Editor’s note: These ideas are more fully developed in a 2011 paper available for sale, entitled Her Choice, Her Problem: How Having a Choice Can Diminish Family Solidarity.
September 20, 2016 (ConsistentLife) — Here’s a question about “choice” and abortion, assisted suicide, and voluntary euthanasia: Could the very existence of these options have a negative impact on the legally-authorized choosers, no matter what they choose?
Consider that women who refuse legal abortion may be blamed for their choice by boyfriends, families, employers, and others. Infirm or dying people may find family and other caregivers upset by their refusal to agree to assisted suicide, if it’s available as a legal option.
These are the sorts of overlooked consequences of choice.
Care for the most vulnerable among us, those at the beginning of life and those who may be nearing the end of life, requires solidarity. Truly single parenting is nearly impossible; the help of others is needed to bear and raise a child, and solidarity with the child is needed as well. Likewise, the afflictions of age and illness are often too much to bear without family or friends standing in solidarity.
Yet autonomous choices are now being proposed for human life in its initial and final stages. Those choices concern the existence of life itself: “Should I choose abortion or birth?” and “Should I choose assisted suicide?”
But the ability to choose – to undergo or to refuse abortion or suicide – may isolate the chooser. It may leave her without the solidarity she needs to implement her choices. That undercuts real autonomy.
Throughout human history, children have been known to be the consequence of sexual relations between men and women. Both sexes knew they were equally responsible for their children. Contraception didn’t change this; it makes fertilization and birth less likely, but mother and father are still equally responsible if fertilization and birth nevertheless occur.
Elective abortion changes everything. Abortion absolutely prevents the birth of a child. A woman’s free choice for or against abortion breaks the causal link between conception and birth. It matters little what or who caused conception. It matters little that the man involved may have insisted on having unprotected intercourse when the woman didn’t want it. It is she and she alone who finally decides whether the child is to be born.
A grandmother’s “right” to assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia means that she has been given a way out. So her suffering seems no longer to call for as much family compassion or social support. In choosing to continue living in great dependency, a grandmother may be felt to be deeply selfish, preferring to benefit herself at a heavy cost to her family.
Reprinted with permission from Consistent Life.