I'm pro-life...but that's my choice

I just read a post entitled “Pro-Choice need not apply?” and started to have some questions of my own. The person who asked the questions referred to stuggling with pro-life politics and how that comes into contact with our faith as Catholics, and I find myself in the same boat.

I have long described my pro-life/pro-choice politics with this phrase: “I’m pro-life, but that’s my choice.” As an American Catholic, I have never been able to reconcile legislating any issue with only my faith as at the root of why. Personally, I can’t stomach the idea of abortion, and as a few my friends from high school and college who have come to me in crisis to tell me that they were pregnant, I have strongly asserted the baby’s right to live when I encouraged them to carry the child to term and–if they did not have to raise the child themselves–to find a family who would be able to.

But, as an American, I also know and understand that my values are not the same values that everyone else has. God gave us the freedom of choice–and the responsibility of the consequences that go with those choices. Not everyone feels that abortion is morally objectionable; for example, my athiest brother; Islam even recognizes circumstances in which abortion is–to them, at least–permissible. So, how can we legislate our faith, codify it into law?

In my heart, I feel that to force everyone to choose life, to remove their rights as humans and as citizens to choose for themselves between right or wrong would be the same as forcing my athiest brother to come to Mass every day: my brother, as well as the countless people who choose abortion, do know the consequences of their actions and of their own free willare choosing wrong.

Am I wrong to think that we shouldn’t force faith and values on people who don’t want it? Doesn’t it degrade their own humanity by not letting them choose freely, just as we all have *chosen freely *to accept Christ?

Yes, and here is why: abortion is not wrong because of religion. Abortion is wrong because it is killing a human being.

From the very time of conception, an embryo is another being. It has the substance of another human being (it doesn’t have the mothers DNA but its own DNA). Think of bacteria (I hate to think of a baby as bacteria but still), a bacteria isn’t part of the petri dish or the solution that it feeds on, nor is it part of the lamp that keeps it warm, but it is separate from them all. It has its own substance. It is its own being. To say differently is simply and scientifically wrong. It is a living, functioning human, as at its age its function to grow and mature.

In my opinion, it is the exact same thing as saying “I am against the murder of infants under six months, but that is my choice.”

I am sorry, but you cannot be a Catholic, or in my opinion a moral human being and allow abortion under any circumstances.

You have two different issues here:

  1. Are there reasons to oppose abortion that are non-religious?

  2. Is it acceptable to push to make laws to oppose things based solely on religious reasons?

First off there are plenty of reasons to oppose abortion that don’t require having faith in God. There are plenty of atheists and people of other religions out there that oppose abortion. No one has the right to ignore the fact that a person is alive. Its not “forcing faith and values” on someone to say I want the law to recognize that a baby is a life from the moment of conception. Once you have established this fact it all becomes fairly simple. No “choice” of the mother’s will ever supersede the babies right to life. If both the mother and the child in the womb are in danger of dying everything possible should be done to save both lives. It is never acceptable to directly kill the baby to save the mother’s life, just as it would never be acceptable to directly kill the mother in order to save the baby. We can get into all the “what ifs” here but I assure you there is a reasonable response for every possible situation.

I’ll leave the second question for someone else.

This is the truth.

I appreciate your personal stance against abortion, and on that I agree with you 100%. However, I do not agree with the idea that the government shouldn’t make laws against abortion.

It is true that it is not the function of government to make people holy. The government should not make laws that interfere with religion, or that promote a particular religion. But it is the function of government to protect life, property, peace and order, and the common good. If the mother has a medical condition which in the process of treatment aborts a baby, then the abortion is not intended and may be tolerated. But if the mother does not have a medical condition, and the presence of the baby in the womb does not endanger the life of the mother, then killing the baby is nothing less than murder, and the government should have laws to prevent that. It is the function of government to protect life, regardless whether the person is inside or outside the mother’s womb.

NOTE: I wrote the above paragraphs for another thread, but I find them equally relevant on this thread, so I just copied and pasted them here.

I believe that life starts at conception, because, you’re right, there is unique DNA that has been created. But as far a science is concerned, that’s not a functioning human, and here we have the juxtaposition of beliefs:

A) Life–humanity–begins at conception (my personal belief, if I didn’t make that clear)

B) Life–humanity–begins when the fetus is capable of living outside the womb. Bacteria is a fully formed, independant life form; removed from a laboratory (or simply one that’s on your kitchen counter) the bacteria is able to exist without support. A child removed from the womb immediately following conception is not able to do so.

“A” is faith. “B” is science. So it comes down to–as Nate pointed out–establishing the benchmark in the law. Given that, point “A” flows from subjective morals, not proven science (actions that can be seen, studied, tested, etc.), how is it that we justify codifying it into law, when we criminalize every other way of thought and morality–including another major religion’s way of morality, Islam?

So, then, here are my true questions: doesn’t God offer us all opportunities, all the time, to choose between right and wrong? And won’t He judge us Himself for those choices? Does He really need Congress’s help in figuring it out? And isn’t the assumption that He does packed with hubris?

Yours in Christ,

P.S. I use the term “subjective morals” to describe a moral structere that is based on personal experience and individual beliefs, as opposed to scientific study and results; i.e., right and wrong in the Abrahamic religions is different from right and wrong to a wiccan. I use the term “major religion” to distinguish from fringe belief systems, such as those common in cults.

Half the facts.

Without God anything immoral is quite possible.

What’s the fundamental difference between killing your child 6 months after his birthday vs 6 months prior to his birthday? Do you also believe there shouldn’t be a law to prevent the former if you don’t think one should prevent the latter?


Note addressing your overarching question here, but just this particular point. I think you might need to refine your thought here because this looks like a false dichotomy.

Most (all?) persons who hold that human life begins at conception hold it because it is scientific fact and reasonable. This goes for people of faith and those without.

In your scenario B – there isn’t any science that concludes that life beings when the fetus is capable of living outside the womb. Science (or, perhaps we ought to just call it observation) tells us when a fetus can (or how likely it is) to survive outside the womb. But to go from this observation to the conclusion that the fetus is not alive (or human) is either a philosophical notion or a legal notion or some otherwise practical notion. It isn’t scientific.

To illustrate, we could say that lizards are cold-blooded, and therefore less worthy of conservation efforts than pandas. That isn’t science, there is some philosophical or ideological or some other reason to hold that pandas are worth conserving rather than lizards.


What confuses me more than anything is how we can punish someone who kills a pregnant woman (accidentally or on purpose) and charge them for taking both lives, BUT abortion is ok. Now, I don’t know the exact law or anything, but I do know of several cases where a pregnant woman was killed in a car accident or murdered, and the parties involved were charged for both lives. Contradiction, much? What if that woman who was killed was on her way to have an abortion when her life ended?

True with bacteria (except some forms of bacteria such as e coli used in school labs which cannot survive for more than seconds outside of its source of nutrients.); not true with infants. Many sick infants are born and immediately placed on a respirator and fed, like all babies. When one begins defining life by functionality of something rather than the function it is supposed to assume at a particular time (i.e. the purpose of a human embryo is to be a human embryo with the function of a human embryo), then one opens the possibility of saying, that until a child can feed itself, then murder is okay. Or, maybe even until something can support itself (typically like 8 in really poor countries), then it is okay. Something can’t be defined based on a certain functionality. A teapot that can’t hold water doesn’t change its substance as a teapot. The only thing that can change something’s substance is God, and he does that in the eucharist. It is physically impossible to change something’s substance. It is only possible for God to do it. For example, one cannot change bread into me. It is impossible to change one’s substance (except through God.

So then one would have to say that the embryo changes after a certain time (a transformation), but it is obvious that an embryo develops over time and there is not one moment that it changes from non-human to human, unless one says it is immediately after it comes out of the mother or the umbilical cord is cut, but the infant does not look different and it is capable of all of the same functions within the mother, but it simply cannot perform them under the circumstances (such as if an infant or any person really cannot perform said function because of certain circumstances i.e. a coma). So then one must conclude that the substance and being never changes.

One is science with reason and rationality and one is science without logic. And it is proven by science that an embryo has separate DNA, so the definition of life in “B” is equally scientific as science of A; the only difference is determining which is more logical. I believe because what I explained.

God does give us the right to choose right and wrong, but the government is to protect the rights of others. God always gives me the opportunity to steal and kill, but the government must protect the rights of others, and the right to life is one our country happens to be in favor of.

He will judge on our own and without us, but that is irrelevant. It is our job as Americans to protect the rights of others, and particularly to protect the laws of those who cannot speak for themselves.

I acknowledge that posters here are trying to be as fair as they can be. We are exchanging thoughts for all to consider and NOT trying to belittle anyone. I often see a number of aspects ignored in most discussions.

  1. Good civil law should comport well with Moral Law. Complying with Moral Law allows one to judge themselves that they have indeed done a good moral act. If this is so, why do so many women feel significant guilt after they pass the stress that caused them to abort? How many pro-choice people make their case that abortion is good by showing how women who abort feel later? OK or bad? If the majority feel bad about the abortion, then WHY should we have laws to allow it?

  2. Who aborts in terms of demographics - age, education, income, maritial status, race? Who are the leaders of the pro-choice - do these leaders come from the larger groups of women who abort or are the leaders more secure in their own lives while pushing for abortion as the way to deal with problems?

  3. What are proper rights and responsibilities of the fathers? Do women who abort come to this decision on their own or ar they pressured into it by others?

  4. If it is true, as I believe without a solid reference to offer, that the fertilized egg, at the moment of conception, has ALL the DNA and chromosomes of a SEPARATE human being, neither the father nor the mother, and that it starts growing immediately, is it NOT life and any doubt should be in favor of life, not death?

  5. Why is it that pro-choicers choose to NOT display the weekly development of the embryo? At least have the honesty to tell those they are trying to convince to be pro-choice, when the new HEART starts to beat?

  6. Why do most pro-choicers insist on legal abortions through the nine months if the fetus is viable outside the mother much earlier?

I could list other concerns that usually are not addressed and should be if we are to more fully understand the issue.

But my last question: Exactly which religion have I used to raise these questions? In deciding what laws and candidates we vote for regarding who lives and who dies, solid answers to such questions do matter.

I disagree with your assumptions.

If you say that “A” is faith, then “B” is faith just as much as “A” is. Actually, because of the structure of DNA in the embryo, I think that “A” is science, too, and as a scientific definition, it is better than “B” because “B” is an arbitrary definition designed to keep the human embryo out of the legal sphere. The fact that an embryo or a fetus cannot live outside the womb does not necessarily make it a non-human, because genetically it already has everything it needs to develop into a mature human being. The important thing is that, if allowed to develop, then it will not grow into a turtle, a fish, a bird or a mouse. It will grow into a human baby. Therefore, the fact that it is still incapable of living outside the womb does not mean that it is not human; it means that it is still not self-sufficient; that it still needs its mother. But isn’t that the same even with a child? Strictly, a child is also not yet self-sufficient, although it is better equipped now than when it was still in the womb. It still needs its parents, which is why it would be illegal to abandon a baby. What difference is there between a fetus and a child, and between a child and an adolescent, and between an adolescent and an adult? There is really no difference in nature, but only a difference in the stage of growth. Let us be careful then to define the fetus as not human just because it is not yet a child. If we tolerate this kind of thinking, - if we allow arbitrary definitions to rule our life, - then soon we will also be defining babies with disabilities, or people with disabilities, as non-human.

If it is the function of governments to protect human life, then I think that governments should protect human life even in its earliest stage.

That would be a very difficult way to define life, as it’s subject to change as our technology improves. A fetus at 6 months in the early 1900s wouldn’t have had much of a shot, but today it’s possible for a baby born at just 22 weeks to survive. Would that mean life begins sooner now than it did a hundred years ago?

The basis for my vote:

I agree that it is better to have more than just my commitment to my Catholic Faith on which to base my vote. Hence, the few questions I offered above that often are ignored in the great public debate.

BUT, my Catholic Faith is indeed sufficient basis if I have not more reason in my mind.

On Judgement Day, I will answer to God for ALL my actions. I think I will meet with more success on that day when I can say I consistently voted pro-life even if I did so only out of compliance with the teachings of the Church, You, Jesus Christ, set up for me. I remember the authority You gave St Peter - whatever you bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in Heaven. I did not better understand the reasons, but I TRUSTED in the Church You established.

In my earlier post I talked about Moral Law - judging my own actions as good or bad. Our conscience should be properly trained and we should listen to it. A poorly trained conscience is NOT reliable. Thus, I rely on the teachings of the Catholic Church to train me in my sense of right and wrong. And I TRUST the Church in areas where I do not fully understand. In the end, I answer to God.

Faith develops conscience. With that conscience, we enter public society and deal with others, most of whom have a conscience developed from their faith. All of us should try to develop the best conscience we can and then vote our conscience in all matters. The majority prevails. But at least we vote our conscience. I choose to vote with the teachings of my Faith, because, in the end, I answer to God.

Actually “science” will come down on either side. In my opinion this has nothing to do with pushing your religion ideals on someone. You could say your pushing your “scientific ideals” but we know the left is ok with that because they like to push man-made global warming on us.

50-59% of American’s believe life begins at conception. A similar percentage of American’s believe global warming is man-made. Who has the right to shove their opinion down the others throat? In both circumstances there really is little middle ground. With abortion you either have state sponsored murder or you don’t. With man-made global warming we are either pushing our planet into the ground in the next 100 years or we aren’t. You have to take a stand on these issues and stick to it because there is no option to just let “everyone make their own choice”.

Another way of thinking about it is if you think of the Holocaust. Some of the Nazi’s truly believed Jewish people were less than human and didn’t deserve life. If you had it in your power to help try and stop that would you sit back and say everyone gets to make their own choice or would you stand up and do everything you could to save those lives?

That a new and distinct individual of the human species has its beginning at conception is scientific fact, not a belief. A new human being begins at conception.

When a new human individual is capable of living on its own is purely arbitrary and varies widely. Usually humans are capable of living on their own sometime after the age of 18 years. If independence in living is the criterion for life, a lot of people are in danger.

A few thoughts;

  1. The Church has always known that there is a difference between the born and unborn; that is why there is no sacrament available to remove original sin from the souls of the unborn despite the fact that the risk of death (from natural causes) is very high before birth.

  2. Life absolutely does not begin at conception. Both sperm and egg are alive. What begins at conception is a combination which will grow into a zygote, embryo, fetus, child and adult (unless it dies before). No new life has been created - life is continuous.

  3. The Church has never been entirely clear on the exact reason why abortion should be illegal. Various reasons are cited at different times:

*]the law as a teacher of right and wrong;
*]the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens (although there seems no effort on the part of the Church to extend citizenship itself to the fetus - my brother was conceived in the US but born elsewhere; he oes not have the rights of a born US citizen, and I am sure the Vatican or the Papal States have never issued a passport for a fetus);
*]the expectation that there will be fewer abortions if they are illegal;
*]the ‘slippery slope’ argument that if abortion is legal, soon old people, the disabled etc will be killed;
The first is as far as I am aware unproven empirically (do people regard teh law as a teacher, really?), the second begs the question as to whether fetus have full human rights, the third seems unlikely to be true in any country with open borders and freedom of association and movement, and the fourth may be true, but as far as I know has no evidence base.

I agree with you. I am pro-choice but for religious reasons. In Judaism, abortion is not only permissible in extreme circumstances (especially when not having an abortion would most probably result in the mother’s death) but mandatory. This is due to the definition according to Torah of when life begins. There are also leniencies in Judaism in the cases of rape and incest. (And I’m talking here about Orthodox Judaism, whereas in Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism, there are even less stringent rules about abortion.) This Jewish Law conflicts with that of Catholicism, as do the laws and beliefs regarding abortion in other religions. I think it is ethically wrong for Catholicism or any other religion to impose its own beliefs on the general public, consisting of a diversity of religious and non-religious views on the issue. On the other hand, Catholics have a right as citizens to speak up against abortion, to protest in front of abortion clinics, and to lobby against Roe v. Wade. If, however, Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned, I feel there should still be religious exemptions for those whose beliefs require them to have abortions in certain extenuating circumstances. It is my strong belief that upholding one’s own religious principles does not give anyone the right to deny another’s religious principles.

human life begins at conception. A sperm or an egg is not a human life by itself. When they meet you have the definition of a human life.

Also from Wikipedia but I’m seeing other similar things from other sources

Infants, babies and fetuses

The Roman Ritual declares that a child is not to be baptized while still enclosed (clausus) in its mother’s womb, it supposes that the baptismal water cannot reach the body of the child. When, however, this seems possible, even with the aid of an instrument, Benedict XIV [1] declares that midwives should be instructed to confer conditional baptism. The Ritual further says that when the water can flow upon the head of the infant the sacrament is to be administered absolutely; but if it can be poured only on some other part of the body, baptism is indeed to be conferred, but it must be conditionally repeated in case the child survives its birth, It is to be noted that in these last two cases, the rubric of the Ritual supposes that the infant has partly emerged from the womb. For if the fetus was entirely enclosed, baptism is to be repeated conditionally in all cases [2].

In case of the death of the mother, the fetus is to be immediately extracted and baptized, should there be any life in it. Infants have been taken alive from the womb well after the mother’s death. After the Cæsarean incision has been performed, the fetus may be conditionally baptized before extraction if possible; if the sacrament is administered after its removal from the womb the baptism is to be absolute, provided it is certain that life remains. If after extraction it is doubtful whether it be still alive, it is to be baptized under the condition: “If thou art alive”. Physicians, mothers, and midwives ought to be reminded of the grave obligation of administering baptism under these circumstances. It is to be borne in mind that according to the prevailing opinion among the learned, the fetus is animated by a human soul from the very beginning of its conception. In cases of delivery where the issue is a mass that is not certainly animated by human life, it is to be baptized conditionally: “If thou art a man.” [3]

The baby is not baptized in the womb because its not “alive”. The problem has to do with not being able to pour water over the baby and complete the sacrament. Even if this is not possible though its safe to assume the baby received a baptism of desire based on the parent’s desire to have the baby baptized.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.