Sunday, September 6, 2015

On Pope Francis and abortion: a reply to Fritzie Rodriguez of Rappler

Photo credit: "Human fetus 10 weeks with amniotic sac" by Jacopo Werther

Fritzie Rodriguez of Rappler has written a piece entitled, "On abortion, the Pope, priests should not dictate on women: Calling abortion a sin does not help solve anything, and most definitely, giving priests the power to 'absolve' women does absolutely nothing." This is an interesting piece since it reveals to us how pro-abortion advocates think. So let us discuss each of Fritzie's major points.

1. Abortion does not bring extreme harm. Abortion in itself does not cause death. 

The statement "abortion does not bring extreme harm" does not negate the statement "abortion does bring harm." In Filipino, one thing may not be extremely harmful or bad ("masamang-masama") but it can still be harmful nevertheless ("masama").

The statement "abortion in itself does not cause death" is only partly true. Indeed, the woman may not die if she undergoes abortion. Nevertheless, someone else really dies and it is the baby in her womb.

What if the woman is Fritzie's mother and the baby was Fritzie? If her mother aborted her, Fritzie won't be anymore clamoring for abortion rights now. And there would be one less lonely people in the world. But we are glad that Fritzie's mother didn't abort her, even if Fritzie turned out to be pro-abortion. There is always hope for the repentance of a sinner even at the last moment of his or her life, for even a thief can steal heaven:
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”w 43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:42-43)
And the angels in heaven anxiously await the day of Fritzie's conversion. As Christ said:
I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.f
Welcome to the post-partum world, Fritzie! Let's celebrate "Your-Mother-Didn't-Abort-You" day. Well, that's just a long way to say, "Happy Birthday!"

2. Why do women die? Because they do not receive safe medical abortions. Why? Because it is illegal in the Philippines....Making it illegal doesn't mean women would stop getting abortions. What such policing only does is push women to getting unsafe ones.

I admire Fritzie for trying to determine the root cause of why women die during abortions, in the same way as Aquinas would search for the Primary Cause in proving the existence of God:
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God. (Summa Theologica, P. 1, Q. 2, A. 3)
For Fritzie, the primary cause of why women die is because abortion is illegal in the Philippines. Because abortion is illegal, then women go to unsafe abortions. Because women go to unsafe abortions, women die. But Fritzie failed to consider the following efficient cause:
  • Women die because of abortion.
Ingesting chemicals the morning after intercourse to prevent the newly conceived life from latching on to the uterine walls is already dangerous to the woman's health. Hey, that's poison! Undergoing surgery to remove the baby piecemeal from the womb--feet, arms, body, head--is even more dangerous to the woman. Here's a sample list of potential side effects (Department of Health & Hospitals, State of Louisiana):
  • Pelvic infection
  • Incomplete abortion
  • Blood clots in the uterus
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Cut or torn cervix
  • Perforation of the uterus walls
  • Anesthesia-related complications
  • Rh immune globulin therapy
  • Future childbearing difficulty
And Fritzie failed to mention about what happens to women after abortion:
A study of the medical records of 56,741 California medicaid patients revealed that women who had abortions were 160 percent more likely than delivering women to be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment in the first 90 days following abortion or delivery. Rates of psychiatric treatment remained significantly higher for at least four years.1,3...A 2006 study published in Sleep, the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, found that women who experienced abortion were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders or disturbances compared to women who gave birth.(27)....Since many post-abortive women use repression as a coping mechanism, there may be a long period of denial before a woman seeks psychiatric care. These repressed feelings may cause psychosomatic illnesses and psychiatric or behavioral in other areas of her life. As a result, some counselors report that unacknowledged post-abortion distress is the causative factor in many of their female patients, even though their patients have come to them seeking therapy for seemingly unrelated problems. (5) (

3. There is something odd, if not ironic, with how a patriarchal institution like the Catholic Church is dictating women to ask for forgiveness for deciding to take control over their own bodies. 

For the simple reason that the baby is not anymore part of the woman's body, even if the baby is inside the woman's body. The baby in the womb is an entirely different person with his or her unique DNA, in the same way as a baby dolphin is a unique animal in its mother's womb. If you are not sure if that clump of cells is actually a human being, the most prudent thing to do is to wait and see.  After 9 months, the baby is born which looks like Fritzie with head, arms, legs, and body. And it cries in pain. Well, it could have been Fritzie herself. Perhaps, Fritzie can tell us at what point in her development in her mother's womb is she not yet human and why she should still be called human now that she is an adult. As we say in Filipino:
Madali ang maging tao. Mahirap ang magpakatao. (To be human is easy. To be humane is difficult.)
The reason why Catholic Church asks women to go to confession and ask forgiveness for their sins is not just because God despises such practice:
Instead they set up their abominations in the house which bears my name in order to defile it.r 35 They built high places to Baal in the Valley of Ben-hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech;* I never commanded them to do this, nor did it even enter my mind that they would practice this abomination, so as to bring sin upon Judah. (Jer 32:34-35)
But also because Christ gave the Church the power to forgive sins:
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,m “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 * n Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn 20:22-23)
And that women needs to hear that they were forgiven for their psychological healing--something that no amount of psychiatrical medicines and psychoanalytical methods can fully replace. As Christ said to the woman caught in adultery:
Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”
Perhaps, it is ironic that the most patriarchal institution such as the Catholic Church is actually more sympathetic to the plight of women than women who advocated for abortion.

4. These men do not know why these "sinful women" had abortions. Perhaps they were raped by a stranger, a friend, or even a relative. Some were sold into the sex industry, some were intimidated by a partner, and some were mired in so much poverty that they could not bring it upon themselves to introduce a child into a life of suffering. 

Fritzie can be assured that the Catholic Church already knows all the possible reasons why women had abortions.  The Catholic Church has a long memory spanning at least 2,000 years and it has heard many, many, many stories of women who underwent abortion. As Pope Francis himself said when he declared the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on Nov 2016:

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

And from this data together with its deposit of Faith, the Church pronounces that abortion is indeed harmful not only for the baby (because it dies in the process), but also for the woman as well. This pronouncement is like a road sign that says: DANGER: CLIFF AHEAD. Drivers can ignore this road sign at their peril, and the evidence of the truth of the road sign is the number of people whose lives were destroyed because they disobeyed the warning. The same is true with abortion.

Abortion is not the last option for those who were raped, sold into the sex industry, intimidated by their partners, or mired by poverty. The women can always bring the baby to term and offer it up for adoption, as the mother of Steve Jobs did:
Still, Jobs put everything into perspective when he said his biological parents could have subjected him to an abortion, and explained to Isaacson why he wanted to find his biological mother. When he finally met birth mother Joanne Schieble, she burst into tears as she apologized for placing him for adoption. “I wanted to meet [her] mostly to see if she was OK and to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion,” he said. “She was 23 and she went through a lot to have me.” “Don’t worry,” Jobs responded. “I had a great childhood. I turned out OK.” (Life News)
Had Steve Jobs' mother aborted him, there would be no iPhone for Fritzie.

5. Not all Filipinos are aware of how babies are made, as many grew up with no sexuality education at school and at home. Ignorance, however, does not stop them from having sex. 

The problem with Fritzie's conception of sexuality education is that it is very narrow: how to avoid pregnancy. True sexuality education should tell about the dignity of male and female bodies and the dignity of sexual intercourse in the context of marriage for creating babies for the next generation. The media is now the primary educator of our youth, and yet the media failed to take on this responsibility. Instead, the media, such as in films and TV shows, glorified promiscuous dresses, fornication, extra-marital affairs, gay sex, and other behaviors beneath the dignity of a human person. The media failed to promote the only responsible and safe sexual intercourse: not by using a condom but by putting on a wedding ring and making the marriage vows--"to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part".

6. With the Catholic Church going against sexuality education, how do you expect the number of teenage pregnancies to go down? And with the Catholic Church exclusively supporting the natural family planning method and abstinence, while also actively opposing modern contraception, it is no wonder the number of unwanted pregnancies remains high.

Teenage pregnancies are not bad in themselves, as long as the women are married. At the height of the Roman Empire's glory, the Roman women were already married as teenagers and from them came the babies who are the future senators and legionnaires of the empire. A woman with a dozen sons can afford to send half of them to the frontiers of the empire and the other half to work in the city of Rome. But once women engage in adultery and practice contraception and abortion (lest their extramarital affairs bore fruit for all to see), the strength of the Roman empire diminished and it has to hire barbarian hordes to defend the empire, which ultimately led to the downfall of Rome.

Abstinence for the unmarried is the best form of birth control, because it has no side effects. Natural family planning for the married also has no side effects: its purpose to understand the reproductive cycles in a woman's body in order to know when she is fertile or not, so that the couple can plan accordingly when they will engage in intercourse. The problem with modern forms of contraception is that the responsibility falls only on one of the partners: either the man wears a condom or the woman takes the pill. Natural family planning, on the other hand, requires the husband and the wife to constantly communicate with each other to determine the signs of times, and this engenders mutual respect. Indeed, the science of the human body has already advanced so much that there is no more need for artificial methods of birth control. One example of such science of fertility care is naProTechnology:
NaProTECHNOLOGY uses the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System biomarkers to monitor easily and objectively the occurrence of various hormonal events during the menstrual cycle. NaProtracking provides valid information that can be interpreted by a woman and by physicians who are specifically trained in this system. Unlike common suppressive or destructive approaches, NaProTECHNOLOGY works cooperatively with the procreative and gynecologic systems. When these systems function abnormally, NaProTECHNOLOGY identifies the problems and cooperates with the menstrual and fertility cycles that correct the condition, maintain the human ecology, and sustain the procreative potential. Women now have an opportunity to know and understand the causes of the symptoms from which they suffer.

Abortion may not bring extreme harm to the woman, but it still harms her, whether physically or psychologically. Abortion may not kill the woman--this is true, but someone else dies and it is her baby. The problem of women dying because of unsafe abortions should not be attributed to abortion being illegal in the country; rather, it is precisely because of the violent nature of abortion itself, which can kill the woman, if not by the hands of the doctor, then by her own hands through suicide, as a way to relieve herself of the traumas after abortion. The Catholic Church may be a patriarchal institution, but it defends the true rights and welfare of women than pro-abortionists, because the role model of the Church is a woman that is most blessed among women--Mary, who is both a Virgin and a Mother. The media is now the primary educator of the youth, but it failed in its responsibility in educating them on the true dignity of sexual intercourse within the context of marriage. Teenage pregnancy is not bad in itself, if seen within the context of marriage. Each child born should be seen as a human resource and not as a liability. That is why the child must be raised well. The Catholic Church is not against family planning because this is part of responsible parenthood.  What the Church is against is unnatural family planning methods which are hazardous to women's health or which would demean the dignity of a woman to an object for the sexual satisfaction of the man. Indeed, the science of human reproduction has already come a long way that it is now possible to take care of one's fertility through natural means without having to recourse to condoms and pills.
Bioethics, Law, and Human Life Issues: A Catholic Perspective on Marriage, Family, Contraception, Abortion, Reproductive Technology, and Death and Dying (Catholic Social Thought)
Bioethics, Law, and Human Life Issues: A Catholic Perspective on Marriage, Family, Contraception, Abortion, Reproductive Technology, and Death and Dying (Catholic Social Thought)
Five Non Negotiables-The Catholic Church's Teaching on Abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning, and Same-Sex 'Marriage'
Five Non Negotiables-The Catholic Church's Teaching on Abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning, and Same-Sex 'Marriage'
Beyond Abortion: A Chronicle of Fetal Experimentation
Beyond Abortion: A Chronicle of Fetal Experimentation
The Healing Choice: Your Guide to Emotional Recovery After an Abortion
The Healing Choice: Your Guide to Emotional Recovery After an Abortion
Repairing His Story: Abortion Stress Recovery for Men - Leader's Guide
Repairing His Story: Abortion Stress Recovery for Men - Leader's Guide
Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media: Analysis and Criticism of Unrealistic Portrayals and Their Influence
Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media: Analysis and Criticism of Unrealistic Portrayals and Their Influence
The NaPro Technology Revolution: Unleashing the Power in a Woman's Cycle
The Press and Abortion: 1838-1988 (Routledge Communication Series)
A Child Is Born
A Child Is Born