Abortion, Parenthood, and Social Policy

Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote, “A family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies” (see Evangelium vitae, no. 90). Why?

The family is the basic building block that is needed in order for society to function properly. When unjust laws exist that are disrespectful to the gift of human life, there will a decline of the family. But how exactly is family life affected?

In his book The Right to Life: The Eastern Orthodox Perspective on Abortion, Fr. Dumitru Macaila states that abortion is an “aberration … first and foremost, a devastating attack against the family itself” (123). His comments echo Blessed John Paul II, who said that a culture will not value the family if it does not respect the gift of life.

By legalizing abortion on demand, Roe v Wade changed society and the way many practice parenthood. There are a few points meant here: 1) the unborn child is essentially viewed as aggressor to the mother; 2) a biological father has absolutely no legal voice in this abortion decision; 3) Men have increasingly become less “fatherly”; and 4) minor girls are still allowed in many U.S. states to have legal abortions without their parents ever knowing about it. A permissive abortion policy has now introduced a very real threat not only to the unborn child but also to parenthood in general.

And what is that threat?

Simply put, abortion pits the mother against her own child. The simple truth is that the law allows the mother to kill her own offspring legally. This is something that is contrary to the very nature of the human female. The female body is designed in such a way as to nourish offspring both in utero and at infancy. In her book Real Choices, Frederica Mathewes-Green states, “But the experience of pregnancy is about human interconnectedness at its most profound levels” (175).

The human female is relational in a way that the human male cannot mirror. Blessed John Paul II echoed this sentiment when he stated, “Parenthood – even though it belongs to both – is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who ‘pays’ directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul” (Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 18). Abortion mocks this relationship between mother and child and initiatives such as informed consent and sonogram bills can help. Seeing images of their unborn children and learning about fetal development can help women realize the profundity of their relationship as mothers.

With respect to fatherhood, abortion pits the father against the mother and child. It has also created a society where many fathers feel less responsible for their children since abortion is an option. In a society where abortion is legal for virtually any reason, a father who does not want the mother to carry the child to term is less likely to be supportive financially, emotionally, or even spiritually to either mother or child.

In a society where abortion is permissible many men think that if a mother does not want their child why should he be bothered to be a father if he does not want to be?

This behavior is absolutely devastating to the life of a family. In his apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio John Paul II repeats this in stating:

Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family or at any rate less involved in the work of education, efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance (no. 25).

Abortion demeans the role of the father by tearing away his responsibility of pillar and strength. While efforts at passing bills such as “spousal consent” or “biological father consent” laws have been met with legal challenges that have rendered them unconstitutional, this does not mean that activists should stop trying to pass them and urge the court to reverse its decisions regarding the necessity of these types of laws.

But what makes things more interesting is how in the U.S., because of the permissiveness of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, abortion can also pit parents against their minor daughter. In many states the law still allows girls under the age of 18 to obtain an abortion without their parents ever knowing. It is in these cases that the parents are also seen as aggressors under the law instead of guardians. This is a radical inconsistency under the law.

When it comes to other types of medical care, the law mandates parental consent. Why? Because the law generally assumes that parents have the best interest of their children in mind. But when it comes to the subject of medical care, the parents have a more in depth understanding of the medical history of their children than the children do.

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For three decades now the pro-life movement has fought to restore the proper role of the family with such initiatives as parental consent and notification legislation. And in the states where such laws have passed, the state has experienced significant declines in the amount of abortions that minors receive.

Every piece of pro-life legislation that limits abortion in some way tries to help restore the sanctity of parenthood. Fundamentally, a society without stable families is doomed. In essence, not only is pro-life legislation trying to protect unborn life, it is trying to help save the family.

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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