How Abortion Hurts Women: The Hard Evidence

Over the last three decades,
the abortion debate has been characterized as the clashing of rights: the human rights of the unborn on the one hand and the reproductive rights of women on the other. This decades-long rhetorical deadlock has left a good number of Americans — the great majority of whom understand that an individual human life is taken in each abortion — personally opposed, yet unwilling to “impose their beliefs” on anyone else.

The popularity of this so-called pro-choice position is due, in large measure, to the success abortion advocates have had in convincing Americans that abortion is a necessary precondition to women’s well-being and equality. If you want to stand for women’s progress, the line goes, then you have to stand for abortion. Indeed, in our current cultural milieu, to oppose abortion is to risk being called anti-woman — and few, regardless of their sense of the moral wrongness of abortion, can withstand that accusation. “Personally opposed, but can’t impose” seems to many the only pro-woman option.


I once numbered myself among the ranks of “personally opposed” pro-choicers, though I must admit to being more “pro-choice” than “personally opposed.” I penned the following words during my junior year at Middlebury College while one of the leaders of our women’s center:

The state’s suppression of a woman’s right to choose [was] simply a perpetuation of the patriarchal nature of our society…. To free women from [the] gender hierarchy, women must have a right to do what they please with their bodies.

The story of how I came to change my mind about abortion is rather lengthy, complicated by elements that are philosophical, religious, moral, psychological, and political. Suffice it to say, my unwavering support for abortion was based on my status as a feminist. Thus, central to my eventual opposition to abortion was the dual realization that abortion both harms women’s well-being and that it is antithetical to a genuine feminism — one that recognizes and celebrates the uniqueness of women as women.
In order to persuade the “personally opposed” pro-choicer like me, then, we must address this 1970s feminist fallacy that abortion is necessary for women’s sexual equality and well-being. In point of fact, medical evidence, sociological data, and the lived experience of many women tell a very different story: Abortion harms women physically, psychologically, relationally, and culturally.
Here’s the proof.

Destroying Women’s Health

Women who have had abortions suffer an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide. A study published in a 2005 edition of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found that women who aborted their unintended pregnancies were 30 percent more likely to subsequently report all the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder than those women who had carried their unintended pregnancies to term. A study of a state-funded medical insurance program in California published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry in 2002 showed that the rate of mental health claims for women who aborted was 17 percent higher than those who had carried their children to term. And, according to a 1996 article in the British Medical Journal and a 2002 article in the Southern Medical Journal, the risk of death from suicide is two to six times higher for women who have had abortions when compared, again, with women who have given birth.
Several studies analyzed in a landmark 2003 article in the Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey show that induced abortion also increases the risk of placenta previa by 50 percent and doubles the risk of pre-term birth in later pregnancies. Placenta previa — where the placenta implants at the bottom of the uterus and covers the cervix — places the lives of both mother and child at risk in that later pregnancy. Pre-term birth is associated with low birth-weight babies, and very low birth-weight babies (those born between 20 and 27 weeks) have 38 times the risk of having cerebral palsy — not to mention medical costs 28 times greater — than full-term babies. According to Dr. Byron Calhoun, director of the Antenatal Diagnostic Center at Rockford Memorial Hospital in Illinois, approximately 30 percent of pre-term births — which now account for 6 percent of all births — are attributable to prior abortions.
But that’s just the beginning. The link between abortion and breast cancer has attracted much media attention. It is important to understand that there are two different mechanisms by which abortion can increase the risk of breast cancer — one is beyond dispute, the other hotly contested. It is now common medical knowledge that a full-term pregnancy, especially before the age of 32, acts as a protective mechanism against breast cancer. Thus, research shows that teenagers with a family history of breast cancer who have abortions before their 18th birthday have an incalculably high risk of developing breast cancer. Indeed, an abortion clinic in Portland, Oregon, recently settled a lawsuit with a 19-year-old woman who claimed the clinic had failed to inform her of this link between abortion and breast cancer — especially since she’d indicated a family history of breast cancer on her intake form.
Approximately one-fifth of women procuring abortions are teenagers, and half are younger than 25 years old. The risk of breast cancer is high for those young women who are delaying their first full-term pregnancy through abortion, yet such women are rarely informed of this indisputable link.
The more hotly contested link — though one supported by numerous epidemiological studies and breast physiology — is that abortion itself can cause breast cancer. Through abortion, a woman artificially terminates her pregnancy at a time when her breast cells have been exposed to high levels of potentially cancer-initiating estrogen but before those cells have matured into cancer-resistant cells (as they ultimately do in a full-term pregnancy). According to breast surgeon Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, “The same biology that accounts for 90 percent of all risk factors for breast cancer accounts for the abortion-breast cancer link.”
Astonishingly, many states do not require that abortion-related complications be reported to their health departments. Nevertheless, a review of available data reveals that thousands of women are injured each year from short-term complications such as hemorrhaging, uterine perforation, and infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximates that one woman in 100,000 dies from complications associated with first-trimester abortions. A 1997 study reported in Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, however, found maternal deaths from abortion to be grossly underreported to the CDC — probably because such reporting is entirely voluntary.
Further, a 1994 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that abortions performed at more than 16 weeks’ gestation have 15 times the risk of maternal mortality as those performed during the first trimester. The same study also showed that black women and other minorities — who have a disproportionate number of abortions when compared with white women — are also 2.5 times more likely than white women to die of an abortion.
Finally, due to the FDA’s rush to get RU-486, the so-called abortion pill, onto the market quickly, at least three American women have already died, and scores of others have suffered serious drug-related complications.
Planned Parenthood estimates that 43 percent of women will have abortions before they turn 45 years old, and with more than a million abortions performed each year, these collected data reveal a serious women’s health issue that must be addressed. Yet all too often, the evidence is simply denied or ignored.

Is Legal Abortion ‘Rare and Safe’?

One of the common arguments used in the run-up to Roe v. Wade was the claim that legal abortion would be safer than the “back alley” abortions that — advocates alleged — killed 5,000 to 10,000 women each year. As many now know, one of the two men leading the change, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, OB-GYN and co-founder of NARAL Pro-Choice America, later recanted the claim, admitting that he and other pro-abortion activists simply fabricated the figure to further the cause of abortion rights.
This is not, of course, to say that illegal abortions were safe; though the actual data are nowhere close to the 10,000 claimed, at least 39 women died from illegal abortions in 1972. But an additional 24 women died that year from legal abortions in states that had weakened their laws in the years before Roe came down. As the medical data above reveal, more than three decades of legal abortion have not made the procedure much safer — women are still dying or suffering serious harm. Even Warren Hern, noted abortionist and author of Abortion Practice, a leading medical textbook, writes, “[T]here are few surgical procedures given so little attention and so underrated in its potential hazard as abortion.”
Another consistent argument one hears in defense of the abortion license is that the government should never come between a woman and her doctor. Indeed, the Court in Roe considered this relationship paramount. Until viability, the Roe Court said, “the abortion in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician.” Yet only about 2 percent of women having abortions do so for health reasons, and studies have shown that two-thirds of obstetricians and gynecologists — especially female doctors and those under 40 — refuse to perform abortions at all. The vast majority of women who have abortions, then, are not contemplating a medical decision in the care and counsel of their personal physician. Instead, most women receive little or no pre-op counseling about the nature of, risks of, and alternatives to the procedure. They meet the abortionist just minutes before he operates on them and are unlikely ever to see him again.

Abortion’s Second Victim

It’s no wonder that 81 percent of women surveyed in a 1992 study reported in the Journal of Social Issues said they felt victimized by the abortion process, and that they were either coerced into the abortion or that information about alternatives or the actual procedure had been withheld.
Though informed consent requirements are constitutional under Roe, Women’s Right to Know laws that provide women with information regarding the nature, risks, and alternatives to abortion are in effect in just over 20 states. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehends the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.” Not surprisingly, abortion advocates view neither the Casey decision nor the passage of informed consent laws as a step toward a more informed choice; instead, they’re characterized, in court battle after court battle, as an encroachment upon the rights secured in Roe.
While some men lament the choices of their wives or girlfriends (husbands and boyfriends, after all, have no legal rights in the abortion decision), other men serve as the catalysts behind such choices. Nearly 40 percent of post-abortive women in one study reported that partners pressured them into having the abortions. Indeed, in her study of the data, the late Emory University professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese reported that “the most enthusiastic fans of abortion have been men — at least until they have children of their own.”
So while “pro-choice” feminists hail abortion as the symbol of women’s sexual freedom and equality, the ordinary young woman may find no such liberation when she has sex with her date, thinking, as women are prone to do, that sex will bind the two emotionally. Instead, when he doesn’t share the depth of her feelings and then hands her $400 for the abortion when she becomes pregnant, it’s not only her heart that’s broken. She alone has to live with the possible short-term and long-term medical consequences of the abortion for the rest of her life. For many women, “reproductive freedom” has meant that women continue to negotiate all that comes with reproduction while men enjoy the freedom of sex without consequences.
The victimization felt by such a large majority of women who undergo abortions, though not appreciated or even recognized by today’s “pro-choice” feminist, was acutely foreseen by an earlier generation of feminists. America’s pioneering feminists, who fought for the right to vote and fair treatment in the workplace, were uniformly against abortion because they recognized it as an attack on women as women — those uniquely endowed with the ability to bear children. While these pioneering feminists endured the painstaking fight to change male-dominated political and economic institutions, the “pro-choice” feminists of the 1970s and today instead sought to change the very nature of women, convincing many of them that, if they’re to be equal to men, they must simply become like men.

Relying on Abortion

The importance American culture has placed on abortion as an equalizer of the sexes was the central reasoning the Supreme Court used to uphold Roe in its 1992 Casey decision: “For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” The Court went on to say that “the capacity of women to act in society” was based largely on the availability of abortion.
In other words, we’ve gotten used to not having to change much in our market-driven society to allow women to enter our colleges and workplaces on an equal footing with men. We’re not interested in ensuring women the capacity to act in society — to have a place in society — if they aren’t aping men. We can’t afford to do the much more difficult work of creating environments that welcome women who have children — which, of course, is the great majority of women. Instead, we’ll just continue to tell women what Roe told them a generation before. You choose: your baby or yourself, your baby or your future, your baby or your success; this is a man’s world, and you better become like a man — that is, not pregnant — if you want to succeed.
It’s no surprise that more than 30 years after the second wave — the abortion wave — of the women’s movement, studies show that women are still perplexed about how to combine career and family. Abortion usurped a pioneering feminism that sought to influence society to recognize the distinct dignity of women. In so doing, it forestalled solutions to the question of how women could fulfill their unique role as mothers while participating in the wider society. Increasingly, young women are addressing the problem in their own countercultural way: Highly educated women are passing up the career track during child-bearing and child-raising years while leaving their options open to reenter the professional world later in life.
Today, more women are challenging the pro-abortion feminist idea that their children are a burden to success and equality. Ordinary women want to be honored as women — not to have to sacrifice their children for equality with men. Women are beginning to realize that they’d been sold on the idea that a mother is of far less value than a fully engaged professional person. During an era in which motherhood was revered much more than it is today, President Theodore Roosevelt said: “[The mother] is the most indispensable component part of society.” The work of men, he said, is not “as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children…. I think the duty of the woman the more important, the more difficult, and the more honorable of the two.”
In the professional world, a woman often feels expendable — that many other people could perform her job just as well — but no one can equal a mother in the care and education she provides to her children. Sadly, a feminism that puts the fight for abortion at the center of its crusade has convinced many women that their social status and power are more valuable than the very lives of their children and the influence they have in the world through their work as mothers.
Some social scientists have argued that such a feminism, having driven unprecedented numbers of mothers with small children into the work force full-time over the last few decades, is largely to blame for the difficulty most single mothers today have at making ends meet. After all, the financial power of the dual-income family — the norm today — has driven up the price of life’s necessities. While two-parent families with a single income struggle and sacrifice to allow one parent to remain at home with young children, single mothers — responsible for both bread-winning and child-rearing — are faced with an almost insurmountable financial obstacle.
What is the abortion lobby’s answer to the “feminization of poverty” they themselves have helped create? Ready access to government-funded abortion. And “pro-choice” feminists don’t limit their claim to represent poor women to our shores; they believe that all of the world’s poverty-stricken women deserve ready access to free abortions.
It was precisely this elitist element of the abortion movement that first jolted me to rethink the “pro-choice” position I held in my early college years. I’d been studying in Washington, D.C., during a semester of my junior year and interning with a small think tank that helped state legislatures in their efforts to reform welfare. As I became immersed in the problems of the poor — especially poor women — I grew disgusted with the argument put forth by abortion advocates that the availability of abortion would lift women out of poverty. The thought that we, as a wealthy nation, would claim to solve the problems of the poor by helping them rid themselves of their own children haunted me.
Many who hold the “pro-choice” position do so because they think abortion provides a means to manage the burden the poor place on the rest of the society. Justice Blackmun, author of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Roe, epitomized this tragic view in a later case in which he dissented from the majority’s refusal to require taxpayers to fund abortions (Beal v. Doe). Blackmun said that the cost of elective abortion “is far less than the cost of maternity care and delivery” as well as “the welfare costs that will burden the state for the new indigents and their support in the long, long years ahead….” And so, he went on to say, without taxpayer funding of abortion for the poor, “the cancer of poverty will grow.”

The Road Ahead

America’s reliance on abortion has relieved our culture of the costs associated with creating environments truly hospitable to women and their children. If a nation as rich as ours were truly committed to women’s well-being and equality, we would look for real solutions to the underlying causes of abortion — including the serious challenge women face of balancing work or school and family, the disrespect for motherhood, the feminization of poverty, and society’s eugenic distaste for the imperfection and vulnerability of the disabled.
This moment in history marks a time of great political and cultural opportunity. While the mainstream media persist in confusing the public about its own views on abortion, polls show the tide is turning. A good 75 percent to 80 percent of Americans disagree with the reasons that underlie 95 percent of all abortions. Only about a fifth of Americans believe that the status quo should be maintained, that abortion should be permitted at any time during the pregnancy, for any reason.
Women can rise to the challenge of an unintentional or even abnormal pregnancy — if they have the emotional, financial, and professional support they need. Carrying and giving birth to an unplanned child will take self-sacrifice. There’s no denying that. But women who have aborted — and those who have merely lived during this long era of abortion — have sacrificed far more.

Erika Bachiochi


Erika Bachiochi holds a J.D. from Boston University School of Law (2002) and a M.A. in Theology from Boston College (1999) where she was a Bradley Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Religion and Politics. She obtained her undergraduate degree magna cum laude at Middlebury College (1997) where she majored in Political Science, minored in Sociology (and took enough credits to fulfill a minor in Women

  • Dennis

    What a thoughtful and very powerful article. I have not heard many of the arguments the author put forth about how we’ve avoided the tough issue of assisting mothers in the work-place by resorting to the abortion mentality. I will send this article to many friends.

  • James

    Excellent piece, but one question strikes me toward the end: how can women “rise to the challenge” if they are coerced into choosing life (ie. our laws are changed to outlaw abortion)? To believe that women must be coerced to choose life denies the fullness of their humanity and their nature as moral beings. Let’s not deny women the chance to choose life – a sinister path leads from the alternative.

  • John

    Maybe someone can show me how I am not seeing this clearly, but, maybe aside from a few good health facts brought up, I thought this was a poor article. We should not hesitate to show compassion and charity to those who find themselves in dire circumstances, even when it is the result of their own sin, but this article seems to be a mechanism by which women can blame everyone except themselves for the problems they face. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was no laying of blame at all, but the author explores many places where the blame can be laid for women aborting their babies, including a society that pressures them to be like men instead of women, men who insist on her aborting their baby, a “false” feminist movement that made women think they were doing a good thing by denying motherhood, all blamed except for the women herself.

    I am not saying that the author should have written an article blaming women, but if you are going to assign blame as she did, I think it would at least bear mentioning.

  • Christine

    Hi James,

    I have a question for you. If protecting someone from choosing to do harm to their body or the body of someone else by writing a law prohibiting such an action (in this case abortion)because it does not allow them to live in the fullness of humanity by making the choice:

    1. Shouldn’t we abolish all laws regarding murder and suicide?

    2. How about taking or selling illegal drugs? These obviously hurt others and myself?

    3. What about drunk driving? These also obviously hurt others and myself?

    With your thinking, shouldn’t all of these things also be viewed in the same way. They all hurt me and they hurt others, but they stop me from living in the fullness of humanity because death happens and harm happens to others.

    This choice to live in the fullness of humanity sounds a lot like the choice of fruit in the garden of eden. We sure live in the fullness of humanity because of that choice [smiley=evil]

  • R.C.

    This is in reply to James, and Christine’s question posed to him.

    I think you’re wrestling with two questions:

    Primary Question:
    Plenty of things are evil; but not all should be outlawed. Given this, upon what principle do we distinguish between those that should, and those that shouldn’t?

    Secondary Question:
    Now, whatever principle we adopt, may allow black-white kinds of distinctions, categorizing all human activities neatly into two groups of activities, one which we outlaw, and the other which we permit.

    But it may not work so neatly. If, when we apply our principle upon which we distinguish between legal and illegal activities, we find some activities don’t fall neatly into either group, what do we do then? A thing is either legal or illegal; there’s no such thing under the law as “kinda sorta illegal.” So how do we reflect the iffiness or shades of gray of our principle, in our laws?

    Here is how I answer those two questions…not that anything which follows is unique to me! What follows simply the American understanding of the risks, roles, and responsibilities of government, or used to be. Anyhow, here it is (and I’m sorry, but it’ll probably come across as pedantic):

    Answer to Primary Question: We distinguish between things which are evil, but ought not be outlawed, and actions which should be outlawed, on the basis of whether that action violates the intrinsic rights of another person (the rights which they have from God, consequent to their human dignity).

    According to this principle, an evil may damage oneself, or damage no-one at all (but merely offend God), and not be outlawed; but if it damages another, it is outlawed.

    Answer to Secondary Question: If there are some actions about which it is unclear whether they violate the rights of others, then those actions fall in a “gray area.” To reflect this “grayness” we may still outlaw the action, but we do not punish it as severely. Under this principle, “the punishment must suit the wickedness of the crime,” is altered to state “the punishment must suit the wickedness of the crime, but be moderated by the certainty and directness and degree to which the crime violates the rights of another.”

    Underlying Principles

    I choose those particular principles for criminality and punishment in response to other underlying principles, as follows:

    (1.) Human beings are granted free will by God with the intention that we use this free will to do, not merely anything, but love: Freedom was created to make love possible, since forced love isn’t love at all.

    (2.) If God thinks free will is a gift worth giving, we can trust His judgment on this point. If He even thinks it is worth the risk that free will will be abused by choosing evil, then we can trust His judgment on that point. Therefore, we should generally structure our society in such a way as to maximize human liberty to do good, always keeping in mind that we are not greater than God and will not be able to avoid, in the process, simultaneously increasing human liberty to do evil.

    (3.) When government acts, it always either uses or threatens to use force, either directly or indirectly. Exercises of force are, themselves, injurious to human liberty.

    The moral principles underlying the Just War Doctrine tell us that uses of force are only justifiable when the evil which results from not using force is greater than that which results from using force; and when it is to protect the innocent against force initiated by some other party (so that the defensive use of force is a response to a threat).

    Applying these concepts to criminal law, we see that we must outlaw those actions in which the guilty party initiates force against an innocent. We include fraud to a lesser degree since, while it does not threaten bodily harm, it exercises force on an intellectual level. (The defrauded person ends up tricked into doing things they would not voluntarily have done.)

    (4.) Secondary only to anarchy, the chief threat to human liberty is bad government.

    Government is unique among organizations in any society in that it is the sole organization authorized to initiate the use of force to achieve its ends.

    To prevent the abuse of that power, we circumscribe government’s powers in the following ways:

    (a.) We strictly enumerate and define the areas in which government may legislate, limiting them as much as possible to what is needful to guard the rights of persons;

    (b.) We establish checks and balances to prevent power-grabs by each branch of government;

    (c.) We establish federalism, in accord with the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity, under which a duty which may be accomplished by two different levels of government (e.g. local and state, or state and federal) is always assigned to the lower of the two;

    (d.) We permit only elected representatives to write laws, and we re-elect them (or replace them) at regular intervals;

    (e.) We do not vote for politicians who fail to outlaw clear violations of rights, or for politicians who outlaw things which violate no-one’s rights, or for politicians who write laws enacting excessive punishment for activities which only indirectly or tentatively impact anyone’s rights.

    (f.) We educate the populace in the above principles, and encourage religious and moral education among them, so that they will be competent to vote according to the above principles, and so that some of them will be develop sufficient aptitude to be entrusted with public office.


    There. That’s it.

    In my next post I’ll apply the above principles to James’ note.


  • James


    Thanks for the thoughtful response, you’ve grasped my point exactly. God granted us free will so that we could know right from wrong. If He didn’t want us to make moral decisions He would not have granted free will. To say that there are social ills, no matter how grave, isn’t to say that government should intervene to correct all wrongs.

  • R.C.

    In my preceding note, I articulated:

    (1.) A principle underlying the decision whether to make any given action legal or illegal, namely, whether it violates the rights of another;

    (2.) A principle for attenuating the punishment for an illegal activity if the degree to which, and/or manner in which it violates the rights of another are iffy, indirect, minimal, et cetera;

    (3.) Some underlying principles which support the first two, interlaced with observations about how good government is maintained in the American tradition as it used to be understood by American citizens and public servants up until somewhere in the 20th century.

    In his note, James asks the following:

    …how can women “rise to the challenge” if they are coerced into choosing life (i.e. our laws are changed to outlaw abortion)? To believe that women must be coerced to choose life denies the fullness of their humanity and their nature as moral beings. Let’s not deny women the chance to choose life – a sinister path leads from the alternative.

    I wish to reply to James, and my reply will be a criticism. The criticism takes this form: His question is either ignorant of, or violates, the principles I articulated in my previous note.

    Which is why I bothered to articulate them. It’s unfair for me to criticize James’ note on the basis of principles which I haven’t even bothered to state.

    Now that I have, here’s the criticism:

    (1.) James is correct to observe that outlawing abortion constitutes a use of force to compel women to not slay their unborn children. This is correct.

    (2.) James also observes that compulsion limits human liberty, which is something we should usually avoid because it is a gift of God, intended to enable love (see my “Underlying Principles” in the previous post), and that compulsion can even be an affront to human dignity (“denies the fullness of their humanity and their nature as moral beings”). This also is correct, as far as it goes.


    (3.) Human beings in utero are actual human beings, possessing the intrinsic human dignity of a full-grown adult even though they do not yet possess all the same powers of action or even cognition. This I assume from the outset, since one must hold this view to be a faithful Catholic, and I’m posting at InsideCatholic, not InsideNihilist; moreover, it agrees with science, the best available philosophy, and is in accord with the precautionary principle.

    (4.) Since human beings in utero are human beings with human dignity, they have the same human rights which governments are constituted and obligated to defend in all persons. If a mother and doctor conspire to kill a person in utero, they deprive that person of his free will to act in the future: This is the ultimate form of compulsion, undertaken as a voluntary act against the most innocent and defenseless person imaginable.

    (5.) Governments should outlaw actions in which one party acts to violate the rights of another by force or fraud. (See my earlier principles; also, the Catholic Magisterium teaches that this is a moral obligation of governement (I think infallibly, and certainly without variation since the ante-Nicene era).

    (6.) James’ argument is therefore wrong — is utter bollocks — because it neglects to consider that the compulsion done to the unborn child is far worse than the compulsion done to the woman and her doctor, and that a failure to outlaw constitutes a greater inhibition of human liberty and a greater outrage against human dignity than does the outlawing.

    When abortion is outlawed, the doctor is compelled not to perform abortions, but can still opt to exercise his training in a manner which actually involves healing patients. His liberty has been circumscribed, but not overmuch; and if he chooses to perform abortions anyway, he will be jailed; this limits his freedom significantly, but it is a limitation he chose when choosing to perform abortions, so his power of choice was still involved to a degree. He even exercises certain liberties while in prison; for example, he has freedom of conscience, and with it the ability to repent of his crime.

    When abortion is outlawed, the woman is compelled not to have an abortion. This can put the woman in very trying circumstances, no doubt; but in most cases these can be alleviated by offering the child for adoption. And it is a clich

  • R.C.

    I owe James some good language, inasmuch as he stepped in to say that my first statement of principles was a good one.

    I don’t know what he’ll say about how I applied them, though!

    James, you’ve made me feel guilty about my “utter bollocks” aside. It was unnecessary; I should have stuck with a more analytical tone. Sorry!

    On the other hand, since you seem to agree with my statement of principles, now you’re forced to disagree with how I’ve applied them. That narrows the field of argument!

    So, since you’re sticking around and have just seen your polite compliment of my first note abruptly answered by a rather critical second note…!

    Did you forget about the baby?

    Or did you not acknowledge his/her rights as being a higher claim on the need for government compulsion, because you didn’t think he/she has any?

    If you grant me my basic principles, then I want to see how you apply them differently and wind up at a pro-choice position….

  • James

    The moral duty to protect human life in utero is paramount and the church’s opposition to abortion and that of it’s followers serves as a great moral witness. If you believe that witness is insufficient to persuade people as to the immorality of abortion the spiritual deficit is yours.

    I think we would see an amazing amount of the conflict over abortion dissipate if we could acknowledge that women are capable of choosing life without coersion. The truth is that both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. Human life begins at conception, and as such it should be nurtured and protected. Likewise, women can and must make the choice for life themselves. The fact that some will choose abortion is not sufficient to abandon faith in the power of God and the gospels. Of course, changing laws will not stop abortion, so anyone who truly opposes abortion must rely on faith.

  • Christine


    Do you believe in laws then?

    Logic would dictate that:

    1. If you believe that abortion is murder (as the Church does), and

    2. you don’t believe that their should be a law against abortion, then

    3. (ergo) You must not believe in laws against murder.

    Is this the case?

    I am curious, as I do know people who are anarchists and civil libertarians.

  • Christine


    Changing laws has not stopped murder either. Should we then abandon our laws against murder and solely rely upon faith in these situations?

  • Richard

    RC has articulated the argument against abortion better than anyone else I have read in a long time. Perhaps RC should go public, maybe run for elective office since such voices are so rare in modern Gommorah(USA). Abortion, contrary to the thoughts of those “intellectuals” on the left, is not just a moral issue that should be left to the individual,that abortion is murder of an innocent is a scientific fact. The advances in science over the last 35 years have proven this fact and arguing against it is arguing that two plus two equals five.

  • meg

    You may be wrong about changing laws not stopping abortion. Laws affect the average person’s thinking.

    Legalizing abortion tremendously increased it’s frequency; it stands to reason that making it illegal would help decrease it’s frequency. I hate to use the old slavery comparison, but it certainly worked well in that case…

    I appreciate that you are an idealist, but the reality is many aren’t – many people, perhaps the majority, will simply do what they are told to do, and conversely, refrain from doing what they’re told not to do.

  • meg

    Of course it will never be completely stopped…if that’s what you meant…

  • R.C.

    James, though you have not thoroughly exposed your views to us in a complete and structured way, what you have revealed in them is not logically sustainable, and thus, incorrect.

    You begin:

    The moral duty to protect human life in utero is paramount and the church’s opposition to abortion and that of it’s followers serves as a great moral witness.

    …and later you state:

    Human life begins at conception, and as such it should be nurtured and protected.

    I agree with both of those statements.

    You proceed to contradict those statements, however, when you say,

    I think we would see an amazing amount of the conflict over abortion dissipate if we could acknowledge that women are capable of choosing life without coersion…. women can and must make the choice for life themselves.

    Now you have already agreed with my earlier principles, which included the following:
    (1.) That government does nothing without using or threatening force;
    (2.) Exercise of force limits human liberty, and is an affront to human dignity unless it is used to prevent some greater affront to human dignity…in which case the exercise of force upholds, rather than contradicting, human dignity.
    (3.) That, in accord with Church teaching and the principles of the American founding fathers, governments are constituted among men with a moral obligation to secure the inalienable rights granted to men by their Creator.
    (4.) That in securing the inalienable rights of persons by criminalizing acts which violate their rights, governments uphold human dignity, because the acts prohibited constitute a greater affront to human dignity than does the act of prohibiting them by force.

    Now these principles lead inexorably to the conclusion that government is obligated to defend innocents from various kinds of violent attack: Murder, Assault, Abortion, Robbery, Rape. And because it is government, it exercises force in protecting innocent persons. And because it is exercising force, it thereby curtails the freedom of those who would Murder, Assault, Abort, Rob, or Rape…but by doing so it upholds rather than contradicts, human dignity, because the dignity of the victim has not been violated.

    You simply cannot take Abortion out of this list, while leaving the others in place. You may oppose outlawing abortion, but not without wishing to legalize murder, assault, robbery, rape, and everything else. That is the logic of your position.

    Now, to avoid having your words dismissed as sheer lunacy, you don’t mention this. Perhaps you haven’t even followed your logic to its conclusion, yourself. But that is where it ends.

    And that conclusion is not only not compatible with Catholic teaching, it’s just plain silly.

    In addition to the above, you raise the following other items:

    If you believe that witness is insufficient to persuade people as to the immorality of abortion the spiritual deficit is yours.

    Well, we all have spiritual deficits, but acknowledging the facts is no particular evidence of them.

    For of course the “belief” you describe, that the Church’s witness to any given moral truth is normally sufficient to convince humanity at large to follow that truth, is contradicted by history! The Church has borne witness to the truth for two thousand years. But fallen mankind keeps finding new ways to ignore that witness.

    Surely you’d noticed?

    Extending the absurdity, you add:

    The fact that some will choose abortion is not sufficient to abandon faith in the power of God and the gospels.

    In that statement, by “faith in the power of God and the gospels” you seem to mean “faith that human beings will reliably refuse to do immoral things because God is powerful and the gospels are true.”

    Well, that would be nice, but that’s not how it works, as history amply demonstrates, and, being demonstrably false, it’s not something we’re called to have faith in if we’re Christians. Our faith is in God’s actual promises, not promises He hasn’t made.

    Your final statement is:

    Of course, changing laws will not stop abortion, so anyone who truly opposes abortion must rely on faith.

    Of course it won’t stop abortion. It’ll vastly reduce it, but not stop it. Just as the illegality of murder vastly curtails the incidence of murder.

  • R.C.


    Perhaps you’d find it easier to see the moral logic of outlawing abortion if you looked at it another way.

    In Genesis 4:9, Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The traditional Christian answer to this question is, in many ways, “YES!”

    Suppose I’m Red Cross water-rescue certified, and walking by a lake (with a canoe and paddles, a coil of rope, and a life jacket pulled up on shore). I look out over the water, and I spot a fellow splashing and floundering: He’s gotten a cramp, and is about to drown. I could help him — tho’ I’m late for an important job interview. What am I morally obligated to do?

    The answer is obvious: I save the guy’s life! I’d have no excuse not to: Here I am, certified to do just this; I even have all the supplies to “reach, throw, row, or go” as they say.

    Okay, example two: Suppose I and several of my friends are returning from a hunting trip. At a stop along the way in the back-of-beyond, we’re getting a bite to eat, when suddenly through the window we spot a man grab a woman (to whom he’s obviously a complete stranger) and violently shove her out of sight behind a building, threatening her with a knife, before he too goes behind the building. Sure, we’ll call the police, but we know that it’s twenty miles to the nearest police station; response time will be perhaps ten minutes at best. We’re armed, we’re able-bodied, and there are six of us.

    Do we have any moral obligations toward that woman? Are we our sister’s keepers?

    You stated that…

    Human life begins at conception, and as such it should be nurtured and protected.

    Do you really believe that? What exactly do you mean by “protected?”

    If you think it plausible that my friends and I should, politely but firmly, with an implied threat of force, separate the man from the woman he’s assaulting, and keep him still until the police arrive, then I suppose that means you believe that individuals have just authority, in the gravest extreme, to use force to defend innocent persons against violent attack.

    Which is good, because one of the founding principles of the American system of government is this: “Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” A related quote is this, the Tenth Amendment to the U.S.Constitution:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Did you catch that? The government has powers, not in-and-of-itself, but only because it is an organization of employees, and it gets its powers derivatively, from it’s employer, The People. The government justly has only the powers which the people choose to delegate to it.

    If people, as individuals, can (in limited circumstances) justly exercise force in the defense of innocent persons, then so too can the government, if the people choose to delegate that authority to the government.

    Did the people of the United States delegate authority to the U.S. government to guarantee the rights of innocents? Why yes: The U.S. constitution empowers the Congress to write laws for specifically that purpose. Ditto the state constitutions, in accordance with federalism (Subsidiarity).

    So here’s where the matter stands: We are, in this way at least, our brothers’ keepers: We are morally obligated to defend innocent persons from violent assaults on their rights. We have just authority to use force to do this, when necessary. We have empowered our employees, the government, to do this task on our behalf under normal circumstances, by exercising the police powers of government. We do this already in the outlawing of myriad crimes (murder, rape, assault, et cetera) and nobody sees any illogic in it, and the Church not only permits this, not only commends it, but says that in exercising force to prevent assaults against human dignity, the government is doing only what it is morally obligated to do anyway.

    Yet you come in and try to make an exception, saying that we can’t outlaw abortion, because in that case we’re violating the liberty of the attacker.

    See the problem? There’s not enough different about abortion for it to be an exception.

    Offer a good reason that abortion should be the exception. Otherwise your statement is merely false.

  • georgie-ann

    it is very distressing of late to “see” the effects of the very “warped” thinking trends common in the younger American generations,…”ideas”/concepts that were at one point virtually “unthinkable”–due to being SO CONTRADICTORY to the perceived “natural order” (of course, “God-given”)–have become quite commonplace,…at some point, satan managed to rather successfully interject some of his illogic (posing as logic) into the conditioned thinking reflexes of our youth,…

    just imagine!,…from the way James is “sounding,” it might even become a seriously considered issue someday that someone’s “right” or felt-necessity “to have a (legitimate) choice” about any-/everything they might ever possibly consider “doing,” could even extend to–let’s say–cutting off their own healthy leg!!,…

    to most “normal” folks, even today, this is, at this point in time, an IMPOSSIBLE thought!!,…we just DO NOT go around arbitrarily cutting off healthy limbs,…healthy limbs have very integral, designed and destined purposes in our lives,…so, if someone started to “discuss” as a serious issue their “personal and legitimate” right to have a choice about cutting off their leg, it wouldn’t be long, probably, before they would be having a very serious mental health evaluation,…

    just as a leg is a pre-ordained specifically functioning part of the body in the God-designed so-called “natural order,” a woman’s body is specifically designed in the ways of conceiving and nurturing and bringing forth life, completely also in keeping with this so-called “natural order,”…and the CONSUMMATE LIE that this is a common matter of some kind of modern intellectual “personal choice,” IS AS PATENTLY ABSURD as the idea of supposing that it could be both “rational and permissible” to even possibly assume that cutting off one’s normal leg could EVER be considered a position of sanity,…

    God does tell us in the Bible that He has set before us “life and death,”…but immediately directs us to “choose life,”…& yes, we are our “brother’s keeper,”…wouldn’t we become more than a little “surprised” and perplexed, if the animal kingdom suddenly became pre-occupied with “ditching” its progeny while in utero?,…THAT should really “tell us something,”…

    the “illusion” that women have some “right” or obligation to “choose” in these matters, once conception has taken place, is just that, a very grave “illusion” with very serious consequences,…

    (they could apply their “rights to choose,” however, before engaging in behavior that leads to conception),…

    if the God-given natural role of a woman in procreation is seen and respected for the awesome sacred function/purpose/gift that it is (which it certainly “used to be,” moreso than now), one would shutter to think of a “knife” anywhere near her in the pregnant state,…

  • Jeannie

    Wonderful comments, one and all. However, let’s not begin at abortion; let’s start at the scene of the crime, the scene of the sin and address it from there. It is unbridled self satisfaction, sex on demand by all genders that begets the child, that begets its demise, that begets political interest. Women, if I recall correctly, were always given the responsibility to avoid conception through virginity, they accepted such responsibility. It appears this was an unappreciated denial that they, too, are sexual humanbeings. That denial needed correction. Well, there’s been an overcorrection and the line at abortuaries continues to grow which should tell us that the innovative, which I am opposed to, birth controls ushered in by drug entities seeking monetary power are not being utilized as devices to control out of control bodies. My point being not birthcontrol; but, control over one’s body. That is not a female thing guys. It is a human thing. Which reminds me, whatever happened to the mantra, “It’s my body”? …seems “My body” is more out of control than ever. Control the body, the rest will follow: abstinence, chastity, purity, virginity, etc. Yes, all the virtues we happily attribute to Our Lady, Mary Immaculate.

  • Pro-life Feminist

    John speaks of addressing the blame that women should face for their own problems. I’m not sure what he means. Abortion, by definition, occurs within a deficit: bluntly speaking, by nearly every understanding of the issue, abortion occurs as a response to a problem that needs to be fixed.

    (Oh, I know that we SHOULD have a different perspective, that neither women nor our children are mere “problems,” and that our lives are too complex for a quick “fix.” I use that language merely as a blunt description of the broad issue, notwithstanding the common pro-life values that most IC readers celebrate.)

    The author of this article outlines both the causes of the problems and the reasons why abortion is an inadequate solution. While spiritual reasons are important, too, this article provides pragmatic dialogue that goes beyond those approaches, speaking a truth that should be heard even by those who lack belief.

    Social pressures (media, others, economic realities, etc.) ARE to blame… and it is a responsibility that we all share (men and women, individually and in organizational contexts). I didn’t see where the author singled out women for either blame or absolution… nor where she should.

  • Enoch

    I enjoyed this article and it’s comments.
    The choices of women seem to be condemed by faith, man, and government. Although government reached out it’s hand and followed a grey area. Woman are underappriated for the burdons in which they are forced to beer as women thus feeling underappriated, helpless and I think misunderstood. A Woman did not choose to be woman, just as a man did not choose to be a man. A woman has to go through much greater emtional, physical, spiritual responsiblities than any man, espcecially with the choice of child. as I have encountered, although we say women are given an equal right. It seems they are hardly acknolegde often seen as a lessor capible able body. Pregnancy sets a certain disability on women , suddenly they are no longer equal to men. Women who are either dedicated to a career find that it must be put on pause sacrificing ones own personal goals. Yet I hardly see a child interfere with a mans goals. One might say that is its lack of determination on the womans part yet society falls short of simply acknowledging the importance of both motherhood it’s responsibilities and a womans personal needs, desires, wills to be sucsessful in the mans world. Because today, being a mother is simply not enough. It tends to hinder her abilities. Perhaps it wouldn’t seem that way if women for given an equal playing field. Women must always score two just to equal one to a man. Thus strangely the viable option became ditch motherhood, And the scores would be equal? I’m not sure of satistics but I have a feeling a majority of women who seek abortions may feel this way. As much as they would have rather not had to endure the choices set forth they now feel obligated to ‘ditch motherhood’ to be on that equal playing field. Until society finds a better way to acknowledge the rights of womens these actions somehow still seem resonible for now. I find that offensive. I do lean in a prochoice view but Id changed based on fairness, to women. There is also the point in which abortion is just simply nessisarry for health reasons for either the mother and or child in utero. A womans body on her own will in itself miscarry a child simply because there was a genetic problem which is acceptible it is out of ones control but alas so to is it when a womans body fails to recognize a genetic default. Humans should always be looking to create a stronger human not a weaker. Which is how biologically it suppose to work. It repeats itself in nature survival of the fittest, the sick and weak are usually eaten first. It said that those couldn’t be the only reasons we should even allow abortions at all.
    Insted we have to through in equality for women too.
    Motherhood is a beautiful gift and so is being a women