Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Language Muddles Abortion Debate

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 15, 2009

Choices have become idols in our society. It is seen as greatly liberating when we walk into the supermarket and face a breathtaking array of toothpastes, paper towels and shampoos.

Even so simple an action as buying dog food has become a big deal. One must scrutinize the labels because there are now so many options. Do you want Rover to eat gourmet, high-fiber, dietetic or breath-freshening food?

For heaven’s sake, I want to shout, this is dog food! And, really, isn’t it true that, given half a chance, Rover will dine quite happily from the neighbor’s garbage can?

Little wonder that the “pro-choice” label sounds appealing to so many. If choice is such a great thing in the supermarket, then shouldn’t it also be wonderful for women to choose whether or not they keep the babies in their wombs?

Problem is, when it comes to the realm of human actions, it is ridiculous to idolize the notion of choice. After all, we make thousands of decisions each day, and some are good and others are bad. The robber who breaks into your house and steals your jewelry clearly is making a choice. The guy who mugs you on the elevator has also chosen to do so. But these are obviously bad choices, and I doubt any sane person would defend them as anything else.

When it comes to the decision to abort a child, the “pro-choice” contingent has selected language that makes its position seem appealing. After all, many people equate being pro-choice with being pro-freedom, and people put high value on liberty.

It would be wonderful if we could be straightforward in the abortion debate. In some ways it defies logic to believe that anyone could oppose a group that calls itself “pro-life” because logic dictates that the opposite of life is death. And so, to be perfectly consistent, the opposing group really should be called “pro-death.”

But it seems that no one wants to claim that bleak title, so the appealing word “choice” has been substituted. It seems that the pro-choice group is forgetting that in every terrorist action, in every murder, in every heinous crime, a choice is made. The obvious conclusion is this: Choice in and of itself is not something good.

Perhaps a more accurate title for those favoring abortion rights would be “pro-abortion.” But this irritates the pro-choice folks, many of whom insist they are not really in favor of abortions. In fact, many people in this camp claim that they would like to see the number of abortions reduced.

However, it is never clear why they want the number reduced. Generally, people are eager to lessen the incidence of actions that are evil or harmful. So in claiming they want to reduce abortions, the pro-choice group is in effect admitting something that seems blatantly obvious to those on the other side: Abortion is morally wrong. After all, if abortion were neutral—or good—why endeavor to reduce the numbers?

There was a time when the womb was a very private place, and many considered the pre-born child to be a mere clump of matter. But as technology continues to improve, the child in the womb is becoming more and more visible to the world.

Today it is quite clear that the little person in there with an identifiable nose, mouth, legs and arms—and let’s not overlook that beating heart—is a living human being created in God’s image. It is getting harder for anyone to claim that this living being can be put to death just because another human being has chosen to do so.

Lorraine’s latest book is “Death in the Choir,” a mystery set at a church in Decatur. You may order it at local bookstores or at Artwork for this column is by Jef Murray. Readers may e-mail the Murrays, who are parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur, by writing