Ideas, it has been rightly said, have consequences. This is true of good ideas as well as of bad ones. When the idea that Christ’s missionary mandate to the Apostles ought to be followed was a dominant force in Christendom, there was great missionary zeal and fervor in the Church. While more than that idea was requisite for missionary conquests to happen, the idea was, after God’s grace, a necessary beginning. And when certain wrong ideas infect men’s minds leading them to act accordingly, history records for us, in tragic and bloody pages, the consequences in the form of apostasies, schisms, heresies, revolutions, wars, and strife of all sorts.
Without getting at the idea, which is causal, the solution to the problem, whatever it is, will prove elusive.
What makes abortion happen is not simply its legality. If it were outlawed right now under the strictest possible prohibitions, it would still happen. Sure, certain kinds of abortion would be much less frequent, but it would still happen.
A few brief considerations on statecraft and morals will help us develop this thought.
Men come together to form political societies in order that they may live virtuously. That, at any rate, is the classical idea as formulated by Aristotle: “In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) describes the happy life intended for man by nature as one lived in accordance with virtue, and, in his Politics, he describes the role that politics and the political community must play in bringing about the virtuous life in the citizenry” (source). Again: “The end, goal, or purpose of the good state, Aristotle says, is to promote the happiness of the individuals who compose it. It should promote their pursuit of good lives. When the state promotes the welfare of others, it is indirectly promoting their chance of living well” (source). For Aristotle, “living well,” or living a “good life,” means living virtuously.
This ideal was upheld by other pagans, and was elevated by grace in Christendom, where virtuous living was supernaturalized in the divine light of Faith. Although these high Christian ideals had degenerated by the time of the Enlightenment, as men inspired (in part) by the ideals of classical antiquity, the Founding Fathers of this Republic had some notion of this concept, however effectively it was actually carried out in their experiment in republicanism. It is sometimes referred to as “republican virtue.”
Many of the Founders, and those who commented on the founding, have made the closely related point that the neglect of this purpose of living well and virtuously among the citizenry is harmful to the cause of human liberty and stable government — especially, they held, in a republic. (See two collections of such utterances here: Only a Virtuous People, and Quotes on Liberty and Virtue.)
When men are vicious, they become difficult to govern. They therefore invite tyranny. Richard Weaver perhaps said it best: “An ancient axiom of politics teaches that a spoiled people invite despotic control. Their failure to maintain internal discipline is followed by some rationalized organization in the service of a single powerful will. In this particular, at least, history, with all her volumes vast, has but one page” (Ideas Have Consequences, pg. 91).
Does this not describe our society? Do we not see all around us the glorification of people failing to maintain internal discipline? What is the millennial but a synonym for someone spoiled? What is the current social phenomenon of the “precious snowflake” but a manifestation of the kind of moral languor, softness, and indiscipline spoken of by Weaver and even the Deists, Freemasons, and other American non-Catholic (and many anti-Catholic) framers referenced above?
Now, those principles established, let us look at the crime of abortion. There would be no abortion without a pregnancy, and there would be no pregnancy without carnal relations between a man and woman. That act having transpired, if a woman decides — with or without the father of the child — that it is not desirable to bring the baby to term, she has an abortion and kills the growing life in her. Why does she do this? For a variety of reasons, of course, but they would include things like her scholastic or professional career, her status as unmarried, or her financial situation. Whatever her reason, she has divorced the venereal pleasure she engaged in from motherhood. If her husband (or “partner”) has consented to the abortion, then he has divorced venereal pleasure from fatherhood. Both are being irresponsible for this, because they have robbed the act of its manifest purpose while delighting in its pleasurable aspects. It is pleasure without responsibility. That is the first sin. The consequent sin is that of murder, but the murder would not take place if the couple — or the mother acting all on her own — had not first divorced what God has joined together in nature. And I mean by that, the unitive and generative aspects of the marital act. In abortion, hedonism comes first, then homicide.
We can take this a little further. If the man and woman who conceived the child are not married to each other, then we have what is called fornication (and possible adultery). Marriage, which is the beginning of a family, is here divorced from carnal pleasure. Therefore, in such a scenario where a woman desires an abortion, three things that God has joined together — marriage, sex, and the family — have been rent asunder.
If such behavior is considered accepted among a people, their government cannot stop it. Even if it were illegal in every possible way, abortion would still go on among such people. The government cannot fix the behavior because the government cannot get at the causes, which are wicked ideas and the bad morals — the vices — that follow from these ideas.
As I said, if, per impossibile, the government of such immoral people outlawed all abortions, they would still be performed. They would be the “back alley” abortions. In such a scenario, there would be a black market for abortions just as there is for heroin. I live not far from Manchester, New Hampshire, where heroin abuse has been described as a “crisis,” an “epidemic” and even an “apocalypse,” though trafficking in the stuff is quite illegal. If you can hire a mafia hit-man to snuff out an unwanted spouse, a similar criminal can be found to replace the staff of an outlawed Planned Parenthood and do the abortion.
Where the citizens find it acceptable and good to separate carnal pleasure from the begetting of offspring, a government is powerless to stop the people from thinking that. Nor can they be prevented by the government from separating both those things from marriage — especially not if that government claims to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. And among such people, there will never be lacking (and there never have been lacking) those who resort to infanticide to deal with the unwanted results of their hedonism.
The feminist argument for abortion is that, without what they call “reproductive rights,” women cannot have equal rights with men, by which they usually mean equal employment opportunities with men. And really, the malignant euphemism of “reproductive rights” aside, they’re right. After all, a woman, who is so naturally limited by gestation, nursing, and otherwise mothering human life at its tenderest beginnings, is obviously not in a position to do exactly what a man does — certainly not when she’s attending to those matters.
Where they are wrong is when they advance the Big Lie that men and women ought to be radically equal in every way — that there is an equal sign between “man” and “woman.” This same Big Lie breeds other lies, like “gender theory.”
In naming that Big Lie, I am not denying that men and women are equally human, equally fallen due to original sin, equally called to a supernatural end by grace, equally dignified with the same human nature and the same vocation to live as children of God. All that I affirm. But with those things, we must also affirm the natural hierarchy of the family with the husband as its head; we must also affirm the role of the man as priest, prophet, and king in his own family; we must affirm the Christ-Husband and Church-Wife imagery of Saint Paul. We must also affirm that, except for those cases of women who are vowed to celibate chastity, single in the world, or sadly afflicted by barrenness, that Holy Scripture says that women will be saved through childbearing. Finally, we must affirm that the differences between men and women, the physical and emotional differences, were intended for a loving and good purpose by our Creator, and that these differences were made to be complementary in the state of holy matrimony — and that for the advantage of the offspring. When we deny this common sense, we become stupid and evil, proving it by killing children in order to force an artificial equality that does not and cannot exist.
Feminism must have its human sacrifice of abortion, else the Big Lie that men and women are equal cannot continue to be advanced.
Another Big Lie is that sex, marriage, and procreation can be divorced from each other without harm to the interested parties and to society.
When a couple separates sex from procreation, the couple does everything that the aborting couple does minus the murder. They divorce what God has joined together: the venereal pleasure of the marital act from its procreative aspect. It’s hedonism without the homicide. But, as we urged above, it leads to homicide, not in every case, but frequently. And Planned Parenthood knows that, because they know that when people are addicted to carnal pleasure with birth control, abortions (Planned Parenthood’s bu$ine$$) are just around the corner when the birth control fails — and all methods of birth control have a failure rate. But even if that were not the case, and even if oral contraceptives were not themselves abortifacient (which they are), the laxity, indiscipline, and vice inherent in separating venereal pleasure from procreation is a sin — one condemned by almighty God in the Scriptures, and one condemned by all mainline, self-identified Christian denominations until the 1930 Lambeth conference of the Anglican Church. Since then, one Protestant denomination after another — and even the Orthodox communions (e.g., the Russian, by far Orthodoxy’s largest communion) — have made allowance for this hedonistic side of the zeitgeist. Only the Catholic Church has towed the Christian line on this.
Until we exorcize the Big Lies from the minds of men and women, the idea of abortion, and its actual practice, will yet remain with us.
The only answer is conversion. And that is a very good idea.