I used to not think about abortion – at all. It just wasn’t on my radar.
Then I started considering the Catholic Church and one of my real objections is that I didn’t want to believe abortion was that wrong. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I thought it was wrong but I wanted to think it was a legitimate, if regrettable, personal decision which I had no business interfering in. I didn’t want to believe that abortion killed a living human being. I definitely didn’t want to change my beliefs.
It’s such a massive issue. If every tiny embryo and fetus is actually a human person, albeit still growing (but then who isn’t?), then what is happening all over the world is nothing less than infanticide on an industrial scale. It would be the sort of wholesale slaughter of the most vulnerable and innocent. At a conservative estimate, there were about 42 million abortions last year. That’s seven holocausts every year. What do you even do with that?
Changing our beliefs is a very scary thing to do because it demands we change our lives too. If I start believing abortion is wrong, then that requires I do something. If I believe that abortion is the killing of an innocent and precious human being, then I have to treat it like that. But what could I possibly do? What could possibly be enough?
So I give out all the excuses. I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others (even though that means I’m not even living my own beliefs). I don’t want anyone to think I don’t care about women (even while baby girls are being killed at far higher rates precisely because they are girls). I don’t want to be distracted by politics when there’s evangelism to do (even though Christ says what you do to the least of these, you do unto me).
But that’s exactly what they are: excuses. Because if abortion really is the evil we say it is, then there is no effort, no expense, no sacrifice too great to try and stop it. But I am a selfish person and I am fond of my own comfort. It’s so much easier to assume it’s not so bad than to believe that something so evil could be happening all over the world – let alone that we must do something about it.
It would be scary enough if it changing our beliefs changed our future actions but it also changes the way we see and understand our past. That’s so scary because our very identity is rooted in the stories we tell about ourselves – who we are, where we come from and what we value. Our narratives shape our identity.
We don’t want to believe abortion was wrong because what does that say about us? What sort of people condone – and even encourage – the killing of children? We think we are so enlightened and good but if abortion is wrong, then at the centre of civilisation is an unimaginable evil. How could we let that happen? How can so many vulnerable and hurting women be taken advantage of like that? How could our society treat precious children as disposable and modifiable commodities? How can we – who preach love and peace and tolerance and equality – commit seven holocausts every year without blinking an eye?
Maybe some people get a perverse delight out of believing that society is corrupt, but I don’t. Who would want to believe that? It’s not exactly a pleasant thought. If given the choice I’d rather believe all is well than find myself implicated in the silence over murder of innocents, along with the very people we should be able to trust: our world leaders, doctors, international aid organisations – our parents and grandparents who passed these laws.
And yet, I must believe the truth, regardless of the consequences. An embryo or fetus is a person with such much dignity as you or I. Why? Because it is human and it is alive. That makes it a human being, even at the earliest stages of development, and all human beings deserve the right not to be killed. That right “trumps” every other right.
The pro-life argument is that simple.
But its consequences are massive, which is why we would prefer not to believe it is wrong. It’s hard, but I think you and I both know that “but I don’t want to” is the crappiest reason around. We know that… we just have to start acting on it.
But it makes me ask two questions.
Firstly, what can I do? I know I must do something. One cannot be apathetically pro-life. That should be a contradiction in terms because if life really is at stake, then what is more important?
Secondly, what can we do to make it easier for people to change their beliefs? Is there anything we can do? How do we explain how all this happened? How do we make the consequences slightly easier so that can it be that tiny bit easier for people to change? Or is it always meant to unimaginably shocking – precisely because it is? What do people think?