We Are All Guilty of Abortion

We Are All Guilty of Abortion May 16, 2019

As the New York Times reports, “Alabama’s governor on Wednesday signed into law a measure to ban most abortions in the state. But the Legislature’s approval and the governor’s signature did not immediately outlaw the procedure, and it is far from clear when, or even if, the measure will ultimately take effect….

“The bill that the Republican-controlled Legislature overwhelmingly passed sought to prohibit abortions at every stage of pregnancy. It includes an exception for cases where a woman’s health is at ‘serious’ risk, but lawmakers rejected a proposal to add exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

“Women who have abortions will not be prosecuted under the measure, but, if the courts allow the law to stand, doctors could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison for performing the procedure.

“A Senate vote on Tuesday night moved the proposal to Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, who signed the legislation on Wednesday afternoon.” [1]

This is, of course, in accord with Catholic teaching, which tells us that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2270) [2]

And it is not a matter of indifference how the law treats the matter.

“The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

“’The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.’

“’The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.’” (Ibid, No. 2273) [3] [4]

Yet we should not derive from this that abortion in all cases carries with it the same level of individual culpability. As St. Pope John Paul II wrote, “Decisions that go against life sometimes arise from difficult or even tragic situations of profound suffering, loneliness, a total lack of economic prospects, depression and anxiety about the future. Such circumstances can mitigate even to a notable degree subjective responsibility and the consequent culpability of those who make these choices which in themselves are evil.” (Evangelium vitae, No. 18) [5] It follows that a truly pro-life legislative approach to abortion would not only contain prohibitions, but also seek to eliminate the mitigating circumstances that the Holy Father wrote about.

But as the Alabama Senate passed its abortion legislation, it also “refused to consider amendments that would…provide health care for the mothers who were denied abortions.” [6] Because of the particular issues faced by indigent women, “State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison proposed an amendment to the bill that would require the state to provide free prenatal and medical care for mothers who had been denied an abortion by the new law. Her amendment was struck down by a vote of 23-6.”

The Alabama Senate’s action in striking down the amendment gives the stark impression that, for them, concerns about human life take second place (if that) to their devotion to the kind of social principles exemplified by Ayn Rand, a pro-abortion atheist. Instead of passing a measure that would have helped to alleviate the suffering encountered by women confronting the abortion decision, they genuflected before the altar of social Darwinism.

If we really want to eliminate abortion from our country, we must remove the social conditions that incentivize it. Our continuing failure to do so implicates all of us.


The icon of St. Joseph the Worker is by Daniel Nichols.

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  • Challenge:

    1) please cite all the history of the Catholic Church having no objection to abortion prior to viability/quickening, which occurs after 24 weeks.
    2) please give the exact sequence that made the Church change from that policy to “abortion of a fetus, even at one day, is a sin.”

    Was the Pope/Church in error all those centuries?

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    It’s encouraging to see someone writing from a Catholic perspective about the responsibilities for life that extend beyond the basic question of whether or not abortion is permissible. If the state is going to force women to bear children that they don’t want or can’t care for, then state has a concomitant responsibility to the care of those children once they are born.

    Alabama has utterly failed to accept that responsibility.

  • Thomas

    You`re a liar and a manipulator. All the Christian tradition, since the “Didaché” always comdemned abortion in the strongest terms. People like St. Augustine made a distinction between abortion before or after “ensoulment”. Nowadays we all know that science proves that life begins at conception and so life should be protected by law since then.

  • Isn’t it a sin to call people vile names? Please go to confession.

    Science does not prove that ensoulment occurs at any time, let alone at conception. It goes by facts: when does a fetus become a baby?

    You could pile up early Catholics on both sides, but more importantly: the vagary and equivocations of official cannon. I will refrain from a personal attack and implication of manipulation, as you were unfortunately unable to do, and say “it is a difficult matter and the Church’s people on both sides struggled, therefore no clarity.

    What do you say to this:

    Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) said that “no human intellect accepts the view that an infant has the rational soul from the moment of conception.”A few decades after Anselm’s death, a Catholic collection of canon law, in the Decretum Gratiani, stated that “he is not a murderer who brings about abortion before the soul is in the body.”

  • onlein

    What about the men who impregnate a woman and leave her on her own with a very difficult decision? What about those who go further and pressure or coerce or force her to have an abortion? At the very least men should be very cautious about voting to restrict women’s choice about her womb.
    How many men can say with certainty that they have never contributed to an unwanted pregnancy, have never had unprotected sex that could have resulted in such a pregnancy? That would probably be a relatively small percentage of us guys.
    A suggestion for the church: To set a good example of responsible behavior, members of the Knights of Columbus could take a pledge to never, or never again, engage in sexual behavior that could contribute to an unwanted pregnancy.

  • Thomas

    Science does proves that life begins at conception. Even an atheist scientist can accept that. To be believe in ensoulment is a religious belief, so it can`t be proved by science. The Christians who believed that ensoulment took place after conception followed Ancient Greek beliefs, which we now know are wrong, and they were totally opposed to abortion, in a way or another. The late great Anglican teacher John R.W. Stott on the euphemistic language (lying
    propaganda) of liberals about abortion: “How can we speak of the termination of a pregnancy when what we really mean is the destruction of a human life? How can we talk of therapeutic abortion when pregnancy is not a disease needing therapy and what abortion effects is not a cure but a killing? How can we talk of abortion as a kind of retroactive contraception when what it does is not prevent conception but destroys [the human product of that act]? We need to have the courage to use accurate language. Abortion is feticide [murder]: the destruction of an unborn child. It is the shedding of innocent blood, and any society that can tolerate this, let alone legislate for it, has ceased to be civilized.”

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    There was a reason why abortion was made legal in the first place, and it wasn’t because people wanted to kill babies.
    It’s because they found that abortions being illegal meant that women were killing themselves.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    I’m in favor of mandatory child support payments at 6 weeks gestation.

    But we all know that powerful men feel free to pressure women to abort inconvenient pregnancies… when its their public image at stake. They just don’t want poor people to receive healthcare.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    Whether or not abortion is the destruction of human life is irrelevant to the reasons why it was legalized in the first place, America found that it could not anymore tolerate an epidemic of women injuring or killing themselves in gruesome manners just because they were pregnant and they didn’t want to be.

    Make no mistake, when abortion is outlawed, and all the convenient medications that allow early termination are unavailable, we will return again to the era of women tearing out their innards through their vaginas once more.

  • onlein

    Too true, unfortunately.

  • Charles C.

    I am pleased to see that Mr. Quirk agrees with me that abortion is evil and sinful. Why else would he claim that all are “guilty” of abortion? No one is “guilty” of committing a morally good or neutral act.

    And how am I guilty of abortion? Because women don’t receive taxpayer funded medical care? That is the claim, further generalized into the idea that if the government can eliminate all reasons to have an abortion, then there won’t be any abortions. That may be true, but it is impossible of accomplishment.

    So here is the two-pronged extortion claim; vote for legislators who will provide universal health care, day care, guaranteed cash and other allowances or you are guilty of abortion. Not only are you guilty of abortion, but women will keep killing babies until you do vote that way. (Even then, we’ll still demand the right to abortion if we feel like it. Fooled ya, didn’t we?)

  • Thomas

    So, if they kill their own children legally, its less bad. It makes all sense for the promoters of a culture of death.

  • Dave G.

    In a broad sense, yes. Sin can have many factors driving it. But it’s not just money or economic policies. Abortion soared even as the economy improved in the US. As long as we say 1) women have every right to put their interests above any other consideration, and that includes sex without concern for the consequence, 2) the sex revolution continues apace (everyone should be able to have sex – period, no rules, just right), and 3) the decline of marriage and the rise of the divorce culture that separates sexuality and reproduction from any grounded relationships, you’re going to have abortion. If you hand out a million dollars to everyone along with free healthcare, abortion will continue to rise, just as it did in the 50s and 60s, well before Roe. It wasn’t Roe that suddenly made abortion rates soar. It was the overthrowing of moral standard that occurred throughout much of the 20th century that set the stage.

  • Swifty

    The state has a responsibility? The state in its status quo of spending more than they take in at every turn would be more than happy to spend more of the money from all taxpayers (and their children who weren’t aborted and their grandchildren who weren’t aborted).

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    Well, if the state was to collect more in taxes, then it would have the resources to meet its responsibilities without running deficits, wouldn’t it? And if something is considered a general social good, like, for instance, ensuring that families that choose to have children are supported in caring for them, then it is entirely appropriate that the state should carry out that role through the use of public funding.

    See, this is the core problem with the whole abortion debate. Conservatives are falling over themselves to protect the unborn, but are absolutely, categorically, unequivocally opposed to the use of public funding to do ANYTHING that would make it easier for parents – especially low-income parents – to raise children.

  • Legal:

    I agree with the phrase “life begins at conception” if seen from the point of view that there is no such thing as a separate soul which (at some point) is in the body/brain. Such a zygote or fetus does not equal a person. Not until it becomes a person. A person is an individual. If a fetus is left to develop until it is a person (around 24 weeks or later) then it must be defended legally — to kill it if healthy and not endangering the mother is murder. This occurs very rarely, perhaps a handful of cases in the United States each year.

    Legal2: The lying propaganda is in the mouths of those wanting to criminalize abortion. They use “life begins at conception” to avoid facing the fact that “personhood begins” – as early Church Fathers agreed – “much later.”

    Meanwhile, the moral case “should I get an abortion” even at the first sign of pregnancy … that is a different matter, personal, not legal.

  • Pressure?

    Do you support mandatory sterilization of women who trick men into getting them pregnant and then pay for their lives with taxpayer’s money?

  • Thomas

    You`re being fallacious. The concepts of ensoulment aren`t the same as “personhood. People can quote Church Fathers for a lot of things, but not to support legal abortion, because they oppose it in the strongest terms. They followed Ancient Greek beliefs about ensoulment that we know now are wrong. All sorts of human life deserves respect and protection, it doesn`t matter if its not yet a person, it will be sooner or later. To destroy that life is to kill.
    “that is a different matter, personal, not legal.” No, its not. Many women are pushed for abortions by other people, against their will. The Hippocratic Oath condemns abortion, so physicians who respect unborn human life can`t do it.
    “to kill it if healthy and not endangering the mother is murder. This occurs very rarely, perhaps a handful of cases in the United States each year.” Pro-abortion nonsense. There are late-term abortions legal in several USA states. It must happen more often than some people think. Most pro-abortion politicians oppose any restrictions on abortion, even a ban over 20 weeks, their main purpose is to keep it legal and profitable. No one who knows the Planned Parenthood kind of mentality believes that they have any interest in reducing the number of abortions. The only ones who really care about saving unborn human lifes are the pro-lifers.

  • Thomas

    This answers the claims that St. Anselm of Canterbury wouldn`t be pro-life by modern standards, no matter how some pro-abortion liberals try to twist his beliefs. https://www.mikechurch.com/2015/12/st-anselm-would-condemn-democrats-not-host-their-sodomy-abortion-debate/

  • Thomas

    St. Thomas Aquinas condemned abortion as homicide: “St. Thomas actually never wrote anything explicitly on abortion. So, to say that he approved of abortion is utterly false. In fact, he did condemn it implicitly in his magnum opus, Summa Theologica. For example, in his commentary on murder, he states: “He that strikes a woman with child does something unlawful: wherefore if there results the death either of the woman or of the animated fetus, he will not be excused from homicide.” (ST II-II, q.64, a.8) In another section he addresses various scenarios of whether to baptize a baby in the mother’s womb, saying: “If, however, the mother die while the child lives yet in her womb, she should be opened that the child may be baptized.” (ST, III, q.68, a.11)” https://catholicexchange.com/st-thomas-aquinas-culture-life

  • solomonstemple

    Shawn you make a category mistake. You are trying to equate economic support with murder? Is it ok for me to kill my two year old because I can’t support him/her? Killing the child is not the solution. The solution is responsibility by those who create the child. Birth control pills have played a big part in the sexual revolution as has premarital sex, hooking up etc. Putting the responsibility on the taxpayer for irresponsible behavior will only result in MORE of that behavior.

    If I were to wreck your car (irresponsible behavior on my part) is the taxpayer responsible for paying for it? How about the hook up culture take out pregnancy insurance? So if they are in a position of creating a child they can pay for it with their insurance. Children, in a civilized society should be created by choice by a family that has made the decision and has the means to raise that child. Our society has chosen to let the sexual revolution run rampant and the answer is to kill the children (50 million) and counting.

    We should be encouraging responsible sexual behavior not paying for those who engage in it. BTW have you ever heard of adoption? That doesn’t put the burden on the taxpayer and yet prevents the murder of the child.

    How far does a society go in paying for peoples mistakes? Most pregnancy centers offer support before, during, and after birth. However you would expect the families to step up and care for the child. Maybe low-income citizens should refrain from producing children no different than any other responsible family does. As far as public funding, have you been blind to decade of ADC? All it did was cause an increase in the number of illegitimate births and yet you are advocating that the public “double down” on a proven failed program?!

  • If a woman seeking an abortion yields to pressure from a Catholic to not abort, even though the pregnancy is unwanted, that is her responsibility. Abortion is legal, and there is no justification for blaming “pressure from someone” to continue an unwanted pregnancy. The obverse is also true: if a woman who does not want to abort yields to pressure from others, that is not “against” her will — she abandoned her will.

    Why did you repeat the error that Church Fathers “oppose [legal abortion] in the strongest terms” when I handed you a quote from 1000 years ago to the contrary. Please explain this surprising avoidance.

    “There are late-term abortions legal in several USA states.” Yes, it is legal in 7-8 states. There are around 1000 cases per year. I have never heard of even one that was completely arbitrary, such as “I changed my mind.” Please link to any case, mother, or doctor who killed a baby in the womb based on that of similar. Late term abortions (normally soon after 24 weeks) are performed if the baby is dying, cannot survive, or there is a true, real, threat to the life of the mother.

    The reason pro-choice activists promote unrestricted late term abortion (while knowing it is very rare) is for a buffer against courts making regular abortion illegal. I personally do not support either.

  • Shocking how you quote someone with the claim he “implicitly” condemned abortion, but in the very quote you offer, your point is voided. Aquinas used the phrase “animated fetus.”

    What do you think that means?

  • mudskipper

    Abortion rates have been falling steadily since 1980:


    And by the way, one of the more common reasons women cite for having an abortion is that they couldn’t afford a baby.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    The illegality made it so that we saw large numbers of women in the ER with their small intestines visibly hanging out through their vagina as a result of back-alley abortions.

    Make no mistake: all of your favoured pro-lifers in the American government don’t actually care when its their women getting abortions, only that they’ve managed to wrap their rhizocephalan tentacles around your brain to ejaculate conservative votes into your neocortex.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    If they’re rich enough to be able to abuse the tax system into paying off their mistresses, I’d say they deserve what they get for their irresponsiblity in whom they ejaculate.

  • Good article.

  • I was going to post the same thing, about the declining abortion rate and also the dipping rate of teen pregnancy.

    Per Guttmacher, the most common reason for an abortion is “we didn’t use anything and I don’t want a baby.” Politely called “Inconsistent method use,” actually irresponsibility.

    Forty-six percent of women had not used a contraceptive method in the month they conceived, mainly because of perceived low risk of pregnancy and concerns about contraception (cited by 33% and 32% of nonusers, respectively). The male condom was the most commonly reported method among all women (28%), followed by the pill (14%). Inconsistent method use was the main cause of pregnancy for 49% of condom users and 76% of pill users; 42% of condom users cited condom breakage or slippage as a reason for pregnancy. Substantial proportions of pill and condom users indicated perfect method use (13-14%). As many as 51,000 abortions were averted by use of emergency contraceptive pills in 2000.

    [edit to add: “emergency contraceptive pills” are abortions.]

  • I takes two to reach the state of the state of irresponsibility you cite.

    [your ‘tax system’ allusion is too obtuse to deserve response.]

  • mudskipper

    Emergency contraceptive pills are not abortifacients. They work like contraceptives–either preventing ovulation or preventing fertilization. There is some discussion whether or not they prevent implantation, but even if they do, that still doesn’t make them abortifacients. Since 50% of all fertilized eggs fail to implant and are lost, a woman is not considered pregnant until implantation occurs.

    As far as inconsistent contraception use goes, that is the reason a woman might become pregnant in the first place. I was talking about the reasons she decides to get an abortion once she is pregnant.

    Even so, economics enter into a woman’s choice of contraception. If you live from paycheck to paycheck as many Americans do, condoms look affordable because they have little up-front cost. And condoms, as we know, aren’t particularly reliable. When free and highly effective contraceptives such as IUDs are made available to women, particularly young women, the rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions plummet.

  • mudskipper

    “They followed Ancient Greek beliefs about ensoulment that we know now are wrong.”

    How on earth do we know they were wrong if ensoulment is a religious, not a scientific, belief?

    Science actually presents some difficulties for people who wish to believe that an egg receives a soul the instant it is fertilized:

    o 50% of fertlized eggs never implant in the utereus and are lost. As others have quipped, that would make God the world’s largest abortionist.

    o Identical twins come from one fertilized egg and aren’t formed until several days after fertilization. Does this mean they share a soul?

    o A certain percentage of fraternal twins (separate fertilized eggs) actually merge during development to form a single embryo. Does that mean the resulting person has two souls?

    Finally a lot of pro-choice people like myself do believe that late-term discretionary abortions should be illegal. The reason why we oppose a total ban is that there are circumstances, such a nonviable fetus or danger to the mother’s life, where we think it should still be allowed.

  • I defer to your more informed facts … I thought the emergency pills were only for destroying fertilized eggs (zygote.) I also didn’t realize “abortion” is only the correct label after implantation.

    Anyway, as regards the reasons to seek an abortion: how does “i can’t afford it” different from “I don’t want a baby?”

    I consider inability to provide themselves secure contraception (and then proceeding to have sex) because of “cost” to be no excuse for the couple. If you can’t fund you own simple life, you shouldn’t be engaging in the adult behavior of mating.

  • mudskipper

    “I can’t afford it” is different from “I don’t want a baby” is obviously different in that the woman would decide to keep the baby if she felt she could afford to do so.

    However she got pregnant, she is now making the financially responsible decision that she can’t afford the baby and aborting it. This is going straight to the point of Quirk’s original post. If you are going to prohibit her from making this decision, do you then have an obligation to help out financially? Imagine a woman feels as you seem to do–that it is not immoral to abort a fetus early in a pregnancy–and yet other people are making the decision for her that she cannot and then leave her to deal entirely with the financial consequences.

    As for people who can’t afford contraception not engaging in sex…dream on. I don’t know if it is simple moral outrage that motivates you or the belief you shouldn’t have to pay for them, but I would point out that if it is latter, you are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. You’ll end up paying much more for that unwanted child than you’ll ever pay for contraception.

  • xpontiacman

    The main “social condition” that leads to abortion is the widespread availability of abortion as the default solution to unwanted pregnancy. When abortion is the default solution, other options dry up and disappear.

  • Thomas

    Then, you support late-term abortions, anyway, which is plain murder.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    Actually the tax thing was a sarcastic reference to Donald Trumps payoff of Stormy Daniels. If sterilization (aka. eugenics) and abortion is off the table, then the only solution that men have is to prepare to become dispensers of that sweet sweet cash, especially if they themselves where anti-abortion advocates.

  • mudskipper

    Well, you might think you are so important that your mother should have given her life for you. As for myself, I love my mother and am grateful to her for her generosity in bearing me. And I wouldn’t have wanted her to give her life for me. Or to leave my father widowed and my sister bereft of a mother.

  • John Logan

    I am not guilty of abortion. I have always supported Catholic values, never gotten a girl pregnant and have tried to everything I can to support pregnant women.

  • Claire

    There were no options before Roe either, sweetie.