Abortion is Never a Human Right
How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practised: some individuals are held to be deserving of defence and others are denied that dignity?
─ Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 20
One of the great achievements of Christian civilization has been the development of a thorough and robust account of the dignity of the human person – a dignity that outstrips that of any other being in physical creation, to the extent that the human person is viewed as an image of God Himself.
“The divine image is present in every man,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves.” (no. 1702)
Those of us living in a historical time and part of the world so thoroughly indebted to the Judeo-Christian worldview often simply take for granted this view of the human person, failing to appreciate how unique and monumental it is in the history of the human race. Nowadays, even many (although not all) of the most hard-boiled atheists will profess to believe in the “dignity of the human person,” not pausing to appreciate that it is, in large measure, thanks to Christianity that this truth is so widely acknowledged.
It is true that in an increasing number of cases, certain ideologues are openly promoting a utilitarian or eugenic philosophy that measures the worth of human beings based upon various criteria (i.e., health, intelligence, productivity, degree of personal happiness, etc.). However, for the most part people still begin with the basic assumption of the Judeo-Christian worldview – that even those people who seem “useless,” or who have done great harm to others, are owed a basic respect, and certain rights, that they can never lose. We see this instinct manifested, for instance, in the movement against the use of the death penalty, even in the cases of the worst criminals – murderers.
Unfortunately, however, human beings are often inconsistent, and are blinded by their prejudices and selfish desires. In the past century, most of the world, including much of the Christian West, has carved out certain systemic “exceptions” to the dignity of the human person – escaping the duty of respect owed to other persons, often by simply denying that the other is a person to begin with. The primary victim of this movement has been the unborn child, although it is increasingly extending to the disabled, sick, and elderly.
Never before has there been more evidence in support of the humanity (and, therefore, the personhood) of the unborn child. And yet, never since ancient pagan times has the unborn child been so unprotected. This “de-personing” of the unborn child is simply the latest manifestation of the same tendency that led swathes of the world to deny the personhood and worth of black people and other enslaved races. It is the old, pagan view of the human being, escaping from the protective umbrella of Judeo-Christian civilization.
As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, “If such great care must be taken to respect every life, even that of criminals and unjust aggressors, the commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value when it refers to the innocent person. And all the more so in the case of weak and defenceless human beings, who find their ultimate defence against the arrogance and caprice of others only in the absolute binding force of God’s commandment.” (no. 57)
More Gaslighting: Abortion as a ‘Human Right’
Last week I wrote about the “gaslighting” of the gender ideologues, who deny the most self-evident truths – e.g., that a man cannot become a woman simply by wanting to – and then accuse those who disagree with them of being delusional or evil.
The same tendency toward gaslighting is present within the pro-abortion movement. Pro-abortion activists will call the baby in the womb – which we can now see on the ultrasound screen with our own eyes – a “blob of tissue,” and then turn around and accuse pro-lifers, who protest that this simply isn’t true, of being “anti-science” or not supporting “women’s rights.”
The pro-abortion position is filled with such flagrant absurdities and contradictions. Consider this recent document from Antony Blinken, President Biden’s new Secretary of State, which suggests that access to abortion and contraception is a “human right.”
As Live Action reports, during the Trump administration the human rights report prepared by the State Department did not mention women not having access to abortion or contraception as being a human rights violation. Blinken, however, indicated that a Biden administration will be reversing course.
“For many years, our human rights reports contained a section on reproductive health, including information about…discrimination against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, and government policies about access to contraception,” Blinken said in a statement. “And we are restoring the practice of documenting these rights in 2021 and future years.”
It is important to note that the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” is widely recognized as being a euphemism that includes access to abortion and contraception. In a statement to reporters, Blinken affirmed, “women’s rights – including sexual and reproductive rights – are human rights.”
Unpack the euphemism, and what Blinken is saying is: “The right to kill other innocent human beings is a ‘human right.’” Absurd. Especially when viewed from the perspective of the unborn child, who is stripped of that most fundamental of all human rights – the right to life – in the name of “human rights.”
Unfortunately, this is only one of several extremist attacks on the dignity of the unborn from the Biden administration in recent days. In a move that comes as no surprise, Biden has instructed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review President Trump’s Protect Life rule. That rule had forbidden Title X funding from going to health care providers who provide or refer for abortion. Because of the rule, Planned Parenthood had been withdrawn from Title X, losing tens of millions in taxpayer funding. That will now be reversed.
Recently, the Senate confirmed President Biden’s pick for the secretary of the HHS. Xavier Becerra has been described as a pro-abortion “extremist.” A letter signed by 60 pro-life leaders (HLI being one) called Becerra “an enemy to every pro-life policy and law” who has “demonstrated complete disregard for the religious and moral convictions of those opposed to the brutal act of abortion.”
Becerra previously served for 24 years in Congress. He infamously voted against the Hyde Amendment, which bans government funding for abortion. He also voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003 and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. He also twice voted against a law that would ban abortions at five months in pregnancy. In other words, he’s never met an abortion he didn’t support.
And yet, this is the man that Biden has chosen to promote “health”! Certainly not the health of hundreds of thousands of unborn children who are murdered every year in our country.
Cardinal Burke: Pro-Abortion ‘Catholic’ Politicians Automatically Excommunicated
Unfortunately, Becerra, like Biden, is a lifelong “Catholic.”
In an astonishing statement, Sister Carol Keehan, the well-known Catholic religious sister who headed up the Catholic Health Association for a decade and a half, said she was “relieved and thrilled” at Becerra’s nomination. Sister Keehan called Becerra “a leader whose character is rooted in his Catholic upbringing and values.”
With Catholic leaders like this, who needs enemies!
The simple fact is that abortion is certainly the gravest, and most pervasive violation of human rights and the dignity of the human person being perpetrated in our world today. No one who actively promotes this enormous evil, conducted on an industrial scale, can possibly lay claim to being a “devout” Catholic.
“The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end,” said Pope St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae. “It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity.” (no. 57)
Fortunately, there are some Church leaders left who are willing to call a spade a spade. In a recent statement, Cardinal Raymond Burke once again reiterated the long-established teaching that Catholics who publicly support and promote abortion and other grave intrinsic evils automatically excommunicate themselves.
Cardinal Burke also clarified that “those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
To those who argue that the Church is using the Eucharist as a “political weapon” when it denies Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Cardinal Burke countered: “It is rather the Catholic politician, who publicly and obstinately promotes what is contrary to the moral law and yet dares to receive sacrilegiously Holy Communion, who uses the Holy Eucharist for political purposes. In other words, the politician presents himself or herself as a devout Catholic, while the truth is completely otherwise.”
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix added his voice to this debate in his Apostolic Exhortation, Veneremur Cernui, published on April 1. “Holy Communion is reserved,” says Bishop Olmsted, “for those, who with God’s grace make a sincere effort to live this union with Christ and His Church by adhering to all that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.” This is, he emphasizes, why the “Church requires Catholic leaders who have publicly supported gravely immoral laws such as abortion and euthanasia to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they publicly repent and receive the Sacrament of Penance.”
Moreover, states the bishop, “not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is an intrinsically grave sin and that there is a grave and clear obligation for all Catholics to oppose them by conscientious objection.” Quoting Evangelium Vitae, he adds that, “in the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it.’”
If the Judeo-Christian teaching on the dignity of the human person is one of the most precious gifts of Christ and His Church to the human race, it must also be protected by Christians with enormous fervor, lest it be lost and forgotten. In these troubled times amongst rampant confusion and the torrential assault against truth, bereft of sound doctrinal teaching, the leadership of Cardinal Burke and Bishop Olmsted is a welcomed breath of fresh air. Their statements are simply an acknowledgement that no Catholic can support the systematic assault on the dignity of a whole category of persons, and still claim to be a faithful Catholic. The contradiction is simply too extreme, too deep.
In the face of the Biden administration’s assault on human dignity, we must, all of us, respond to Pope St. John Paul II’s “pressing appeal” in Evangelium Vitae: to “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” (no.5)
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.