“Life can only be understood backwards,” wrote the Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, “but it must be lived forwards.” This maxim incorporates both the pain and the paradox of life. Looking forwards, “choice” can appear both glamorous and enticing; looking backwards, it is often tinged with deep regret. It is often like the runaway carrot that always eludes the pursuing rabbit. It is alluring, but not always fulfilling. Hence, we come to realize the need for the “wise choice,” the “smart choice,” the “right choice”. Choice must be clothed with the proper adjective so that it does not betray us.
Clarke D. Forsythe, a Delaware lawyer and Senior Counsel for Americans United for Life, paints the point vividly when he states that abortion “blindly protects philandering men who put women in the precarious position of an unwanted pregnancy and an uncommitted relationship, conveniently ignoring the negative impact, physical or psychological, that most women experience, while offering them the carrot of ‘choice’.” We know that choice turns to regret, beyond any doubt, because there exist among women who have had abortions groups who call themselves by such names as “Victims of Choice” or “Women Exploited by Abortion”.
Enough data on abortions has been accumulated so that, looking backwards, it is, in general, something that is not good for women. According to the Elliot Institute, the reactions of women who underwent abortions are as follows: Guilt – 61.3%; Sorrow – 55.3%; Depression – 52.5%; Regret – 52%. Dr. Julius Fogel, a psychiatrist and obstetrician who has performed over 20,000 abortions reports that “Every woman . . . has a trauma at destroying a pregnancy. A level of humanness is touched. This is a part of her own life. When she destroys a pregnancy, she is destroying herself. There is no way it can be innocuous . . .” (cited in Understanding Abortion by Stephen Schwarz and Kiki Latimer).
The success of commercial advertizing often depends on the use of attractive words that bear no necessary connection with the quality of the product. The popular cigarette Lucky Strike was not such a lucky strike for smokers who contracted lung cancer. A motel may call itself whatever it desires. But its advertizing name does not clean the bathrooms, banish the bed bugs, or create an enjoyable atmosphere. Moral choices, however, should be made on firmer ground. They should involve an awareness of probable consequences and alternatives. They should be informed and made in an atmosphere of freedom. They should not be made for political or ideological reasons.
Words should inform, rather than beguile. They should be illuminating, not deceptive. We read in Matthew 12:36 that “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the last day of judgment.” Words are either conveyors or truth or conduits for lies. Abortion is not merely a choice, nor is it safe.
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Every choice implies an exclusion. Choosing abortion excludes adoption. Choosing death is a rejection of life. Choice appears less glamorous when we contemplate what it excludes. Decision-making is difficult precisely because what choice excludes covers a far wider landscape than what it includes. Choosing one life partner is not easy because it requires a choice; it is difficult because it requires a rejection of all but one.
By looking backwards, returning to the mind of Kierkegaard, we gain a better understanding of the physical and psychological consequences of abortion. In this way, we can more easily demystify the word “choice”. Once demystified, the word “choice” conveys a meaning that is morally ambiguous. Is the choice good or bad, a help or a hindrance, one that is on the side of life or one that is on the side a death? We understand backwards so that when we return to living forwards, we are better prepared to live well and make the right choices. We should not waste our lives in chasing a carrot, but in pursuing goodness and truth.