Catholics Contra Mundum: Why We Must Stand for Life
On May 19, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. This law, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, went into effect on September 1, making Texas one of the most pro-life states in America today.
Texas isn’t the only state to pass pro-life legislation in the last few years, but what makes the Texas Heartbeat Act different is that it relies upon private citizens instead of the government for enforcement: the Act allows private persons to sue anyone who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around 6 weeks of pregnancy.
What the Texas Heartbeat Act does have in common with other pro-life laws, though, is that it’s drawn an enormous amount of press from Americans left, right, and center. Government officials, political pundits, nonprofits, corporations, and private citizens all have something to say, whether they’re happy with the legislation or not. The Texas Heartbeat Act has only drawn more fire since the Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging it, and several more cases against the Act are on their way to the courts today.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case legalizing abortion nationwide in most circumstances, was supposed to settle the abortion debate in the U.S. It did nothing of the sort. Legal scholars on both sides of the political aisle acknowledge that Roe was poorly argued, and red states have been pushing its limits ever since, while pro-life advocates have mobilized in defense of the unborn at a grassroots level. The Supreme Court doubled down on Roe’s precedent in subsequent cases Doe v. Bolton and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the pro-choice movement remains as strong as ever. Recently, however, pro-choice activists have changed their tune—rather than sticking with President Bill Clinton’s famous call to keep abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” activists have begun telling women to “shout their abortions.”
All things considered, it’s no surprise the Texas Heartbeat Act has drawn such attention. But it does beg the question: why? Why does abortion have to be so controversial? Why can’t the United States be like Europe, and settle for more “moderate” laws which allow abortions up to twelve, fifteen, or twenty-two weeks, but ban them after that?
A lot of Americans are getting tired of the political pendulum swinging back and forth, and understandably so. American politics can be messy, and on some issues, there is certainly room for compromise. All Christians, especially Catholics, should be open to compromise, because our only authority is Christ as He instructs us through His Church. Catholics should be careful not to box themselves into specific political parties, ideologies, or movements, and must always look to the Church for ultimate guidance about who and what to vote for.
Unlike many other political issues, though, the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion is clear: abortion is always wrong and should never be performed unless to save the life of the mother (such an “abortion” is not really an abortion at all, because the goal is not to kill the child but to save the mother). And because abortion is literally a matter of life and death, it is absolutely within the bounds of the state to outlaw abortion. When Catholics call for an end to abortion, we are not “imposing our religion” upon anyone—we are simply calling for the natural rights of all human beings, regardless of size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency, to be protected under law. To pro-choice apologists and activists, this position may very well sound “extreme” and “harsh,” but to Catholics, this ought to sound “good.”