Opposition to Contraception and Pregnancy Termination Is A Hypocritical And Inhumane Denial of Human Rights
June 5, 2018
“Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilisation, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.”
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae (Of Human Life), 1968.
Unfortunately generalisations such as the one above do not address the affective disorders, morbid addictions, and intricate social realities that plague the lives of many people. Yet despite the Catholic church’s position on contraception and abortion, Ireland recently voted by a landslide to legalise abortion in what was a stunning result delivering a dramatic defeat for the Catholic church’s one-time domination of the Republic. While the Irish vote may be seen as a refreshing sign of progress for women\s rights, the reality is still quite different in many countries including the U.S. where the administration of the sexist Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump is intent on rolling back women’s health care and family planning services. https://bit.ly/2DPPgRt
While anti-abortion activists — who at times resort to virulence and violence — maintain that their opposition to abortion is due to concern for the “sanctity of human life,” they have historically and hypocritically failed to practice what they preach. How for example do they explain their lack of concern over Nazi Germany’s Final Solution to the Jewish Question; their lack of concern over the more than 20 million people in 37 “victim nations” who have been killed by the U.S. since World War Two https://bit.ly/2ymNssN; their lack of concern over the genocidal barbarity currently occurring in Yemen and Myanmar (Burma); their lack of concern over 70 years of still ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine; and their lack of concern over the 11 million children who die every year mainly from preventable causes https://bit.ly/2g0ftww. Does the “sanctity of life” not apply to all these innocent victims? Are their lives not sacred, holy, and precious? And what about the sanctity of a woman's right to control her own destiny?
“Reproductive freedom is critical to a whole range of issues. If we can’t take charge of this most personal aspect of our lives, we can’t take care of anything. It should not be seen as a privilege or as a benefit, but a fundamental human right.”
Faye Wattleton, the first African American and youngest president ever elected to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Reproductive freedom has not always been subject to Catholic opposition and not only did they not view early abortions as being abortions, but many prominent Catholics saw nothing wrong with compiling lists of known abortifacient herbs and the discovery of new ones. In her treatises, the 12th century abbess and later saint Hidegard of Bingen https://bit.ly/1OLtKM8 recommended tansy as an effective abortifacient. In the 13th century the physician and cleric Peter of Spain https://bit.ly/2IUM1a3 wrote a book called Thesaurus Pauperum (literally Treasure of the Poor) containing a long list of early-stage abortifacients, including rue, pennyroyal, and other mints. Peter of Spain subsequently became Pope John XXI in 1276.
Laws prohibiting abortions are a relatively recent development so that even in the early Roman Catholic church, abortion was permitted for male foetuses in the first 40 days of pregnancy and for female foetuses in the first 80-90 days. Apart from the question of how they were able to establish the gender of foetuses without the benefit of ultrasound scans, there is also the issue of gender discrimination as still practiced in some Asian countries including India, the biggest “democracy.” in the world https://bit.ly/2skKVx6 .
It was not until 1588 that Pope Sixtus V declared all abortions were murder, with excommunication being the punishment. Three years later, however, a new pope concluded that the absolute sanction was unworkable and again allowed early abortions. Three hundred years then passed before the Catholic church under Pius IX again declared all abortions as being murder. This declaration of 1869, has since remained the official position of the Catholic church.
In 1920 the Soviet Union became the first modern state to formally legalise abortion with the procedure being readily available in state operated facilities during the early period following the 1917 revolution. These facilities were, however, eventually closed and abortion made illegal when it became apparent that the Soviet Union would have to defend itself against Nazi Germany. After World War Two, when women were being encouraged to enter the labor force, abortion was once again made legal.
Such examples illustrate the fact that abortion legislation can be determined by economic and military necessity, the requirement for cheap labour, and the drive to promote consumerism. The legal history of many countries on the question of abortion including the U.S. is a testament to the reality that it is men, and not women, who define “morality” with regards to abortion. Pressure for reform in the U.S led to 14 states in1973 liberalising their existing abortion laws, and the US Supreme Court finally ruled that that a state law banning abortions except to save the life of the mother was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment https://bit.ly/2DtiMIH
.Despite that landmark Supreme Court ruling, efforts to deny women the right to choose are once again being championed by men — who despite new laws and new attitudes toward women and abortion — still define and dominate the decision making process regarding a woman's right to have an abortion as is evident from a recently passed bill in Mississippi https://bit.ly/2GxoETI.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
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