Relativism made abortion legal, remains its safeguard
Feb. 6, 2013 - I had the privilege of speaking at the Arlington Diocese March for Life Youth Rally the evening following the march. Some 6,000 zealous, young pro-lifers were there. The larger venue that day was at the Verizon Center before the march began: 20,000 young people were there, with 13,000 more sent to an overflow event.
Planned Parenthood doesn’t have an event for young people anywhere near this magnitude. Perhaps that’s because pro-choice America doesn’t offer anything for young people to celebrate.
Forty years after Roe v. Wade, America is, no doubt, taking a turn toward life. According to a recent Knights of Columbus’ Marist Poll, 6 in 10 Americans find abortion morally objectionable and 83 percent want to see significant abortion restrictions. And according to a Gallup Poll, more than half of Americans think abortion is “morally wrong” versus just 39 percent who think it is “morally acceptable.”
A recent Time magazine article reported that “at the state level, abortion-rights activists are unequivocally losing.” North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas are each down to only one operating abortion clinic. The 2,908 U.S. abortion mills in 1982 shrank to 1,793 in 2008 (the latest year data is available). Twenty-four states passed 92 abortion-regulating provisions in 2011.
But here’s the rub: While America is more clearly seeing the evil of abortion for what it is, America is still strongly relativist, and that trend is only growing. According to a Barna group study, 93 percent of teens do not believe in absolute truth. As long as they remain relativists, their support of abortion restrictions will only go so far.
The same Knights of Columbus’ Marist poll that found a majority thought abortion was wrong also found that only about 10 percent of Americans believe abortion should always be illegal. It seems they don’t want to impose their morality on others through legislation—as if we had the power to each create our own personal, moral universes, or as if every piece of law isn’t the legislation of morality!
Abortion became legal because of relativism, and relativism remains abortion’s safeguard.
But when we look straight at a moral evil, the underbelly of relativism is revealed. Relativism simply doesn’t work in real life. After the events of 9/11, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stood before world delegates at the United Nations and said: “We’re right and they’re wrong (to have attacked innocent people). It’s as simple as that. … The era of moral relativism … must come to an end. … There’s no moral way to sympathize with grossly immoral actions.”
It’s impossible to look at burning bodies jumping from the Twin Towers and say “I can’t impose my view of right and wrong in this situation.” Giuliani returned a $10 million gift from a member of the Saudi royal family, given to help recovery from the tragedy. He had published a statement along with the gift that if U.S. foreign policies were different the tragedy might not have occurred. Giuliani wanted to send a message that there would be zero compromise with what happened. Circumstances can’t justify an evil like 9/11. Not even a little.
Likewise, when we cut past the endless polemic and hyper-focus on every possible circumstance that might surround an abortion and simply look at the act, we see something like 9/11 happening under our noses every day. Abortionist Dr. Crist shared in a testimony that it’s not uncommon to deliver children intact, feet first, hearts still beating. He went on to describe how he sometimes dismembers the child or crushes the head to stop the heart and get the fetus out (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 25, 2000). If this act isn’t wrong, what is? If this shouldn’t be illegal, on what grounds should anything be illegal?
But relativists fail to ask those straight, hard questions. We consider ourselves more sophisticated if we can dwell in 100 shades of gray instead of seeing things in black and white like the pro-life fundamentalist. Relativism has turned us into a culture of death—a society of barbarians, though we’re high-class barbarians. As long as the horror occurs in a sterile hospital room and no one has to hear the baby scream or deal with the emotional wreckage of the mother (just feed her some pills) we’re perfectly comfortable with it.
Worldwide since 1980 there have been well over 1.2 billion abortions. There have been more than 55 million lives snuffed out by abortion in the United States alone. In 2010 a full 40 percent of pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion, with 48 percent being aborted in the Bronx, and 60 percent of all pregnancies to black women.
The national average is 22 percent of all pregnancies. Think of 1 in 4 people you know, missing. Think of the spouses, heroes, scientists with cures for AIDS or cancer, a much longed for child to adopt, all blessings sent from God, returned to sender, unopened. This is the legacy of Roe v. Wade.
To borrow words from our president delivered at Newtown, Conn.: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child … surely we have an obligation to try.” (The irony of the statement when seen in light of his abortion policy is so glaring it hardly needs mention.)
I’m encouraged that this generation seems to be facing the fact that abortion is morally repugnant. They think abortion is wrong “for them.” I won’t break out the champagne until they take a break from relativism and can say that because it’s wrong, it’s wrong for everyone.
Speaker and author Christopher Stefanick is director of youth outreach for YDisciple. Visit him at www.RealLifeCatholic.com. Stefanick’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Denver Archdiocese.