by Adolfo J. Castañeda
September 19, 2007
LifeNews.com Note: Adolfo J. Castañeda is the director of educational programs for Vida Humana Internacional, the Hispanic division of Human Life International.
Some pro-lifers who are trying to restore or keep pro-life laws in their countries claim that women who abort should be punished with several years in prison. In a climate of respect, I would like to offer my arguments to the contrary.
I truly believe that the position I advocate and argue for here is that of the majority in the pro-life movement, which has been characterized by a deep concern for healing and reconciliation of aborted women.
Firstly, the woman who aborts usually does not have the knowledge about pre-born life or what an abortion really is. Moreover she is usually under heavy pressure to abort by everyone around her.
Even though these factors do not necessarily take away her moral responsibility, nevertheless they have the potential of diminishing it. In any case, she is certainly not in the same moral (and thus legal) position as the abortionists themselves, who fully know what they are doing.
Secondly, obtaining the woman’s help to apprehend the abortionists would be made quite difficult, if she knows she is going to be severely prosecuted if the authorities find her guilty.
Thirdly, in a certain way the aborted woman is also a victim. She is not an innocent victim (at least not totally so), but nevertheless she can be considered the second victim of abortion.
This is so because of what has already been in said and also because of what we know about the psychological and/or physical harm that abortion can cause her. If she is severely penalized by the law, chances are that will make it more difficult for her to come forward to be healed and reconciled.
Fourthly, the last claim of the previous point implies that a powerful pro-life tool is precisely the testimony of repentant women hurt by abortion, which would be made difficult or impossible if she is to be severely punished by the law. Of course, here we need to exercise prudence in the sense of waiting till the woman has a sufficient amount of healing so that she can give her testimony without harming herself more in the process.
Lastly, I do believe that the woman who aborts should indeed be punished.
But the punishment I am referring to here is a medicinal correction. This is very important socially, psychologically and spiritually. Socially, because she has the need-duty to make reparation to the society she damaged. Psychologically, because she has the need-duty to heal herself emotionally of the crime she committed. Spiritually, because she has the need-duty to make reparation to God and His Church or religious group because of her sin, especially her own dead baby.
Of course, the intensity of the reparation should be determined by the degree of her moral responsibility.
For example, a teenager who has been pressured by her own parents to abort does not have the same moral freedom that a college young woman has, whose boyfriend threatens to leave her if she has the baby.
We need to re-discover the healing power of punishment as reparation, which is not the self-inflicted punishment that is so psychologically damaging. If she is allowed to work through this type of positive punishment, she will have better chances of healing herself as well as making reparation to society, herself, her baby and God.
What kind of punishment am I referring to? From the civil point of view the punishment could be a certain number of hours of community service. Examples of said community service would be to give her public testimony to different audiences or counseling women who are tempted to abort. From the spiritual perspective her penance would be assigned by the proper spiritual authority.
Again, it is not a punishment of condemnation but a punishment of healing and reparation. This does not mean that there will not be any suffering involved in this process. There will be, but it will be a healing suffering, not a self-destructive one. It will be reparation done out of love and for the love of God, others (specially the dead baby) and herself.
Indeed, if the pro-life community does not reach out to her and help her to go through an authentic healing and reparation process, then she can fall into a self-destructive pattern of behavior. The latter won’t help either the pro-life cause or the aborted woman herself.