
of the pro-choice lobby. “It is reprehensible and morally repugnant to
use these distorted images to influence women who are making such an
decision on whether or not to go ahead with a pregnancy,” Anne Weyman,
chief executive of the Family Planning Association, told one newspaper.
Weyman’s anger can have only grown when she heard
Professor Campbell did next. In interviews following the publication of
his book, he said the legal limit for abortions, which currently stands
at 24 weeks in Britain, should be reduced. “I stand by what I said,” he
says. “I believe the abortion limit should be cut, to 20 weeks –
– and then we could work towards bringing it down lower, perhaps to 16
weeks. It offends me that a baby of 23, 24, even 22, weeks can be
If the limit was cut to 20 weeks that would at least make us
Professor Campbell remains pro-choice in the sense
he does not believe in banning early abortions. But what makes him
is how his view of abortion has changed. He believes that it would make
sense to challenge the 24-week limit on the grounds that the age of
– the age that a baby can survive outside the womb, by which the
limit was set – has now dropped to about 22 weeks thanks to medical
But it is what he has seen on the scans in his clinic that has really
him to rethink his position.
Above all, it is the technique known as 4-D
which updates the image of the foetus three or four times a second,
has changed the way he sees life in the womb. The technology means that
the foetus’s movements can be seen clearly.
“My views on abortion have certainly been coloured
3-D and 4-D scans,” he says. “When you see these images you realise
between 18 and 24 weeks the baby is so advanced neurologically, at such
an advanced stage of development, that abortion at 24 weeks is just
Professor Campbell is clear about what he has seen.
a foetus lying there dead doesn’t convey the horror that one
seeing a baby moving its arms and legs, opening its mouth, sucking its
thumb, and then thinking, gosh, somebody wants to, you know… It looks
vital,” he says, adding: “It has changed my view. I don’t think there’s
any doubt about that.”
Professor Campbell, a cultural Christian – he was
up in the Church of Scotland and says he sometimes attends services –
himself as a “weak believer” in God. He is, in other words, like most
whose position on abortion does not start from absolute principles. How
many other people could also change their mind when they see what he
Until he left NHS practice two years ago, Professor
regularly performed abortions. I asked how distressing he had found it.
“I think you’re programmed into just doing it as a
he explained. “The doctor is not around to see the baby being expelled.
My job was to inject the foetus’s heart. You’ve got a hundred other
to do that day so you just go ahead and do it. But with the traditional
2-D scanning I think you are less connected with the reality of what
doing than you would be with these new techniques.”
His view has also been affected by watching parents’
to the new ultrasound images.
The normal 2-D scan is “certainly important”, he
for it helps to cement the bond between mother and baby. “You see
carrying around a crumpled Polaroid picture of a 2-D image and
you can barely see what it is, it’s just a blur, but it’s very precious
to them.” But the reaction of parents when they see the 4-D images is
different, he says.
“They are overwhelmed. Husbands kiss their wives’
They actually start talking to the baby for the first time. They can
the features, see who the baby looks like, but it’s not just that, it’s
also the baby’s behaviour: you see eyelids opening, opening its mouth,
sucking its thumb, doing baby-like things.”
He says the strength of parents’ reactions is partly
to most people’s ignorance of the life of a foetus in the womb.
come to me and they are so astonished by what they see,” he says. “Most
of them have no idea about the life inside the uterus, what the
does, what the yolk sac is for, about the growth and development of the
baby. When you look at the pregnancy books, they tell you about
smoking, what to eat, what not to eat, sex, all that stuff, but not so
much about the foetus. In this book I’ve tried to be realistic about
One of the things, he says, that strikes the parents
come to his clinic –- one of the few places in Britain that uses such
ultrasound scans – is that life in the womb is so clearly a preparation
for life outside it. “Many of the things that the baby does once it’s
it has already been doing inside the uterus,” he says, adding: “That’s
so exciting to see.”
The pace and complexity of a foetus’s development –
“baby-like behaviour of a foetus”, as he puts it – and the general
about life inside the womb all form a large part of the case that the
lobby has been making for years. But whereas the pro-life lobby would
these images to argue for a total ban on abortions, Professor Campbell
takes a more pragmatic line.
“My view has changed but I’m realistic,” he says.
is partly, he thinks, because back-street abortions would reappear if
were made illegal again, but also because “when women are clearly the
of some terrible circumstance, there has to be some leeway. There’s a
of terrible social deprivation out there, women terribly abused. If you
hear that side of the story as I do; if, as a doctor, you listen to
women, you feel tremendous sympathy for them as well, so you have to be
He does believe, however, that compassion to the
should be held in check by other ethical considerations. For some years
now he has been calling for tighter guidelines over late-term abortions
of babies with disabilities. The law allows abortion up to the day of
in the case of foetal “handicap” and it is left to the doctor to decide
what constitutes such a condition, as was shown recently by the much
case of a baby aborted at 28 weeks because it had a cleft palate.
In 1999 Campbell wrote a paper for the British
of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in which he said that “third trimester
should be restricted to pregnancies complicated by foetal abnormalities
in which either death or absence of cognitive developmental capacity is
certain or near-certain. Only in these cases should compassion for the
pregnant woman be decisive. In all other cases, integrity requires that
doctors refuse requests for third trimester abortion.”
Campbell, therefore, believes babies with conditions
as Down’s should not be aborted after the normal legal limit. But
I ask, 4-D scanning will increase doctors’ abilities to diagnose
leading to more abortions?
“Actually, it will lead to fewer late abortions,” he
“I think you will be able to diagnose abnormalities earlier on. When I
started it was a triumph to diagnose an abnormality at 20 weeks, but
we are diagnosing most abnormalities before that. I think that’s where
this 4-D scanning will really score – in the prevention of late
Which means, presumably, a greater number of early
rather than a lowering of the overall number of abortions. Here, again,
Professor Campbell is being pragmatic. Many pro-life lobbyists, who
that life should be preserved and protected from conception, may find
position abhorrent. But in bringing to the public’s attention the
of life in the womb, and in speaking of it with such lyrical
Professor Campbell may well do more to change the law, and protect
babies, than the clash of absolutes.