The role of the Government in the abortion debate

The role of the Government in the abortion debate


Tuesday, March 03, 2020

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A Government must fulfil its legislative responsibility based on moral principles. These principles are necessary to ensure that our legislators promote laws for the common good that, in general, will safeguard public order and protect the most vulnerable. In addition, principles provide a framework for decision-making in the face of conflicts that may arise from morally contending values and contending interest groups.

A variable that contributes to the complexity of the current abortion debate includes the fact that human life hangs in the balance as stakeholders campaign for or against the legalisation of abortion. The ultimate decision in this debate will have social implications for the common good in relation to moral order and justice. If abortion is not rejected by Government, a most serious wound will be inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be the society's promoters and defenders of the most vulnerable regarding the inviolability of life.

St John Paul II indicated: “We are facing an immense threat to life, not only a threat to the life of an individual, but also a threat to civilisation itself.” Indeed, a law permitting abortion will institutionalise an evil that is opposed to human life not yet born.

A glaring deception by proposers advocating legalising abortion is the focus on the embryonic stage of human development after conception. Their argument concludes that only a blob of tissue is present and not a potential human being. However, their deception is unmasked by a multiplicity of facts, foremost of which is the reality that a decision to induce abortion is often during the development stage of life in the womb when definable human traits are present.

Precisely for this reason the Roman Catholic Church has always taught, and now with scientific support continues to teach, that from the moment of conception, human life must be guaranteed unconditional respect in totality and unity as body and spirit. Therefore, from the moment of conception the inviolable right to life due an innocent person must be recognised as an inviolable right for an unborn child.

It is the responsibility of a Government to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person and to facilitate the performance of each person's duty accordingly, especially when the rights of one will violate the rights of another. Fulfilling this responsibility must be the concern of the Government as some people seek legal justification to terminate innocent human life in the womb. The document The Gospel of Life #71 (cf Pacem In Terris #60): states that: “One of the principal duties of any Government, moreover, is the suitable and adequate superintendence and co-ordination of men's respective rights in society. This must be done in such a way that:

1) the exercise of their rights by certain citizens does not obstruct other citizens in the exercise of theirs;

2) the individual, standing upon his own rights, does not impede others in the performance of their duties;

3) the rights of all be effectively safeguarded, and completely restored if they have been violated.”

The situation at hand involves the apparent advantages of an abortion for a pregnant woman and for society, as against the disadvantages that may be raised for a particular pregnancy. The safeguard of rights in this situation must consider justice for both the mother and the unborn child. For the right to life of every innocent and vulnerable human being is absolutely equal to others. This equality is the basis for authentic social relationships which is founded on truth and justice that recognises and protects the dignity and rights of every person.

So, when a mother decides to abort her child in defence of her own rights, this is not only unjust but contrary to her own moral dignity as a mother and as a person who has the responsibility to safeguard the right to life of the child in her womb. Medical and technological advancements offer alternatives to abortion as solutions to the relative harm or inconvenience a mother may be faced with. She may face the possibility of death, which may never occur or for which steps can be taken to prevent, but the unborn child is doomed irretrievably as the absolute right to live is lost. And for that no remedy is possible.

The rights of the mother or society cannot outbalance the rights of an innocent human being to life. Thus, it is not right for the Government with responsibility to safeguard the common good to impose a law that will be to the detriment of another.

Most Reverend Kenneth Richards is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston.

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