Pioneer magazine

LEGAL NOT ALWAYS MORAL

septcover2013There is a widespread opinion among sociologists that at least 60 per cent of the population of any country regard whatever is legal as moral. It would seem that many people think that if you will not be summonsed, fined or sent to jail for something, then it is all right. This is true even in highly educated populations. Surely, France comes into this category. The precision of its language was forged in the philosophical debates of its great medieval institutions of learning, particularly the University of Paris. There, high academic standards and concern for philosophical accuracy in the areas of law, medicine, theology, etc. have been attracting students from all over the world ever since. Presumably, that high level of education still exists in the country.

In twentieth century France before abortion was legalised, it was estimated that about 80 per cent of French doctors considered that it was morally unacceptable. Within a few years of its legalisation, however, it is estimated that about 80 per cent of the same profession has now come to consider it morally acceptable. This is a remarkable corroboration of sociological opinion. If such a striking about-turn can happen at such a high level of competence, what is to be expected lower down? Good laws have a positive educational value, whether enacted in France, Britain, Ireland or anywhere else. Dismantling them has deleterious, unexpected and, often, unintended effects. 

legalWhether an abortion is carried out in Back Street or Harley Street, Dundee or Dublin, Bedford or Belfast, it is the taking of innocent life. The power vested in an approving legislature, the encouragement of a supportive press, the professional competence of those directly involved or the geographical location of an abortion are irrelevant to the moral significance of what is entailed.

“Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being” (Catechism of the Catholic Church , 2274)

Regardless of how things pan out legally in the Ireland of the future, the trauma of abortion for all of us is not about to go away any time soon.

Bernard J McGuckian SJ, 
Editor