Politicians and Abortion: Four Points of Clarification
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley FAITH MAGAZINE March - April 2015
In January the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Jim Murphy MP, declared himself to be both Catholic and pro-abortion. In response, his local bishop felt compelled to give the following clarification.
The Unborn Child is a Human Being
If you accept this simple seven-word statement then certain personal and public consequences inevitably flow from it. That is true for all of us. Politicians included.
Science tells us that the unborn child is a human being. Take a look at the photograph on the right. That is the face of a child in the womb. Only three months old and yet his or her tiny face tells us all we need to know; it is the face of one of us! Indeed, if this little one is not human then no one is human.
Medicine tells us that the unborn child is a human being. From the day of our conception, our unique DNA and genetic information are set down. Within our first month of life our hearts are beating with our own blood. We have eyes, ears and a tongue. Our arms and legs are beginning to push out.
Within two months our brain is working. Our teeth are growing and we are swallowing. Our eyelids have formed. Already we look just like a miniature baby. There are still seven months to go before we are born but we are already, undeniably, a human being.
There is no getting away from it; the unborn child is a human being and part of the human family. Our Christian faith merely confirms these factual realities.
It is Never Justified to Take the Life of an Innocent Human Being
Once you accept the fact of the humanity of the unborn, certain logical consequences flow. First, you cannot take their lives – just as you are not permitted to take the life of any innocent human being.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to life”. This applies to every member of the human family. Not just those of us outside the womb.
Politicians are Not Morally Permitted to be Pro-abortion
It is to be applauded that politicians feel obliged to follow their conscience rather than their party on serious ethical matters. However, they must also develop a conscience which is fully informed.
In the case of the unborn child, this should take account of scientific and medical fact. The question for the conscience of a politician, then, is as previously posed; is the unborn child a human being and part of the human family?
A politician who says “no” is taking flight from both scientific fact and common sense. A politician who says “yes” is duty-bound to protect the unborn as an unavoidable legislative duty. No motive whatsoever can override this duty or free politicians from it.
So the politician who votes in favour of abortion really does formally co-operate in a very serious ethical offence: the killing of innocent human beings who are part of our human family.
Catholic Politicians are also Not Permitted to be Pro-abortion
Catholic politicians are no exception to this universal ethical duty. The teaching of the Catholic Church does not impose any extra duties upon them. It merely reminds them of the simple facts outlined above; that the unborn child is a human being and part of the human family.
“A politician who says No to the question ‘Is the unborn child a human being and part of the human family?’ is taking flight from both scientific fact and common sense”
The Church also asks all politicians – Catholics included – to keep this reality before their eyes and close to their heart as they undertake their democratic duties with a view to upholding the common good of all within our community.
These four points above needed clarification. Maybe I could end with a fifth. I am convinced that sometime in the 21st century the pro-life cause will win this epochal battle for the soul of humanity, pro-abortion laws will be consigned to the dustbin of history, the unborn will again be free to live their lives to the full, and those who stood for them and were their voice when they were voiceless will be remembered as the heroes of the new millennium.