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Taking the Moral High Ground

Faced with the possibility of giving birth to babies with abnormalities, doctors suggested abortion to the young mothers. The witness of an experienced mum turned the argument upside down. In spite of concerns, these fetuses are God’s gifts whom He loves and therefore, have the right to life.

Some years ago we used to meet with some Catholic university students who were dealing with problems of faith typical of their youth. Is it reasonable to believe in God in our scientific minded society? How could we give a convincing explanation of our faith to our classmates who consider believers to be naïve and superstitious? Why does the Church need so many moral norms? We would meet in a nearby house belonging to a middle-age woman, Aunt King. She always provided a meeting place for the youth, in spite of having some serious problems with her daughter who was affected by severe mental disorder. Recently I had the chance to reencounter both the students (now graduated and employed) and Aunt King. We caught up with all the events that happened in everyone’s life. Their theoretical faith problems were now replaced by real concrete worries. Two of them, now married, were pregnant. Their nightmare was the prenatal screening tests. Something was not right in both of their children (a cyst in the brain, heart malfunction). The doctors suggested abortion to prevent the birth of a “defective” child. 

As a side-effect of the one-child policy, Chinese society now considers abortion a normal means of birth control and even eugenics. China has the highest abortion rate in the world, and the abortion industry has grown so profitable and competitive that clinics ubiquitously need to advertise abortion as a painless experience. For these two young pregnant women, giving birth to a child with serious health issues was giving them enormous pressure. 

After quietly listening to their stories and feeling their concerns, Aunt King stepped in. “Listen to me. I am a mother, and I know what it means to care for a problematic child. If you want to really find peace in your heart and strength to face the unpredictable future, you have to tell yourself and  the doctors: ‘No matter what, I want this child. Full stop.’”

A moment of silence followed. Everybody understood that she got the point. Aunt King’s attitude was the only one truly consistent with what the heart of these two young mothers felt. That in spite of their real worries, these fetuses were not their possessions, they were God’s gifts; plus, they already loved these two children. The meeting ended in prayer. With a sense of relief, they found the solid rock upon which to stand, with a real witness who told them it was worth standing there. Moral norms can only indicate the right way to go, but only a witness can motivate the journey with its risks. 

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