Supporting an Imperfect Law
As prolifers, we strive to have the law to protect all human beings from conception to natural death with no exceptions.
In recent times, we have seen efforts to get the law to offer protection to some of the unborn. Rachel Carling-Jenkins introduced the Infant Viability Bill into Victorian Parliament. It would have protected babies after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It would not have affected babies before that age. The bill was defeated in the Victorian Upper House by a 27 to 11 vote.
When the Victorian Parliament legalised abortion in 2008, Bernie Finn and Peter Kavanagh moved several amendments in attempts to reduce the damage done by the Victorian law.
The Texas legislature recently passed a law requiring abortion facilities to have at least the same health standards as facilities doing other surgeries. Most of Texas’s abortion clinics would not have met these standards. Many closed, and others would have had to spend large amounts of money upgrading them. Women seeking abortions would have to travel much further to obtain an abortion and some would have second thoughts about having the abortion. The US Supreme Court overturned the law by a 5-3 decision, on the grounds that it would have been too difficult for a woman to have an abortion.
There have been other laws passed or submitted that would protect some lives. Several years ago, the US legislature passed a bill banning partial birth abortion. Because of a veto by President Clinton and later on rejection by the US Supreme Court, it was several years before the bill became law. The prolonged debate over the bill helped change the opinion of many, as the evil of this form of abortion is so obvious.
More recently, bills have been passed in some US states to ban dismemberment abortion, the most common method used in the second trimester. While the bills will probably be rejected by the US Supreme Court, their efforts highlighted the brutality of abortion.
Undercover work by Lila Rose, who showed that Planned Parenthood(PP) covered up statutory rape of underage girls, and David Daleiden, who exposed PP’s illegal profits from sale of body parts of unborn babies, some states have stopped providing funds to PP. The adverse publicity to Planned Parenthood may also dissuade some women from seeking abortions.
Clearly, the above proposed laws were imperfect as they would only save some unborn babies. This raised the question Can we support such laws?
In Evangelium vitae (article 73) St John Paul wrote:
In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it”.
A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations–particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation–there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.
I have no doubt that most of those voting or campaigning against the above laws, believed the proponents of the law were against all abortions. Certainly, Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote Supreme Court decision overturning the Texas law, saw it as an attempt to reduce the number of abortions.
While the statement of St John Paul can be considered his personal opinion, his opinion is enough for me from a moral point of view.
Another consideration may be one of prudence. There is the danger that reaction against attempts to ban some abortions may stir up opponents to produce even worse laws. It is not easy to think of worse laws than those in Victoria at present. California has recently passed laws that require all hospitals to perform abortions, and there are attempts to require all obstetrician-gynaecologists to perform abortions. Obviously, we have to fight these attempts.
Most pro-abortion people want us to accept abortion as a settled issue. Lila Rose recently pointed out that our struggle can help change the culture. “We need to expose and defund the abortion industry,” she said. “As long as Planned Parenthood is being propped up by taxpayer dollars, they have power that they shouldn’t have.”
“But first and foremost, the battle is the culture,” she said. “And that’s actually where it’s very inspiring and encouraging because many people are being persuaded.”
“When you actually give people the facts, when you approach them with love—but with truth–people do flip on the pro-life issue,” she said.
If we save one life, our efforts are worth it. The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants have saved many babies, as have the volunteers at Pregnancy Counselling Centres.
There is no doubt that Lila Rose and David Daleiden and others are doing their part to change the culture. It is up to us to do our best to follow suit.
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