Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

Partial Truths about Partial Birth Abortions

Fr. Angelo Artemas

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What is the Orthodox Church's position on partial-birth abortions? While the answer to such a question may seem obvious, it's a faulty question. There is no such thing as being partially born. Either you have a birth or an abortion, not partially both.

The confusion arises over the late-term procedure known as intact dilation and evacuation in which a specialist pulls the baby (sorry, viable fetus) out of the birth canal feet first until all but the head is exposed. A sharp probe then is used to puncture the skull which it is still in the birth canal. The contents of the skull are then evacuated, the now dead fetus is removed from the "patient" (a.k.a. the mother).

Legally, only three inches separate this procedure from a homicide. Referring to this procedure as a "partial birth" is like referring to a murder victim who was shot through the head as a "partial survivor."

Supporters of "partial-birth abortions" argue that they are necessary in cases where the mother's life is in danger. According to the Record newspaper in Bergen County, N.J., out of the 1,500 partial-birth abortions performed at an Englewood clinic in 1995, 35 percent were purely elective, while the rest involved depression, not biological danger.It is rarely necessary to terminate a pregnancy to save a mother's life. Yet, even when necessary, it is never necessary to destroy the viable fetus. the baby takes its own chances in the incubator.

Partial-birth abortion is an oxymoron.

While Americans are divided on the abortion issue in general, this late-term procedure is appalling to a great majority of people. And even a large majority in the U.S. Congress has voted against this procedure.

During its new term, the Supreme Court plans to consider whether the "terminally ill" have a right to "doctor-assisted" suicide. By definition, suicide is the act of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally. If someone else assists, be they a doctor, or family member, then it isn't suicide; it's homicide -- the killing of one human being by another.

Jack Kevorkian, who as "assisted" in the suicides of 41 people since 1990, argues that terminally ill patients have the right to die. Yet the majority or his 41 "patients" have not had life-threatening illnesses, but debilitating illnesses.

According to Orthodox anthropology, every human being is terminally ill. Our terminal illness is called aging. In other words, we are all going to die. Even a newborn has a life expectancy of 80 years and must face much pain and suffering during those years.

Life is filled with much emotional and physical pain and sorrow. Can the Supreme Court decide when one's quality of life is such that it can be terminated?

It has already done so in Roe vs. Wade.

In every partial truth there hides a partial lie. Expressions such as "terminally ill," "pro-choice" and "endangering the life of the mother" conceal important truths. Perhaps issues that involve human life are so difficult to resolve because those debating them are so far from the truth.

Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) But, then again, Christ has been separated from the governing process and relegated to irrelevancy in vital issues affecting the public debate.

Fr. Angelo Artemas is a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. This article is reprinted with permission of the author.

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Copyright 2001-2018 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.

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