Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

No Room In The Lifeboat

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY | Published February 14, 2013

I’m always deeply moved when someone sacrifices their life for someone else in a movie. In the 1953 film “Titanic,” there was that gut-wrenching scene where some noble passengers and crew members helped women and children into the lifeboats, and then stayed on the ship to die because there weren’t enough boats to go around.

That image of the lifeboat came back to me when I read a thoroughly chilling article in Salon magazine titled “So What if Abortion Ends a Life?”

But first, a little background. The abortion debate, at heart, is about rights. Pro-life people, including the Catholic Church, say the unborn child has an inherent right to life—and that right begins at conception.

Some pro-choice people say the unborn child should not get rights until later. When, exactly? This is where things get muddy because as technology allows us earlier and earlier glimpses into the womb, it becomes increasingly difficult to deny that the being seen sucking its thumb or yawning isn’t human. However, there are still pro-choice people who claim abortion in the early stages of a woman’s pregnancy is morally justified, while others say it is justified in later stages too.

But there is another pro-choice crowd, which gets a voice in this magazine article. In it, the author admits that the unborn child is a human being from the moment of conception, rather than a clump of cells. She also assures readers that throughout her pregnancies “I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me.” Still, she proclaims herself solidly pro-choice.

This is a startling belief, but I suspect it is one that many people quietly hold. They believe that life begins at conception, but—and this is the point that must be shouted from the rooftops or we may not realize how frightening it is—it doesn’t matter!

It doesn’t matter that there is a living child in the womb. It doesn’t matter that the child has the right to life. And why is this? Because the author believes that a mother’s rights always trump those of her unborn child. The word “always” is significant because it means that abortion for any reason is justifiable—whether it’s because someone wants a boy rather than a girl, or wants to go to college, or doesn’t want to gain weight.

In a tragic statement, the author admits openly that she would put the life of a mother over her unborn child “every single time” because the child’s life is “worth sacrificing.”

Usually, when we use the word “sacrifice” in the same breath as mother and child, we picture an impoverished mother eating less so her child can survive. Or we see a woman giving up her evenings to help a child with homework. But in this case we have the noxious notion of a mother “sacrificing” her child’s life so the mother can fulfill her own plans, whatever they might be. Instead of picturing a noble person on a sinking ship handing a life preserver to someone else, I get the image of the person grabbing the life preserver, jumping in the lifeboat and yelling, “Me first!”

And here’s the elephant in the room that the author ignores. If it’s okay to rip away the life preserver—literally the life—of an unborn child for any reason, then what about kids who are already born? What difference does it make if the child is in the womb or toddling around the house? The toddler is clearly a human being, and it might be quite inconvenient at times to let him continue living.

Once we say some human lives can be sacrificed for the convenience of others, we have opened the door to a monstrous morality. Let’s face it: At some point, it may seem inconvenient—to a spouse, child or relative—to keep each of us alive.

Sacrifice means giving up something valuable for the sake of another. We call men and women heroic when they sacrifice their lives to save a stranger. We give medals to soldiers who sacrifice themselves in war. But it is hard to imagine applauding someone for sacrificing the life of another person for their own advantage.

For those who believe that human life is not God-given, then why not take it—or sacrifice it—whenever it suits your purposes? I can envision what many convicted killers would say when asked about their motives. “I wanted to get their money.” “I wanted revenge.” “He stole my girlfriend.” “She stood in the way of my promotion.”

In other words: Me first! Get out of my way!

Lent has just begun. Many people may be seeking ways to focus their fasting and penance. Here’s an idea: Let’s fast and pray to change the hearts of all the people who can say with a straight face and no fear of reprisal, “Yes it’s a life—but so what?”

Artwork by Jef Murray ( The Murrays are parishioners at St. Thomas More in Decatur. Readers may email them at