I am pro-life. I argue that no one is more pro-life than I am. I rallied against needless war. I oppose capital punishment. I fight for civil rights. I act for programs that I know will help the most vulnerable achieve a better life and more options to grow, including social security, guaranteed income, universal health care and education.
Violence, I agree with Hannah Arendt, can never be justified though at times is necessary. Even the violence of surgery or other corporial interventions, like abortion, should be shunned except when necessary for a person's quantity and quality of life. I go so far as to say that no war is just although it may be necessary for life. And even then it must be limited by rules as "just war" theory attempts to delineate.
A mentor, Dr. Martin Marty, a theologian and historian emeritus of the University of Chicago Divinity School once said that the abortion debate is like two bumper stickers facing each other while they race in opposite directions. It is not a conflict of ideas and values. It is a conflict of tribes.
Tribal conflict ultimately devastates civilization. So it is with the abortion debate in America. Therefore, with my long Catholic background, I am embarrassed and horrified to hear of bishops and priests telling people not to vote for pro-choice candidates or attacking programs that support a woman's choice for birth control including abortion. They perpetuate this tribal conflict which undermines social order and removes consideration of other life-enhancing policies for the already born.
Abortion is violence. A physical intervention stops the growth of the fertilized egg towards becoming a human person. It is not to be taken lightly and should be prevented when possible and only performed when necessary. The question is who decides if and when it is necessary for the life of the woman and her family. The bishops? The president? The government? Or the pregnant woman?
I honor people who refuse to go to war out of religious conviction even if they have to suffer adverse consequences. I also honor women who refuse to have an abortion out of religious conviction even when they must suffer adverse consequences. But I do not honor them if they force their religious convictions on others. The state, Weber says, is a monopoly of the tools of violence. It's purpose is to curb violence, the violence of discrimination, the violence of crime, the violence of greed, even when it must use violence (the enforcement of law) to do so.
Pre-enlightenment Catholics may argue that the government official or a person acting for society has a duty to stop an abortion even by force because he is defending a human life against violence. It is a human life, they say, because at the moment the seed penetrates the egg, God miraculously infuses an immortal human soul. That may be a religious opinion but to me it is nonsense. Should a particular religious doctrine determine policy in a secular republic?
Better, you might argue that the fetus is biologically oriented to become a human person and so must be defended. But so is the unfertilized egg as well as the millions of sperm in one ejaculation. To save all these cells because they are naturally oriented to human reproduction is patently absurd. Moreover, the priests teach that couples can practice birth control by "rhythm" or what they call the natural method that has a chance of disposing the egg without being fertilized at certain times of the month. Natural method? C'mon?
The fact is that abortion has become less used as a means of birth control the more we have supported women in their rights to choose in matters of their bodies including their sexuality. And women who are not forced to give birth, but choose it themselves are more apt to raise their children to a fuller life.
If we are truly pro-life, we will be strongly, enthusiastically pro-choice. Women too have lives and can choose to shape and develop those lives as they decide without government hindrance. It is the height of misogynist arrogance to believe that we or the bishops know better.