For all practical purposes, or at least most, the Supreme Court likely has already decided…
When it comes to abortion, it’s simple: Lives must be saved
Walking down the street one bright, sunny August day, I ran into a friend, a lawyer. We decided to have lunch. He said that he had to be in court that afternoon for a case about an automobile accident.
In the accident, a pregnant woman was injured. She lost the child. Physicians believed it was because of injuries she sustained in the car wreck, but she was suing the driver of the other car not for injuries to herself but for the death of the baby that she was carrying at the time of the accident.
She insisted that the unborn might have achieved much in life if she had not miscarried because of the wreck.
The lawyer, a practicing Catholic, saw inconsistency in the law. The woman could demand legal relief for the destroyed life of her unborn child, under these circumstances, and the court would entertain her complaints. If she had deliberately aborted the child, however, no court would say anything.
The lawyer asked: Was an unborn legally a human being or not? It is a question needing an answer. Maybe an answer will come.
When abortion was legalized nationwide in this country almost 50 years ago, even advocates of the action were unsure about what would happen, but the American Catholic bishops, from
the first, labeled abortion for what it is and predicted what was to come — the destruction literally of millions of innocent lives.
A primary leader of the bishops at that time, now deceased Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, said that the Catholic objective ultimately had to be saving human lives — namely, the lives of the unborn victims of abortions, and every unborn life was worth saving.
The bishops supported adoption of an amendment to the federal Constitution to protect unborn life, and they invested much in pressing for such an amendment, but amending the United States constitution can be tedious, complicated and long in coming.
Another strategy was developed. If all lives cannot be saved, then save as many as possible.
The plan was to weaken, or curtail, existing laws permitting abortion on demand by passing statutes that require physicians to hold admitting credentials at hospitals if they wish to perform abortions, waiting periods and so on.
Without doubt, attaining these secondary goals has been of great help. Lives have been saved.
Still, looming overhead always is the question about the legal identity of the unborn.
If American law defined that the unborn are indeed human beings, then any unborn child would possess all the rights and privileges that American law bestows upon any human being.
The position of the Church, very logical, not just theological, is that, beginning with conception itself, an unborn fetus is a human being, with characteristics only belonging to humans. What is it if not a human being? It is an individual, not its mother or its father. Humanity and individuality mean personhood.
Soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a Mississippi case challenging the basic legality of abortion.
Nobody can predict the outcome of any case before the Supreme Court. Surprises, even big surprises, pepper the history of the court.
If technicalities, or nonessentials, dominate any future decision about abortion, discussion will spin onto tangents. Arguments will run in circles. Behavior will change little.
If the spotlight focuses on the essential fact of abortion — namely, its destruction of an innocent human being’s life — not everyone will be satisfied.
Pro-life Americans may rejoice, but no rational soul can imagine that, after a half-century of abortion on demand, with so many powerful allies intrigued by political opportunity, and with so many resources, and with the overriding mood of this culture, the extensive pro-abortion lobby will just go away, whatever the court says, but the question about personhood must be resolved, realities must be acknowledged, and, most of all, always, first and last, lives must be saved.
Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.