During my first year as a Dominican friar in 2007 at St. Albert the Great Priory and Novitiate in Irving, Texas, I had the honor of meeting a certain female public figure I had read and heard about through the years. Before moving to the Novitiate, I had no idea that she lived in the area and would visit regularly. She was a former non-Catholic pro-choice advocate, who had become Roman Catholic years earlier in 1998, through the help of various priests, including my Dominican brother, Father Matt (Edward) Robinson, O.P., a pro-life defender of the unborn. This woman would visit Father Matt regularly at the Priory to hear him preach at Holy Mass and to receive instruction from him through the pro-life talks and Catechism class he offered there. She usually had many questions for him whenever she visited. He was a real spiritual Father to her who directed her spiritually and doctrinally in Catholic faith and morals. This especially involved teaching her about the sacred dignity of unborn human life from a Catholic understanding. In this sense, she certainly matured in Christ as a believing, practicing Roman Catholic under the direction of Father Matt. I, myself, witnessed firsthand the fruits of this formation in Christ. Indeed, Christ was at work in her efficaciously. For instance, I recall her telling me in tears one day about her sorrow for the sinful life she had lived in the past, including her sorrow for all the people she had malformed during those years, but she also told me about the happiness and gratitude in her heart for the grace of repentance that she eventually received from Christ. Father Matt certainly had a part in helping her to open her heart to this grace ministerially. By the mercy he offered her in his teaching, counseling, and sacramental ministry, he guided her, as a good shepherd, to become the disciple Christ created and redeemed her to be. You may be asking yourself: Who could this female public figure be? Who was she? Her legal name was Norma (Nelson) McCorvey, but many of you would have first known her publically by another name. In 1970, she used the pseudonym, Jane Roe, for herself as the plaintiff who sued the state of Texas in the lawsuit, Roe vs. Wade. In this case, she sued for the right to procure an abortion legally and safely in Texas where abortion was illegal at the time.
II. ROE VS. WADE
In 1969, Norma, originally from Louisiana, but raised in Texas, became pregnant for a third time in Texas at the age of 22. Her first child was raised by her mother and the second was adopted by another family. During this third pregnancy, Norma decided that she had no interest in leaving another child, once again, for someone else to raise or adopt, but neither did she have any interest in raising the child herself. As a woman who was living in poverty and suffering from an addiction to drugs at the time, she claimed that she was neither ready nor prepared to be a mother to a child. In her mind, how could she care for a child if she could not even properly care for herself, personally and financially? As a result, she decided that she wanted to terminate the pregnancy. She wanted an abortion. The problem for her was that in her home state of Texas, as in most other states at the time, abortion was prohibited except when the life of the woman was in danger. For this reason, after consulting and hiring Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington as lawyers to legally represent her, Norma McCorvey filed suit in 1970 under the name Jane Roe as a plaintiff against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, for the right to end her pregnancy legally and safely by abortion. At the same time, because Coffee and Weddington knew that Roe vs. Wade would never be resolved in time before McCorvey gave birth to her third child, they filed the case as a class-action lawsuit in Texas on behalf of all women, particularly fertile women, who wanted the choice to have an abortion if they ever became pregnant. In this lawsuit, Coffee and Weddington argued that the abortion law in the state of Texas was unconstitutional and illegal primarily because this law denied women their right to privacy, including McCorvey herself, as protected by the United States Constitution. McCorvey was certainly not the first plaintiff to challenge a state abortion law as unconstitutional, but she was the first plaintiff whose case, Roe vs. Wade, received a favorable ruling in a state court that worked through the appeals process and eventually reached the Supreme Court as a class-action suit on behalf of all women in the United States.
A. SUPREME COURT DECISION
On January 22, 1973, the Justices of the United States Supreme Court finally decided by a 7-2 vote in Roe vs. Wade that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives a woman in America a right to privacy that protects her right to an abortion under the medical consultation and treatment of a physician licensed by the state. At the same time, they also decided that this is not an absolute constitutional right for a woman, but only a relative or qualified right for her under civil law. For them, this relative right to an abortion would have to be regulated by being balanced against the government’s interests in protecting both the health of the woman and what they call the potentiality of her unborn human life. As such, they resolved this balancing act by legally requiring states, including licensed physicians, to define the three trimesters of pregnancy as regulatory norms or standards that would inform any decision about whether a pregnant woman could abort her potential human life. In this sense, as a relative right for her, she would certainly have the freedom to abort this potential human person under a licensed doctor during the first trimester of her pregnancy but could be prohibited from aborting him during her second and third trimesters because of the government’s interests in protecting her health and the potentiality of human life. According to the Supreme Court Justices, those interests that the government has in protecting both the pregnant woman and her unborn increase and become compelling at certain stages during her pregnancy as she gradually approaches to term. In other words, in their judgment, the further a woman advances through her three trimesters of pregnancy, the more the state becomes compelled to regulate abortion as a means of protecting the aforesaid government interests.
As for the interest of the government in protecting the health of the woman, the compelling stage for the state to regulate abortion by prohibiting such a procedure is at the end of the first trimester, not before, because until the end of this trimester the mortality for the woman who aborts would be comparable to the mortality in normal childbirth. That is to say, before the end of the first trimester a state would only regulate abortion by requiring that this procedure be done legally and safely for the woman by a licensed physician, but the state could not prohibit her from having the abortion during the first trimester of her pregnancy because here the procedure would be as safe or safer for her than normal childbirth. Conversely, after this first stage, at the end of the first trimester, the state may reasonably regulate abortion by prohibiting this procedure during the second and third trimesters due to the increased dangers that both the woman and the potentiality of her unborn human life would be subjected to during these stages of pregnancy.
In terms of the government’s interest in protecting potential unborn human life from these dangers, the compelling stage for the state to regulate abortion by prohibiting this procedure for the protection of such life is at viability. This is from the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy. On this basis, the Supreme Court Justices decided that a woman does not have an absolute or unqualified right to an abortion under civil law, but only a relative right that she could only use conditionally at an approved facility under the treatment and counsel of a licensed physician.
1. FIRST TRIMESTER
First of all, in this decision, the Justices determined that during the first trimester (0-12 weeks), before viability, the government could not prohibit a woman at all from aborting the potentiality of her unborn human life under a licensed physician because at this early stage of development such a potential human life is not viable outside of her. Viability here refers to the gestational age when an unborn human life can sustain itself outside of its mother. According to medical science, at this age, 0-12 weeks, it would not be viable under such circumstances. It could not live as a human zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus outside of its mother during the first trimester of her pregnancy. It would die, for it would not have the required maturation as a human being to sustain itself. As such, here the Supreme Court Justices determined that a woman has a constitutional right to abort her non-viable human life because in this first trimester it would not have the capacity to live outside of her as a normal human being. Moreover, they also decided that the safest time for a woman to have an abortion for the good of her health would be during this first trimester of her pregnancy (0-12 weeks). In this sense, an abortion here would neither be harmful to her health nor a danger to her life, at least not normally. All the same, for the Supreme Court Justices, a woman’s right to have an abortion would have to be supported by the medical judgment of her physician. In other words, she would have to receive a consultation and recommendation from her doctor who would be free to determine, without regulatory prohibition by the state, that her pregnancy should be terminated. As such, for the Justices, requiring the involvement of a physician in the decision of whether to abort during the first trimester of pregnancy was only a regulatory safeguard for the woman because she could only procure an abortion safely and legally under a licensed physician who had the required education and training in medicine to counsel her and administer the procedure to her at an approved and certified medical facility, such as a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office.
2. SECOND TRIMESTER
In the second place, the Supreme Court Justices also determined that because the potential unborn human life of the mother would still be non-viable during the second trimester of her pregnancy (13-24 weeks), she also had a right to an abortion here, but only conditionally, because of all the potential dangers to her health in aborting her unborn life at this gestational age. These dangers would include cervical damage, the tearing of the uterus or other organs, heavy bleeding, large blood clots, infection and chronic psychological and emotional problems. For this reason, the Justices decided that state governments, in promoting their interests in the health of the mother, could legislate laws that would further regulate the abortion reasonably for the good of her maternal health under the guidance and treatment of a doctor. In this sense, she certainly retained her right to an abortion during the second trimester, but this procedure had to be judged medically safe for her in her particular case by her licensed physician, considering the increased dangers to her health. On this basis, the doctor could say yes or no to the abortion.
3. THIRD TRIMESTER
Finally, the Supreme Court Justices in Roe vs. Wade also determined that during the third trimester (25-40 weeks) of the pregnancy of the woman, after her potential unborn child had developed viability, the state, in promoting the interest of the government in protecting the potentiality of viable human life, could prohibit abortion only if it legally allowed exceptions for such procedures in cases when a doctor judged the life or health of the woman to be in danger if she did not abort. In this sense, for the Supreme Court, the state would have a reasonable basis for legislating that the viable potential unborn human life of a healthy woman, during the third trimester of her pregnancy, would have a right to live because at this gestational age it could sustain itself outside of her womb as a potential human being. In other words, the state could decide that if the potential unborn human life did not endanger the life or health of the woman, both her physical and mental health, at this late stage of human development, then she would not have a right to an abortion. In arguing for the state’s right to prohibit abortion here because of its interest in protecting the potentiality of viable unborn life, the Supreme Court Justices determined that this is not because such life is a person. On the contrary, according to them, the Constitution does not define a person as prenatal or unborn life, but only refers to a person postnatally. As such, for them, human life does not acquire personhood at any time during the pregnancy of the woman, including not at viability during the third trimester, but only after birth. For this reason, if the state decided to prohibit a woman from aborting her viable potential human life during the third trimester of her pregnancy, the basis for this prohibition would not be the theoretical or presumed personhood of such a life, but its viable potentiality to actually live or sustain itself outside the womb of the pregnant woman. In the judgment of the Supreme Court Justices, the state would have an interest in protecting such a potential life in a woman. At the same time, during this third trimester of her pregnancy, her licensed physician alone, acting on behalf of the interests of the state, could determine the condition of her health or the viability of her potential unborn life to protect them in such circumstances. In this sense, he could either recommend or prohibit the abortion for her during the third trimester of her pregnancy based on these interests of the state. Further, if he recommended abortion as a medical procedure because he determined that her life or health was in danger physically or mentally, the state could not legally require additional physicians to evaluate and confirm his decision to administer this procedure to her.
As such, in summary, the Supreme Court Justices in Roe vs. Wade determined that a woman in the United States certainly had a legal right to an abortion under her right to privacy in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, but this was not an absolute right for her. She could not just have an abortion under any circumstance. On the contrary, according to the Supreme Court Justices, a woman only had a relative right to such a procedure under civil law. This right, they said, had to be balanced against the interests of the government in protecting both her health and the potentiality of human life. Accordingly, they required state governments to legally protect those interests based on the legal norms developed from the three trimesters of pregnancy, including through the work of the licensed physician who would use his education and training in medicine to diagnose, counsel and treat a woman properly during each trimester of her pregnancy, but also her potential unborn human life, particularly after this potential life had developed viability during the third and final trimester. In this sense, for the Justices, a woman only had a relative or qualified legal right to an abortion during pregnancy based on her health and the potential life of her unborn child as determined by her licensed physician. For this reason, their decision in Roe vs. Wade meant that a woman could have a legal and safe abortion privately in the right circumstances under civil law. Thus, neither the government nor the authorities nor anyone could find her guilty of a crime civilly if she procured the abortion properly under the guidance and treatment of a licensed physician.
III. PRO-CHOICE VS. PRO-LIFE
All the same, just because the Supreme Court Justices determined that a woman in the United States could lawfully and safely have an abortion under civil law, that does not mean that every American woman has used this civil right through the years. American women are certainly not legally required by law to abort their unborn child. Nor are they required to procure an abortion by their political party. In fact, many American women do not believe in abortion at all and would never abort their unborn child. As such, these women have protested the Supreme Court decision through the years. At the same time, many other women do believe in this right. They believe that every woman should have the choice to abort. For this reason, as defenders of the decision by the Supreme Court Justices in Roe vs. Wade, these women have advocated for the protection of this right to abort their unborn human life under civil law. Indeed, many of them have made use of this right through the years. In many cases, they believe that this decision in ’73 was merely a beginning for the abortion rights of women in the United States that still requires further advancement in civil law. As a result, in their judgment, American women should have an absolute or unqualified legal right to an abortion during any trimester of their pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters. Accordingly, women in America are either for or against a woman’s right to procure an abortion under civil law. In other words, they are either pro-choice or pro-life.
A. “IT IS ONLY POTENTIALLY HUMAN, NOT ACTUALLY HUMAN”
As for pro-choice women, informed by the decision of the Supreme Court Justices in Roe vs. Wade, they believe that the unborn life in a woman during pregnancy is merely a potential human being, not an actual human being. As such, they generally use the third-person, singular neuter pronoun, it, to refer to the unborn potential human being, for they claim that such a potential being is not human, but merely a thing, merely biological matter in potentiality. As a potential human being, this life is first conceived biologically as a human zygote and later develops into a blastocyst, an embryo and eventually into a human fetus. In this state of biological potentiality, pro-choice women claim that this unborn potential human life in a woman is merely subhuman, less than human, for here it is underdeveloped in its human potentiality. In this sense, according to them, during these stages of biological development, this potential being is not fully and actually human, but only has human biological potentiality. The Supreme Court Justices in Roe vs. Wade determined that this potential unborn human life is not legally a full and actual human person under civil law. On the contrary, in their judgment, having human biological potentiality is not the same as being fully and actually human as a person legally. For this reason, for pro-choice women in America, potential biological human life does not bear the image of God either as a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo or as a fetus, for such a life, in these various stages of potential human development, is not fully formed as an actual human person prenatally. After all, for them, in all these biological stages of human potentiality, the potential human life is merely a thing, something merely potentially human. According to them, this means that potential unborn human life does not have the natural goodness or sacredness of a person, a human being, who bears the image of God personally, for a thing, something merely potentially human biologically, is not actually a person. Consequently, they argue that a pregnant woman certainly has a legal right to abort her potential human life during her pregnancy because it is not a person. As a consequence, any human being, religion or group that would counsel or require a woman to bear this potential unborn human life to full term against her will would be acting immorally and unjust. This is a choice, after all, that belongs to no other human being, no other church or group, but her alone.
Conversely, pro-life women, particularly Catholic pro-life women, believe that the unborn life conceived in the mother is not potentially a human being, but is actually a human being from conception. For them, this means that he is conceived fully human in his mother and matures as an actual human being during all three trimesters of her pregnancy. They generally use the third-person, singular pronoun, he (she), in referring to the actual unborn human being, for they believe that he is really human from conception. In this sense, they profess a belief in his full humanity throughout the pregnancy of his mother, for as women of faith they believe that he receives from God a full human nature of body and soul from his conception as a human zygote. This zygote, a full and actual human being, later develops in his mother as a human blastocyst, embryo and finally as a human fetus who is eventually born to his mother as a human infant. As such, he remains fully himself as an actual or real human being during all these stages of human development. For this reason, he is defined as fully human neither by his viability as a human fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy nor by his birth as a human infant, but by his life as an actual human being who has a real human nature created by God from conception. In other words, he is fully and actually human because he is conceived as a full and actual human person as a zygote. Accordingly, what is received in seminal form is fully and actually received in the receiver according to the nature of the receiver. The receiver here is man, conceived as an actual person, who has a full human nature of body and soul, created by God, to mature naturally to full manhood. Indeed, he receives his actual personhood from conception, for he is conceived by God in a full humanity as a zygote. According to Catholic pro-life women, this human personhood from conception means that God forms every human being personally in His image for Himself alone. Yes, every unborn person belongs to God alone. God alone forms him in His image that he may know Him, love Him and serve Him as a person someday. Thus, the human being, conceived as a person from conception, has a natural right to life from God Himself, a right to fully mature in his personhood, that he may become the human person God created him to be. As a result, Catholic pro-life women profess that the unborn child has a natural sacredness or goodness from God by reason of his personhood. Indeed, as the image of God, he is good by nature throughout his human maturation. Accordingly, in their defense of the natural sacred dignity of the human being as the image of God, they argue against the right of a mother to abort her unborn child, during any trimester, for God creates every man for Himself. Every man belongs to God. This means that God alone has the authority to call an unborn child to Himself from this life. He alone determines his length of days, not his mother or the Supreme Court Justices or the government. On this basis, for pro-life women in the United States, especially Catholic pro-life women, abortion is morally evil and unjust, because it is against God’s will.
B. “IF IT IS MY BODY, THEN IT IS MY CHOICE”
In developing this argument, already suggested in the decision by the Supreme Court Justices implicitly, pro-choice women claim that as a mature person, as a rational and free person, a woman alone has a right to an abortion because, in her maturity, her body rightfully belongs to her alone. As such, she alone may use her freedom to do as she wills to her body. In this sense, for her, the direct subject of her abortion is her body alone. For this reason, she claims: “If it is my body, then it is my choice.” In other words, “If this body is mine, if this body belongs to me alone, then I alone am free to use my moral right to have an abortion.” In using this “if, then” conditional statement, the woman is claiming that because the “if clause” is true, then the “main clause” is also true. In doing so, she defines her statement grammatically as a zero-conditional sentence. This is a true sentence that includes a cause-and-effect relationship in the “if and main” clauses. In such a sentence, a person uses a conditional grammatical form to state a non-conditional or general truth. Here the woman offers the true “if clause” as the cause of the “main clause”. She believes that if her body belongs to her alone as a mature human person, then she alone has a right to use her reason and will to procure an abortion legally and morally under civil law. As the moral agent here, this certainly does not mean that the woman intends to abort her body completely as the direct subject of the abortion, but only partially for the greater good of herself as a mature person in her particular circumstances. In forming this argument, pro-choice women claim that the potential unborn human life in the woman is merely a subhuman biological part of her body. In other words, for them, it is only a female bodily organ that has no humanity or personhood in and of itself. As a result, they argue that if this potential human life is just a subhuman part of her body biologically, then it is her choice alone to procure an abortion. Nobody else has a legal or moral right to tell her what she may or may not do to her body, for her body belongs to her alone. On this basis, here they use the “if, then” conditional grammatical form in their desire to establish the general truth that a woman has a right to abort a part of her body legally and morally if this is what she desires for herself as a rational and free human being.
The problem here is that her claim is false. Yes, the woman is the agent who wills her abortion, but she does not abort herself partially in this act. In other words, she does not abort a subhuman biological part of her body in an abortion. In fact, she does not abort herself at all. She neither dies from the abortion nor does she dismember a part of herself. For this reason, she is certainly not the direct subject of her abortion, as she falsely claims. What she really does in this procedure is abort the life of another human being, someone real, her unborn child, who was formed by God as an actual person from conception. Accordingly, this conception of an actual human person in the woman is not a subhuman biological part of her body. On the contrary, scientifically and biologically, the conception of an actual person is the first stage of human life when the male gamete or sperm fertilizes the female gamete, also called the egg. Inside this fertilized egg, a membrane forms around the male genetic material, the male DNA, thereby creating the male pro-nucleus. In this biological process, the male genetic material develops into 23 chromosomes inside the male pro-nucleus. Similarly, the female genetic material, or DNA, stimulated by the fusion of the sperm and the egg, finishes dividing, resulting in the female pro-nucleus, which also contains 23 chromosomes. As the male and female pro-nuclei form, their chromosomes unite into a single cell, thus completing the process of fertilization. This completed fertilization process in the single cell is the beginning or conception of human life. In this single cell, called a human zygote, a unique genetic personal code forms determining gender, hair color, eye color and hundreds of other characteristics of this human life. As such, this unique genetic DNA code of the conceived person, including all his personal characteristics, is certainly not the code of his mother or his father, but his code alone as an actual person from conception. In this act of human conception, the Catholic Church teaches that God Himself introduces the life principle of the spiritual soul that informs the biological genetic material to become an actual living being, a personal life, called a human zygote, in the womb of his mother. Hence, this first stage of the life of the human being is certainly not the life of his mother or the life of his father, but his life alone as a particular human being in himself, biologically, genetically, and spiritually. In this sense, through his conception as a living human being, he is formed by God in a full human nature. This would include not only the biological genetic material that he receives from God instrumentally in his body through his mother and father, but also the spiritual soul that he receives directly from God Himself. Therefore, the human being is conceived in his mother, not as a subhuman part of her body, but as a real person in himself, biologically, genetically, and spiritually.
This means that in the zero-conditional sentence that the woman uses to argue for her right to have an abortion, she alone is the moral agent who aborts, and her unborn human life, the direct subject, is the only person aborted. Consequently, her faulty use of this grammatical form to argue for her moral right to an abortion fails. As the acting agent, the woman has no right, morally, to abort the life of another subject, another human being, particularly the life of her unborn child, for he is neither a part of her body nor does he belong to her to do as she wills to him. On the contrary, this human life, an actual person in himself, belongs to God alone, but his mother is called to properly form him on behalf of God. In God’s providence, this formation certainly does not involve her aborting her unborn child. For this reason, the true “if clause” in her zero-conditional sentence, if this body is mine, does not cause the “main or then clause”, because she does not have a moral right to abort her unborn child. Certainly, he is conceived and nourished by her as he develops in her body and is eventually joined to her in the placenta through the umbilical cord during pregnancy, but he is still not a part of her body. He is not a subhuman bodily organ of hers. He is fully the person God created him to be in himself, in and through her body, from conception. As a result, she has no moral right to abort him. This unborn child of hers, created in the image of God, has a natural right to live, mature and have a full and healthy life that he may know, love and serve God and neighbor. This right that belongs to him, by nature, also naturally belongs to all people, including his mother. This means that an act of abortion, on the part of his mother, is against the natural law because she acts against her natural maternal inclination to preserve and form the life of her son. This is neither natural nor reasonable for her. After all, a mother is naturally inclined, by nature and reason, to nurture and defend her child that he may live a full and healthy life as a faithful and mature son of God. On this basis, by aborting her unborn child, by ending his life prematurely, she fails to become the mother God made her to be, a mother who would faithfully raise her child to full maturity as God wills.
C. “IT IS A DISEASE IN MY BODY”
Moreover, pro-choice women, in further developing their argument, also claim that abortion is a medical procedure that a woman has a right to use for the good of her health as a human being. In fact, this is the same claim made by the Supreme Court Justices throughout their decision in Roe vs. Wade, but pro-choice women develop this argument in a particular manner. According to them, such a procedure offers a woman healing from pregnancy. In this sense, they claim that pregnancy is neither desirable nor good for all women under all circumstances. On the contrary, for some women pregnancy is merely a bad and undesirable bodily condition, a disease or illness, that would only harm their health and lifestyle for various reasons. For instance, if they became pregnant, they would neither be as free or as available to do as they willed in their personal life nor would they be as productive and successful professionally and financially in their careers as they had hoped. Consequently, in their judgment, they would only suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally from the pregnancy. As such, a woman, who judges the nature or meaning of her pregnancy in this manner, as an unhealthy and harmful bodily condition that she does not desire for herself, treats the life of her unborn child not as a human person, not as a son of God, but as a disease or infection in her body. Accordingly, she argues that she has a right to heal her body from pregnancy, by removing the diseased part, through abortion. In doing so, she defines abortion as a medical procedure that can heal her. In her mind, to be healed means to be free of the disease in her body, including all her sufferings and difficulties, caused by this disease, in her personal life and career. For this reason, here the woman redefines pregnancy as an illness or disease because in her heart she does not desire to be pregnant. She does not desire a child for herself. Conversely, if, for some reason, she did develop a desire for this pregnancy because she finally desired a child for herself, then the pregnancy itself, in her judgment, would cease to be a disease and would become something good for her.
This argument, of course, is completely subjective and false. Pregnancy in a woman is certainly not an illness or condition caused by a diseased part of her body. On the contrary, pregnancy, as designed by God, is the natural gestation period of human life for nine months in the mother’s uterus. During that time, the life of this unborn human being is fully and actually human from conception, but only gradually matures biologically, genetically and spiritually as a human being through the nutrition, oxygen and life support he receives from his mother’s body, particularly from her blood. In this sense, in God’s design, the unborn child is naturally dependent upon his mother. For this reason, from the time of his conception as a human being in his mother’s womb, he has a natural right to receive from her all that he naturally requires to live and develop healthily during her pregnancy. For his mother, this involves eating, sleeping and exercising virtuously to preserve herself in good health, especially during pregnancy. If she does, then she will certainly be properly nourished, rested and in good condition to preserve her unborn child in good health as he matures. In other words, by caring for herself virtuously, she is also being virtuous in mothering her unborn child in her circumstances, especially in difficult circumstances. Will she suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, or professionally by becoming pregnant? Yes, probably, but this suffering from pregnancy will not be due to her unborn child being a disease in her body, for he is not. Being pregnant has normal but temporary side-effects for her. Still, by caring for herself during pregnancy by eating, sleeping and exercising properly, she preserves herself and her unborn child in good health as God wills. In doing so, she receives him as a sacred gift of God that will only help purify and sanctify her as a woman and as a mother by the grace of God. In other words, what God offers her in pregnancy, an unborn child, neither harms nor diminishes her personhood or womanhood, but helps her to fully become the person God created and redeemed her to be. In this sense, for a woman, good and faithful mothering during pregnancy, as difficult as this may be for her, involves receiving her unborn child, not as a disease in her body, but as a sacred gift of God from conception and nourishing him to full term. Thus, abortion is certainly not a medical procedure that heals the woman of her pregnancy, because pregnancy is not an illness caused by a disease in her body. All she does here is harm herself and destroy her unborn child. On this basis, the nature and meaning of such an act cannot be properly defined as a healing medical procedure.
D. “RELIGION CANNOT LEGISLATE MY MORALITY”
Finally, pro-choice women claim that neither the Roman Catholic Church nor any other religious group may legislate the personal morality of a woman. In other words, for them, no religion may morally require a woman to believe, obey or practice any religious moral teachings and rules that would morally prescribe or prohibit particular moral actions on her part, including abortion. On the contrary, in their judgment, a woman alone may decide for herself her personal moral beliefs and practices, apart from any religion. Indeed, they argue that she has a moral right to do whatever she wills morally, including the right to abort her potential unborn human life. This means that she alone may judge for herself an action as either morally good or evil. In this morality, every woman has a right to intellectually judge a human action as she wills. This is her moral choice alone. As a result, here there is no objective moral goodness or evil in her judgment of an action. Her judgment is merely subjective. As such, her morality, including her moral actions, has no objective basis in reality. They are merely based on her subjective moral beliefs, for she alone may decide what is morally good or bad for her in her circumstances. As for abortion, she claims that she has every right, morally, to use this procedure if she has no desire to have a child. In her case, she judges the act of abortion as morally good for her. In fact, she believes that every woman has a moral right to form this same moral judgment about abortion. This is a personal moral choice for a woman. For this reason, according to pro-choice women in America, no religion may ever rightly legislate a moral law that would morally prohibit a woman, a free human being, from procuring an abortion for herself, because human morality, to them, is naturally relative, not absolute. In their subjective judgment, there is no objective morality, but only subjective moralities. Consequently, they can say, “Every woman for herself.” On this basis, they argue, contrary to religion, including Catholic teaching, that every free woman, as a moral relativist, by nature, may do as she wills, including abort her potential unborn human life, if she really desires such a procedure for herself.
As for Catholic pro-life women, they argue that this subjective morality of moral relativism, practiced by pro-choice woman in America, is false morally. In forming this argument, I have heard them use a parable from Jesus’s preaching in St. Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 7:24-27). In this parable, Jesus calls His disciples to build their house morally on a true foundation, not on a false moral foundation. On the one hand, He tells them that any man who hears His words and acts on them will be like a prudent person who acts reasonably by building his house on rock. This is the only true foundation for building his house morally. On the other hand, the man who hears His words but does not act on them will be like an imprudent human being who acts unreasonably by building his house on sand. This is a false moral foundation for building his house.
Similarly, by practicing moral relativism, the pro-choice woman builds her house not on rock, not on the words of Jesus, but on the false moral foundation of sand like an imprudent person, for after hearing the words of Jesus, she fails to act on them reasonably. The house that she builds for herself here is a metaphor for her life as a human being. Consequently, when the rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted her house, her human life, it collapsed because she had built it on sand, and it was completely ruined. This sand, of course, is a metaphor for the false foundation of her human words that she used to build her house on. These human words that she believes in are the subjective human ideas of moral relativism. In this sense, by building her life subjectively not on the words of Jesus, but on her human words, the false human ideas of moral relativism, she acts imprudently as a human being. In doing so, she completely ruins herself morally.
Conversely, the Catholic pro-life woman, by practicing an objective morality, builds her house not on the sand of her human words, but on the rock of the words of Jesus like a prudent person. This house that she builds for herself is her human life metaphorically. As such, when the rain fell, the floods came and the winds blew and buffeted her house, her human life, it remained standing because she had built it on rock. The rock here is a metaphor for the true foundation of the words of Jesus that she used to build her house on. These words of Jesus include the objective moral truths or principles of both the natural law and the Divine Law that He has revealed naturally and supernaturally in creation. For this reason, by building her life on the true moral foundation of the words of Jesus, the pro-life woman acts prudently by practicing a true, objective morality based on the natural law and the Divine Law. As a result, she preserves herself morally as a human being.
In this sense, informed by Church teaching, Catholic pro-life women profess a belief that the natural law and the Divine Law for human beings, revealed naturally and supernaturally by God Himself, is a true morality legislated not by religion in general or by the Catholic Church in particular. Neither the Church nor any other religion establishes or legislates this morality. On the contrary, this morality is established by God Himself, the Divine Legislator, through the Wisdom of His Word, the Eternal Law, Jesus Christ. Through this Eternal Law, God providentially governs the rational being, the human person, morally, by His Divine Wisdom, in directing his every movement and action in creation to his due end. This due end is God Himself. As such, the rational being participates naturally and supernaturally in the Wisdom of God’s Word, the Eternal Law. In proceeding, after considering the natural participation of the rational being in the Eternal Law, I will consider his supernatural participation. In Church teaching, human participation in the Eternal Law forms a single Divine plan for the salvation of all human beings.
According to St. Thomas, the human being participates in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law through natural law, first of all, by his rationality. This means that natural law, being a rule and measure, is in the human person because he rules and measure himself through reason. In this sense, the natural law is in the reason or intelligence of man, for he rules and measures by this rational faculty (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, q. 91, a. 2). This involves his rational capacity to habitually understand in his practical intellect the first principles of practical reasoning through the natural habit of synderesis, particularly the first principle of natural law (Summa Theologiae 1a, q. 79, a. 12). This is the first principle of practical reasoning: “Good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided.” For this reason, St. Thomas appeals to Psalm 4:6 to argue that the light of God’s countenance, mentioned by the inspired author, is signed upon the human being, indicating that the light of natural reason by which a person understands what is good and what is evil, is a sign or effect of God’s divine light in a person (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, q. 91, a. 2). This first principle, the first inclination of natural law, which he naturally understands by synderesis, to do good and to avoid evil in pursuing the good, forms the basis or foundation of all other natural law inclinations. Thus, doing good and avoiding evil in pursuing the good is the norm of every human act that directs a person to a complete and fulfilled human life. Every human being intuitively understands, by synderesis, that this first principle of practical reasoning is objectively true and good, intellectually and morally. In this sense, through this habit of the practical intellect, a person habitually understands, not by discursive reasoning, but by intuition, that this first principle of natural law, the first principle of practical reason, is an objective moral truth for all people. Moreover, by understanding intuitively that this basic principle is naturally true, he also understands, by intuition, that this principle is naturally good for all human beings. Accordingly, he is naturally inclined to live this objective truth morally in his life by doing good and avoiding evil in pursuing a good life. As the first principle of practical reasoning of the natural law, this moral truth is not just objective intellectually and morally, but also unchangeable and universal by nature. In other words, this first principle, “Good is to be done and pursued and evil avoided,” is unchangeably and universally true. What reasonable person could argue against this truth? For St. Thomas, this first principle or truth that inclines a person to do good and to avoid evil forms the basis and model of all the principles or truths of the three primary precepts of the natural law. As a result, the human person habitually understands, through synderesis, that these primary precepts, informed by the first principle of practical reasoning, are naturally true and good for all people morally. In this intuitive habit of understanding the truth and goodness of these three primary precepts, the person is naturally inclined to do good and avoid evil in pursuing the good in all the inclinations of these primary precepts. This means that these primary precepts are also objective, unchangeable, and universal in nature, just as the first principle of practical reasoning. Accordingly, by synderesis, every person has a natural, intuitive understanding that these principles or truths of the natural law habitually inform and guide him rationally in his practical intellect. Indeed, these principles of the natural law, especially the first principle of practical reasoning, habitually direct him to act reasonably intuitively. As such, his human intelligence or reason, particularly his habitual understanding of the basic principles or truths, by synderesis, is his first participation in the Eternal Law through natural law, for, by this participation, he rules and measures himself rationally, according to the Wisdom of God. All the same, here the human person remains underdeveloped or immature as a moral agent merely by rationally understanding the moral truth and goodness of the first principles of natural law that direct him to live a good life. On this basis, he is called to develop morally.
In the second place, the human being participates in the Eternal Law through natural law by the inclinations that rule and measure him (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, q. 91, a. 2 and q. 94, a. 2). On the one hand, these inclinations include his rational inclinations of reason and will. On the other hand, they also include his bodily or biological inclinations. These bodily inclinations include his sense appetites, the concupiscible and irascible passions or emotions. This means that the human person is naturally inclined to do good and avoid evil in pursuing the good in his inclinations of natural law. According to St. Thomas, in ruling and measuring the human person, these inclinations of natural law direct him reasonably and naturally to three areas of life for living a good human life through virtue. For this reason, they are also called the three primary precepts or principles of the natural law that govern him. Through them, the human being is, first of all, naturally inclined to the good of preserving himself as a living being. This is a good proper to all creatures. Secondly, he is inclined to the good of procreating and educating children. This is a good natural to all sentient beings. Thirdly, he is naturally inclined to develop a true knowledge of God and to live in human society. This is a good proper to human beings alone as the only rational or intelligent bodily creatures on earth (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, Question 94, Article 2). All these rational and bodily inclinations are subject to the rule and measure of the natural law, according to the Wisdom of the Eternal Law, by being informed by natural intelligence or reason. As such, as a rational being, a person is naturally inclined through the inclinations of natural law to do good and avoid evil in pursuing the particular acts and ends proper to him for living a good human life reasonably and naturally. Hence, he participates in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law through the inclinations of the primary precepts of the natural law, for they rule and measure him by inclining him to live a good life. In this sense, in ruling and measuring him as primary precepts, these rational and bodily inclinations direct him reasonably and naturally to his true good.
As he matures as a moral agent, he begins using these precepts from synderesis to develop practical moral knowledge through the cardinal virtue of prudence. St. Thomas teaches that the human person develops an understanding through prudence that some moral actions are intrinsically evil, evil by nature, for they contradict the primary precepts of the natural law. These evil actions include a woman aborting her unborn child (contrary to the preservation of human life), a man using artificial contraception in his Marriage (contrary to the procreation of human life), a father malforming his children intellectually by teaching them fallacies (contrary to educating his children properly), a woman slandering her neighbor (contrary to living in human society), and a young man becoming an atheist (contrary to acquiring a true knowledge of God). Thus, the human person, particularly the Roman Catholic, educated in the moral teaching of the Church, after developing practical moral knowledge about these evil actions through prudence, prudentially forms practical moral norms or absolutes to guard the primary precepts of the natural law against such actions. This involves using prudence to direct his other cardinal virtues (temperance, fortitude and justice) in uniting his moral knowledge and rectified appetites virtuously to produce particular moral actions that conform reasonably and naturally to the practical moral norms or absolutes that he develops. In doing so, he properly forms himself morally as a human being in his intellect, will and appetites through the moral virtues that he may participate in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law through the natural law.
For instance, the Catholic pro-life woman, educated in the moral teaching of the Church that abortion is intrinsically evil, prudently forms the absolute moral norm, “The unborn human being may never be directly aborted during pregnancy.” This moral absolute guards the first primary precept of the natural law established in the unborn child by God, the Divine Legislator, through the Wisdom of the Eternal Law. This precept naturally inclines him from conception to preserve himself, his human life, by naturally acquiring from his mother all that he requires for himself to live and mature as a human being. In this sense, for the Catholic pro-life woman, this absolute moral norm against abortion means that a woman may never intentionally abort her unborn child during pregnancy, for he has received from God a natural desire to live. This means that every unborn child is, by nature, pro-life. As such, the Wisdom of the Eternal Law naturally inclines his mother to bear him throughout her pregnancy, if she is morally formed by virtue. In doing so, she acts virtuously by conforming herself morally to the moral absolute against abortion developed from the first primary precept of the natural law. Indeed, informed by moral knowledge and rectified appetites, she uses the moral virtues to perfect her conformity to this absolute moral norm by preserving the life of her unborn child. This means that every unborn person created by the Wisdom of the Eternal Law from conception has a natural right to live, for he has received from God a natural inclination to preserve himself through this first primary precept of the natural law. This first precept also includes a right to mature throughout his life. As a living human being who has a right to live and mature, he will someday have a right to procreate and educate children in Marriage through the inclinations of the second primary precept of the natural law. Finally, the third primary precept of the natural law naturally inclines the human person to develop a true knowledge of God and to live in human society. On the one hand, his inclination to know God includes an inclination to love God, but this inclination to love Him only develops after he forms a true knowledge of God, for he can only love what he first knows. As a result, God certainly desires the human being to know Him that he may love Him. For this reason, he has a natural right to know God and love Him as a human being. On the other hand, this third primary precept of the natural law inclines the human being to live in human society. This involves an inclination in him to develop a true knowledge and love of human beings. In this sense, he has a natural right to live in society that he may form good human friendships through knowledge and love. Accordingly, by guarding every living and maturing unborn human being virtuously from conception through an absolute moral norm that prohibits abortion, the Catholic pro-life woman guards all his natural rights that he receives naturally from God, the Divine Legislator, in creation through the Wisdom of the Eternal Law. On this basis, by bearing her unborn child to full term that he may mature and live a full life in human society someday by knowing and loving God and human beings, including a wife and children, the Catholic pro-life woman faithfully practices the first principle of practical reason in her life by doing good and avoiding evil in mothering her unborn child virtuously, according to the inclinations of the primary precepts of the natural law.
Conversely, by directly (intentionally) aborting her unborn child, the pro-choice woman acts contrary to the first principle of practical reasoning of the natural law, for by this act she does evil and avoids doing good in pursuing an evil end morally. Indeed, she does an intrinsically evil action, an action evil by nature, through her direct abortion. This means the action she does is neither reasonable nor natural morally. In doing so, she acts against the first primary precept of the natural law, the natural (bodily) inclination of her unborn child to preserve himself, by directly aborting him. In fact, here she not only denies him his natural right to life that he receives from God through his first inclination of natural law, but also denies him all his other natural rights that God offers him in life through natural law, including his right to fully mature as a human being, his right to procreate and educate children someday, his right to live in human society and especially his right to know and love God and human beings. As a result, she fails to participate virtuously in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law through the rule and measure of the natural law. For this reason, God, the Divine Legislator, naturally prohibits a woman from directly aborting her unborn child by establishing the natural law through the Wisdom of the Eternal Law. This moral prohibition is an absolute moral norm. Accordingly, by Divine legislation, no woman, under any circumstances, for any reason whatsoever, may ever directly abort her unborn child by reason of the natural law.
At the same time, as good as the natural law is for the human person morally, this natural morality, established in his human nature by the Wisdom of the Eternal Law, is only a natural foundation or basis for him morally. He cannot fully and perfectly fulfill the natural law as a moral agent by nature alone. Neither his rational inclinations of reason and will nor his natural bodily inclinations alone can direct him to the full perfection he naturally desires in this life as a human being. Nor can he reach his final, supernatural end in the afterlife merely by his natural conformity to the natural law. In other words, his participation in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law by natural law alone will certainly not lead him to the perfect happiness of Heaven. He can only fully and perfectly fulfill his desire for the beatitude of Heaven supernaturally through the Divine, supernatural help of God. He requires more than merely natural perfection. He can only reach Heaven by being perfected supernaturally. As St. Thomas teaches, the human being participates in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law not only naturally in a manner proportionate to the capacities of his human nature, but also supernaturally in a manner that surpasses such natural capacities.
First of all, the human being participates supernaturally in the Eternal Law by the Divine Law he receives from God through Divine revelation (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, q. 91, a. 4, ad 1). This Divine Law includes both the Old Law revealed by God through Moses in the Old Testament and the New Law, the Law of the Gospel, revealed by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament. In Church teaching, this Divine Law in the Old and New Testaments, a higher perfection of the natural law, reveals supernaturally that direct abortion, the shedding of the blood of human life, is a particularly grave moral evil that cries to God (Genesis 4:10), because the subject of the abortion, the unborn human being, the youngest member of the human family, is someone sacred, a person created in the image of God, who depends completely on the moral goodness of his mother to live. Indeed, as the youngest image of God, he is destined by God to reach full and perfect maturity someday. This involves being recreated supernaturally in the image of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to live a holy life of virtue for God and his neighbor. This alone will prepare him for the perfect happiness in Heaven he desires for himself. Consequently, in light of Divine revelation, the shedding of the blood of human life, the life of the youngest member of the human family, by direct abortion, is prohibited by God through Divine Law (Genesis 9:6). This prohibition is included in God’s commandment, “You shall not kill” the human being, particularly the innocent human being. In fact, God proclaims this commandment eight times in Sacred Scripture (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, Matthew 5:21, Matthew 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Romans 13:9, James 2: 11). Accordingly, by being faithful to this Divine Law, this moral absolute, revealed by God through Moses and Jesus in the Old and New Testaments, the human person, particularly the mother of the unborn child, participates in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law supernaturally through Divine Law (Summa Theologiae Ia-IIae, Question 91, Article 2 and 4, ad. 1).
Secondly, because the human person cannot fully and perfectly fulfill the natural and Divine Law by his natural human capacities alone, God offers him a supernatural means of Divine Grace to fulfill this end. In this sense, the human person participates in the Eternal Law supernaturally through the Grace of Christ, the Grace Christ merited for all people by His Passion and Death. This Grace conforms the human being supernaturally to the Eternal Law by conforming him to the natural and Divine Law as a rational moral agent through the supernatural perfection of his human nature that rules and measures him. This second supernatural form of participation in the Eternal Law, by Divine Grace, directs the human being to a higher end, his supernatural end, perfect happiness in Christ in the afterlife, but he can only reach an imperfect happiness in this life through Grace. In this sense, he begins his movement to his perfect end or happiness through his perfection by Sanctifying Grace, the Grace of Justification. He first receives this Grace from God in Baptism, including the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, this Grace recreates him supernaturally in the substance of his soul, because his soul is the direct subject of the Grace. As such, this Grace, received directly in his soul, informs his body indirectly. For this reason, in Church teaching, the Grace of Baptism recreates the human person in the image of Christ as an adopted son of God. In this adopted sonship, through Grace, he receives a participation in the Divine Nature of Christ as a member of the Body of Christ, the Church. He becomes righteous in himself spiritually. In this Grace of Justification, he receives the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit that he may act righteously as a moral agent. On the one hand, the infused virtues he receives include the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. All these virtues supernaturally perfect his natural faculties and capacities, including his intellect, will and appetites, that he may live a holy life, a life of virtue, intellectually and morally in Christ. In particular, as an intellectual moral virtue, the cardinal virtue of prudence informs and guides the human being in forming moral judgments about the morality of human actions, developing practical moral knowledge and directing him to act morally good in his circumstances. On the other hand, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a person receives a higher perfection and facility in using his virtues through inspirations. These gifts form and move him interiorly to respond virtuously to those inspirations by inclining him to do particular acts of virtue. As such, the human person, particularly the pregnant woman, through the Grace of Christ, is moved by the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit to honor the image of God in the unborn child, indeed, to honor God Himself, morally, by saying yes to him, nourishing him, bearing him to full term and raising him to be a holy man of God according to the Wisdom of the Eternal Law. On this basis, by the Will of the Divine Legislator, the natural mother of the unborn child participates in the Eternal Law naturally and supernaturally by becoming a spiritual mother to him by the Grace of Christ.
Finally, the human person can only fulfill his desire for perfect happiness in the afterlife through the glory of Heaven, first in the glory of the beatific vision of God and later in the glorious resurrection of the dead. As such, here the glory of Heaven fully perfects the human nature of man. He finally rests perfectly in Christ. In this sense, in Heaven, he participates fully and perfectly in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law, Jesus Christ, supernaturally through the glory of God, the Divine Legislator.
Accordingly, to the pro-choice women who claim that neither religion in general nor the Catholic Church in particular may legislate their morality, my response to them is that they have failed to understand the true origin of morality. Neither the Church nor religion are the origin of morality. In fact, as human beings, as women, neither are they the origin of morality. As a result, not them, not the Church, not any religion may legislate morality for them. On the contrary, God alone legislates morality, a true and objective morality for all people, by revealing a natural and Divine Law for them. At the same time, as the only religion founded by Jesus Christ, the Roman Church alone is the Maternal Guardian or Custodian of this revealed moral teaching for the common good of all people that they may fully and perfectly participate in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law both naturally and supernaturally for their salvation as God wills. To this end, the Church has the authority to establish human or Church laws that conform to the natural and Divine Law for the good of God’s people.
IV. SACRED SCRIPTURE
A. GOD CREATES HUMAN LIFE FROM CONCEPTION THAT HE MAY BE BORN
In Sacred Scripture the inspired authors, the authors of life, predecessors to the pro-life movement, proclaim that God Himself forms the life of the unborn person in the womb of his mother that he may be born of her. In doing so, they profess their belief that God is the Principal Agent in creating such life in her womb instrumentally through the spousal intercourse that she and her husband have in Marriage. In fact, in the Book of Genesis, God creates the first human beings, Adam and Eve, in His image as spouses to become the first parents of unborn human life by being fertile and multiplying through procreation (Genesis 1:27-28). As such, this is a vocation that husband and wife have received from God to participate in His creation of human life as secondary instrumental causes. At the same time, this call for them by God to be a mother and father to their child in Marriage begins, not postnatally, but prenatally from conception, for he is conceived as a person. For this reason, in Sacred Scripture, the inspired authors, in announcing to husband and wife that they would receive a child from God, tell them that the life of the child begins not at birth, but at conception. After all, their child is first conceived by God in the womb of his mother and ninth months later is born to her as an infant. As a result, in Scripture, the inspired authors regularly announce to husband and wife that they will first conceive and will only later bear or give birth to their child, for his conception is ordained to his birth, as cause to effect. For instance, in the Book of Genesis, Moses, inspired by God Himself, proclaims that Eve, the wife of Adam, “conceived and bore” a son (Genesis 4:1). Similarly, in the First Book of Samuel, the inspired author, announces that Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, “conceived and at the end of her term bore a son whom she called Samuel” (1 Samuel 1:20). Moreover, Samuel, the author of the Book of Judges, announces, under God’s inspiration, that the wife of Manoah would “conceive and bear a son” (Judges 13:3-5). Finally, in the Book of Ruth, Samuel also proclaims that Ruth, the wife of Boaz, conceived a son and bore him (Ruth 4:13). In all these passages, the wife, by an act of creation by God, both conceives and bears a son through the intercourse that she and her husband have in Marriage. This means that God calls them to be good and faithful parents to their unborn son, first and foremost, from conception, but also after birth. Throughout Sacred Scripture, the people of God, inspired by God Himself, profess this belief that God creates the unborn human person from conception in the womb of his mother, through his parents, to be born of her nine months later. In other words, he is conceived by God to be born.
In proceeding, I will briefly consider how the human authors, under God’s inspiration, talk about this truth of faith in Scripture. First of all, in the Book of Psalms, David, in proclaiming God’s work of creating him as a human person, first describes God as a Knitter who made him in his inmost being by knitting him in the womb of his mother, Nitzevet, from conception. Here David speaks a literal truth through metaphor. Yes, God literally made David, but David himself proclaims this truth, or act of creation, metaphorically by saying that God knitted him in his mother’s womb as an unborn human life from conception. For the human knitter, the act of knitting involved using needles to knit yarn together into clothing. This was properly the work of a woman. Accordingly, by calling God a Knitter, a Divine Knitter, David is saying that God is like a woman who knits the yarn of human nature together as the clothing of an actual human being from conception. In other words, David believes that God literally formed him in his mother by conceiving him through an act of natural intercourse that she and her husband, Jesse, had in Marriage. Later, in the same passage, David uses another metaphor to profess this truth of faith. He says that God Himself made him in secret by fashioning him in the depths of the earth. In this sense, here he uses the depths of the earth as a metaphor for the womb of his mother. According to him, in this womb alone, in his mother’s womb, did God conceive him as an unborn person (Psalms 139:13-15).
Furthermore, in the Book of Job, the inspired author, Job himself, first proclaims his faith that God created him. Indeed, he says that God’s hands have formed and fashioned him (Job 10:8). He first speaks of this act of creation by God metaphorically, for he describes Him as a Potter, a Divine Potter, who made him from the clay of the earth. In ancient times, forming objects or artifacts from clay on a potter’s wheel, and firing them in a furnace, was primarily the work of a man. For this reason, by calling God a Potter, Job is saying that God is like a man who forms and fires the clay of bodily human nature from the earth in creating the human being. In this sense, for Job, this clay is the earth that God used in forming him bodily as a person. As such, here the clay of the earth is, once again, a metaphor for the womb of a mother, particularly the womb of Job’s mother, that God used in creating Job’s body. This means, formed by God from the clay of his mother’s womb, Job received the same bodily human nature as his mother. For this reason, he says that from this clay God clothed him literally with skin and flesh, bones, and tendons to form him bodily (Job 10:11). Accordingly, this passage in the Book of Job recalls the second creation story in the Book of Genesis, for in this story the inspired author, Moses, similarly describes God metaphorically as a Potter who formed the body of the first man, Adam, from the clay of the earth (Genesis 2:7a). In doing so, He uses this clay to form a body for Adam composed of skin, flesh, bones, and tendons. In fact, in this story, after God created Adam’s body from the clay of the earth, He breathed His breath of life in him, thereby forming him as a living being (Genesis 2:7b). The breath of God here metaphorically represents the soul or spirit of Adam, his principle of life. In the passage from the Book of Job, Job also speaks of this spirit that he has received from God (Job 10:12). This is the breath of God, the soul, that gives life to his body. According to Job, this act by God in creating him as a living person in the womb of his mother from conception is really an act of love. God made him because He loves him. In fact, in His providential love for Job, He has preserved him as a living person (Job 10:12). Finally, speaking literally, Job says God brought him forth, not from the clay of the earth, but from his mother’s womb (Job 10:18). Thus, he asks rhetorically (Job 31:15), “Did not He who made me in the womb create” also my neighbor “in the womb?” On this basis, Job can say, “I came forth from my mother’s womb” (Job 1:21), for there God, the Divine Potter, formed him from clay by conceiving him as a person.
B. EVERY HUMAN LIFE CONCEIVED AND BORN IS A GOOD GIFT FROM GOD
If God really is the Divine Knitter and Potter who creates the unborn human person in the womb of his mother as a fruit of the natural intercourse that she and her husband have in Marriage, then this means that every human life, every human person, from conception, is naturally a good gift from God who is eventually born as an infant. As such, neither the mother nor the father may ever define or redefine as evil (bad) and disposable the unborn person that God Himself has created for them in His Goodness to be born of his mother. For this reason, the human person is said to be good, by nature, not as God is essentially in Himself by His infinite Goodness, but as he is in himself, by participation, through the finite goodness of his humanity. Indeed, every person, conceived by God in the womb of his mother, and later born, has a sacred dignity because he participates the Goodness of God in his human nature. Indeed, he images God’s Goodness by his rational and free nature as a spiritual and bodily person. Accordingly, in the Book of Genesis, Moses says that after creating the first human beings, God Himself proclaimed them not simply good, but “really good” (Genesis 1:31). Similarly, in the Book of Psalms, David proclaims that unborn children are a good “gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb” for their mother and father (Psalms 127:3). Finally, in Genesis, Moses, under the inspiration of God, recalls God’s promise to Abraham that He would bless him by raising up countless descendants for him (Genesis 22:17). These descendants of his, blessings from God, would be conceived and born in the image of God. Thus, by creating them in His image from conception, the Divine Knitter and Potter, God Himself, would establish their natural blessedness as unborn persons who would be born, in time, according to the natural design of God. They would, in this sense, be true gifts of God by nature. According to Moses, in Abraham all these descendants would find blessing through a descendant of his (Genesis 15:4). This descendant alone would fully and perfectly fulfill God’s promise to bless them someday. Through him, all the descendants of Abraham would receive God’s blessing of salvation.
C. THE SON OF GOD CONCEIVED AND BORN AS MAN
In God’s providence, this descendant of Abraham, the Savior, would be a son of Israel, from the Tribe of Judah of the House of David. As the Savior, He alone would be the Messiah who would fully and perfectly fulfill God’s blessing of salvation for all the descendants of Abraham, for He would be the Uncreated Son of God from all eternity. As the prophets proclaim in Scripture, God would raise up for Himself a perfect or ideal Messiah, a Divine Messiah (Isaiah 9:5-6, 11:1-5, Jeremiah 23:5), from a virgin daughter of David’s House (Isaiah 7:14) to save the descendants of Abraham. In the Gospels, the Evangelists, inspired by God, profess this Divine Messiah to be the Person of Jesus Himself. According to Sts. Matthew and Luke, Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived and born as Man from the Virgin Mary, a Daughter of the House of David, by God’s Holy Spirit. Indeed, in recalling the angel’s announcement to Joseph and Mary that Mary herself would become the Mother of Jesus virginally by the Holy Spirit, the Evangelists record, in their Gospels, that Mary’s Motherhood would include both conceiving and bearing Jesus. In this sense, just as the inspired authors of the Old Testament proclaim that a woman becomes a mother first by conceiving her unborn child in her womb and eventually bears him, the Evangelists do the same in their Gospels. As for St. Matthew, he recalls that the angel tells St. Joseph to receive Mary, his wife, into his home, for “it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a Son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). Similarly, St. Luke records that the angel, in announcing Mary’s Motherhood to her, tells her, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus…The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:31, 35). As such, as Mother, Mary first conceives Jesus, as “the fruit of her womb” (Luke 1:42), and later gives birth to Him (Luke 2:7). For this reason, in preaching the Gospel to the Galatians, St. Paul tells them that when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, to be conceived and born of a woman under the law, to save those people under the law, that they would receive adoption as sons and daughters of God by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:3-7). Accordingly, the Son of God, in becoming the Son of Man through the All-Holy Virgin Mother, Blessed Mary, illumined and inspired the descendants of Abraham to become adopted sons and daughters of God through the ecclesiastical Virgin, Holy Mother Church. In doing so, they became heirs of God’s promise to Abraham. Indeed, by their adoption as sons and daughters of God, they became beneficiaries of God’s promise to Abraham that He would bless them through the humanity of a descendant of his, the Divine Messiah, particularly by the work of salvation He would fulfill as the God-Man in His suffering and death. This was the blessing of God’s salvation for them as descendants of Abraham, the greatest blessing they could ever receive from Him, for they would, in fact, receive the Son of God Himself, the Person of the Divine Messiah, as heirs of salvation.
In this act of the Son of God becoming Man from the humanity of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, He is first conceived in her as a Human Zygote after her gamete (egg cell) is fertilized by the divine seed of the Holy Spirit, later He develops into a Human Blastocyst and Embryo and eventually becomes a Human Fetus. In all these stages of human development, He remains fully and actually the Son of God in becoming fully and actually Human, the Son of Man, from conception. This Human Life of the God-Man is neither the Life of the Virgin Mary nor the Life of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, this Life belongs to Him alone, for He alone receives His Human Nature of Body and Soul in His conception as Man. On the one hand, in His conception as Man by the Holy Spirit, He receives the material substance of His Body from the body of the Virgin Mary, including His human biology and genes. On the other hand, He also receives the spiritual substance of His Soul directly from God Himself, for God conceives Him as Man through the Holy Spirit. In this act of conception, the act of fertilization, God, the Divine Knitter and Potter, forms the Son of God as the Son of Man in the womb of His All-Holy Virgin Mother, Blessed Mary. In this sense, conceived as Man in the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit in Nazareth, He is born to her in Bethlehem nine months later. On this basis, in this Humanity, through the help of His Mother, He would fulfill God’s plan of salvation for the descendants of Abraham, people that descend spiritually from Abraham by faith.
D. THE JOY AND GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR CONCEIVING AND BEARING A CHILD
In Sacred Scripture, God inspires joy and gratitude in people, including in the parents, for receiving the gift of human life. Yes, He moves them joyfully and gratefully, by the Holy Spirit, as they learn about the conception and birth of a child. As such, having joy and gratitude in their hearts for the gift of human life is an efficacious sign of God’s presence in their life. For instance, in the Book of Psalms, David, inspired by God, offers praise to God joyfully and gratefully for creating him (Psalms 139:14). Similarly, under God’s inspiration, Ben Sira, in the Book of Sirach, calls parents to find joy in their children (Sirach 25:7). He also tells them to bless God in joy and gratitude for forming human life from the womb according to His will (Sirach 50:22). As for the Gospel, St. Luke says that the unborn child, St. John the Baptist, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, leaped for joy in the womb of his mother, St. Elizabeth, when he heard the voice of the pregnant Virgin Mary. In this passage, the Evangelist suggests that St. John was offering praise joyfully and in gratitude to God for the unborn Divine Messiah in the womb of His Mother (Luke 1:39-45). Right after this, in the Magnificat, Mary rejoices and offers gratitude to God for her faith in the angel’s message to her that she would conceive and bear the Son of God as Man. In doing so, she says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-49). Moreover, after the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds, telling them to rejoice that He was born to the Virgin Mary as the Messiah who would save His people. This joy includes gratitude to God for His birth (Luke 2:10-11). Finally, at the presentation, when the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph presented the infant Jesus to God in the Temple, Simeon and Anna rejoice and offer their gratitude to God for finally raising up a son of Abraham from the House of David, the Divine Messiah, who would save His people (Luke 2:22-32, 38). Therefore, the only proper response from people, especially from parents, for receiving the gift of human life, a child, is joy and gratitude.
V. SACRED TRADITION
A. ST. IRENAEUS OF LYONS
Here I will briefly recall from Sacred Tradition the teachings of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, an early Church Father. He developed some doctrines during his life that I believe are especially relevant to the subject in question. In particular, in Against Heresies and in the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, he develops a parallel of opposition involving the Virgin Eve and the Virgin Mary, after studying Scripture, particularly Genesis and the Gospel of St. Luke. In doing so, he describes Eve and Mary as contrary models of motherhood for women. After briefly presenting his parallel of opposition involving Eve and Mary, I will introduce his doctrine of recapitulation. This parallel he develops really prepares for his doctrine of recapitulation.
1. EVE-MARY PARALLEL OF OPPOSITION
On the one hand, St. Irenaeus recalls from Genesis the disobedience of the first woman in the first creation, the Virgin Eve (the First Eve), in the Garden of Eden. In this act of disobedience, she disobeyed God by obeying the word of the fallen angel, the serpent. Consequently, she incurred death for herself, first and foremost, spiritually, but also physically, for by her sinful disobedience, she lost the Divine Grace of God. In other words, she died spiritually in her soul and would someday die physically. As a result, by her choice to disobey God, she would become the mother of death for all her children, for they would be conceived and born to her spiritually dead and would someday die physically just as she would. As such, by her disobedience to God, they would suffer a form of abortion, a spiritual abortion interiorly in their souls that would terminate physically in their bodies someday. In this sense, the Virgin Eve became the first pro-choice woman, the first woman in human history who used her human will to end human life, the natural and supernatural life of the human being. For this reason, as the mother of death, she is a bad maternal model for all mothers, for she teaches them, by her sinful choice, by her disobedience to God, that they have a right to abort their unborn child spiritually and physically. Here she neither acts reasonably nor naturally nor supernaturally according to God’s Will. As a consequence, she fails to conform herself to the Wisdom of the Eternal Law through the natural and Divine Law as a natural and spiritual mother. On this basis, for St. Irenaeus, the Virgin Eve, the mother of death, is certainly not someone for women to imitate in their motherhood. She is not a model for them morally (Against Heresies Book III, Chapter 22, Paragraph 4; Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1).
On the other hand, St. Irenaeus also recalls from the Gospel of St. Luke the obedience of the first woman in the second creation, the Virgin Mary (the Second Eve). In this act of obedience, she obeyed God by obeying His Word from His holy angel, St. Gabriel. As you recall, at the Annunciation from St. Luke’s Gospel, after St. Gabriel greets the Virgin Mary, “Hail, Full of Grace! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28), he announces to her that she would conceive and bear the Son of God as Man, a Son of David, Jesus, by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:31, 35). According to St. Gabriel, this Son of David would offer the people of God, the children of Abraham, Eternal Life in His reign as the Divine Messiah. As such, after hearing God’s announcement from the angel, the Virgin Mary obeyed His Word by proclaiming, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May the Lord’s will be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38). As the Mother of the God-Man, she is a Good Model, a Holy Model, for all mothers, because she teaches them, by her obedience to God, that they are called to say yes to Divine Life by saying yes to all unborn human life. In doing so, she fully and perfectly participates in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law naturally and supernaturally, for she obeys the natural and Divine Law by the Grace of God. As a result, all women are called by God to be faithful imitators of the Mother of Life, the Virgin Mary, the Perfect Model of Motherhood (Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1; and Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 33).
In developing this Eve-Mary parallel of opposition, St. Irenaeus also develops a doctrine of recapitulation to describe the Virgin Mary’s participation in her Son’s work of salvation as His Maternal Helpmate. As such, in this doctrine, he teaches that the Virgin Mary, through her obedience to God, by conceiving her unborn Son, Jesus Christ, and by bearing Him, recapitulates or sums up in herself the Virgin Eve, the mother of the human race in the first creation. In other words, the Virgin Mary maternally gathers up in herself the Virgin Eve and her descendants to save them in Christ by her obedience. Indeed, in this motherly act of obedience, she remembers God’s promise that He would save them. Yes, by her act of recapitulation, she recalls that God would save them through a Virgin from the House of David who would conceive and bear a Child as the Messiah. In this sense, through the angel, St. Gabriel, God reveals to the Virgin Mary that she herself is this Virgin Daughter of David’s House who would be the Mother of this Child. She believes Him. In this faithful act of Motherly Love, she practices anamnesis, the act of remembering God’s promise, by recapitulation. In this act, God’s salvation really becomes present in and through the Virgin Mary, for she conceives and bears her Child. In doing so, she becomes the saving Maternal “Patroness” and “Intercessor” of the Virgin Eve and her descendants by “rescuing” them from death as a true Mother (Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1; and Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, Paragraph 33). According to St. Irenaeus, this work of salvation, by recapitulation, involved a restoration process called recirculation. In his doctrine, this work was completed, above all, by the actions of Jesus Himself, but also secondarily by the actions of the Virgin Mary. Here her actions as the Mother of Life, first and foremost, by her obedience to God in saying yes to the Life of her Unborn Child, “counterbalanced” the sinful action of the Virgin Eve, the mother of death, who said no to the life of her children, by subjecting them to spiritual and bodily death through disobedience (Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1). In this sense, as the Virgin Eve lost her communion in God’s Friendship by ordering her actions sinfully against God through disobedience, the Virgin Mary did her part as Maternal Helpmate to recover this Divine Friendship by ordering her actions virtuously to God through obedience. As such, here the virtuous actions of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Life, parallel, by opposition, the sinful actions of the Virgin Eve, the mother of death, step by step, in reverse order. This is the work of restoration of the human race that the Virgin Mary fulfilled in obedience to God by retracing the missteps of the disobedience of the Virgin Eve as a means to undo what she did. Indeed, by her obedience, she undid the disobedience of the Virgin Eve, including the bondage to death that the Virgin Eve incurred for herself and for all her children (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 33; and Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1). In doing so, she made the Life of her Son, the Divine Messiah, available to all people by conceiving and bearing Him as Man. For this reason, she became the First Pro-Life Woman, the First Woman to say yes to Unborn Life, in the second creation of the human race. Accordingly, by her obedience to God, she became the Mother of Life, the Mother of Divine Life, for all people to become adopted as sons and daughters of God by the Life of Grace (Against Heresies Book III, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1). Indeed, “through the Virgin [Mary,] who was obedient to the Word of God, man (the human race) was reanimated and received life” (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 33). This Life that man received, through the obedience of the Virgin Mary, was the Life of the Son of God Himself, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Only by saying yes to God’s Gift of Life, in obedience to Him, by conceiving her Unborn Son and by bearing Him, could she participate in God’s salvation of humanity as Maternal Helpmate. In this yes, she remembers God’s promise to save His people as a Woman of Faith. As a result, she does her part to fulfill His promise of salvation to them by becoming the Mother of His Son in obedience to Him. On this basis, St. Irenaeus can profess this message, “The human race bound to death by a virgin’s disobedience found salvation by a virgin’s obedience: virginal obedience counteracted virginal disobedience” (Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 19, Paragraph 1).
I believe that this doctrine of recapitulation in St. Irenaeus is relevant for every pregnant woman, particularly for every pregnant Catholic (or Christian) woman. By saying yes to God’s gift of life, in obedience to Him, through the act of conceiving and bearing her child, she recapitulates or sums up in herself the Virgin Mary’s conception and birth of her Son, Jesus Christ. Here she remembers, as a woman of faith, God’s promise that He would save His people through a Virgin Mother and her Son. Accordingly, by conceiving and bearing her child, the Catholic woman participates in this act of salvation as a mother. In a sense, she reenacts the Virgin Mary’s conception and birth of her Child Jesus, for she really conceives and bears a created image of God, her child, in the image of the Uncreated Image of God. In doing so, she faithfully imitates her Maternal Model, the Virgin Mary, by directing her actions, step by step, in the proper order. These steps, for her, begin from conception by being joyful and grateful to God for receiving the sacred gift of unborn human life from Him as an actual image of Himself. This alone is her proper response to God for such a gift. As a woman of faith, this joy and gratitude to God for human life will ideally inform her daily life of prayer, including her moral actions. Prenatally, these actions will involve eating, sleeping and exercising virtuously to preserve herself in good health throughout her pregnancy. In doing so, she will be properly nourished, rested and in good condition to preserve her unborn child in good health as he matures. Postnatally, her actions will include raising her child to be a holy man of God by educating him to know and love God and neighbor virtuously in society according to Catholic faith and morals, beginning in the family. All these prenatal and postnatal actions by her as a mother recall the actions of the Virgin Mary as she mothered her Son, Jesus Christ, before and after his birth. This means that by faithfully imitating the Virgin Mary, her Maternal Model, in mothering her child, she really commemorates the Holy Motherhood of the Virgin Mary in mothering Jesus in perfect holiness. In this sense, by being a faithful mother, a holy mother, to her child, throughout her life, she honors the holy memory of the Virgin Mary by recapitulating the virtues of her Holy Motherhood in conceiving, bearing and raising her Son, Jesus, to be the Holy Man of God. Indeed, by practicing anamnesis as a woman of faith through recapitulation, she re-presents the Holy Maternity of Blessed Mary as the Mother of Jesus. This is the work of salvation in her life as a mother. Thus, by faithfully mothering her child naturally and supernaturally, she participates in the Wisdom of the Eternal Law by conforming herself to the Holy Maternity of the Virgin Mary.
In this article, after presenting the bases for the legal decision by the Supreme Court Justices in Roe vs. Wade, including the arguments of pro-choice women in America, I offered my arguments against them in defense of the unborn human being. First of all, as you recall, in 1973 the Supreme Court Justices determined that a woman had a right to have an abortion safely and legally during her pregnancy under a licensed physician, but this was only a qualified or relative right for her that had to be balanced against the interests of the government in protecting both her health and the life of the unborn based on the legal norms developed from the three trimesters of pregnancy. At the heart of this decision by the Supreme Court Justices was the claim that the human life during pregnancy, viable or not, is not actually a human person legally, but only potentially human. Secondly, you will also recall that pro-choice women in America have formed arguments developed from this Supreme Court decision to defend the right of a woman to procure an abortion. These arguments include: “It is only potentially human, not actually human.”; “If it is my body, then it is my choice.”; “It is a disease in my body.”; and “Religion cannot legislate my morality.” As I argued in this article, these claims are false. They have no basis in reason, nature, or revelation. They are completely subjective. They have only a basis in the fallacy of moral relativism. Accordingly, in arguing against these false, moral relativist claims, I argued that the unborn human being is neither a part of his mother’s body nor is he a disease in his mother’s body during pregnancy. On the contrary, I argued that the unborn human life is fully and actually a human being, created in the image of God, from his conception. In doing so, I developed this argument from the natural law, the Divine Law and the Divine Grace of God as revealed in human nature, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. On this basis, a woman may never directly abort her unborn child under any circumstances for any reason, for the act of direct abortion is against the Wisdom of the Eternal Law.
At the same time, I recall a special message from 1995 that Pope St. John Paul II offered to Catholic women who had procured an abortion at some time during their life. In this message, the Pope tells them that the Church understands the many factors that may have influenced their decision to have an abortion, including the pain they may have suffered for this decision. In fact, he tells them that they may still be suffering in their hearts for deciding to have an abortion. Yes, what they did was gravely immoral, but he counsels them, as a loving father, not to be discouraged or to despair for what they did. There is still hope for them to find healing in Christ. Indeed, He offers them His healing mercy, but they can only receive this mercy, first of all, by truly understanding that abortion is gravely evil. Secondly, only in the light of this true understanding can they humbly open their hearts to repent for their abortion in the Sacrament of Confession. The Pope also tells them that after being reconciled to Christ and His Church, and receiving friendly and professional help from others, they can become great defenders of the unborn by defending their right to life in human society (Evangelium Vitae, XXXI. Walk as Children of Light: Bringing About a Transformation of Culture, 99).
This message from Pope John Paul II, published three years before Norma McCorvey became Roman Catholic in 1998, would help her find the healing in Christ that she desired in her heart as a Catholic. As a Dominican novice in 2007, I remember Norma crying to me as she recalled the sinful life that she had lived for many years and all the people she had harmed, at least indirectly, during those years, especially women and their unborn children, by suing for the legal right to have an abortion as Roe. This was certainly not Confession, for I was not yet a priest, but I did personally witness in her the truth and humility that Pope John Paul II talked about in his message to women that would prepare them to receive the healing mercy of Christ through repentance in the Sacrament of Confession. In the case of Norma, she never actually had an abortion, but she sued and eventually her lawsuit, after becoming a class-action suit, received a favorable decision from the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade. As a result, abortion became a legal right available to all women in America in 1973, leading to some 47 million abortions in America by the time Norma died in February of 2017 (60 million as of March of 2021). Norma was certainly not directly morally culpable or guilty for all these abortions that millions of women had procured through the years, but she did suffer greatly for the part that she had in helping abortion to become legal in the United States. Thankfully, after offering her life to Christ, this suffering would become redemptive in Christ for her as a faithful defender of the unborn image of God.