The Fundamental Right
In May 2019, Kamala Harris asked future Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the questioning that led to his confirmation to the Supreme court: “Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?” The logic behind that question is that since there are no laws governing specifically the male body, there ought to be no laws governing women’s bodies. Therefore there can be no law banning abortion, because such a law would discriminate against women’s bodies.
The error in such reasoning is that the primary role of constitutional government is to protect the most vulnerable from the ones who have most power. An unborn child is very vulnerable and needs protection. Since unborn children are carried in women’s bodies, in order to protect them, the government ought to have the right to make decisions about women’s bodies when and only when it is a matter of protecting unborn children. Therefore the principle of protecting the most vulnerable is primary over the principle of equality for men and women before the law.
Principles need to be tested in particular situations, to discover if there are exceptions. Exceptions occur when in a particular situation, there is a higher principle that is more important to uphold.
The right to human life is the fundamental human right upon which all other rights depend. Harris assumes that women have the right to be treated the same as men before the law, so that the laws that affect the male body should be the same for the female body. There is a crucial and obvious difference: men cannot carry unborn children in their womb; only women can. Roughly half of the unborn children are women, and in order for them to be treated equally as men, they need to be protected so that they can live to birth. The right to life then, is more fundamental to the right to equal treatment because one needs to live in order to be protected from discrimination.
In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, St Mother Teresa said: “I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls given into drugs, and I tried to find out why – why is it like that, and the answer was: Because there is no one in the family to receive them. Father and mother are so busy they have no time. Young parents are in some institution and the child takes back to the street and gets involved in something. We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child – I will not forget you – I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible – but even if she could forget – I will not forget you. And today the greatest means – the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.”
At one time, there was bipartisan supporting this country for erecting policies that made abortion rare. That is no longer the case. On the contrary, last year New York passed a law that allows abortions up to 24 weeks of gestation, when sometimes premature infants are born at that term of gestation.
I know that women have a natural tendency to love their children, so for a woman to consider having an abortion, she must be undergoing terrible financial pressure, and isolation from adequate sources of emotional and social support to be a mother. If we want to protect the most vulnerable, we need to provide adequate support for pregnant women in precarious situations. Therefore, I believe that the fundamental human right to life, which we as Christians are called to protect, comes with the duty to support women in precarious pregnancies. While the current Federal government has restricted federal money tied to abortions in our country and abroad, I am not aware of sufficient support for single women facing a pregnancy in economic insecurity and social isolation from a helpful partner. For that reason, last year we created fund so that we could help women in such difficult situations. It is funded to $1,014.75.
Unfortunately, one woman in our community is just undergoing such a situation. I cannot share the details, other than her boyfriend abandoned her and fled to an unknown location after she became pregnant and would not give in to his insistence to abort the child. I am grateful to the two ladies in our community who initially funded the pregnancy support fund last year, and if anyone would like to add to it, please write a check to St Patrick Church and in the memo line of the check please write Pregnancy Support.
God bless, Fr. Carlos Medina, OSA