Can’t shake the abortion stigma? Buy a t-shirt!

From the Planned Parenthood website:

 I had an abortion!

They have finally arrived!

Planned Parenthood is proud to offer yet another t-shirt in our new social fashion line: “I Had an Abortion” fitted T-shirts are now available. These soft and comfortable fitted tees assert a powerful message in support of women’s rights.

Order yours for $15 each.

See it here.


38 thoughts on “Can’t shake the abortion stigma? Buy a t-shirt!”

  1. A new twist on the Scarlet Letter (same letter, different sin). In an age where sodomy is celebrated, “Ho” is what you call your girlfriend, and Madonna (who used to wear a shirt saying “Boy Toy”) now wears a T-shirt saying “Jesus is my homeboy” … I doubt most young folks are aware that Hawthorne’s “A” is even a sin.


  2. The left has turned sin and behaviors that destroy the soul into “hip” and “fun” activities. Just like they made homosexuality a “cool” lifestyle and used the mainstream media, public education, and the popular culture to promote it and glorify it, we are now seeing yet another “trend” being developed by the liberals. They have no shame, and this societal decay will continue as they cheerfully work to corrupt and lead astray as many young men and women as possible.

  3. Why paint everyone on “the left” and all “liberals” with the same brush? I’m so far to the left that Christopher refuses even to read my posts. But I don’t think homosexuality is cool. I don’t have an abortion t-shirt or know anyone who does. I don’t know anyone who uses the word “ho.” I don’t like Madonna.

  4. The arguments defending such developments as the sexualization of the youth culture, the destigmatizing of abortion, gay marriage, etc. etc. etc. come exclusively from the left. If liberals honestly believe some of these things are wrong, they are morally obligated to speak out against them. However, we rarely hear self-criticism coming from the liberal side. Some exceptions exist like Nat Henthoff, but he is largely a lone voice. Silence equals consent.

  5. Do you care enough about “sin and behaviors that destroy the soul” to adjust your stock portfolios and 401-K funds so as not to invest in corporations that profit by selling culturally and spiritually degrading merchandise? Comcast is one of the largest and most publically traded Cable TV corporations, yet it makes millions selling pornography on dozens of its channels. Likewise, anyone who wants to can check into a hotel and order a pornographic movie distributed by the highly profitable Viacom corporation, or made by one of its subsidiaries.

    You can go to the mall and see posters showing scantily clad teenagers posed provacatively in the window of Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret. On the way home you can turn on your local Clear Network radio station and listen to gangsta rap songs glorifying violence and the defilement of women. When you get home you can turn on your Playstation and play “Grand Theft Auto” a video game maufactured by Sego, one of our nation’s most profitable software companies, that provides you with the vicarious thrill of committing acts of violence and homicide over and over again.

    Then if the spiritual distress of all you have witnessed bothers you, you can go home and emotionally anesthesize yourself, by drinking some Whiskey or Vodka marketed by the Seagrams corporation, or take some antidepressants manufactured by EJ Lilly or Merck.

    While I share everyone’s abhorence of the spiritually degrading products and messages so pervasive in our society today, to blame them on the “Liberals”, (whoever they are), is both foolish and absurd. For these vile and spiritually degrading products and messages are woven into the very fabric of our highly touted capitalist free market economy and richly contribute to its bottom line.

  6. Dean,

    Good job Dean, you almost stayed on point, and you almost did not shift the topic! You did, however. Now instead of the self proclaimed philosophy of the left, described accurately with the word “liberal, you want to blame free markets. Uh oh, I see another long thread where Dean equates the Gospel with collectivist economics again…;)

  7. Some other items that are “woven into the very fabric of our highly touted capitalist free market economy and richly contribute to its bottom line”:

    Ignatius Press, Conciliar Press, Paulist Press, InterVarsity Press,, EWTN (made possible by people freely donating disposable income obtained through the “capitalist free market economy”), CSpan I, II, III & CSpan Radio (made possible by donations of bandwidth & finances from Cable Television), …. uh, how about this website.

    The good stuff out there is just as much a part of the “fabric of our highly touted capitalist free market economy” that is being condemned here.

    Take away that capitalist free market system and you get the wonderful markets of Soviet era Russia. Is that the trade you want to make?

    BTW, that bastion of socialism – Europe – isn’t exactly a great purveyor of uplifting material. There’s as much if not more porn on European television and as much if not more “scantily clad teenagers” used in advertisement there than there is in the U.S.

    No, the market doesn’t make people look at porn; their sinful human nature does.

  8. Fr. Hans writes: “The arguments defending such developments as the sexualization of the youth culture, the destigmatizing of abortion, gay marriage, etc. etc. etc. come exclusively from the left. If liberals honestly believe some of these things are wrong, they are morally obligated to speak out against them. However, we rarely hear self-criticism coming from the liberal side.”

    Within the class of people to which you refer as “liberal” there is a actually a tremendous diversity of opinion and worldview. But when I read the material here, it is as if all the liberals either worked for or subscribed to Hustler magazine, and were interested in nothing else. The view of “liberal” presented here is really a caricature that frankly corresponds to no one I know.

    For example one liberal friend of mine spends his evenings studying the Talmud and his weekends attending synagogue activities and meetings. Another liberal friend, not a Christian but a person of tremendous compassion, personally cared for his Catholic mother-in-law in his own home while she died from metastatic lung cancer. While it is true that neither of these fellows has protested at the local abortion clinic or denounced gay marriage, it seems a bit extreme to declare them morally defunct.

    But perhaps the debate over abortion and other social issues has degenerated to the point where such distinctions no longer matter, and it’s just “us” versus “them,” and it only matters whose propanganda is the most effective. Perhaps we’ve come to that.

  9. Despite being “liberal-minded”, I was shocked by Planned Parenthood’s new t-shirt, which I didn’t believe until I actually went to their website and saw it for myself.

    One interesting thing to consider however: what has been the effects on the lives of those under the laws of sharia within Islamic countries? In a sense, it embodies many virtues: chastity, modesty of dress and speech, sexual purity, reverence for the name of God. The punishments are severe for those who fall short of its demands. This is the Law in its extreme.

    Does it go too far in its demands or does it fail simply because it’s done in the name of “Allah” and not Christ? Is such severity desirable for a supposed Christian nation? If not, what is the alternative?

    Certainly there must be some middle ground between a moral vacuum and ruthless brand of legalism which punishes the smallest infractions. If so, where does that middle ground lie?

  10. I would say that the Planned Parenthood t-shirt is so monumentally awful that news of it strikes one as some kind of cruel urban legend. But there it is.

  11. James,

    You have articulated an age old problem, but one that also has (more than one actually) age old solution(s). It is really a problem of the mind than one in actuality. Do you want the Christian solution – well, maybe not, but since this site is “Orthodoxy Today” I am going to give it to you anyways 😉

    The Law, meaning the True Law of God, of which all our human laws are only a reflection of (to a greater or lesser degree. Obviously those cultures/societies that have a greater admixture of evil in their law are lesser images of the Law of God), is too much for us to attain because we are fallen creatures (recall the fall in Genesis). Because of this, Christ came and fulfilled the law for us, acting as our mediator and benefactor, so that we can by grace attain what we could not by the Law.

    This is perhaps the greatest reason why western societies, having inherited the legacy of Christendom, have found that “balance” you mentioned. To the extant that they remember and incorporate the merciful and just Law of Christ into their human law, even if this is done largely unconsciously, they are just societies.

    This balance, is probably most threatened today in the west by secularism, because secularists are fundamentally confused about human nature. Reasoning and acting from a false anthropology, modern secularism is full of virtues unhinged from their roots, gone wild, acting on their own to the destruction of other virtues. A modern/secularist get the following question wrong: What is a human being? What is Man? Indeed, in any society that does not have true anthropology (e.g. Islamic society) virtue is fundamentally warped, so all sorts of excess and debauchery occur. For example, someone on this very site the other day tried to argue that “Do unto others…” could be used to support gay “marriage”. This is taking a virtue (even a Command from God Himself) and warping and twisting it into something it is not. Another example, is the confusion of the hierarchy of virtue so common today in the secular mind. Cake is good, and to satisfy my tongue with sweat cake is a good. However, other goods come before it, like getting proper nutrition. Before I can have cake, I need to make sure I get my vegetables and protein. In our society, before we can talk about fine tuning the tax code, or expanding entitlements, the Law of Love commands us to first, first stop killing our neighbor. Fine tuning the tax code can be a good, but it comes after stopping the American Holocaust. This is why men like Dean are so conflicted about their politics, and literally rant and rave almost as a madman, because their conscious is trying to remind them about the hierarchy of virtue but their passions are not wanting to hear about it.

    For a person to consciously put this t-shirt on, is to reveal just how confused and lost that persons body, mind, and soul truly is…

  12. The Planned Parenthood T-Shirts are terrible, proclaiming both the willful ignorance and contempt for human life of those of wear them.

  13. I believe that at the time Roe v Wade was decided, there was a minimal amount of support for abortion because of the belief that those who did this were doing it under duress or as a last resort. There were also images portrayed of “back-alley” abortions being performed on women who were maimed and scarred for life. Out of compassion, people thought that perhaps it should be kept legal for the rare instances when abortion was needed to save the life of the mother or for the somewhat understable instances when rape or incest occurred.

    However, we have now seen that is not rare or a last resort. Many who previously supported abortion rights are seeing that it is being used frequently and callously. It’s no longer seen as a “lesser of two evils” but as a good, re the article on “selective reduction”. I used to support abortion rights but am now seeing that there need to be far more restrictions on this extreme version of selfishness.

    I think public opinion will eventually sway in this direction as well.

  14. We are just at the tip of the iceberg with regard to abortion (e.g. stem cell “research,” cloning, etc). As Fr John Breck informed our recent Antiochian Clergy gathering … if we believe (as the Church teaches) that life begins at conception … and we all know that there’s money to be made here … and Bush has only said “NO” to GOVERNMENT funding … well, again I say: iceberg.

  15. If I could see more than anecdotal evidence on a small blog like this defending the sanctity of life from the liberal side, I’d applaud, defend, and encourage it. If liberals do indeed believe that life is sacred, if something other than a utilitarian ethos shapes and informs their thinking, then they are obligated to challenge their leaders who consistently marshall, defend and implement the policies of the culture of death.

    But we almost never see this. Pro-life liberals, those who don’t reflexively challenge the assertion that all life has inherent value, have given their voice to others who betray their convictions. Pro-life liberals exist. Some are my friends. However, they seem driven more by a reflexive antipathy against conservatism than their conviction that life is sacred and let those who hold contrary values speak for them. Again, Nat Henthoff is the lone example that I know of.

  16. Fr. Hans writes: “If I could see more than anecdotal evidence on a small blog like this defending the sanctity of life from the liberal side, I’d applaud, defend, and encourage it . . . However, they seem driven more by a reflexive antipathy against conservatism . . .”

    In my view this is a large part of the problem, but it doesn’t happen just with liberals, and you have to ask why such reflexive antipathy exists in the first place. As I’ve mentioned before, as the debate on such issues becomes increasingly balkanized and strident, and as individual issues harden around ideologies and become associated with an entire ideological package, it has the effect of destroying the middle ground on all sorts of issues.

    The association of an issue with an ideology also has the effect of the issues not being considered individually, outside of the ideological context. If I’m a liberal, and all I get from the right is the news that I’m murdering babies, that I’m evil and intellectually dishonest, my leaders are evil, that I hate America, that I’m part of the culture of death, that I’m responsible for Madonna, that my philosophy is the reason Janet Jackson’s anatomy got flashed on screen, and on and on and on, how is that supposed to make me sympathetic to their message? If I’m a liberal, and anti-abortion is presented as part of a whole package of issues including tax cuts for the rich, American imperialism, crony capitalism, Ten Commandments bolted on to every public building, Christian prayer in public schools, and so on, why should I pay attention to that? It’s as if the right says to me “you have to buy our entire package.” And yes, a similar thing also happens on the other side of the political spectrum.

    It’s like during the Vietnam war — you were either a “traitor,” or a “baby killer.” When the middle ground disappears we are left with two extremes waving signs and hurling insults at each other.

  17. Pro-Life Liberals see abortion as one a extremely important moral issue among many. The late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago wrote of “A Consistent Ethic on Life” that included a range of moral issues. The nine issues connected with a consistent ethic of life are listed below, with abortion listed number 7.

    1) the choice of life or death is at the heart of the Biblical tradition….
    2) respect for the integrity of the ecosystem within which human life exists…
    3) rejection of discrimination in all its forms because we are united by our common humanity….
    4) eradication of poverty which is the number one killer in the world…
    5) elimination of mass weapons of destruction, both nuclear and conventional, developing comprehensive peace accords based on mutual respect…..
    6) promoting peace based on justice and to reject war as a means of settling disputes….
    7) an end to abortion – the creation of an environment within families and society where pregnant mothers are supported and children are welcome…
    8) raising awareness about the link between euthanasia and opening the door to other kinds of mercy killing”….
    9) ending of the death penalty and a call for humane restorative judicial processes for all criminal offending…that allows for apology, healing, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and wherever possible, reconciliation

    In an article entiled “Pro-Life Democrats?, There are millions of votes at stake in this liberal miscalculation.”, Jim Wallis writes,

    “Many Democrats fail to comprehend how fundamental the conviction on “the sacredness of human life” is for millions of Christians, especially Catholics and evangelicals, including those who are strongly committed on other issues of justice and peace and those who wouldn’t criminalize abortion even as they oppose it. Liberal political correctness, which includes a rigid litmus test of being “pro-choice,” really breaks down here. And the conventional liberal political wisdom that people who are conservative on abortion are conservative on everything else is just wrong. Christians who are economic populists, peacemaking internationalists, and committed feminists can also be “pro-life.” The roots of this conviction are deeply biblical and, for many, consistent with a commitment to nonviolence as a gospel way of life…

    But beneath the strong convictions felt by many Christians on abortion is something deeper than politics. The most thoughtful ones speak of “a consistent ethic of life” that derives from the heart of Catholic social teaching. It was Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernadin who coined the phrase “a seamless garment of life” which clearly linked the “life issues” of abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, nuclear weapons, poverty, and racism all as critical components. The Catholic bishops themselves teach against single-issue voting that focuses on only one concern, such as abortion, to the neglect of all the rest.

    The tragedy is, in America today one can’t vote for a consistent ethic of life. Republicans stress some life issues, Democrats others, while both violate the seamless garment of life on several vital matters. But the consistent life ethic still serves as an invaluable plumb line by which to evaluate all political candidates and parties.”

  18. All which of course begs the question: why do pro- life liberals allow culture of death advocates to be their spokespersons? Again, the reason liberalism is associated with support of culture of death issues is because you cede your convictions to a leadership that holds views antithetical to your own.

    Example: Ron Reagan’s speech last night. Read Robert George’s review above. It’s fair game to to highlight the Democratic son of a prominent Republican. That’s just politics. But Reagan as an advocate of embryonic stem cell research? Why is this issue front and center at a political convention? It’s another miscalculation (or was it?) where the Democrats race ahead irrespective of the deep moral questions surrounding the issue.

  19. James, this is good (Democrats for life). Hopefully they got some space at the convention. I heard that they were not allowed to speak.

  20. It all depends on how you define “death advocate”.

    A death advocate can be someone who starts an unnecessary and misguided war based on false pretexts.

    A death advocate can be someone who seeks to develop nuclear first-strike strategies and capabilities.

    A death advocate can be someone who as Governor imposes the death penalty on dozens of defendants who perhaps did not get a fair trial, or an adequete legal defense.

    A death advocate can be someone who favors the rights of polluters to poison the environment over the rights of citizens to be free of air- and water-borne toxins that threaten their health and lives.

    A death advocate can be someone who supports repressive dictators in other countries because he disdains a foriegn policy that champions human rights, for one based on geopolitics.

  21. As Dean indicates, there is certainly, to borrow a term, a “selective reduction” of issues when it comes to the culture of death, as many of the potential life and death issues have been surgically removed from the discussion, though Dean attempts the occasional issue transplant.

    It seems to me that many here believe that abortion is really the only issue — that one’s entire political alignment and support be based on that one issue. But according to the essay by Fr. Greely, the link to which Dean posted, not even Cardinal Ratzinger holds that position. Interesting that no one bothered to respond to that.

    But here’s a question — given the following two candidates

    Candidate A: strongly pro-choice, brilliant, masters all the complexities of the issues, gets fantastic results from the economy, solves the Israel-Palestine situation, brings peace to the world

    Candidate B: strongly pro-life, dumb, knows little of the issues, bungles the economy, inflames the Israel-Palestine situation, makes the world unstable

    who would you vote for?

  22. A real death advocate is someone who is knowingly going to pull the lever in November for a candidate/party that kills 4,000 human children everyday (120,000 every month). No issue rises to this level, not even close. For that “invaluable plumb line” to be consistent, let alone relevant, abortion will have to be #1, 2, 3, and probably 4. That “ecosystem” is number #2, and abortion #7, shows how off it is…

  23. Christopher writes “A real death advocate is someone who is knowingly going to pull the lever in November for a candidate/party that kills 4,000 human children everyday (120,000 every month). No issue rises to this level, not even close.”

    Ok, great theory. Let’s check it out —

    From Bread for the World Institute:

    “842 million people across the world are hungry.

    “In the developing world, more than 1.2 billion people currently live below the international poverty line, earning less than $1 per day.

    “Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization.

    “Pregnant women, new mothers who breastfeed infants, and children are among the most at risk of undernourishment.

    “153 million children under 5 in the developing world are underweight. Worse yet, 11 million children younger than 5 die every year, more than half from hunger-related causes. [Note – the 11 million is around 30,000 per day.]

    “In the developing world, 27 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely underweight. 10 percent are severely underweight. 8 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely wasted, or seriously below weight for one’s height, and an overwhelming 32 percent are moderately to severely stunted, or seriously below normal height for one’s age.”

    From the Centers for Disease Control:

    “Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. In fact, one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related. Every year, smoking kills more than 276,000 men and 142,000 women.”

    From Join Together:,1854,572796,00.html

    ” . . . annual tobacco deaths in poor countries are on pace to reach 7 million by 2030.” [Note: that is around 19,000 per day.]

    From the Vaccine Fund, quoting the World Health Organization:

    “Annual deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases in 2002,
    WHO estimates:

    Under age 5: 1,480,000
    Over age 5: 689,000
    Total vaccine-preventable deaths, 2002: 2,169,000
    [Note: that’s over 5,000 per day]

    From CNN:

    “The U.S. Census Bureau projects that AIDS deaths and the loss of future population from the deaths of women of child-bearing age means that by 2010, sub-Saharan Africa will have 71 million fewer people than it would otherwise.”

    From the Guardian Unlimited, citing a report from the Pentagon:,12374,1153530,00.html

    “A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

    “The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

    “‘Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,’ concludes the Pentagon analysis. ‘Once again, warfare would define human life.’

    “The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.”

  24. If the culture of death advocates have their way, the resolve to tackle the very real problems mentioned above will wither and die. A utilitarian ethic creates a utilitarian ethos, and as it streams through the culture the value of the neighbor will be redefined solely in terms of his usefulness to the stronger members of society.

    Interestingly, the solutions proferred by these advocates are fiercly resisted by suffering people in the third world they are ostensibly meant to help. Their policies are a particularly henious form of cultural hegemony.

    Again, quoting Nat Henthoff, if we could only get pro-abortion liberals to think of the fetus as a baby seal in utero, then it would be easier to develop policies that don’t include killing as a way to alleviate suffering. Right now the pro-choice ideologues are the largest roadblock in developing policies that respect life, and a great cause of offense to the culture of those we are obligated to help.

    My question to Jim and Dean: in the standard polemical discourse, your agument functions as an implicit defense of abortion — which it may or may not be. It’s hard to read your real purpose here, since there has been no overt moral condemnation of abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia. I’m not asking for a rehash of the big umbrella argument, which I essentially agree with and support, btw. Nor am I asking for a policy statement (policy gets worked in the give and take of things). I would like more clarity on the foundational moral precepts.

  25. Father Hans: The commnon ground Jim and I share with you is our belief that there is a moral imperative to reduce the number of abortions, particularly those performed for social or economic convenience. We disagree, however, that one’s support of opposition to the outlawing all abortions, serves a toggle switch that defines a person “moral” or “immoral”.

    We may favor a different route toward our common objective of reducing abortions than our more conservative friends, but it is a gross mischaracterization to say that our preferrence for a different approach to reducing abortions amounts to “an implicit defense of abortion.”

    Am I disappointed that the Democratic party has not offered more aggressive proposals to reduce abortion? Yes, I am. Does that make the entire party immoral? No it does not.

    The moral imperative to reduce abortion springs from a deeper reverence for the sanctity of human life and God’s creation. However as the “consistent ethic of life” and Cardinal Bernadin’s “seamless gament of life” demonstrate there is a range of moral issues where one’s position is determined by their reverence for the sanctity of human life, not just abortion.

    Consistency in our reverence for God’s creation rquires taking stands to protect life that has matured beyond the womb, as well as life within it. If we revere life we want to oppose unjust and unnecessary wars. If we revere life we want to make sure that all people are protected against disease and illness. If we revere life we want to make sure that all people have the educational and economic opportunities to fulfill the potential of their lives. If we revere God’s creation, then we recognize that His creation includes not just human life but the entire planet we live on, and we will endeavor to protect the environment.

    Morality is not defined by a single-issue toggle switch, but by an entire dashboard of switches, each one pointing towards the label that says “For Life”, and away from the label that says “Against Life”.

    In truth, neither political party has all its toggle switches pointing in the right direction, so it is impossible to say that one party is the party of morality and the other is not.

  26. Reframing the larger discussion about the ideology of the culture of death vs. the culture of life into a polemical framework of single issue politics is dishonest, but also convenient. The culture of life certainly extends beyond the womb and does not stop in old age. Where you differ from Cardinal Bernadin, despite your profession of allegience to his view, is that you refuse to condemn outright the ideology of the culture of death advocates. Cardinal Bernadin would, I suspect, offer a much more vigorous defense of the defenseless than you have offered so far. The Fathers of the Church certainly did.

  27. Dean’s position is strange. On the one hand he rejects the Church’s teaching on Abortion. He holds that some abortions (not that he has defined which ones – nor will he, I suspect) are morally acceptable, and right and good in God’s eyes. On the other hand, he spills allot of electronic ink trying to convince us, or perhaps just himself, that abortion is does not override other “moral” issues like collectivist economics. He does this mostly by proposing a false moral equivalency between the two parties. It is false because one party clearly subscribes to the culture of death, and follows through with action when it comes to votes. The other party, clearly (although less so than the other party holds to it’s philosophy) holds to a real culture of life, and follows through (again, a bit less than the other party) with it’s votes. Two parties, one for death, the other for life. Clear as a bell. What is also clear is that this issue is more important than all other issues combined, even if you grant fact that the party of death holds the correct view on other issues, which in reality I, and most others, certainly do not grant.

    So, contrary to what Dean says of himself, he consistently argues against the Church and in defense of abortion, the most important and urgent issue of the day. I could somewhat understand his motivation for all this spilt ink if he actually did assent to the Church’s position on abortion, which he does not. So the question in my mind, is why? Why does he try to convince others something which he does not himself even need to believe, namely that neither party is better than the other one and/or that the culture of death party actually is not a culture of death party? Since he supports abortions in some cases, why does he want to tell us, or the Church?

  28. Christopher: How do you twist my statement that I believe there is “a moral imperative to reduce the number of abortions” into “he rejects the Church’s teaching on Abortion”? I have stated repeatedly that the number of abortions should be sharply reduced. Therefore the only way I can be in conflict with my Church is if my Church wants to see the number of abortions increased.

    As far as I know the Church teaches individuals that abortion is not an acceptable moral choice, but the Church has not advocated any particular political position on the issue. Where is the declaration or encyclical by any Orthodox Church advocating that all abortion procedures be outlawed? There is none because the Orthodox Church has wisely stayed out of politics and preferred to address the issue as a moral choice for the individual believers.

    Father Greeley keenly observed that instead of being viewed positively for advising women to make wise moral choices regarding abortion, the US Catholic Bishops have instead often perceived negatively as “trying to take away the rights of women to control their bodies.”

    When I hear pro-choice advocates talk about abortion as if having the procedure was some sort of affirmation of gender equality it reminds me of those old Virginia Slims cigarrete commercials. I would see the women in those ads posing boldly with their cigarettes, and think, “You want to demonstrate your equality … by getting lung cancer?”

    Abortion is a terrible personal moral choice, but by taking the debate into the political arena and focusing all efforts on achieving total prohibition, pro-life advocates have created other distracting, confounding issues. This approach has provoked many women into seeing abortion as a civil rights and personal freedoms issue rather than a moral issue.

    To achieve real progress in reducing abortions we need to focus more on abortion as a personal issue, teaching our young people to behave responsibly, giving support and encouragement to young frightened pregnant women who carry their babies to term, and starting new initiatives to encourage adoption.

  29. Ah, but Dean, here is where you reasoning gets downright silly. To argue, as you do, that because the Church has not had a council and agreed exactly how abortion should be illegal in these fifty states, you actually seem to believe that you have wiggle room. Enough to actually think you can so support the culture of death.

    Dean, really, do you honestly think that the Church teaches that “the number of abortions should be reduced”? Is that really what you want us to believe that you believe?. Dean, the Church teaches no such thing. Those words, “reduce the number of abortions”, are pure obfuscation. I could go on Dean, I could say that Pro-life advocates have not confused the issue one little bit by calling for the plain good thing of criminalizing abortion, but I think it is a waste, because I don’t believe you. I don’t believe someone who on the one hand argues for sweeping powers of the state, then on the other says the state has no place in simple things like law and order, keeping the peace between neighbors (i.e. not allowing one to murder the other).

    Dean, in November, you will knowingly and willingly lend your assent, and contribute what you can, to the culture of death. Your actions will speak much louder than your tortured words on this blog…

  30. Fr. Hans writes: “My question to Jim and Dean: in the standard polemical discourse, your agument functions as an implicit defense of abortion – which it may or may not be. It’s hard to read your real purpose here, since there has been no overt moral condemnation of abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia. I’m not asking for a rehash of the big umbrella argument, which I essentially agree with and support, btw. Nor am I asking for a policy statement (policy gets worked in the give and take of things). I would like more clarity on the foundational moral precepts.”

    The arguments I’ve seen presented here are largely that one has an absolute moral obligation *not* to vote for any pro-choice candidate, and in the case of of an Orthdox believer that would be an absolute religious obligation as well.

    What I’ve tried to do is to present arguments that show that one could reasonably vote for a pro-choice candidate, since most of the discussion has focused on this issue. So let me first talk about this issue.

    From an Orthodox point of view, as far as I know there is no specific teaching on how an Orthodox believer should vote on specific issues. In the piece from Fr. Hopko that I quoted, he was quite insistent on that. From a Catholic point of view Dean noted that even Cardinal Ratzinger agreed that a Catholic could vote for a pro-choice candidate, given the presence of other important issues and that the vote wasn’t based on the candidate’s pro-choice position.

    From a philosophical point of view, over the last 20 years I have heard many arguments why the abortion of a fetus at any and all stages of development should be considered murder. While I respect those arguments and believe that a rational person could hold that position, it is not a position that I find compelling. Looking at the larger church tradition in the west, the church (talking West here, not East) did not always have a blanket condemnation of abortion. Reaching back into the mists of memory here, as I recall even Sts. Augustine and Thomas did not hold that the fetus was a person or “ensouled” during the entirety of its development. In addition, there were other very long stretches stretches of Western church history in which the church did not have an absolute prohibition against abortion. Likewise in the Jewish tradition, and we even see this in chapter 21 of Exodus, in which the death of a fetus is treated as a property issue.

    Concerning political candidates, the Democratic party has been referred to here as the “party of death.” But what of the Republican party? In a poll in January 2003 28 percent of Republicans said that abortion should not be permitted, compared with 21 percent of Democrats. So the membership of the parties of “life” and “death” are separated on this issue by 7 percent . . . . In addition, I don’t believe there has been any poll in recent years that shows that an absolutist anti-abortion position has any more than the support of 20 percent of the population; typically it is much less.

    While I don’t think that morality should be defined by polling results, it is instructive to note that most people in the country simply do not agree with the absolutist position. This may mean that most of the people in the country are immoral supporters of the culture of death, or it may mean that the absolutist position is simply not very convincing and that this is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree. My guess is that the idea that a vote for a pro-choice candidate is always immoral would have extremely little support in the larger society.

    As with abortion, so with gay marriage. A recent (June 2004) poll by the Barna Group (conservative religious polling organization) found that “Although few Americans are homosexual, and most adults believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and woman, many Americans believe that this is a ‘gray area’ of morality that is best left without tight legal definitions. George Barna, who directed the study, noted that even many born again Christians are not convinced that their definition of marriage should be codified into law.” The “party of life,” a.k.a. Republicans, in this poll supported the amendment by a 56 percent majority, which leaves 44 percent on the other side or undecided.

    As a non-Orthodox person who favors limits on abortion and opposes a gay marriage amendment, I find myself in good company, by a clear majority on abortion and a small minority on gay marriage.

    But to be honest, in all of such discussions here, I get the feeling that the discourse is really not about a discussion of the issues. Some participants here seem most interested in extracting some kind of absolutist anti-abortion “confession,” or shibboleth. Christopher, who can’t even stand to read my scandalous posts, seems primarily interested in defining who is or is not Orthodox based on how a person votes. In short, much of the discussion here seems aimed at separating the sheep from the goats, so to speak, and church tradition and canons are used as weapons to beat people into submission.

    In this regard I am reminded of a passage in _The Freedom of Morality_, by Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras, a book recommended to me by Fr. Hans several years ago. In a section of the book titled “The legalistic interpretation of the canons” Yannaras writes

    “In a climate of legalism and moralism, the canons no longer distinguish life from death; their function ceases to be one of revelation and liberation, of healing and care. They operate as a ruthless code of moral legislation which evaluates individual transgressions and metes out exemplary punishments.

    “The legalistic and moralistic interpretation of the canons introduces into liturgical life the criteria of individual justification, and so a mentality completely opposite to the truth of salvation. It therefore has consequences diametrically opposed to those intended by the life of the Church. Instead of caring for sinners and healing them, instead of comforting man, wounded and degraded as he is by sin, it leads to fear and guilt, the threat of condemnation and the shadow of of death. Those who ‘faithfully observe the canons,’ the ‘pure,’ are usually people who need a frameork of law to give them security as individuals. Thus they come to inflict merciless punishment on all those ‘insignificant’ people who constitute a provocation to objective moralistic standards by their very presence, their tragic struggle between failing and repentance. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is fulfilled in history once again, with the Law and the observance of regulations always at its root.” [pg. 189]

  31. Dean, are serious in stating that the pro-lifers forced pro-choicers into framing abortion as a civil rights issue. Talk about an Orwellian rewrite of history. You have to study the history of the movement more. Start with “Aborting America” (don’t know if it is still in print) by Bernard Nathanson, a founding member of NARAL (now Pro-Choice America), and convert to the pro-life cause.

    This really is a foolish statement. The reason abortion was framed as a civil rights was to undermine the moral prohibition and accompanying stigma against it. Pro-lifers did not invent this prohibition out of whole cloth. It comes from the received moral tradition, hence the existence of the stigma in the first place.

    You also need to read the Church Fathers on abortion. I can give the link here (I’m sitting in the airport), but do a search since its on my site. You think present day pro-lifers talk tough? You sensibilities will really be offended by the Fathers.

  32. Father Hans: On that point I didn’t convey my meaning clearly. I meant to say, as you do, that civil rights and personal freedom arguments distract and divert the discussion away from the far more urgent moral issues at hand.

    It’s as if someone proposed outlawing cigarette smoking and instead of talking about the health dangers of smoking, the entire discussion turned into a fierce debate on whether government should have the right to take away freedom to smoke. Obviously abortion is a much, much more important topic than smoking, but you can see the parallels.

    So why give the pro-abortion extremists the opportunity to change the topic and divert the discussion? Instead of having a discussion about women’s “rights” we should be having a discusion about “choices.” Is pregnancy a very real result of irresponsible sexual behavior? Of course! Is a risky, medically-invasive procedure a wise form of birth control? Hardly. Is your growing fetus a person? Yes, and if you give him/her a chance it will probably be a person you will love very much. What does it mean to end the life of someone who could be a person you would love? It means you made a terrible mistake.

    America is a religious country, much more religious than Europe where the pews of the large Cathedrals are frequently vacant. Over time I see the public overwhelmingly rejecting the central argument of Roe v. Wade, that the fetus is not a person, and all the legal reasoning behind that Supreme Court decision will collapse like a house of cards, just like , the infamous “separate, but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, following Brown v. Board of education. Time is on the side of the pro-life movement, but hearts and minds have to be changed before laws, and focusing the argument on the right issues will facilitate that.

  33. Dean, I’m not quite sure what your point is since any discussion defending abortion requires a diversion from the truth that an unborn child has value. How could it be anything else?

  34. Jim, in terms of such travesties as partial birth abortion or abortion on demand, yes, the condemnation is “absolutist” to use your term.

    In terms of how policy is best implemented, that has not been discussed.

  35. One or more Saints opinion on ethical matters does not trump the universal witness of the Church.

    This, from the Didache [A.D. 70]: “The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2).

  36. [Oops … sent the previous post before its time!]

    Anyway, I can’t speak for St Augustine, but there was a time when miscarriages were treated the same as abortions within the context of confession, penance, etc. When reading ancient writings on the topic, we must keep this in mind. (Along with the fact that Saints are not infallible.)

    Secondly, we live in an age where abortion is not only legal but federally funded by tax dollars. Abortion, like homosexuality is not new. Federal recognition and blessing of such is.

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