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Enough Killing of Innocents: A Consitent Life Quote for LifeMatters

August 23, 2013

This weekend, the consistent life publication Life Matters Journal is hosting a “blogfest” in response to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “AbortionMatters blog carnival”.  While clearly responding to a polemical position, this is not about perpetuating divides but attempting to bridge them: demonstrating that it is not only possible but indeed more consistent to be both pro-woman and pro-life, that concerns for universal human dignity and protection of the vulnerable underlie and connect a host of “issues” that are artificially separated and polarized in the political sphere, that “#LifeMatters rings truer, more profoundly, and with greater resonance to all humanity than the demand for violence.”

In that spirit, I offer a paragraph from Khaled Hosseini’s 2007 novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, set in Afghanistan’s tumultuous recent decades, that has haunted my mind since I read the book last month.  As a bibliophile, this was one of those golden experiences where I come to a passage that stops me in my tracks, one that I have to read over several times, attentively, just to let it sink in.

Without wanting to give any more of a spoiler than necessary, the context for this passage is that one of the novel’s protagonists is considering self-aborting a child whose father she does not love, out of fear that she might not be able to love the child.  Hosseini’s incisive parallel here speaks for itself.

It wasn’t the fear of bleeding to death that made her drop the spoke, or even the idea that the act was damnable – which she suspected it was.  Laila dropped the spoke because she could not accept what the Mujahideen readily had: that sometimes in war innocent life had to be taken.  Her war was against Rasheed.  The baby was blameless.  And there had been enough killing already.  Laila had seen enough killing of innocents caught in the cross fire of enemies.

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15 Comments
  1. aliceny permalink
    August 23, 2013 10:31 pm

    i’m new to this blog. This is the first post I have received. This is such a thoughtful, well written piece that I want to share it with many who share my opinion.
    Thank you.

  2. Chris Sullivan permalink
    August 23, 2013 11:32 pm

    Wonderful ! Thanks for sharing Julia.

    God Bless

  3. dismasdolben permalink
    August 24, 2013 1:45 am

    The abortion issue IS important, and it should be pursued adamantly in the “whole cloth” spirit–that is, as it relates to capital punishment, the economic exploitation of human life and the environment, etc. These things are worth militating over non-violently.

    However, the Catholic Church has, for too long, wasted its credibility on things that are culturally and politically irreversible and, in my opinion, peripheral to the central message and spirit of Christianity–such as “gay marriage” and the illusory “persecution” of the Church by secularists.

    Let us, indeed, concentrate on saving the lives of the innocent–from abortionists, from terrorists, from the atheistically-inclined political murderers who run governments–but let’s give up on trying to assume victimhood and trying to prevent people who love each other from gaining the legal benefits of what most Americans call “marriage.”

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      August 24, 2013 9:19 am

      I removed the part of this that was going totally off-topic, but I more or less share your priorities. I certainly believe the seamless garment of life issues is much more “worth militating over non-violently” than the quixotic culture wars being waged in some corners of the Catholic world, and I venture that the Church upholds these priorities in the long run, even if there are some priests, bishops and laypeople who seem to have lost sight of them in the short run.

  4. Doc Fox permalink
    August 24, 2013 10:59 am

    As I understand the facts, this young woman’s motive for considering an abortion is unusual. Most often the motive is economic/social. The woman fears that she cannot care for herself and a child with the resources available to her, or fears the child would mean ending educational efforts, or otherwise fears destruction of her life vision. To the extent these motives dominate, social justice legislation may be better than invoking criminal law.

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      August 24, 2013 2:13 pm

      I partly agree with you in that legal restrictions on abortion alone won’t solve the problem, although I question the assumption that legislative and systemic solutions are mutually exclusive (a subject I addressed more thoroughly in this essay I wrote for Christian Democracy). But that’s not really what is at issue in this quote, which deals with it more at the level of personal decision. This character makes the courageous decision not to allow her child (whom she then finds she does love “with the marrow of her bones”) to become yet another innocent victim of the violence that surrounds her. And we certainly should be doing everything in our power to provide any and all women with the support they need to make similarly courageous decisions to prevent their children from becoming victims of the same systemic injustices that may be motivating them to consider abortion in the first place.

      • Doc Fox permalink
        August 24, 2013 3:21 pm

        At this moment, any legal restrictions (criminal law approach) are on shaky foundations, given Roe v Wade, which bans any state intrusion in the relationship between the woman and her physician, and in so doing the case held a prohibition of abortion to be unconstitutional.

        The state requiring counseling may be unconstitutional. Private efforts to encourage counseling are perfectly OK, indeed commendable. Certainly if the woman seeks counseling, all support must be offered.

        It seems to me that those legislators who propose unconstitutional laws while resisting any public expenditures along social justice lines, are either a little short in the reasoning department, or are hypocritical to the extreme in proposing that which will go nowhere in real life.

        In my own family there are now three children and two grandchildren, and we are very grateful they were born. As saying of my father’s goes: when the child is born, check, ten fingers, ten toes, two ears, one nose, and all being found in good condition, you may now inquire what gender it is.

        One of my greatest joys in my work in the Church has been to assist Father in some way with baptisms.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          August 24, 2013 6:08 pm

          Again, I never said legal restrictions were the only solution (and again, this isn’t really about that anyway), but there is a difference between acknowledging that they are not sufficient by themselves and being actively opposed to them. Why oppose anything life-affirming?

          This isn’t really the place to get into this argument in detail, but to capsulize what I argued in the Christian Democracy piece I linked to in my previous comment, it’s a both/and. “Laws designed to prevent, regulate or outlaw specific forms of violence are, in short, both necessary and not enough.”

        • Thales permalink
          August 25, 2013 10:07 pm

          At this moment, any legal restrictions (criminal law approach) are on shaky foundations, given Roe v Wade, which bans any state intrusion in the relationship between the woman and her physician, and in so doing the case held a prohibition of abortion to be unconstitutional.

          I don’t want to get into a discussion about the legality of abortion, since Julia has such a beautiful post here, but I feel compelled to note that this simply isn’t true. Current abortion law is complicated (and I don’t want to sidetrack Julia’s beautiful post), but summarized briefly, the law says that the state has an interest in fetal life and can require reasonable restrictions on abortion, balanced against a woman’s right to an abortion (and that this right to an abortion is not an exclusive right between a woman and her doctor). So, for example, the state requiring counseling may be constitutional (depending on the specifics that are required).

          Regardless, I’m in full agreement with Julia’s responses.

  5. crystal permalink
    August 26, 2013 4:04 pm

    The question of whether an embryo or early fetus is a person probably has a lot to do with why some people can be both pro-life and against criminalizing abortion. I was just reading that two thirds of Catholics accept abortion of some kind … http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/what-do-believers-believe-not-what-you-might-expect/

    • Julia Smucker permalink*
      August 26, 2013 4:42 pm

      I’m not sure the questions in this survey are set up in the most helpful way, as they appear to lend themselves to oversimplifications (especially the last one on one’s source of moral guidance – for me it’s a combination of all of those things listed and I couldn’t possibly pick just one). In any case, on the question of personhood, the connection of the killing of innocents in abortion and war is again telling, since dehumanization of the victims of violence is so frequently employed to justify violence across the board.

      • crystal permalink
        August 26, 2013 5:19 pm

        That’s interesting, the comparison of people on the other side in war and embryos/fetuses. Both are recognized as human beings, but combatants have their existing person-hood stripped from them by their enemy, while the question with embryos/fetuses is whether they have yet become persons.

        A question – why is it so important that life that’s worth saving be “innocent”? I don’t think there’s a distinction like that made in the NT.

        • Julia Smucker permalink*
          August 26, 2013 6:41 pm

          Thank you for that question, Crystal, as I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I think only innocent life is worth saving. I was merely limiting it to that in the post because that’s what the quote dealt with most directly, and it provides a sort of common denominator and hence an accessible starting point for a consistent life ethic. But I strongly agree, the value of a life does not hinge on innocence. This is strongly implied in CST when it teaches that human dignity is universal and inviolable by virtue of being created in the image of God. And certainly, going back to the NT, the commands of Jesus to “do good to those who persecute you” and of St. Paul to “repay evil with good” suggest that Christians have a particular obligation to care for those who do us harm.

        • crystal permalink
          August 26, 2013 8:57 pm

          Thanks :) I think I missed a lot of the history of doctrine during RCIA.

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