Coercion, Accusation, and Abortion

On January 13, Pope Francis commented how abortion is part of a “throwaway culture”. In his comments we begin to see a rationale for labeling of society in this way. In essence, people do not want to meet their moral responsibilities. And if one does not want to meet these responsibilities then one must get rid of the problem that creates them. Just as the ink was drying on Pope Francis’ words another revelation hit the media about coercive abortion. That very day, it became known that Pro-Bowl running back Arian Foster allegedly carried on an illicit affair with Brittany Norwood, a college student who not only ended up pregnant, but wanted to keep the baby. However, the allegation also claims that Mr. Foster wanted Ms. Norwood to abort the child. Not only did he pressure her himself, he apparently also had his brother harass her.

One of the methods in convincing a woman to obtain an abortion is through the practice of accusation and coercion. The “blame game” is a very common form of accusation within humanity. Even in Genesis the blame game takes center stage when Adam accuses both God and Eve when he eats of the forbidden fruit. Adam simply fails to look at himself as a free being that holds the burden of responsibility for his actions. Because of this failure, death enters into the world. Accusation can be fatal apparently.

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee TitansWhat has proven to be an ever-growing problem is the reality of the biological father who wants the mother to obtain an abortion. The reason is not unheard of. Some men just do not want to be men. As a result, they will pressure their partners into having an abortion, as in the case of Mr. Foster. In an interview, Ms. Norwood claims that Mr. Foster had texted her and spoke to her about how she needed to have an abortion because of the damage it would cause his marriage and kids. However, this is not an isolated case. In his recent book, Abuse of Discretion, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel of Americans United for Life, demonstrates that in many ways this seems to be the norm when it comes to abortion. He states, “Far from a free, independent, autonomous choice, the decisions women make to terminate pregnancies are influenced by male abandonment, pressure, or outright coercion” (pg. 322). He is not alone in this thinking. Forsythe is quick to point out pro-abortion activists who have come to the same conclusion.

Arian Foster is not an isolated case. Many may remember that former NFL wide receiver Rae Carruth was convicted in 2001 for hiring a hit-man to kill his pregnant girlfriend who refused to have an abortion. This past summer, it was revealed that NBA player JJ Reddick coerced his then-girlfriend to have an abortion as well. And these are just the well-known cases. In a 2004 report, Dr. David Reardon cited that nearly 64% of those who had an abortion felt pressured (Medical Science Monitor 2004; 10(10):SR5-16). Interestingly, another recent study indicated that “the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence was 24.9% among termination-seeking populations.”

While many men may initially start out with the emotion of fear upon hearing the news of pregnancy, it seems that fear quickly turns to anger when it becomes apparent the woman does not want to abort her child. Theologically speaking, this deadly sin is most likely at the root of these kinds of coercive practices since these men do not want to pay child support and have no desire to be a father to the child. Unfortunately, the unborn child is accused (by merely existing) of preventing the father from furthering his individualistic goals. And, as shown above, anger can have deadly consequences for both mother and child. Just as God warns Cain, “why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head, but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master” (Genesis 4: 7). Cain ignores God’s warning and out of his anger kills his brother. Men may feel angry that women do not exercise their so-called “right” to abortion, and one only needs to look at how sin conquers them when they turn to coercion. Demons seem to have no problem with this tactic.  According to Scott Hahn, the Devil uses precisely this tactic in the Garden of Eden (First Comes Love). Remember, the Devil is the embodiment of all the deadly sins; hence God’s reminder to Cain that sin is a demon. Satan is angry that we are made in the image and likeness of God. When we sin we imitate him, not God. Satan hates community; he seeks to destroy community. When one commits the sin of coercing another to murder he is participating in Satan’s goal.

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The pro-life movement has tried to curb this deadly problem. Anti-coercion legislation has been seen throughout the various state legislatures over the last several years. This legislation aims to rectify a few things under the law: 1) requiring the abortionist to orally ask the woman if she has been coerced into the abortion, 2) If the woman has been coerced, or if its reasonably suspected, letting her know her legal remedies, 3) giving her a waiting period to reflect upon the legal remedies prior to the abortion, and 4) making it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion.

As Americans United for Life noted in its Defending Life 2010: A State-by-State Legal Guide, “Pro-abortion advocates spend a great deal of time using the language of “freedom” and “choice”.  But for many women, abortion is anything but a free choice” (pg. 78). When a man makes physical threats or threatens to leave the woman and child, he fails to act in the image of God. He acts like Adam who failed to protect his wife and like Satan who seeks to destroy God’s creation.

Joe Kral has been involved in the pro-life movement since he has been in college.  His MA in Theology was completed at the University of St. Thomas where he specialized in bioethics.  From 1996-2003 he was the Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life.  During that time he was also a lobbyist for the Department of Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.  From 2004-2007 he consulted the Texas Catholic Conference on pro-life legislative initiatives.   In 2006 he was awarded the “Bishop’s Pro-Life Award for Civic Action” from the Respect Life Ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  He currently serves as a voluntary legislative advisor to Texas Alliance for Life, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, taught as an adjunct professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, teaches as a Forward Toward Christian Ministry instructor for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is doing doctoral studies at Harrison Middleton University where he is specializing in the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 2004 and they have 2 children together. They attend St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
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