- ABORTION

Created: Monday, 16 December 2013 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014


- . ABORTION


1. -      The abortion has always existed, although not with the easiness and diffusion it has now. In ancient Rome, roman historian Tacitus was astonished to observe that Jewish and Christian women didn't want to practice abortion. The problem is strongly present at this moment. A deep fight is taking place between the respect to human life from its beginning, and the freedom to abort in precise assumptions and periods. The conflict even goes to the language level, and, in this sense, the abortion appears like voluntary gestation interruption or like elimination of a human being in the initial phase of his existence. It represents a complex problem. Let us see some biological, juridical and theological data.
2. -      Let us see the biological data. At the beginning of human life different phases are observed. In first place, the ovum (óvulo) fecundation (fecundación) by the spermatozoon (espermatozoide) (Oskar Hetwing, 1875), that takes place in the fallopian tubes (trompa de Falopio) and constitute the new biological reality, other than the mother. This initial cell, called zygote, contains in itself the genetic code, and the determination of all the hereditary biological and psychic process. It is also called germen, pre-embryo or pre-implanted embryo. In itself, embryo means germen.
3. -      Juan Ramón Lacadena, a Genetics teacher in the Madrid's Complutense University Faculty of Biology comments as follows: “The fecunded egg initiates its way towards the uterus, dividing itself in this way, reaching the uterus at the third or fourth day. It is to say, it is in a week from the fecundation when the embryo, already like blastoderm, starts to stick in the uterus walls, taking another week to end its fixation (nesting)”. (Faith and biology, PPC, Madrid, 2001,72).
4. -      The zygote is characterized by the all powerfulness, id est, by the possibility of subdividing itself into autonomous parts, with the same genetic code, like it happens in the case of monozygotic twins. The zygote goes from the form known like morula (16 cells forming a compact group) to the form known like blastula or blastocyst, connected embryonary cells that, through proliferation, grow to form the different organs. Growth in volume begins. The Greek word blastós means germen, outbreak, stem, son.
5. -            Fourteen days after fecundation the implantation or nesting in the uterus wall phase ends, required condition for the following feeding and development. It is also called the embryo phase and goes from the third to the eigth week. At the beginning of this phase the shape known like gastrula appears (from the fifteenth to the eighteenth day) being different the three primitive germinal layers (ectoderm, mesoderm, endoderm) of those from which the diverse tissues and organs will derive. Between the seventh and eighth week, the skull, eyes outline, arms rather short, legs and feet fingers, ears, can be identified. The process is very quick
6. -      Growing and matureness take place during the fetus phase. It goes from the eighth week to the end of the gestation. The fetus is the conception fruit from the end of the embryo period to the birth. Between these phases a series of vital process take place, determined by that genetic code constituted in the moment of the fecundation.
7. -      Some juridical data. In the ancient society, in Greece and in Rome, the abortion and the infanticide are generally allowed and socially accepted. This acceptance is based in the absolute authority of the father upon the children. Nevertheless, exceptions exist. The Hippocratic Oath includes an abortion rejection. The Cornelia Lex (about 85 B.C.) takes into account the penalties to those working with poison, including the abortive substances. Septimius Severo (193-211) sees the abortion like “an extraordinary crime” and the woman who aborts is condemned to the exile. Historian Flavius Joseph says that, in the Jewish world “the law directs to educate every child, and forbids the woman to practice abortion; a woman guilty of that crime is an infanticide because she destroys a soul and decreases the race” (Contra Apion, II, 202)
8. -      In general, in the Christian society abortion is considered an assassinate and it is punished like a crime. Up to the tenth century, the penitence applied is limited to ten years, although the penitential books change. That of Theodore, Canterbury's archbishop (668-690), says that before the 40 days of development, penitence will be one year or even less; after this time, penitence will increase to three years. The Irish codes (about 675) distinguish between the baby's material fluid destruction (three years and a half penitence) and the flesh and spirit destruction (seven years and a half in bread and water, in continence). Distinction between the “formed fetus” and the “unformed fetus” is used. At the beginning of the tenth century, some canonical collections circulate collecting private type materials. The abbot Reginus of Prüm (about 900) includes a precept called si aliquis (if someone, from the initial words) that considers homicides to all those who wanted to do something against generation or conception. Reginus also includes a precept graduating the penitence, following if the fetus is more or less of 40 days old and if it is “animated” or not. Gracian´s decree (about 1140), that would have a great posterior influence, excludes that the abortion of a non-animated fetus (not formed) be considered like an assassination. The same will say Thomas of Aquinas, considering that animation (rational soul infusion) does not take place in the moment of conception, but later on. Nevertheless, Saint Thomas of Aquinas teaches that abortion is a grave sin, against natural law. (In IV Sent, dist. 31)
9. -      Civil code follows the steps of the canonical code. During the fourth century, in the Visigoth world, that who delivers an abortive product is punished to death. The woman is lashed, if she is a slave, and degraded, if she is noble. During the seventh century, the Chindasvinto´s code punish to death, or at least to blindness, to whom provokes abortion, or to the husband, if he orders or allows it. In France, during the Bourbons period, doctors, surgeons and obstetrics who provoked abortion, were condemned to the gallows.  In 1791, with the rationalism and the revolution, the penalty is reduced to 20 years in prison. The 1810 Napoleon's code punishes abortion with a “limited time” in prison. In Austria, under emperor Joseph the second, death penalty is eliminated in 1787 and the same happens in other western European countries. (See G. Grisez, The abortion, Ed. Sígueme, Salamanca, 1972, 285-408).
10. -    In the modern society large changes come out. Soviet Union legalizes abortion in 1920. Legalization pretends: to eliminate illegal abortion, to improve people's life level, to promote woman emancipation. Later restrictions (1936, 1944, 1955) pretend to favour population increase and fight abortion like burgess conscience residuals. In the rest of countries, says the soviet Encyclopaedia, the rich people aborts because of selfishness and the poor people due to their misery. During the thirties several Scandinavian countries assume abortion legalization, and Japan in 1948. From the sixties on, in the western countries abortion goes through a legalization process – with more or less restrictions depending on the countries-. A massive reaction against legal punishment raises and a growing diffusion of the abortion is produced. Old existing risks disappear, antidemographic mentality gains positions, freedom is exalted before the respect to a life in its beginning, human life is not considered in the initial phase, no desired or malformed children are avoided, secularisation process advances and the society gets itself free from the confessional tutelage.
11. – In Spain the law of 1985 legalizes the abortion under three assumptions (grave danger for the physical or psyquical health of the mother, violation, malformation), whenever the abortion is carried out within the 22 weeks of pregnancy. The so called Law of Terms accommodates the legislation to the one existing in most European Union countries. Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Bulgaria, France, Norway and Finland, among others, show a term of free decision until 12 weeks of pregnancy. This term in increased until 18 weeks in Sweden. In Holland it reaches the 24 weeks. In Spain abortion is free until the fourteenth week. The law obliges to report at least to one of the parents and guardian of the girls 16 and 17 years old who want to abort, unless there is a conflict with them. Conscience objection of health professionals must be manifested in advance and in writing.
12. According to the available information in 2010 in Spain 113.031 abortions had been carried out. It is a social scourge. It has been accurately said: “Some time our society will be ashamed  of the abortion it provokes”. Many abortion cases hide the pressure of the partner or the family, but also to allow to the youngsters  (from 16 years old) to abort without being obliged to request the parents or guardians permission, means an expropriation of ther responsibility. It is necessary to prevent, to educate, to promote action to favour the new life that is blossoming facilitating the adoption. The objection of conscience that a health professional may request,  must be respected.
13. Theological data. The Bible scarcely talks about abortion, since it is not practiced by the Jewish society. An abortion caused by a strike delivered to a pregnant woman is punished with a fine, according to what is imposed by the husband and through arbitration. (Ex 21,22). Life is a God's gift (Ps 127), lord of life and death (Dt 32,39). The parents participate in God´s creative work. The mother of the Maccabees brothers says: “I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath an life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body.”(2 Mc 7,22). And the sick Job: You wrapped me up in skin and flesh, knit me together with bones and sinews (Jb 10,11). And psalm 139: “You deeply knew my soul and even my bones were known to you when I was formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. My embryo your eyes were seeing” (Ps 139, 15).
14. Prophets Jeremy and Isaiah, like Paul, feel themselves called by God from their mother´s womb (Jr 1, 5; Is 49, 5; Ga 1, 15). They really recognize that their first relationship was with God. In the name of God, Jeremy carries out the symbolic action of breaking a china jar in the Topheth valley, where children sacrifices are made. “They burn their children in the fire”, “which I did neither ordered them nor passed through my mind” (Jr 19, 7), “I as well shall shatter this people and this city, as that one who breaks a potter´s pot that can not be fixed anymore” (19, 11). In the Gospel, when Elizabeth listens Mary's greeting and the baby leapt in her womb (Lk 1, 41), it is experienced like a signal given by the child. Everybody, Jews and Greeks, are invited to live the Gospel´s justice, that is “God´s strength for the salvation of everyone who believes: first of the Jew and also of the Greek. Because God´s justice is revealed in him” (Rm 1, 16 – 17)
15. From the beginning, the Christians defend human life in its mother's womb. Talking about the two ways frame (life-death, light-obscurity) we find the following precept in the Didaje and in the so-called Barnabas´ letter: “You shall not kill the son in his mother womb” (II,2; XIX,5). In the letter to Diogneto it is affirmed that the Christians “breed children, but they do not throw away foetus” (V.6) Athenagoras, a Christian philosopher from Athens, about 177 writes: “We affirm that those who practice the abortion commit homicide”, “what the woman carries in her womb is a living being” (Petition in favour of the Christians, 35). At the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria affirms that the Christians “we do not kill with perverse instruments what the Providence has established for the human race” (Pedagogue, II.10,83 foll.) In a similar way, Tertulian (about 155-220) affirms: “For us, since homicide is forbidden, is not even licit to finish up with the foetus inside the uterus” (Apology, IX,8)
16. In the councils of Elvira (about 305) and Ancira (about 314) those practicing abortion are excommunicated. In the Eastern Church, Basil writes in the year 374: “That who purposely destroys a foetus fall in the penalty foreseen for the homicide. We do not ask ourselves if the foetus is formed or not” (Letter 138). In the western church, Agustin criticizes those abandoning the children born against their will and adds: “This libidinous cruelty, or, if we want, cruel libido, reaches a point in which they employ sterilizing drugs and, if these are inefficacious, they kill the foetus in the mother's womb and throw it away”. (De nuptiis et concupiscentiis I,15,15).
17. About the human soul origin (if it is transmitted by generation or if it is immediately created by God) Agustin manifests his doubts and prefers “not to affirm what he cannot understand within the human reason nor to demonstrate with the divine authority” and he counsels “to imitate the Maccabees´ mother, who, even knowing that she had bred from her husband, and that the Supreme Creator had formed them in body and soul, nevertheless, she tells them: “I don´t  know how you appeared in my womb”(From the soul and its origin, I, 13,16 and 15,25).”
18. A fundamental question: when does the human life begin? Teacher Lacadena says: “No scientific would doubt to answer that in the moment of the fecundation; id est, when from two different realities – the ovule and the spermatozoid – a new reality comes out – the zygote – with a potentiality of its own and a genetic autonomy, since, although he depends on his mother to subsist, his development takes place mainly according to his own genetic program. Since this genetic program is specifically human and not that of a mouse or a carrot, the new life is, evidently, human”. If the question is when the human life that has began is already a human being, the professor answers: “From the genetic point of view, today there is no a doubtless scientific answer.” (o.c. 75 – 76). It is necessary to discern what de science says, what it does not says and what perhaps never will be eable to say. Really, as de Council says, between science and faith there should not be opposition (GS 36), they are two orders of knowledge.
19. Other positions: human life begins from the nesting, when new being “individualization” is fixed; human life begins when the organs are formed or when the brain begins to work; others define human life according to relationship criteria, for instance, when it is accepted by the parents. Nevertheless, as J.I. González Faus says, “all the biological discussions about the brain work, or about the moment of the presumed infusion of the soul, ect…, are fully out of place, since none of them can change the fact that the embryo is already, from the moment of the conception (and different from the ovum or the spermatozoom), a life with a human destiny, programmed to be human” (Abortion, sign of contradiction, Sal Terrae 67, 1979, 881 – 889)
20. About human animation two hypotheses exist in the Christian tradition. The immediate animation was defende by some fathers of the Church (Gregorio de Niza, Basilio, Tertulian) and became common doctrine because it appears, in case of doubt, like the most secure position. Whenever human life is at stake, it is necessary to give the life the benefit of the doubt. The delayed animation was defended by Thomas of Aquinas (1225-1274), who follows it from Aristotle (384-322): each shape requires a matter apt to receive it. The human soul (shape of the body) would be infused after the initial matter development: “Rational soul is created by God when human generation is completed”, “this soul is sensitive and vegetative at the same time, corrupting in themselves the previous forms”, “the man engenders what is similar to him as far as due to the virtue of his seminal substance the matter for the reception of the rational soul is prepared” (Suma theological, I, c. 118, a.2). Aristotle places the initiation of the human being 40 days for men and 80 for the females after fecundation.
21. Thomas of Aquinas, who so much influence will have later on,  assumes without any criticism the obsolet biology of Aristles, according to which the whole potencial man would be contained in the masculine semen, while the woman would stay passive in the generation: “In the perfect animals, which are engendered by the carnal union of sexes, the active virtue is in the seminal substance of the masculine gender, according to the Philosofer in the book “De generatione animalium” (Theological Sum, I, c.18, a.1). This brings grave consequences in the morals, for instance, in the valuation of the masturbation and in the artificial birth control. About masturbation the Bible does not say anything. But, for Saint Thomas of Aquinas it is a very grave sin, almost an homicide: “After the sin of homicide that destroys human nature in the act of the life, this kind of sin seems to occupy the second place: it impedes the generation of human life” (Contra gentes, 2, 127) Masturbation, masculine as well as feminine, is a “vice against nature”, a “very grave sin” (Theological Sum, II – c. 154, a. 11 and 12). In 1694 the Dutch doctor Nicholas Hartsoeker (1656 – 1725) discovered the spermatozoon , but the scarce resolution of those microscopes took to think that the head of the spermatozoon was a whole man in miniature (homunculus) The process of fecundation of the ovum by the spermatozoon was discovered in 1875 by the German zoologist Oscar Hertwig (1849 – 1922)
22. The Council had talked about the responsible fatherhood (GS50) and in the Studies Comission the majority had manifested in favour of the artificial birth control, as long as it were neither abortive nor clinically counter indicated. Nevertheless, Paul VI opted by the minority (1968): “any marital act must stay open to life transmission” (Humanae vitae, n. 11), a conjugal act voluntarily infertile is “intrinsically dishonest” (n. 14). He contributes this reason and he quotes Thomas of Aquinas: “Talking about the biological processes, responsible fatherhood means knowledge and respect of its functions; the intelligence discovers, in the process of giving life, biological laws that are part of the human person” (n. 10; see note 9). For Thomas of Aquinas it is “natural law” what nature taught to all the animals, “the union of male and female” (Theological Sum, I.II, c. 94, a. 2). But it was objected as follows: “The procreative objective is referred to the whole conjugal life more than to each one of its acts” (HV n. 3)
23. Most recent Church's teaching is unanimous: “Human life must be taken like sacred, since from its beginning it presupposes Creator's action” (John the XXIII, Mater et magistra. 1961), “life must be protected with most care from the conception; te abortion like the infanticide are abominable crimes” (Vatican II, GS 51), “that who procures abortion, if it takes place, will be excommunicated” (CIC, c. 1398), “human life must be respected and protected in an absolute way from the moment of conception” (Catholic Church Catechism, p. 2270), “a human being who initiates life is what is eliminated (with the abortion)”, “fecundation initiates human life adventure” (John Paul the II, EV 58).
24. It is not the same to deliver a moral judgement over the abortion than to deliver it over its unpenalization or legalization. Besides, “legalization it is not the same that unpenalization. Legalized behaviour becomes a right; that who desires to carry it out, may count on the State protection. On its side, unpenalization does not mean that the behaviour is not legal, nor that the State should protect it”, says Jose-Roman Flecha, a teacher on moral theology in the Salamanca Pontificious University (The source of life, Ed. Sigueme, Salamanca, 1999,194). The Christian must act according to his conscience, but taking into account that the laws are for all citizens. Civil law is not decreed to oblige citizens to accomplish the Christian moral precepts, but to regulate common living together. Thus, for instance, Saint Augustine is not a supporter of penalizing prostitution, but to regulate it: “Close the brothels and lust will invade everything” (About the Order II, 4, 12). This does not mean that Saint Augustine were an accomplice of prostitution. Pope Ratzinger presents the position of the African bishop as follows: “Such as the man is made, it is better, in a well organized State, that that takes place in an ordered manner” (The salt of the land, 2007, 107). The Church has to denounce the abortion as a moral evil, as a social scourge; but she must avoid integrist temptations. The integrism tries to impose own moral or own religion to all the society.
25. With the Vatican Council II the Church establishes a new relationship with the world, when she leaves the old identification between Cristianisme and society, she comes out of the situation of Christianity, she opts to live like a community in the middle of the society,  she respects the autonomy of the temporal questions, she acknowledges the legitimate social pluralism, she renounces to impose the Gospel by force, she offers it in the weakness of the freedom. We take into account Jesus attitude, who does not yield to the pressure to ask the penalization for the woman who commits adultery (or abortion), but who calls her to conversion: “Neither do I condemn you; go away and don't do it again” (Jn 8,11).
* Dialogue on diverse positions:
-         Human life begins in the moment of fecundation
-         First phase is only a cellular life, biological material
-         It is a human life in his way.It is necessary to give heman life the benefit of the doubt
-    What the science says, what it does not say, what it perhaps cannot say
-    My embryo your eyes were seeing it (Ps 139), the sacrifice their sons and daughters (Jr 19, 7) The Gospel is God´s strength, God´s justice is revealed in it. (Rm 1, 16 – 17)
-     You shall not kill the child in the mother´s womb (Didaje). The Christians engenders children, but they do not throw away fetus (Letter to Diogneto) We don´t ask ourselves if the fetus is formed or not.
-    Life must be protected with maximum care from its conception. Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. (Vatican II, GS 51)
-    Many abortion cases hide partner or family pressure.
-    To allow abortion to minors without the need to ask for the consent of their parents or guards and even without reporting it to them means an expropriation of the guardship they hold
-    Abortion penalization is requested
-    In as much little is the human being, the less protection has
-    The undesired beings also have their rights
-         Christian society has imposed brutal penalizations
-    Whe abortion is legalized, it becomes a right
-    The law regulates a common coexistence
-    The integrism tries to impose own morals and religion to all the society
-          Conscience objection of the health professionals must be respected
-    Abortion is denounced as a mora evil. Some time our society will be ashamed of the provoked abortions
-    It is necessary to prevent, to educate, to promote action in favour of the life that is blossoming, supporting the increase of birth rate, facilitating adoptions.
-    Jesus does not request the penalization of the adulterous woman (or that who aborts), he asks for conversion (Jn 8, 11).
-    Present problems: day's after pill, DIU, assisted reproduction, frozen embryos, embryo's therapeutic cloning, investigation with embryonaire mother cells, the Emergency Anticonceptive Pill (PAE), is it abortive?, does it prevent fecundation?, does it prevent implantation?
Other catechesis about the theme:
THE CLONED EMBRYO
THE MAP OF LIFE
NEW LAW OF ASSISTED REPRODUCTION