By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, DEC. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Once again questionable practices at abortion clinics have made the headlines. In Spain authorities are investigating four clinics after accusations they carried out abortions beyond the legal time limit, reported London's Times newspaper, Nov. 30.
The Barcelona clinics were frequently used by British women according to the article, and carried out abortions up until the 8th month of pregnancy. The Times noted that Spanish law permits abortion only up until the 22nd week. In their investigations police discovered machines attached to the drains, used to crush the bodies of aborted babies, thus destroying the evidence.
According to a Nov. 27 article published by the Spanish newspaper ABC, authorities carried out a raid on the clinics following a denunciation by the Christian organization E-Cristians, made over a year ago. Part of the material sent to the police by E-Cristians came from a Danish television investigation that secretly filmed a pregnant journalist who asked if, being 30 weeks pregnant, one of the clinic's doctors would carry out an abortion on her. The doctor agreed.
In 2004, the British newspaper the Telegraph performed a similar undercover operation to expose illegal late abortions in Barcelona's clinics. According to ABC, the official investigations that came as a result of the articles published on the issue came to nothing.
An article published the next day by ABC contained graphic details of the brutal methods used in the late abortions by the Barcelona clinics. According to one doctor quoted by the paper, some of the abortive methods used differ little from infanticide. As well, an organization of Christian doctors (Médicos Cristianos) told the newspaper that they have proof that some of the bodies from late abortions finished up in laboratories to make cosmetics.
Other recent data on abortions in Spain also caused concern. On July 4 the ABC newspaper reported that according to a study of data from 1991-2001, researchers found that the number of abortions among 15-19 year olds almost doubled, from 5,441 to 9,918. During this period the total number of abortions rose sharply, from 41,910 to 69,857.
Then, on Dec. 2, the ABC reported that among adolescents less than 20 years old the number of abortions is greater than live births. The data came from 2005, the latest year for which complete information is available. In that year there were 12,883 young women under 20 who carried out their pregnancy to term, against, 13,031 who opted for abortion.
Earlier this year the bishops making up the ecclesiastical province of the country's capital, Madrid, published a n ote on what they termed the grave problem of abortion. In their declaration, dated March 25, the feast of Our Lord's Incarnation, the prelates recalled that abortion is a grave injustice and a crime against innocent life.
The bishops strongly criticized legislators who approve laws enabling unjust violence against life and that squash the rights of those who cannot speak out for themselves. This is a totalitarian way of governing that forgets the first principle of justice, which is the right to life, they said.
Ireland's bishops also spoke out recently against abortion in a pastoral letter issued to mark the Oct. 7 annual celebration of the Day for Life. Every life has been created by God in his own image and likeness, they pointed out. This means that all life is sacred, from the moment of conception until natural death.
The bishops invited everyone to pray for all those affected by abortion, and also to pray for politicians that they will keep in mind the sacred ness of life in their decisions.
From Australia, Melbourne archbishop, Denis Hart, wrote an article on abortion published in the Herald Sun newspaper, Aug. 25. Sadly, he commented, the most dangerous place for a baby in the state of Victoria is to be in a mother's womb. One in four pregnancies in Victoria ends in abortion.
Australia has enjoyed substantial economic progress in recent years, the archbishop observed, but we need to be rich in humanity and not just in economic terms, he added. Moreover, if we allow democracy to be distorted by denying the right to life, "new slaveries will replace the dream of a real democracy," he concluded.
It's not just the Church that defends unborn life. Francis Beckwith, associate professor of philosophy and jurisprudence at Baylor University, published a book that outlines the secular case against abortion. "Defending Life," published by Cambridge University Press, is a very thorough anal ysis of the abortion issue from the perspective of a discourse on the human person.
The key point to bear in mind, Beckwith argued, is that the unborn entity is a full-fledged member of the human community. Once this is accepted then it can also be argued that this entity is entitled to all the rights to which free and equal persons are entitled, among them the right to life.
Beckwith explains in the book's introduction that he chose to argue from philosophical and legal grounds, and not theological, because in both public life and academic circles religious arguments are often automatically discounted.
One of the difficulties in the debate, according to Beckwith, is that when we say something is morally wrong, there is often an assumption that this just depends on a personal view. Thus, defending the right to choose an abortion makes the issue one of mere personal preference, without any acknowledgment of objective principles of right or wrong.
The argument for moral relativism, often justified in the name of tolerance or cultural differences, is flawed, he maintained. In fact, over the centuries systems of moral reasoning have attempted to guide people in making their decisions, and arguments can be applied to the abortion debate.
After a couple of chapters dissecting the flaws in arguments advanced by the U.S. Supreme Court in its approval of abortion, Beckwith turns to look at the scientific case for the human status of the unborn.
From the moment of conception no new genetic information is needed to make the unborn entity an individual human being. The new entity is a whole organism, with the capacity and powers to bring the whole to maturity. From a biological point of view there is no decisive break or substantial change from conception until death.
Another chapter of the book deals with the argument that while the unborn entity may be a human, it does not have the status and rights of a person. Beckwith ter ms as anti-equality advocates those who defend the position that not all humans are equally valuable because they lack certain properties or functions.
Beckwith, by contrast, defends the position that a human being is intrinsically valuable because of what it is. A further chapter of the book applies this to the cloning issue. Unless we have a principled position based on the intrinsic value of human life at all stages of development it is more difficult to resist pressures for cloning, he concludes.
In concluding Beckwith reasons that if the unborn life is a person, and if is morally unjustified to take the life of a human, then the law should reflect this and prohibit the unjust killing of innocent persons.
This is a position shared by Benedict XVI, who in a Nov. 19 address to bishops from Kenya stated that the "direct destruction of an innocent human life can never be justified, however difficult the circumstances that may lead some to consider taking suc h a grave step." This fundamental equality of life, the Pope continued, is essential as a basis for a social life founded on truth and justice. Principles that are valid for all, regardless of faith.