B16 On Abortion part 1

From Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures

Why we must not give up the fight.

‘One widespread section of public opinion in the educate may find it exaggerated and inopportune — indeed, downright diostasteful — that we continue to remind them that the problem of respect for a life that has been and is not yet born is a decisive question.  In the last 15 years almost all Western countries have legalized abortion, to the accompaniment of lacerating debates; ought we not today to consider this problem settled and avoid brushing the dust off antagonistic ideological positions that have been made obsolete by the course of events?  Whyn not accept that we lost this battle and choose instead to dedicate our energies to initiatives that can hope to find support in a broader social consensus?  INdeed, if we remain on the superficial lever, we could be convinced that the legal approval of abortion has not really changed much in our private lives and in the life odf our societies; basically, everything seems to be going on as before.  Everyone can act in accordance with his consience:  a woman who does not want to have an abortion is not compelled to do so, and a woman who does have an abortion with the approval of a law would perhaps have done so in any case (or so we are told).  It all takes place in the silence of an operating room , which at least guarantees this ‘medical intervention’ will take place with a certain degree of safety: and it is as if the fetus that will never see the light of day had in fact never existed.  Who notices what is going on?  Why should we continue to speak publicly of this drama?  Is it no perhaps better to leave it buried in the silence of the consciences of the individuals involved?

The book of Genesis contains a passage that addresses our problem with impressive eloquence:  the blessing the Lord God pronounces on Noah and his sons after the flood.  After the event of sin, God reestablishes here, once and for all, the only laws that can guarantee the continuation of life for the human race.    God lays aside the bow of his wrath and embraces the world anew in his mercy, indicating (in view of future redemption) the essential norm’s for the world’s survival:  ‘For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.  Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image’ (Gen 9:5-6).

With these words, God claims the life of man as his own specific posession: it remains under his direct and immediate protection.  It is something ‘sacred’.  When a man’s blood is shed, it cries out to him (Gen 4:10), because man is made in his image and likeness.  The authority of society and the authorities in society are instituted by him precisely in order to guarantee the respect of this fundamental right, which is endangered by the wicked heart of man.

It follows that the recognition of the sacred character of human life and of its inviolability — a principle admitting no excetpions — is not some trivial little problem or a question that may be considered relative, in view of the pluralism of opinions we find in modern society.  The text from Genesis guides our reflections in a double sense, which corresponds well to the double dimension of the questions we asked at the beginning of this essay:

First, there are no ‘small murders’.  The respect of every human life is an essential condition if a societal life worthy of the name is to be possible.  Secondly, when man’s conscience loses respect for life as something sacred, he inevitably ends by losing his own identity.’

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