Let me put in a plug for George Dennis O’Brien’s new book, The Church and Abortion: A Catholic Dissent. No doubt that last word will immediately cause many pro-life Catholics to turn away without a second thought. But as my friend Michael Sean Winters likes to emphasize about himself (e.g. here), it’s often from people with whom you disagree that you learn the most.
O’Brien, a former college president, is a philosopher by training who brings to the superheated abortion debate dispassionate prose, orderly arguments, and pointed questions–especially for his pro-life co-religionists. For example: If the latter are serious about forswearing criminal charges against women who obtain abortions, how can they justify calling abortion murder?
To Catholic politicians who support Roe v. Wade he says:
Stop trying to avoid the issue by saying that you are personally opposed to abortion or that you accept the Church’s views on abortion, but it is not your responsibility as a legislator to impose your moral will on the country. That is a cop-out. Anti-slavery legislators in the nineteenth century did not retreat into personal opinion or religious cover–they thought that there was something wrong with the law of the land that needed radical change. The problem with abortion for a sensible legislator is not whether it is right or wrong, religious or impious; it is that it cannot be legislated away. When rounded on by one’s local bishop for “supporting abortion,” don’t duck for cover–ask the bishop just what law he would recommend that would accomplish the prohibition of abortion. You won’t likely get an answer.
But that doesn’t mean that the bishop–and the rest of the pro-life community–shouldn’t be obliged to come up with one.