The following comes from a Feb 27 posting by Joe Kral of the University of St. Thomas on Zenit.com.
As G. Santayana famously put it, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The new slogan that accuses those who advocate for a Culture of Life, including the Church, as waging a “war on women” shows the complete ignorance of those who are chanting it.
Abortion is essentially a way for men to control women. It is tragic that those who advocate for it seem to not understand their history. If anything, history has proven that those who sanction abortion are truly the ones at war with women.
Consider the ancient Roman attitudes towards women. In the time of Christ, abortion was considered an acceptable practice within pagan cultures and it was not unheard that a husband would literally order his wife or servant to have one. In order to better understand this one only needs to look at the legal status of Roman women. These coercive practices are a result of the ancient Roman legal principle of the patria potestas. According to Rodney Stark, “Roman law accorded the male head of family the literal power of life and death over his household, including the right to order a female in the household to abort” (see The Rise of Christianity, pg. 120).
This obviously had a tremendous impact on coercive practices when it came to unwanted children and/or unwanted pregnancies. But what makes this ancient practice even more tragic is that the Roman Twelve Tables, which was the Roman code of law, suggested that men who ordered their wives to abort without good reason receive censure. While at first glance it may appear that the law is actually pro-life, one merely needs to scratch the surface to see how the law really did not intend to curb the abortion practice. The problem with the law is twofold: Firstly, it did not specify what the penalty was neither did it define what the fine would be, so the law had no “teeth”. Censure was essentially a mild scolding of sorts and so men were not afraid to order wives to get an abortion regardless of whether or not it was a “good reason”. Secondly, it didn’t affect women who were impregnated by a man outside the family, so a man could coerce her to abort without any repercussion. Prior to the Christianization of the Roman Empire, the law of the land essentially permitted men to coerce women into having an abortion at any point if they so desired without any real punishment.
Fast forward nearly two thousand years and once again the world’s most influential nation has legalized abortion. In fact, the abortion policy is so permissive that it allows for abortion for any reason and at any gestational age, much like ancient Rome. There are some noticeable differences, however. Unlike Rome, the US model does not rely on the ancient idea of the patria potestas. Rather, it relies on the idea that the biological mother has the right to determine the life or death of her unborn child.
But the question remains: has legalized abortion stopped coercive practices by biological fathers? If anything, the last 41 years since the legalization of abortion nationwide has shown that this abortion model does not empower women as much as it empowers men. Two reasons for this: 1) Polls consistently show that more men are in favor of abortion than women, and 2) men tend to use the threat of physical harm, abandonment, or other forms of manipulation in order to secure the abortion. This helps explain why men tend to favor abortion, because they know that it is possible to coerce the women into getting one.
To read the entire posting, click here.