Prop 115: Like David fighting Goliath

Mary Beth Bonacci

Well, it’s that time again. A national election is weeks away. So I guess it’s time for my quadrennial election column. Which, as it turns out, is pretty much always about the abortion issue.  

This time, I want to focus on one part of that issue specifically — the issue of late-term abortion. I do this because Colorado will be voting on ballot measures to limit these late-term abortions. Currently, we are one of seven states with no limit on what gestational age an abortion can be performed. Proposition 115 bans abortions in Colorado after 22 weeks, unless the life of the mother is in immediate danger. The measure provides penalties for doctors who perform such abortions, but specifies that no charges may be brought against the women who undergo them. 

I thought perhaps it was time to take just a brief look at the issue. 

First of all, let’s understand what we’re talking about. An abortion after 22 weeks is performed using a method called dilation and extraction. Which basically means that the cervix is dilated, and the baby, who weighs anywhere from one pound to full birth weight, is “extracted” from the uterus and destroyed. The way it is performed is disturbing, to say the least. (Consider this my “trigger warning” for the squeamish.) The doctor begins by injecting the baby’s heart, to kill him or her.  This, according to Wikipedia, is done in order to “soften the bones.” In a “non-intact extraction” the doctor then uses forceps to grab, twist, crush and separate the various baby parts, until the uterus is empty. The baby is then re-assembled on a table, to make sure no parts were left behind. In an “intact extraction” the baby is delivered, feet first, until only the head remains inside his or her mother’s body. And then the doctor either crushes the baby’s head, or jams scissors in the back of the skull and suctions the brains out. 

It’s horrifying. And it makes me physically ill to think that we can’t find a more humane way to solve women’s problems, whatever they may be. 

So why does anybody think this gruesome procedure should be, or remain, legal? Let’s look at the arguments against Prop 115, as taken directly from BallotPedia: 

“The measure does not include any exceptions for risks to the woman’s health or for a woman who has been the victim of rape or incest.” 

The health of the mother is obviously the most powerful argument. But let’s think about this. This isn’t a tiny embryo. It is a fetus somewhere between 22 and 36 weeks of development. The earliest premature baby to survive was born at 21 weeks. Leaving aside for the moment the St. Gianna Molla option of a mother sacrificing her life for her child, wouldn’t it be more compassionate to deliver the child alive, and do everything possible to try to save both lives? As for rape or incest, I oppose those abortions at any stage. But would even an abortion supporter find a need to allow them after a woman has already been pregnant for five to nine months? 

“The choice to end a pregnancy is often a serious and difficult decision, and should be left solely up to the woman, in consultation with her doctor and in accordance with her beliefs.” 

In what other area of law or life do we allow one person to take the life of another “in accordance with her beliefs?” 

“In addition, it provides no exceptions for the detection of a serious fetal abnormality after 22 weeks, which may force women to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term.” 

This is a baby currently alive but expected to die later. So, no. We don’t slice babies up, or suck their brains out, because they have short life expectancy. I understand that it is a tremendous sacrifice for a woman to carry a baby not expected to survive long after birth. But those babies have been known to surprise even the professionals. And, whether they live hours or days or weeks or months, they are created in the image and likeness of God, loved by Him, and destined for eternal life on His timetable, not ours. When we prematurely end their lives, we make ourselves gods, and we override God’s plan for the unfolding of that child’s life, no matter how brief. 

“After 21 weeks only 1.2% of abortion procedures are initiated.” 

And that comes to over 8000 incidents per year in the U.S. Saying this brutality “only” happens 8000 times per year is hardly a ringing endorsement. 

Particularly sad to me is the obscene amount of money that has been thrown at keeping these obscene procedures legal. According to BallotPedia, “The campaign supporting [Prop 115] had raised $257,398 in contributions. Opponents of the initiative had raised $5.3 million.” A vast majority of that money has come from the various Planned Parenthood organizations. 

We are David, fighting Goliath. 

I want to make it clear that I join the Church in opposing abortion at any stage, in any way it’s performed. To quote Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Every abortion stops a human heartbeat. So many women I know and love have had abortions. Some I know about, some I only surmise. In the cases I know about, they have suffered greatly in the aftermath. I just don’t think we solve women’s problems by taking their money, invading their bodies, killing their babies and sending them home. 

We can do better for women, and for their children. 

I know this is a complicated, messy, difficult election on so many levels. But I’m asking you — imploring you — to keep the unborn in mind as you cast your votes.  

And vote yes on Prop 115. 

COMING UP: For Love of Country: A Catholic Patriotism

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Our country has been through a lot this last year, as we all know. As many people have reacted against the founding and history of the United States, I have found myself drawn towards greater patriotism. By this, I simply mean a deeper appreciation of what I’ve been given by my country and also a growing realization of the duty I have to work for the common good, here and now. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of this duty under the fourth commandment that enjoins honor not only to parents but also to anyone in authority.   

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community (2239). 

Catholics, and all people of good will, are called to a love and service of country in order to work for the common good.  

Eric Metaxas argues that the future of our country depends precisely upon the active role of Christians in his book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Penguin, 2017). He describes something called the Golden Triangle, an idea he borrowed from Os Guinness, but which ultimately comes from the Founding Fathers. “The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith requires freedom. The three go round and round, supporting one another ad infinitum. If any one of the three legs of the triangle is removed, the whole structure ceases to exist” (54). John Adams, for example, related very clearly, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (quoted on 61). Metaxas comments, looking to specific examples around the world, “if you take God and faith and morality out of the equation, everything inevitably falls apart. It cannot be otherwise” (48). It cannot be otherwise. That may sound extreme, but we have many examples from Communist and Fascist countries and now even from movements within our country that aggressive secularism parallels a collapse of real freedom.  

The Constitution established an ordered liberty that requires responsibility and a determined effort of preservation. Hence the title of the book, taken from Benjamin Franklin, a republic “if you can keep it.” We are called to actively preserve our country: entering into a deeper understanding of the “idea” of America that undergirds the Republic as well as showing a loving determination to overcome challenges and threats to its continuance. This is not to whitewash the past, as we all know the injustices of our history. Metaxas argues that we can be grateful for the good and unique blessings of our heritage while also working to overcome failures. “To truly love America, one must somehow see both sides simultaneously” (226). Furthermore, by loving our country we are willing her good, drawing our own selves into the work for her good and helping her to be true to herself. “So that in loving America we are embodying her original intentions — we are indeed being America at her best — and in doing so we are calling her to her best, to be focused on doing all she can to fulfill the great promise which God has called her in bringing her into existence and shepherding her through trials and tribulations all these and centuries — and now” (235).  

As Catholics, we have a lot to offer our country by drawing from our rich intellectual and spiritual heritage. Michael Krom, a philosopher at St. Vincent College, provides us with a great resource in his new book, Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought (Baker, 2020). In an age of confusion, Catholics can bring greater clarity in our national discourse on the nature of human life, virtue, and politics. “We live in a time of ideological conflicts, in which the citizens of the nations of the modern world seem incapable of agreeing upon even the most basic of moral, economic, or political principles. Civil discourse has been replaced with violent protest, and reasoned dialogue with character assassination” (2). As Catholics, we should be able to look above all of this, literally: “While the Church does not force us to reject political citizenship, she demands that we direct it to the heavenly, and we can do that by heeding her call to engage the world rather than conform to it. I wrote this book out of the conviction that those who want to heed the Church’s call to engage our culture need to look to the past” (ibid.).  

Dr. Krom shows us that St. Thomas Aquinas has much to teach us about living the good life, in pursuit of a genuine freedom and happiness, and that this should inform a Catholic approach to economics and politics. It is hard to work for virtue if you don’t know what virtue really is, and difficult to act justly toward others if you don’t understand the nature of duty. Aquinas can help us to judge the direction of our country, as “a government cannot be called ‘good’ unless it promotes just moral and economic relationships between its citizens” (121). This is precisely the purpose of government — to promote right order and peace. We can’t just dispense with politics because, “the fact that humans find their fulfillment in political community means that situating their own good with the good of the community as a whole is central to happiness” (125). We are not isolated individuals and can’t attain a good and complete life on our own.  

Our ultimate good, however, is God, not the political life. Everything — all of our choices, including economic and political ones — must be directed to our ultimate goal. There are not “two ends to human existence, the earthly and the heavenly … [T]here is only one end, the beatific vision” (162). In this way the Church informs our citizenship. Krom explains “how inadequate this human law is as a teacher in the virtues, for it is limited in scope to the prevention of those vices from which even the wicked can refrain, and thus leaves those who seek after perfect virtue to their own devices … [H]uman law is in need of a higher law to truly bring about a just community” (155). Unfortunately, we’re seeing that our society is no longer even trying to prevent serious vice. Catholics and all believers have an important role to play, because “the lack of religion in the citizenry leads it down the path of totalitarianism. It Is absolutely critical that a people maintain a strong commitment to a transcendent measure of the common good in order to protect the true flourishing of its members” (171). Krom’s important work on justice and charity can teach us how a Catholic can exercise a proper patriotism, a true love of country.