Well, Nancy Pelosi put her foot into it. When asked on “Meet the Press” about abortion, she quoted St. Augustine out of context to prove Catholics once did not consider the fetus a full human, implying that her support of abortion on demand up until the fetus was partially born was moral, and the bishops only got strict “Fifty years ago”.

Whoops. That did it. One does expect a warrior-bishop like Native American Archbishop Chaput of Denver to make a slight fuss about the matter.  But as I mentioned in an earlier essay, that’s why he is still only an Archbishop: too outspoken, even if he is a minority which should make him a PC choice.

But Pelosi’s remarks, which were so over the top that Tom Browkaw questioned her to clarify the statement, has resulted in the Bishops of Washington DC and New York City to openly rebuke her: this in the week of the Democratic Convention.

Even the usually somulent non political (aka never criticize Democrats or liberals, only conservatives) diplomatic Catholic Bishop’s conference to put their two cents in.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (No. 2271)

They then go on to point out that medieval theologians would argue about when life began, and that the penalties for early abortion were less than that of late abortion, but that 150 years ago, the Church, going along with the science of embryology, decided conception was the most scientific place to draw the line.

In discussing the problems of medieval theologians, one has to remember that there was no EPT, and indeed, no easy way to tell an early miscarriage or abortion from a late but heavy period. Doctors know that often there is no fetus passed, since the fetus is tiny and has degenerated or not formed at all, when an early pregnancy is ended.

Once you hit 12 weeks, you are more likely to pass a fetus, and in the “good old days” a woman couldn’t be sure she was pregnant until the baby “quickened”.

So although procuring abortion was always considered a major sin by early Christians, there was no way to prove if the herb brought on a miscarriage, or just brought on a normal period. So the benefit of the doubt was given to the woman in church law.

How early is the Christian law against abortion? Well, the Didache, a teaching for those wishing to become Christians that dates to 50 AD, does mention that abortion is a sin.

In Roman days, many promiscuous women used herbs for birth control: usually they were taken at the time of the period, or when the period was a few days late. Were they effective? Unknown…the herb that was most widely used is now extinct, presumably from over harvesting. But it was known that when the herb was used later in pregnancy, it might not work at all, or would endanger the mother’s life.

Yet the use of such herbs was frowned upon by Christians, who equated the use of these abortifactant herbs for birth control as the same as abortion itself, for obvious reasons: Like the morning after pill, they essentially induce an early abortion.

All of this is, of course, moot to those who think abortion is nothing.

The problem? Except for a few rabid feminists, abortion is a big thing.

One woman compared abortion for most women being like an animal who chews her leg off to get out of a trap. Few women chose abortion freely, and many mourn their choice, even when logically they feel that they had no other choice.

Nor is guilt limited to Christian lands. Japanese temples allow offerings to repent of the child killed, and one Russian psychiatrist I met in my training said that depression following abortion was common in that country, where women average 9 abortions for each birth since there is no birth control.

So Nancy Pelosi and others who blithely dismiss the fuddy duddy bishops ignore what most women know: it is a child. Women may want the “right to chose”, but it is not a happy right, but a bitter fruit, and all too often the child is discarded not because the woman chooses to do so, but because of lack of choice: pressure from boyfriends or even husbands, or from the girls’ parents if she is a teenager, or the need to work to support their family, and cannot afford time off for another baby.

And although the Supreme Court forsaw abortion being between a woman and her doctor, the dirty little secret is that she goes to a clinic, sees a “counselor” who assures her she is doing the right thing, and then has the procedure, all within a few hours. Yes, there are ethical abortionists, and there are obstetricians who will do some abortions, usually for medical reasons, on their patients,  but the majority of abortions are done by doctors who never saw the woman before, and will never see them again.

Democrats rightly point out that social programs will help these women carry their child to term, but more conservatives of both parties recognize that the liberalization of the abortion law, combined with the sexual revolution, has destroyed women’s real protections, which is a loving consort and supportive family.

There are compassionate religious explanations of why abortion should be allowed in certain circumstances. Most religions (except Catholic, and Orthodox Christians) allow early abortion for the health of the mother, for rape, and in cases when carrying the baby to term would be a cruel punishment. Yet no religion–and this includes Islam, Judism, and the non Christian traditions followed by my American Indian and African patients–considers abortion a good thing. They only tolerate it when it is the lesser of two evils, mainly when the mother’s life is at stake.

So Nancy Pelosi obviously not only is ignoring what her so called church teaches, but has never thought deeply about the problem: she is merely parroting the party line. Well, what else do you expect from a politician?

In contrast, Cardinal Egan wrote:


We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. … They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.



Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes medical essays at HeyDoc Xanga Blog 


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