President Trump’s welcome October 6 decision to roll back the Obama Administration’s trampling of conscience rights, which required employers to pay for abortifacients, in no time led to howls in the media and among Democrats about the “threat” to “contraceptives” and “birth control.” By the next day, my email contained an appeal from the Democratic National Committee’s “Rapid Response Team,” warning that “this week looks more like 1917 than 2017 for women across the country” and that “instead of writing off more than half of our country, maybe Republicans could actually do something to help women” … presumably by helping them to kill unborn children at five or more months of pregnancy. Because this crescendo of cacophony is certain only to increase, Catholics need to have some “Talking Points” about how to answer—frankly—lies. So, here are three:
Obama’s rules required people to pay for abortifacients.
Obamacare’s requirement for employers to pay for “birth control” lumped real contraceptives and abortifacients together. A number of “contraceptives” actually do not just prevent conception but, in fact, also cause the conceived embryo to die. How? Conception occurs in the Fallopian tubes. The fertilized ovum then travels to the uterus where he/she implants into the uterine wall, which has thickened in anticipation of a possible pregnancy. The “Pill” manipulates hormonal levels so, in fact, the uterine wall is unprepared for implantation and so the fertilized ovum dies. The IUD likewise prevents implantation.
Abortionists and Planned Parenthood (but I repeat myself) will tut-tut about these facts, insisting they are not “scientifically” supported. Again, the truth is that it is they who are trafficking in fake science. The reason abortifacients are called “contraceptives” is because the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (a very pro-abortion group) unilaterally decided that “pregnancy” begins at implantation, i.e., up to 21 days after conception. (This claim was repeated by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.) Sure, move the goal posts and you can then redefine the reality, but the scientific fact is: there is no change that occurs in the fertilized ovum because of implantation.
“Keep my boss out of my bedroom.”
Abortionists love to engage in illogical logic. Abortion is guaranteed by the Constitution’s supposed “right to privacy.” But why is the only person who has a “right to privacy” the woman who wants an abortion? Why does only her “conscience” count? Does an employer also not have a right to participate (or not participate) in something, especially something that at least some people consider killing? Does an employer not have a conscience?
We certainly expect employers, businesses, and corporations to have consciences. We expected businesses to divest from apartheid South Africa. We promoted the Sullivan Principles for fair employment practices in Northern Ireland. We still speak of German companies whose products were used in the Holocaust (e.g., IG Farben’s patent for poison gas). We insist that corporations not require their poor foreign employees to work in unsafe conditions. We let gown and music makers decide not to cut or croon for the Trump inaugural because they morally dislike his politics. Heck, we even demand that businesses not send employees to states like North Carolina that “discriminate” by not letting boys use girls’ showers or toilets! Why do they all have “corporate social responsibility” in all these others cases, but their moral reservations are supposed to disappear suddenly when abortion comes into play?
The most succinct reply to the “boss in the bedroom” canard appeared in a Tweet: “‘Get your politics out of my bedroom!’ ‘Not a problem. I’m just going to grab my wallet before I leave.’ ‘The wallet stays, bigot.’ As Charlie Brown would say, “Sigh.’” In short, employer provided health insurance is a benefit, not a right. If a potential employee doesn’t like the terms of employment, properly understood as terms of a contract, she is free to work somewhere else.
The primacy of conscience.
America was founded on freedom of conscience. The Puritans, Quakers, and Catholics all sailed for New England, Pennsylvania, and Maryland because they would not swear allegiance to the official Church of England. Roger Williams settled Rhode Island rather than compromise his conscience. The Supreme Court has recognized that conscience can dispense a kid from saluting the flag or even being fully bound by compulsory school attendance laws. Most pertinent, we even recognize that conscientious objection to killing others can exempt you from being drafted into combat.
So why would we assume that EVERYBODY—even nuns—must pay for abortifacients?
Conscience is sacred because what we do defines ourselves. Our choices do not just “get things done,” but they also say something about “who we are.” And some of us do not want to be people who kill the unborn.
The problem with abortionists is that it is not enough to say that abortion is an expression of “a woman’s right to privacy.” They want nothing less than social acceptance, approbation, and support of that decision. Not only is abortion a matter of her “conscience,” but it is a matter to which everybody else’s consciences should yield.
There was a similar moment in American history. In the early years of the Republic, slavery was quite regional: it eventually died in the North and lived in the South. But things changed rapidly, and for the worse, with enactment of the Compromise of 1850, one of the pathetic attempts to placate the Southern slavocracy into maintaining the Union. Among the provisions of the Compromise of 1850 was the Fugitive Slave Act, which made everyone—not just Southerners—complicit in slavery because it expected the government to assist slave keepers to recover their “property,” even if a fugitive slave was found in free territory. Eventually, the Supreme Court upheld putting “everybody’s hands in the slave morass” with Dred Scott v. Sandford, insisting a slave was a slave no matter where he went in the Union—and the slave keeper was entitled to get his property back as a matter of “right,” which all Americans who cherish the “rule of law” should respect. Ten years and a Civil War later, Dred Scott was rightly consigned to the intellectual trash bin.
When Obamacare did a similar thing with abortion that the Fugitive Save Act did with slavery—implicate all Americans in a morally repugnant business under the aegis of “rule of law”—it did so by trampling on conscience. Why is there any question about requiring people to cooperate with what many deem to be a matter of life or death?
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No one should have any illusions about how ugly this fight will get. Sex has in some ways replaced Social Security as the Third Rail of American politics, especially for the Left, which is ready to forgive a multitude of sins if one supports abortion. It is shameful that these issues, which involve fundamental civil rights questions have become so partisan: the right to be protected in one’s life; the right to be clear about when one becomes a member of, and subject to the protection of, society; the right of conscience to be free from being forced into complicity with what one deems profound evil. The fact that the recent vote over a bill recognizing that unborn children suffer excruciating pain from abortion and so should not be aborted at five, six, seven, or more months gestation, passed on a rigid, party-line vote—and that only three Democrats could be found to say abortion in the eighth month of pregnancy is barbarism and should be banned—shows just how much work we have to extract ourselves from this cultural rubble.
(Photo credit: Catholic News Agency)