The following comes from a June 26 column by Father James Schall, S.J. on The Catholic Thing website.
How does one think of the actually aborted? They are not abstractions, however tiny. They constitute a significant proportion of all human beings called into existence. We have no monuments or graves to commemorate their being here. Their bodies are said to have “commercial” use or can be used to “aid” others to improve their lives. So they are not “nothing.” Their elimination must be “justified.”
Each human being begins at conception and lasts until that initial life force ends in death, say, four score and ten years later if not sooner – for the aborted, much sooner. Many human lives never reach birth for reasons of sickness, accidents, or malformation. We call them “mis-carriages.” The immediate cause of their death was not willed human intervention.
Karl Rahner once wrote: “‘To be born’ means to come into existence without being asked.” An abortion terminates a begun human life by human agency. The aborted or its agency is again not asked or considered. Murder is the unjust destruction of an already born human being at the hands of another, again without the victim’s being asked. The aborted have the act ending their life “done unto them.”
We are not “asked” whether we want to be born or not. That is a great thing, really. Existence and even the desire to exist are in fact not in our hands. They are gifts. What is in our hands is the life of what is begotten of human parents, male and female.
So what is the “status” of those unborn members of the human race that are in fact killed by other human beings whose ostensible responsibility is to protect them and bring them to birth and maturity?
Estimates vary but we are told that, worldwide, some 42 million are aborted each year. This figure is probably a minimum and has been repeated each year for decades. It is well known that girls are more likely to be aborted than boys, so that abortion skews normal ratios of men to women.
Many, if not most, have no doubt grown “comfortable” with such numbers. Not a few are more likely to be concerned over the death of pets than over that of the aborted human child. Why is this? In one sense it is true that every aborted child is “unwilled,” not wanted at least to the degree that its already incipient life does not prevent some parent, doctor, or official from killing it, if the one responsible for it wills that it does not wish to deal with the child already present.
For a long while, in this matter, we did everything we could to lie to ourselves about what was being aborted. We had long supposedly scientific explanations about how human life was not there yet. But these days are over. No one can really claim that what is aborted is not a human being in its first stages. We have videos that simply show the unified sequence from conception.
Every human being who ever lived was once in the same condition. The argument, if it is an argument, now accepts that what is killed is human. “Rights talk” makes it possible for us to speak of lives that “should” not exist. The human race now claims authority to decide who lives and who dies. Some actual human beings are not “human” enough to live. To get rid of them has something “noble” about it, like saving the race from itself.
Yet I want to look at the aborted from another angle. We sometimes say of martyrs that they died for a noble cause. We do not recognize that “the aborted” represent a significant part of the human race, that part which is killed by our choice not to have them among us. But who are they? Both the aborted and those who manage to be born have the same ultimate origin.
Each human life begins in conception. The human soul does not cause itself to exist. The origin of each human life is ultimately in the Godhead. Each is an image of God intended for eternal life. This includes each aborted child no matter at what stage its demise was decreed by another not allowing him to continue to exist in this world.
But in that sense, it is too late. It already exists. The total number of human beings who have existed – perhaps some hundred billion thus far on this planet – includes the aborted. It also includes those who aborted them directly or indirectly.
Those who kill the aborted are generally not called to judgment in the courts of this world. But the world is created in ultimate justice. The aborted exist for eternal life, but also to identify who killed them. The aborted remain members of the human race with all the dead. Without being asked, they are killed. Their lives are not “nothing.”
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