Abortion, Murder, and the Law

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In his article, “The moral madness at the heart of the pro-life movement,” Damon Linker critiques the pro-life view as inconsistent. If pro-life advocates really believe that a prenatal human being has a right to life, then they should advocate for laws that make abortion not just a crime, but a crime equal to first degree murder. Linker writes, “Perhaps most abortion opponents refrain from actions that their rhetoric would seem to incite because they don’t actually believe what they’re saying. At least not fully, entirely, all the way down. Yes, they think abortion is morally wrong, but not that it’s murder in quite the way that killing tens of millions of 5-year-olds, or 30-year-olds, would be murder.”

Abortion and murder of an adult are alike in that both involve the intentional killing of an innocent person. But there are important differences between an abortion and a typical case of murder. The first difference has to do with culpability in terms of knowledge and in terms of voluntariness. If I kill my auto mechanic, it is implausible in the extreme for me to try to excuse my act by claiming that I did not realize that the repairman was an innocent human being. By contrast, in many (maybe even most) cases of abortion, the woman obtaining the abortion does not believe that her authorization is terminating the life of an innocent human being. It could be that this ignorance is culpable or that this ignorance is inculpable, but ignorance of the identity of the victim is almost never involved in typical cases of murder.

Secondly, the voluntariness of the act is often mitigated by great fear or anxiety on the part of the woman, which lessens the voluntariness of the act. When mothers kill their own newborns, as sometimes happens, it is not unusual for the punishment to be mitigated in light of the subjective factors, such as post-partum depression, that led to the killing. By similar reasoning, mothers who authorize an abortion are often motivated by intense fear, which reduces the voluntariness of the act. In many cases of abortion, again unlike typical cases of murder, duress is involved in which the father of the child, and sometimes others, pressures the woman into getting an abortion that she would have never gotten had the news of the pregnancy been greeted by all with joy.

Third, the victim of abortion – although fundamentally equal – is not equal in all respects to the victim in a typical murder. In a typical murder, the victim’s death negatively impacts the victim’s relatives and friends. The victim can no longer carry out his or her responsibilities at work or at home.   The killing involved in murder may also make other people fear for their lives. The typical murder also brings a loss for all those who contributed to the life of the victim including parents, caregivers, and teachers who helped the victim gain maturity.

Foetus_abortion

Finally, the typical murder thwarts the life-plans of the victim whose dreams, ambitions, and plans are demolished by death. These characteristics – present in a typical case of murder – are not present in an abortion. A prenatal human being does not have friends, and relatives may not even know of his or her existence. Human beings who have been born need not fear for their own lives, if killing is confined to prenatal human beings. An unborn child does not have responsibilities at work or home upon which others depend.

Only one person – the pregnant woman – has contributed to the maturation of the fetus, and this one person is the one who is authorizing the abortion. Moreover, the prenatal human being does not have plans, ambitions, and dreams thwarted by getting killed. So, although the killing involved in abortion and the killing involved in a typical murder are in the same in the most important fundamental sense – an innocent person’s life is extinguished – in many other ways, they are not the same. It makes sense, therefore, for the law to take these many differences into account when determining the punishment appropriate for abortion and appropriate for typical murder.

By similar reasoning, assassination of the president of the United States should be treated more severely by law than the murder of a regular citizen in virtue of the president’s role in society and that fact that the president’s death can adversely effect not just immediate family members and friends but potentially the entire world. So too, the murder of a regular person should be treated more severely by law than the intentional killing of a human being prior to birth.

Yet making such differentiations is consistent with holding that in terms of basic human dignity, the president, the regular citizen, and the human fetus have equal basic rights. So it is not “inconsistent” for a defender of prenatal human beings to embrace lesser penalties for abortion than for murder of post-natal human beings.

Moreover, prudential considerations of the enforceability of the law suggest that the penalties violation of laws forbidding abortion should fall upon abortionists rather than upon those getting abortions. Abortionists ending the lives of prenatal human beings typically perform their tasks as part of their regular routine without such mitigating factors. If women were subject to criminal penalty, it would make prosecution of abortions much more difficult, since women would be implicating themselves in criminal activity by testifying against the abortionists.

Like laws against illegal drugs, the law should focus on the drug dealers who profit from endangering others rather than on drug users who often suffer from their use. Similarly, laws against abortion should focus on abortionists who profit from killing, rather than women who often suffer from abortions.

Christopher Kaczor

Christopher Kaczor

Christopher Kaczor is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University and the editor of O Rare Ralph McInerny: Essays and Stories about a Legendary Notre Dame Professor.

  • Oregon’s history has shown your third and fourth points to be incorrect. Unlimited abortion has led to euthanasia here, so the genocide practiced by the medical profession now not only covers the prenatal, but also the terminally ill.

    It is not a big stretch to assume that we are not at the bottom of this slippery slope yet. Remove the right to life arbitrarily for one, you put all in danger.

  • givelifeachance2

    “Human beings who have been born need not fear for their own lives, if killing is confined to prenatal human beings.”

    But, like radioactivity, it can’t be contained. The error of okaying just this “one teeny” exception will be spread to justify euthanasia for the elderly, then the mentally ill, then the disabled, then the chronically unemployed who live off government benefits, then…

    …then, it just might come for the family using net government benefits – they work you know, but for money that can’t offset the cost of public schools or Obamacorpse for the family. Just maybe the government can’t resist dropping the trap door, or at least using the threat of that trap door, for that type of family. Which could be yours.

    Just saying, from one stewing frog to another…abortion is actually the *first* example of euthanasia, but it won’t be the last.

  • Fr Kloster

    Wow, in my simpleton mind murder is murder. There are lots of verbal gymnastics being performed today. Killing is distinguishable from murder, but I don’t think we should give anyone a free pass who is involved in abortion/murder. This subject is so widely discussed that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could say they are totally uninformed. Women don’t suffer from abortions, they suffer because they made the decision. Conscience is a powerful informant as to what is truthful. Then too, even someone who aids in an abortion is gravely morally culpable. Everyone involved needs to be punished or we end up devaluing life; we already place such a paltry value on pre-born babies.

    • DougH

      No, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all “murder is murder,” there are varying degrees of moral culpability. That’s something recognized in our criminal code, with 1st and 2nd degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, even negligent homicide. That doesn’t mean that there should be no punishment at all (though Michael Paterson-Seymour’s post above has an excellent point on that), but that the level of punishment would vary.

      • 3C4

        Of course, but they still get charged with some degree of murder.

    • Ernest Miller

      Fr. Kloster…exactly.

      When an individual hires a mercenary to kill their spouse, both are prosecuted. An abortion by definition requires the mother to hire the abortionist…thus both are guilty of murder.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      If only it were so simple. In the real world, the choice is often between punishing some or none; so immunity is granted to one, perhaps equally guilty, to obtain his or her testimony against another.

      • Fr Kloster

        Well noted, as usual, Michael Paterson-Seymour. DougH’s reference is not what I am saying. I’m well aware of differing punitive punishments. But remember, that Civil Law was formed on Ecclesial law. What I am advocating is that we stop giving the other side ammunition like the above article. Every murder (read abortion) should be punished according to the involvement and culpability. No one gets a free pass; it is that simple. Many things in life are much more simple than we make them out to be with our modern trained equivocations.

        • 3C4

          Exactly correct. This one murder gets a special pass from Catholic apologists. It is intellectually incoherent and disingenuous.

      • 3C4

        How does that lead you to think child murder should not be charged accordingly?

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          Because without the evidence of at least two women, it is usually impossible to convict the abortionist. Even if the prosecution was prepared to take him as a witness against the women, his evidence would be uncorroborated, unless his nurse, say, also testified.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “If women were subject to criminal penalty, it would make prosecution of abortions much more difficult, since women would be implicating themselves in criminal activity by testifying against the abortionists.”

    Not only difficult but, in most cases, impossible.

    Given the rule, “testis unus, testis nullus” – One witness is no witness – and the requirement of corroboration, prosecutors usually had to rely on the Moorov doctrine, that the evidence of one witness implicating the accused in one offence may be taken to corroborate the evidence of another witness implicating the accused in another offence, where those offences are so linked in time, character and circumstances that they can be treated as elements in a single course of conduct. Thus, two women, each testifying that a doctor had performed an abortion on them, would provide the necessary corroboration against him (but not against each other).

    However, as their own admissions were usually uncorroborated, there was insufficient evidence on which to prosecute them; once having testified, they were in any event immune as socii criminis.

    • ROB

      There is a whole lot of evidence beside the testimony of the mother to convict the abortionist. See Kermit Gosnell.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Very rarely. Remember, Gosnell was operating in a legal environment where abortion was legal.

        Medical practitioners invariably claimed that they had performed a D & C to remove post-partum placenta after a spontaneous miscarriage and it was usually impossible to contradict them. That is why, in Scotland before the Abortion Act 1967, only two medical men were ever prosecuted: Alexander Aitken, a surgeon in September 1823 and Dr Roderick Sutherland Ross, a general practitioner on 24 January 1967. In both cases, a number of their patients testified.

        There were several prosecutions every year of unqualifed practitioners; in every case, at least two women on whom they had operated testified.

  • Therese

    Your points are well taken, as are the points of some of the other commenters. What your article does indeed give proof for: pro-lifers have compassion and concern for ALL. We are not just legalistic people looking for the condemnation of those who don’t see life in its fullness from conception to natural death, as we do. You have destroyed yet one more favorite canard of the pro-abortion argument.

  • Lauri Friesen

    Your points are not well taken, at least not by me. I am one of those “fundamentalist”
    pro-lifers who believe that abortion is first-degree murder: the intent to kill
    is formed some time before the murder occurs. There may be some women who
    cannot form the intent and, therefore, cannot be found guilty of first degree
    murder, but they are the exceptions, not the rule. I have become basically
    inured to the relativistic arguments of those who defend every woman’s right to
    kill her babies in the pursuit of her dreams and ambitions. But, again, many a
    first-degree murderer benefits from the death of her or his victim. Shall our
    laws and courts start making distinctions between those with high-flying dreams
    and those with few or none? How about those with no relatives against those who
    grandmother really loves them? It is not the lovability of the victim that
    determines whether a murder has been committed. It is the acts of the
    perpetrator.

    And the argument that an unborn human being does not lose anything (hopes,
    dreams, etc.) shows a breathtaking callousness by the author that, somehow,
    unborn and infant children have less dignity and right to life than people who
    are old enough to be self-aware.

    I am extremely disappointed that The Catholic Thing has published this piece,
    not so much because of the repellant content but, because it is clearly the
    musings by someone who would rather find that the Church’s teachings on human
    dignity and murder are not well-founded. I wonder how Mr. Kaczor squares his
    own profiting from the deaths of unborn children, given that he is now busily
    selling a book of this ill-developed thesis.

    • RosaryVictory

      The problem is not abortion but Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade never met the burden of proof that the newly conceived sovereign person had no soul and was therefore not a sovereign person. Roe v. Wade is the greatest miscarriage of Justice since time began. Denying the human soul is the imposition of atheism, unconstitutional imposition of atheism. Atheism is unconstitutional. “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” Atheists, must be tolerated. If atheists must be tolerated, why aren’t believers tolerated by atheists???

    • Oscar Pierce

      I agree, Linker’s critiques are at best circular logical; at worst, sophistry. Let’s enact law to make abortion illegal, close the abattoirs where they are performed and then concern ourselves with degree of guilt and punishment… murder IS murder.

    • PSdan

      Well said.

    • Michael

      Amen.

  • Tony

    The evil of Linker’s position is right before our eyes. Because opponents of abortion are NOT heartless ideologues, they must be incoherent, and therefore we needn’t pay them any attention. But if they DID insist upon prosecuting for murder a woman who procures an abortion, THEN they would be heartless ideologues, and therefore we needn’t pay them any attention. Damned both ways.

    The crime is one thing. The punishment is another. Whether a thing is evil is a subject for moral analysis in the abstract. How to punish the evil is a subject for judgment as to the culpability of the persons involved, the consequences of this or that form of punishment, and the promotion or preservation of the common good. I don’t believe that it is ever just to punish someone BEYOND the degree which the nature of the crime would suggest, but it is sometimes stupid to punish someone up to that degree. Otherwise we would throw adulterers into prison …

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      ” Otherwise we would throw adulterers into prison …”

      Actually, adultery illustrates some of the same problems:

      “The confessions of the wife, defender, may warrant the Court in finding that adultery is proved against her, while, not being evidence against the co-defender, he escapes; and thus divorce may be granted against the wife for adultery committed by her with him, while he himself is assoilzied from the action.” (Lord Fraser’s Husband and Wife (vol. ii., pp. 1173-4))

    • RosaryVictory

      The sin is its own punishment. Misled and lied to the mother is destined to constant grief for the loss of her Posterity.

    • 3C4

      The problem with this essay, and much of Catholic prolife ideology, is that it incorrectly assumes the mother bears no guilt and is a victim. That just defies reason. In some cases, like an underage girl who is coerced, that may have merit but the wholesale view that woman who procure direct abortion lack culpability is nonsense.

      If they should not be prosecuted for murder like other killers ought they bother going to confession?

    • WSquared

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    Abortion ought to be viewed as a violation of environmental law and severe fines levied. After all, a woman’s womb is the most basic of human environments. If a stream runs through my property, I do not have the right to pollute it just because I have legal ownership of the property.

  • Rickage

    Why stop at holding the abortionist doctor responsible? Why not name his assistant as an accomplice? Further under this reasoning, the abortionist would argue it wasn’t his fault. He wouldn’t have done the procedure if the instruments weren’t available. Blame the instrument manufacturer. The instrument manufacturer would argue it wasn’t their fault. They wouldn’t have designed the instruments if the medical schools had not perfected a safe procedure. Blame the medical schools, and so on. I’m sure we could somehow figure a way to hold Planned Parenthood responsible because of the economic gain of selling baby parts.

    A woman’s right to choose began when she elected to have unprotected sex. In the industrialized world where abortion is rampant, contraceptives are readily and cheaply available. There is no reason, and no excuse, to get pregnant. This is not an argument for contraception, it’s a statement of our current state. One person consciously chose extreme pleasure with unprotected sex. Now they must be responsible for their choice, not the abortionist, not the medical supplier, etc . . . In fact, one could argue abortion has been exacerbated because we have no responsibility for poor choices.

    Accountability and responsibility have been assigned to our behavior since the Garden of Eden. No different then than it should be now.

  • Chris R

    I completely agree with this article. I would hold abortionist “doctors” accountable for their murders though.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Chris Matthews belabored a bishop on your premise. The bishop answered it was murder but that he could not answer for the legal system. That would seem to end the discussion in your favor. It does not. The reason is your article suggests two domains civil law [human law] and natural law [as reflective of eternal law] are equivalent on this issue. Aquinas gives reason for the separation since human law is variable.
    To begin your argue that a woman’s belief determines culpability whereas identity of victim is never an issue. Then you proceed to demonstrate that the two hypothetical innocent victims the prenatal and the “regular person” are not the same due to all that associates with the latter. You also in this vein point to hierarchy of value. On the Contrary: From the perspective of eternal law the two are equal insofar as gravity. Murder of an innocent human whether adult or prenatal incurs condemnation. If a woman does not believe abortion is murder Aquinas says a person who follows such a false conscience sins in the error itself of what should be known (De Ver 17, 4 Ad 3). As to ignorance invincible ignorance is the only exemption. It refers to knowledge beyond a person’s capacity to know (ST Ia2ae 76, 2) confirmed by Pius IX Singulari Quidem A. 7.
    As pertains to the US judicial system much of what you say makes sense. My criticism is in your value ethics regarding a human being’s worth. I also question whether women who have serial abortions that putatively undo mitigating factors should not be tried and harshly so. Finally the substance of your article arguing mitigating factors ‘seems’ to uphold Roe v Wade.

    • RosaryVictory

      This is completely off the cuff. Roe was Norma Jean McCorvey, who became pro-life, but when she became Roe of Roe v. Wade. Roe represented Norma Jean McCorvey and baby McCorvey. Two individuals in the court of law. Baby McCorvey was denied equal Justice.

  • Florian

    Dec. 19th: “Finally, the typical murder thwarts the life-plans of the victim whose dreams, ambitions, and plans are demolished by death. These characteristics – present in a typical case of murder – are not present in an abortion.” The unborn may not have conscious plans or dreams but…the unborn does have a purpose, sealed by God with a purpose even before his or her conception. God sends with each newly conceived human a blessing and a gift for all of humanity and when we look around at all the diseases and all the poverty and violence, we have to wonder who among those millions exterminated in the womb would have brought healing and hope, cures for diseases, solutions for peace, and other blessings…but we broke these little ones and sent them and their gifts and blessings back to the Creator – unwanted. And we look at our torn and broken and bloody world and wonder why? I don’t wonder. I know. Stop the killing!!! Accept the gifts and the blessings of God and we will see ourselves and our world heal and made whole again.

    • Nancy Lynne

      Yes!!!

  • Maria Tierney Koehn

    A woman holds a participant of the human race in her womb.

    Abortion is a crime against humanity. It is more horrific that any murder. It subverts a culture and society.

  • RosaryVictory

    Two witnesses establish a judicial fact in a court of law. The Fifth Amendment allows a person to refrain from testifying against himself. The mother does not testify against herself. The abortionist does not testify against himself. Like sodomy, who is there to prosecute abortion and the civil rights of the newly begotten sovereign person without evidence and two witnesses, except the “Creator”?

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Precisely. This is why the mothers was invariably granted immunity to secure a sufficiency of evidence against the abortionist.

  • By virtue of being physical, an act of abortion is possible in any country (irrespective of whether it is legal there). But it is also theoretically possible for a country to have an abortion Act and for there to be no acts of abortion performed in that country.

    The question then is this: if nobody is performing the act, is the Act wrong? And if yes, then why?

    In other words, we have one set of reasons to be against acts of abortion, but we need different reasons to be against abortion Acts. And those different reasons cannot revolve around murder, because ‘legalized abortion’ does not translate as ‘legalized murder’.

  • Manfred

    Is it ever permissible to take an innocent human life? When the church(sic) was Catholic and taught moral theology, the answer was NO.
    Pope Benedict warned that the greatest danger was MORAL RELATIVISM.

  • Arthur

    The thought flow here is most Jesuitical-casuistic and is, despite its intent of “mercy” and understanding, the kind of reasoning that allows people to feel, however incorrectly, that the fetus is not REALLY a human being. Whereas there may be degrees of murder in abortion, degrees based on the same kinds of reasoning used in the murders of a born-person, it would seem the essay is trying to prove you are less dead, that it is less evil, drowning in 10 feet of water rather than in 100.

    “All of as are equally human, but we are not all equal humans”: a wise sound bite taken from an MA thesis I read man-years ago by a Benedictine nun, Sr Evangeline Anderson. Murder is murder, the degree is a separate issue. And abortion is murder.

  • Dave Fladlien

    This is a fine article which takes a good look at a broad range of issues involved. Many of these issues are rarely if ever raised, and I think they should be. Several thoughts:

    1) the rights of the father of the child being aborted are not mentioned, and there have been notable cases where the father wanted the child, and was at every turn rejected. I do realize that the child isn’t in the father and that does make an enormous difference, but totally disregarding the father would be wrong even if abortion were not wrong, which it of course is.

    2) I strongly disagree with equating abortion with drug laws. All that our drug laws have done is get tens of thousands of people south of our border slaughtered in drug wars, hundreds murdered at sea by drug runners who want to seize their boats to get the drugs ashore, etc. If these laws can ever be justified at all, it is only in the case of the most perilous drugs, not common recreational drugs. By contrast, abortion, is basically wrong.

    Finally: I do not believe that women who have abortions should be prosecuted as murderers. There is a major internal difference in the woman herself between the woman who has an abortion and the woman who plots to murder, say, her husband or neighbor, and that difference is vital, though serial abortions might be prosecuted in some way. This makes enforcement of a law prohibiting abortion marginal, but I think a better solution is needed than prosecuting the mother. Possibly prosecuting the abortion performer is the answer.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    The Sanctity of human life is a divinely instituted principle. It is not based on gradations of value which places greater right to one innocent life over another. That was the thinking of Caiphas who argued one man (Jesus) should die for the nation Israel. It gives support to euthanasia of the handicapped and elderly. Furthermore if conscience is perceived as the arbiter of right and wrong contrary to eternal law it paves the foundation for abortion as a privacy issue. Catholics must stand fast to the faith now more than ever.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Fr. Morello: I agree with you that each life is intrinsically of equal value, but I think what the author is saying is something different, which is also correct in my view: the person murdering the President is taking an innocent life, *and* is committing additional sins besides. If the author is saying the President’s life is of more value than the infant’s, then I agree with you; that’s wrong. But I think he’s saying that in killing the President, additional sins are being committed, not that the life taken is more valuable.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        What if the infant in the womb were Jesus.

        • RosaryVictory

          The devil is murderer…forever.

        • Dave Fladlien

          I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking.

    • Antoninus

      Thank you so much Fr. for this extremely important clarification. I would argue that the pre-born child is truly innocent, while the adult is not as they have all the dignity of all human life but have never sinned. This is not true for any adult. So it makes their murder even more horrific in one sense. And the false argument which you correctly unmask also applies to infants. And it is interesting to note that some supporters of abortion also support infanticide with the same evil reasoning.

    • Antoninus

      Thank our Fr. for this important clarification and correction. Wouldn’t the murder of the pre-born child be even more heinous (?) as the pre-born child is fully human and yet has never committed a sin. So they are purely innocent. As adults we have all committed sins and while we may be forgiven are no longer fully innocent. So not only is the original argument false, it is not even consistent.

      • RosaryVictory

        The Blessed Virgin Mary, Who is The Immaculate Conception, proves that the human being, in all innocence, begins life at conception. How can any sane person deny this reality?

  • Manfred

    Are Jewish babies worth less than Nazi babies? Are Palestinian babies worth less than Israeli babies? Are black babies worth less than white babies? If we sell parts of the aborted babies to keep the costs down for the next mother presenting her child for abortion, is this O.K.?
    Shall I continue?

    • RosaryVictory

      A sovereign person is conceived in moral and legal innocence, the standard for Perfect Justice and the compelling interest of the state to protect innocent human life. The tyrant cares little for perfect Justice, nor Truth. nor another person, nor the reality of law.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    This relates to Prof Kaczor’s value proposal of prenatal infant v President. Value ethics proposes that John the janitor’s life has intrinsic value the same as Michael the executive but because Michael has more responsibilities and dependent persons attached to his life if one murders Michael the penalty should be greater than if one murders John. That abrogates equal justice under the law.

    • kathleen

      Fr.Morello: What nonsense is this. Abortion is the killing of a human life. Let’s be done with all this verbal ridiculousness and say that abortion is wrong and it will always be wrong. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. I think Jesus said something like this.

    • RosaryVictory

      Thank you Father Peter. This is how the current court dispenses equal Justice, probably because of the money factor.

  • Robert McNally

    When I was a factory worker in the 1950s, I got the impression that
    the majority of women wanted to have children and that those who didn’t were,
    more often than not, men. In those days, it was the men who overwhelmingly
    favored abortion.

    During our lunch and coffee
    breaks, my coworkers often brought up the subject of abortion. Some would say
    that if their girlfriends ever became pregnant, they would have to face the
    abortionist, coat hangers and all. On this issue, the boyfriend had the last
    word and it seemed obvious that he considered it his right.

    In the early 1960s Betty
    Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.
    Although the book was considered an eye-opener, it never once mentions the word
    abortion (though it was included in
    an epilogue in a 1973 reprint).

    The National Organization of
    Women (NOW), which Friedan co-founded in1966, at first did not present
    “abortion rights” as a majority position. At the time, abortion was still
    viewed by most of the women who belonged to NOW as disreputable. Their thinking
    was about the same as in the 19th century, when abortion was seen as
    patriarchal oppression and an exploitation of women.

    Then along came Lawrence Lader
    and Bernard Nathanson, co-founders of the National Association for Repeal of
    Abortion Laws (Naral). (Nathanson would later disavow abortion advocacy and
    become a prominent voice for the right to life of the unborn. Lader, however,
    wrote several pro-abortion books, one of which was cited numerous times by the
    Supreme Court majority in its 1973 Roe v.
    Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.)

    What seems ironic is that
    abortion in earlier times was seen as patriarchal oppression and an
    exploitation of women, yet today is celebrated as a “woman’s right.” It appears
    as though women were sold a bill of goods by men who favored abortion and
    wanted to secure their own rights. And that by doing so, women lost theirs.

  • “In a typical murder, the victim’s death negatively impacts the victim’s relatives and friends.”

    The future siblings of aborted children are often very negatively impacted. Some fear that they too will be killed if they become inconvenient. Grandparents, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, those who work in abortion, and so many others are also negatively impacted. Three friends of mine have chosen to abort their children rather than allow me to adopt. Years later, I’m still negatively impacted. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are as well.

    I find most of this article’s reasoning specious. An infant in the womb has purpose even if the rest of the world doesn’t see it. Grandparents and other relatives, in particular, have hopes and plans. And, by this reasoning, the murder of a child who is cognitively disabled and unable to plan for the future is not the same as a “typical murder.” We can’t reduce the murder of a child we cannot see to explain why we don’t seek life imprisonment or the death penalty for abortionists, at the very least, and procurers of abortion when found legally culpable.

    Perhaps the truth and reconciliation panels that have been commissioned in Africa are applicable to abortion. A massive crime is being committed. There are many actors, who are more or less culpable. We can spend time and energy determining appropriate punishments but saving lives is our number one concern. If it will help us stop abortion, I think most of us can live with knowing that abortionists will never serve jail time. Let’s just acknowledge the evil, stop it, and move on.

    • Michael DeLorme

      I believe that what Mr. Kaczor is trying to do is distinguish between the objective enormity of abortion, and the degree of punishment subjectively deserved by a woman and/or her doctor when an abortion is performed.

      When it comes to abortion itself, I’m as hardline as they come: it is always and everywhere evil, always and everywhere wrong. No exceptions; not for incest, not for rape, not for the life of the mother. One may not take one innocent life that another might live.

      When it comes to punishment, though, I find it difficult not to operate from compassion. A consistent hardliner might reason: a woman who hires a hit-man to off her husband is just as guilty as the hit-man; throw them both in jail and throw away the key.

      Likewise, a woman who hires a hit-doctor to off her unborn child is just as guilty as the doctor; throw them both in jail and throw away the key.

      But there is all the difference in the world between, say, a woman who has her husband killed for insurance money so she can marry her new boyfriend—and a young girl who naively believes her boyfriend loves and will stand by her, finds herself pregnant and abandoned and is afraid to go to her unsympathetic parents with the news.

      I frankly don’t know what the solution should be; but demanding laws that say she should go to jail will be a non-starter with American voters and seems decidedly un-Christian.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        I gave this issue much thought and believe you are correct regarding sanction toward women who abort. Although I’m convinced we should call it murder the difference lies in the prenatal infant’s complete dependence on the mother and her role as parent. Perhaps in another world [the age of Christendom] severe penalties would be appropriate but in our time it should not unless we are addressing frivolous serial abortion. Often there is angst and mitigating factors. This however should not be coupled with Kaczor’s proposal of value ethics. The premise we need to keep in mind is not our rational view of the issue but rather Divivnely instituted sanctity of life which does not figure in value judgment.

        • Michael DeLorme

          I agree and oppose “value ethics,” too. I supposed Mr. Kaczor was struggling to articulate something else.

          I too continue to reflect on the matter. It occurs to me that I heard—probably some 20 years ago or more, now—that hospital neo-natal units have so many instances of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome that they look for volunteers just to hold a crying infant in their arms and offer comfort.

          Maybe a mandatory sentence of community service, for a first abortion—whereby a mother is put in the position of tending these babies—would be both an appropriate penalty and a means of cultivating a real sense of responsibility to a life similar to one she has taken.

          Subsequent abortions would merit more stringent penalties, even including jail time.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Very reasonable beneficial suggestions that I will keep in mind.

  • If we accept that the law has given women the right to have an abortion then it is up to the Church, Catholic laypeople and anybody who believes in the right to life to demonstrate to every woman that the baby should live. We have spent time condemning, and punishing women for their actions but have we failed to focus on the benefits of having a baby? If a woman is pregnant and is shattered by this news for whatever reason or reasons she knows that in most parts of Canada and the U.S. she can arrange to have an abortion in a reasonable amount of time. She won’t have to tell anybody if that’s what she chooses and her body won’t have to go through physical changes nor will she face the prospect of losing her spouse or boyfriend or her job. So how do we counter all of that and assure her that this child will be a blessing, will contribute to society, is a gift from God and there will be plenty of help for her from society to continue with the pregnancy? I might be totally out to lunch but I would find it hard to believe that a woman doesn’t struggle to have an abortion, that there isn’t some suffering and she doesn’t just do it because it’s convenient. We can tell her it’s a sin, that God will punish her, that she will bring shame to her family but apparently that hasn’t done much to stop millions of babies from being aborted in North America. I wonder if there are studies that show who would have the biggest influence in a woman’s life to convince her to have the baby – is it her mother, boyfriend – spouse, sister, grandmother, father etc.? Perhaps this is the mercy Pope Francis is talking about. A mercy that will help us save the unborn.

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      Who goes around telling women it’s a sin? That God will punish her? That she will bring shame on her family? Perhaps if this were 1950, what you write might be accurate but the world has changed. Few believe in sin, fewer believe in God, and as for shame, it is practically non-existent. Except for a very few whackos, those who are pro-life do not employ these as tactics.

      Would that those contemplating abortion believed that sin is real, that God does exist and that they were capable of experiencing shame. Those things in themselves would prevent most abortions from taking place.

      • 3C4

        Exactly correct. The law is a teacher. Teach evil and you get evil.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The 1950s!

        Anyone who remembers France in the 1950s will recall that pretty well every village seemed to have its « faiseuse d’anges » or “angel-maker.” Everyone knew about it, nobody talked about it and the police regarded it as “women’s business” and turned a blind eye. The silence from the pulpits was deafening.

        Occasionally, a woman died and, then, the Parquet, like Captain Renault in “Casablanca” would be shocked, shocked to discover that such things went on and there would be a brief flurry of prosecutions of unqualified women, quickly rounded up and, so, obviously known to police. Medical practitioners, doctors and midwives were never, ever, prosecuted.

    • Nancy Lynne

      “… but have we failed to focus on the benefits of having a baby?” Many years ago the local public high schools had an ill-conceived program to discourage teen pregnancy by showing what a burden and an obstacle to personal freedom a baby was. The students had to carry around a five or ten pound bag of flour dressed like a baby and keep it with them 24/7. I protested that it was a wrong- headed approach and that the program should have focussed on how wondrous and fascinating babies and children are and on how critical it is to carefully and thoughtfully choose a spouse as the students planned their future lives and careers.

    • RosaryVictory

      To approach the pregnant woman we must address society and its coercion to abort the “people as pollution” person in utero. Our society is plagued with the deceit of the devil. The Declaration of Independence : “and with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence…” No. the devil and atheism will not allow “a firm reliance of the protection of divine Providence”. The devil is a murderer. The devil would murder God if he could. America has embraced the Great Liar.

  • RosaryVictory

    There never was, in history, the belief that the newly conceived was not a living soul. Life is an attribute of the rational, immortal, human soul. Since atheism has been imposed on the American people, the denial of God, the immortal human soul, eternal life, everything metaphysical and spiritual, including the devil, is being wrenched from the concept of man and humanity. Man is composed of body and soul. The reality of man is being destroyed. Creativity, imagination, music, art, but especially free will and intellect and the accompanying unalienable human and civil rights, FREEDOM, itself is being denied.
    The newly begotten has a will to live. The newly begotten sovereign person, body and soul, wills to live. This act of the will to live is the person’s civil and unalienable Right to Life. Without the will to live, the child becomes a miscarriage, a spontaneous abortion.
    Roe v. Wade NEVER met the burden of proof that the newly conceived was not a person in his own sovereign right with his immortal soul infused at conception into the one celled human being. The burden of proof was never met, leaving Roe v. Wade as the greatest miscarriage of Justice ever.
    Roe v. Wade is not the Law of the Land as the Constitution is called, since it does not rise to equal Justice, not even the truth about the human being, composed of body and soul. Roe v. Wade is atheism imposed by government and tyranny over the mind of man.
    We, the people are all of our Founding Fathers and their Founding Principles, this generation and all of our constitutional “Posterity”; George Washington’s constitutional Posterity, all future generations. The Preamble is the unchangeable and unchanging purpose of the Constitution.

  • Robert McNally

    Kathleen nailed it. Abortion is no one’s right. In or out of season that should always be true.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler. You must be kidding. Any time the subject of abortion is discussed on this site there is always lots of abuse from commenters towards the woman. You will find the same abuse on other Catholic web sites as well. Go to an abortion clinic and you will witness the same abuse from some of the pro-life marchers, not all mind you. People still recognize sin. When we have tragedies in the world, like the shootings in California, one of the first things people do is to have prayer vigils for the victims. God created us all with the desire to search for Him. He touches all of us whether we proclaim Him or not.

  • lwhite

    Unless we recognize the truth that no society, no nation, no civilization that does not recognize that the Triune God is the Supreme Authority over all men and that according to both the Natural and Divine positive laws, the ordering of a society must be a secured way for man to conduct himself and live according to these laws, the sins of man will not be lessened nor can there be justice (the imperfect justice of man, that is, but at least a better understanding of it than that of the anti-Christs) and peace among men.

    This nation was founded upon the principles of Masonry-or naturalism, which denies this truth and believes man can perfect himself without submitting to the authority and will of God. It has never been a nation “under God” but a nation which has rejected the true teachings of Christ and His Church, and the only eventual outcome of that is the proliferation of more and more evil, vice, violence, and eventual, slavery to an all-powerful state. Just within the last 50 years, as the leaders of the institutional Church have abandoned the true Catholic faith and replaced it with their own version of Masonry/Naturalism (Modernism), we see the furthering of the descent into depravity and the denial of the dignity of humanity, with the state passing laws to promote and advocate suicide, sodomy, the destruction of the family, and forcing taxpayers to fund the murder and selling of human baby parts for profit.

    American culture is so immersed in sin and vice with the government as its defender and promoter, (including so-called Catholic lawmakers, public policy makes, lawyers, and judges), the only resolution to save the people from themselves is to elevate God to His proper position of authority and rule. Unless this occurs, the nation will regress even further into a worse form of pagan barbarianism than that which existed prior to the coming of Christ, and that which see escalating with each passing day.

    The issue of abortion, like that of every other evil, cannot ever be resolved without understanding it is simply a consequence of the rejection of the Supreme Authority of God. All this article points out is how fruitless it is to concentrate on the results of this rejection (the evils of abortion, drug use, etc.), and attempt to rectify them through the law, while not recognizing the cause.

    Even using the term “pro life” plays into the hands of the enemies of God because they have successfully indoctrinated the majority into thinking that those against abortion are against women. We should end using this term and use the term pro-God, which reveals us to be believers in God, the author and creator of all life, through whom all true liberty and justice exists, and then would force the pro-abortionists (and promoters of other evils) to try to defend themselves against the obvious, which is they are anti-God.

  • bernie

    The purpose of Kaczor’s essay escapes me, but I want to comment anyway.
    When I was a boy, abortion was considered murder by the law and an
    abortionist was the lowest of the low who hid from the law. How far
    our Western society and culture has wandered from its roots. Before
    the Christian perspective overcame Rome and came to form the
    conscience of the Western world, they used to take their “potions”
    or just throw the baby over the city wall. Unill WWII came around,
    we had come to understand the dignity of every individual, but there
    actually was a time, in my naivete, when I hoped that Marx, Hitler,
    Stalin, Mao, etc. would have left an inverse legacy of respect for
    the individual. Today, that is a long lost hope. The Godless mind
    that they fostered has actually taken hold of societies all over the
    world. Most countries and societies today are equally evil in this
    respect. Over a half billion persons have been murdered so far by
    abortion alone, it is said.

    One of the things to note is that Kaczor does not know the difference
    between ‘ignorance’ and ‘nescience’. The first speaks to due
    knowledge and the other to most anything else. “Ignorance is no
    excuse”, was formerly a universal principle. It is impossible
    to believe that a Doctor or a woman is truly ignorant of the human
    reality and dignity of an unborn baby. Furthermore, Kaczor’s essay
    is full of awful reasoning, such as the comments about friendship.
    By Nature, a baby ought to have at least one friend, its mother, and
    if it doesn’t, the mother’s culpable ignorance and/or twisted
    personality is abominable. I favor serious punishment for capital
    crimes, but, of course, we don’t have space for 50,000,000 women or
    thousands of Doctors in our prisons. As long as the lowest of the
    low are permitted to function in society under a phony “umbra”
    of the law known as “privacy”, we will not have to face up
    to such a problem. If we ever do come our senses, we’ll just have to
    “father in” the miscreants who killed their children (what
    a unfortunate distortion of that phrase).

    I strongly suspect that this whole episodic period in human history
    will end as this century moves toward its conclusion and the
    correctly anticipated vast collapse of world population suddenly
    places value on having a child. There will be no children or adults
    around to care for the sick, let alone the elderly. And no one will
    have a scapegoat since they will all be dead – or maybe they will
    blame God or global warming. I wonder how many will find God and
    build a fire of love.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    As a final comment I wish to add that in agreement with De Lorme I don’t believe that Prof Kaczor ascribes to value ethics even if the argument in effect is. But who would want a mother who aborted her prenatal infant strapped to an electric chair? The point Kaczor makes is entirely valid. Although there is a better approach to the problem. It is that of Thomas Aquinas who says the only necessity in determining a moral act is assessment of the conditions. Conditions here refer to less transient factors such as a man’s more peripheral social status and instead focuses on the immediate tangible conditions of the person in this instance a mother bearing her child. The infant is completely dependent on her. Although killing an innocent human is always murder in the mother’s case there usually is not premeditated malice. From this standpoint it can be perceived as murder of difference in kind and in a lesser degree and subject to Michael De Lorme’s rehabilitative sanctions.

  • Davis Wenbil

    Sorry didn’t take time to read the entire article, but I’ll put my 2 cents in anyway. I believe abortion is murder. However I also think that the political reality is to get rid of it incrementally. We can aim for ridding it from the final 3 months of pregnancy. A year later, we try to get rid of it for the final 6 months. Or perhaps a feasible strategy is to require parental notification in all 50 states (or parental consent). Or no forcible taxes for abortion. Just because I am for incremental change does NOT mean I don’t think it’s murder. But I also know the political reality of today and what strategy will actually work. daviswenbil@gmail.com

    • DLink

      Agree with Davis and would point out that politics is the art (not science) of the possible and that we live in an imperfect world. While we all aim for perfection, none achieve it. This does not mean to cease efforts to right wrongs. Quite the contrary. The more important the issue, the greater should be the effort on behalf of justice. But as is said, do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.