For a while now there has been an ongoing drama in the interaction between the Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin and the congressman from
Recently Bishop Tobin was interviewed by Hardball host, Chris Matthews, on his MSNBC show. Matthews spent much of the time insisting on an answer to the question: should women who have an abortion be imprisoned for their “crime” if the Catholic Church’s stand on the abhorrence of abortion should become the law of the land.
I’d like to answer that question.
No. No one wants to see a woman going to jail for having made a decision to have an abortion. She's already in a prison of her conscience, and that is enough.
How then can there be a push to make abortion illegal and at the same time not put a woman in jail for having one?
In an earlier blog posting of mine (November 11th) I suggested that we compare the abortion debate with the slavery debate of our nation’s pre-Civil War era.
As there came to be a major push to eliminate slavery from American life, no one was pushing for slave owners to be put in jail. It was the slave trade that was on trial, as it were, not the slave owners. Most people recognized that there had been such a longstanding acceptance of slavery that a mindset had to be changed in order to conquer this evil.
Similarly, it is the abortion trade that is “on trial”, not women in desperate situations. It’s the tendency, aggravated by the easy access of the abortion industry, to see children as a problem, a problem that has to “be dealt with.” What needs changing is the mentality of seeing abortion as a perfectly fine choice, and as merely an issue for the woman and her doctor, without any regard for what one choice does to contribute to the destruction the moral fabric of society.
No one wants to put a cigarette smoker in jail; but slowly, bit by bit, including creating different kinds of laws limiting smoking, there are fewer and fewer smokers. Smoking is less acceptable as a choice one should be making.
Using legal means to push agendas has become a common and powerful way to make progress as a nation. We attempt to create laws to push choices some in society want the society to adopt. Think of the laws about food labels, about valuing and protecting animals, about carbon emissions and other ecology issues, and so on.
No one wants to put a carbon-emitter in jail, at least not yet! And no one wants a woman to go to jail for having an abortion. But the law can, and should be used, to create laws that bespeak a greater defense of the vulnerable ones in society. And there is no one more vulnerable than a baby in the womb.