Natural law and abortion

I asked in a previous post if stating “That which is contrary to natural law is any action that directs a subject away from the object of its highest good” is a correct summary of some of the reading I’ve been doing in philosophy on ethics, natural law, and the highest good. I was agreed upon there that it was.

One of the primary reasons I finally got around to reading further into some of this was that I hoped to be able to articulate an argument against abortion based on how it is contrary to the natural law.
Assuming those who are aborted (or martyred, etc.) go to Heaven upon being killed and attain the Highest Good of humanity: happiness and God, then, based on the statement “That which is contrary to natural law is any action that directs a subject away from the object of its highest good,” why is abortion contrary to the natural law?

I realize it also directs those doing the abortion away from the highest good, but I’m very new to philosophy and would like to understand the basic “hows” and “whys.”

I appreciate any and all help. Thanks and God bless!

Because ends do not justify the means. For them to reach heaven meant someone else committing a grave sin, ie. killing.

You’re forgetting that the onus is on the subject and not the object. The abortionist commits the sin and is thus deprived of achieving the greatest good.

Another classic defense against abortion is that it violates a child’s right to life. Life is sacred, so violating it violates the natural law. Also look at the negative right of non-interference. It’s hard to see one can be committed to these principles and not deny that abortion is unjust.

To argue against abortion, you’d have to make a strong case for the natural law and natural rights, that life begins at conception, and define the right to life in such a way that abortion violates it. You also have to do something about that right to privacy thing. That gets really sloppy and needs a lot of jurisprudential work. But you could just say that the right to privacy is a constructed legal right and not a natural right. Any positive law violating a moral law is unjust and we are this not obliged to follow it. The right to privacy could even be violated in cases of abortion if its determined that the fetus is actually a human.

Overall the just abortionist is a self-contradiction.

Your post got me thinking. I’m writing my next paper over it to really make my professors upset. :wink:

Maybe my question is worded poorly or doesn’t make sense. I guess the answer I was looking for was a breakdown of the answer you gave: Why is the grave sin of murder contrary to natural law? I’m looking for a logical explanation of why it is wrong that could be understood and accepted by an atheist.

If “That which is contrary to natural law is any action that directs a subject away from the object of its highest good,” and the individual being murdered is brought to his/her highest good through his/her own murder, it would seem that the murder is not contrary to natural law.

Obviously this is not the case, but it would great if you or someone else could explain this. I have a decent grasp on theology, but I’m brand new to philosophy and am trying to wrap my head around things.

Thanks to both of you! I think I’m starting to get it. Good luck on the paper, andy :slight_smile:

God bless

First, regarding the bold statement, we cannot assume that. We can hope and pray that those murdered in abortion go to heaven.

That said, it’s also important to note that natural law does not only have to do with the human victim of a crime in the sense that you are implying. Murder is not only bad because someone dies; it is bad because part of our end as humans is not to murder. Take the case of blasphemy; other humans are not harmed by blasphemy (to speak loosely - it can also be a scandalous sin), and while it is offensive to God, nothing we could say could lessen His glory. But blasphemy is sinful on a natural law basis because it disorders our end, which includes using our rational capacities to honor God.

So in the case of abortion, it is not only wrong because the baby has a natural right to life. It is wrong because whatever medical practitioner is performing the abortion has a duty, as a rational human, not to murder. One could also add that abortion would be wrong on grounds similar to contraception, in addition to the sin of murder; to kill a fetus is to disorder the sexual act in the same way that wearing a condom does.

This is in addition to what has been stated, that ends do not justify the means. We cannot commit an evil act (murder) in order to achieve a good end (the baby going to heaven).

I suggested Veritatis splendor in the previous topic, which is great. But you may also find Humanae vitae relevant. I actually have not read it. It is older, so it is more about contraception than abortion, but many of the same ideas apply (Paul VI, I believe, took the contraceptive culture to be a harbinger of widespread abortion - on which point he was spot on). It would also, I imagine, be a good example of how the Church applies natural law to a few specific cases, since Veritatis splendor is more theoretical.

The other issue is, while the natural law perspective on abortion is eminently true, it is not exactly compelling with secular audiences. It is pretty easy to create a deductively valid argument against abortion - but it’s also pretty easy to create a deductively valid argument for abortion. Abortion advocates will certainly reject natural law premises, which is why the issue is contentious.

I would take this to be an example of where such a rejection would take place. A fetus is genetically human. I think a strong case could be made that a fetus is metaphysically human, so I think a fetus ought to be a legal human. But an abortion advocate would probably just claim that “human” is a construct which he is free to reject. For an abortion advocate, it is not a matter of discovering whether a fetus is human but of defining it.

This is what I would take to be a reductio ad absurdum of liberalism. Liberalism’s claim is to respect the rights of all, but insofar as it does so by stipulating that violated groups just aren’t included in “all,” it refutes itself.

Thanks polytropos! I think you provided the answer I was looking for.

God bless!

Your question implies that what happens on earth is insignificant in the context of eternity but surely an aborted baby would not have an equal opportunity for spiritual development. This life is not a superfluous extra but an intrinsic element of our existence. The Incarnation demonstrates the value of physicality… Our body is not a handicap but a gift which we can use to glorify God. We tend to become obsessed with the temptations of the flesh yet the great achievements in philosophy, science, art and literature are clear evidence of creative power inspired by the wonders and beauty of nature which increase our gratitude and appreciation of life. Even if we didn’t believe in God wouldn’t we be angry and disappointed if we knew we had been needlessly deprived of such an experience?

I can’t chime in on natural life philosophy. What I can say is that two errors exist in modern views of heaven: 1) unborn children automatically go there, 2) we are all the same in heaven. The first is an error because we simply do not know what happens to the unborn, not because they aren’t going to heaven, and I’m assuming you knew all this since you wrote “Assuming…” The second is arguably just as common but is a definite error. We will not all be the same in heaven; there are levels. This is one reason why the Church has discouraged death-bed baptisms (in the sense of waiting till your death bed to be baptized). In that case you die as a dead, baptized infant, except unlike the infant, you had a whole life to merit and increase your place in heaven, yet chose not to. Yet you will still be in paradise; it’s hard to realize, visual, and/or actualize for us.

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