The Republican Right takes on faith the belief that when one out of 100 million sperm penetrates one out of 400 eggs, an ontologic discontinuity takes place, that is, what had been exclusively biological is now human, in facI, a citizen under the U.S. Constitution. This transition is referred to as ensoulment or hominization. Aborting a hominized or ensouled egg is tantamount to murder. So wherever the Republican Right is in power, in some 30 states, a relentless effort is made to shut down abortion clinics.
St. Augustine took on faith “delayed hominization,” or “delayed ensoulment,” as did St. Thomas Aquinas eight centuries later. A fetus first consists of a vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and finally a rational soul. Hominization takes place with the rational soul. Furthermore, until the fetus achieves form, it is not hominized. Both Augustine and Aquinas taught that a human soul cannot live in an unformed body. I performed abortions at three months. The conceptual product resembled nothing so much as a gooey clot. The two greatest Catholic theologians differ profoundly with the Republican Right as to when biology goes human.
My own belief is that ontologic discontinuity doesn’t occur until the mother comes into the story, not at conception, a biologic event conjoining egg and sperm, but when she gives birth, nine months later. A newborn recognizes its mama within a matter of hours. Its deepest need is to be cared for by her, making indispensable a good enough mother-child relationship. What is the evidence? 75% of motherless foundlings die within two years; the survivors resemble ratty runts. Even a one-year old separated from its mother falls into a deep depression and often wastes away. Biology doesn’t make a human; humans make humans. That’s my belief system.
In 1869, the Catholic church declared that even if done at the moment of conception, abortion constitutes murder. The Republican Right shares the same belief system, different from that of Aquinas and Augustine, different from my belief system.(The ancient world practiced birth control by consigning unwanted newborns to the lions. I assume their belief system as to when ontologic discontinuity occurs was very close to mine. Could I abort a newborn? No. A three-month pregnancy? Yes. Four months? Possibly. Five months? No. Aesthetics trumps a belief system. That happens a lot, especially in politics.)
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
What gives the Republican Right the right to prohibit abortion for everyone in the land? Suppose I’m with St. Augustine? or with Congress which legislated Roe versus Wade? or the tens of thousands of women with an unwanted pregnancy, desperately seeking a simple and safe abortion, a procedure which in their metaphysics is not murder?
What gives the Republican Right the right?
Of course, the Moral Sense. That moral system without any morals, that set of Don’ts at war with Joys, that specialist at adding to human misery. How could it possibly pass up pontificating grandly to a despairing woman bowed and beaten by an unwanted pregnancy?
Every day, as we speak, the Moral Sense sets up a silent cry of grief and hopelessness across America. You can hear it at any one of the closed abortion clinics. There are thousands of them. Take your pick.