By Holly Pierlot guest opinion
I was interested to see Malcolm Murray’s introduction of “morality” into the public abortion debate here on P.E.I. (June 25th). Let’s talk about it then.
Morality, philosophically and theologically, is not about someone being ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ These are childish categories of moral thinking, and we rightfully move past such narrow confines as we mature. But this does not mean we abandon a moral code. Instead, it should prompt us to look deeper.
Morality is about fostering our full development and perfection as human beings and persons, both here and hereafter. Morality is about those decisions and actions that help or harm this full human growth in either ourselves or in others. What is ‘good for us’ is the core of the moral decision-making process. As persons, it is also about facilitating healthy interpersonal relationships, and about what is good for our relationships with each other.
The pro-choice position attempts to look at the ‘good for us’ in an urgent way – based on the crisis or circumstances of the moment - instead of its life-long impact on the whole person. Also, pro-choice thought bases the entire abortion argument on the ‘good-for-only-me’ reductionist concerns of the woman alone, and ignores an essential issue – the reality of another human being in the womb.
Once that child has been brought into existence by the choice or actions of the woman and the man - no matter how planned or how spontaneous, how free or how coerced - then that child is a created human being (yes, created, because that child could not have existed spontaneously).
The child is a separate human being though, with its own scientifically proven distinct-DNA. Regardless of the stage of human maturity, or the level of independence or dependence upon another, or its habitat inside or outside of the womb, this human child is then entitled to its inviolable human rights. The only rights that can stand universally, with any real meaning, are those that derive from what it means to be human, not from a legal statement. Abortion takes away this basic human right-to-live which was not owed to the child before her existence, but only after she is created. It is here that abortion is immoral.
And yet, it is not just the presence of the child alone that determines the moral value of abortion. For a woman to engage in an act that promises such personal health risks contributes to its immorality. Unlike Mr. Murray’s skiing analogy, to intentionally choose that which brings serious and unnecessary harm to oneself has the same moral significance as seeking to bring harm to anyone else. Every human person has a right and duty to be treated with great care, even if that person is oneself.
Many women, however, are not aware of what awaits them following an abortion, mostly because they are promised a quick fix and a ten-minute minor procedure. It has been well established that many women, once they have the full knowledge of the reality of abortion and it’s negative consequences, will not choose this level of self-harm. This points to the importance of a full and prior disclosure of abortion’s risks disseminated by the medical profession and of women making an “informed” decision.
Lastly, morality involves not just the individual good of the self or of the other, but also the good of the relationship between the two. Whereas the world can and does recognize that love between two people is an ultimately important human good, abortion instead completely severs this relationship.
In fact, abortion is about the direct ending of one person’s life to promote the singular interests of another. It is the opposite of love, in the extreme.
The problem of reaching agreement upon what is good for us appears to come with our society’s moral relativism. But it’s not rocket science. There is a solid consensus that the three areas of morality (the self, the other and the relationship between the two), with their respective goods (survival, health and love), are universally accepted goods, and are the foundation of many declarations and charters of rights and freedoms and moral codes.
Morality is ultimately about respect - respect for the dignity of who I am as a person, and respect for who the other person is, and respect for the beauty of our relationship with each other. Respect treats self and others as precious, and seeks to bring about what is 'best' for one's human fulfillment and perfection, both here and hereafter.
When we assess if abortion is good for the woman, good for the child, and good for their relationship, we can see that abortion fails to pass the test of morality on all counts.
Holly Pierlot is president, P.E.I. Right to Life Association