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One of the most pressing social issues facing Orthodox Christians today is abortion: the destruction of the unborn fetus. The Church has always condemned the practice of abortion, regarding it as the moral equivalent of murder. This condemnation is not a “new” position that the Church has formulated to deal with the modern widespread practice of abortion. Actually, the practice of abortion, like murder and adultery, is as old as fallen human existence. The only difference is that modern technology and the refusal of the American Supreme Court to afford the unborn the sanctions of the Constitution have made abortion a practical alternative to pregnancy.
There may be extreme cases when abortion might be considered as the lesser of two evils, such as the endangerment of the life of a mother. But the vast majority of abortions are performed as an alternative form of birth control. It is this wanton and needless destruction of human life that the Church has legislated against and decried through the centuries.
Advocates of “women’s rights” have linked the abortion issue closely with their movement, disguising it under the name of “freedom of choice.” The goal of this movement is to reduce by legislation the differences between men and women with the ultimate goal of a “sexless” society.
One of the main differences that occur “naturally” between men and women is the practice of their sexuality. It is no secret that men can engage in sexual activity without worrying about the risk of pregnancy. Women, of course, run the risk of pregnancy in their expression of “sexual freedom,” unlike their male partners.
Abortion “on demand” is, therefore, necessary in the thinking of the radical feminist movement in order to provide “equality” with men in the practice of “sexual freedom.” The Church has denounced, of course, the myth of “sexual freedom” through the Sacrament of Marriage in which the lust of fallen human nature is redeemed and sanctified as a door to salvation for those who are married. The radical feminist movement’s quest for a “sexless” society echoes in the political sphere the ancient Gnostic heresy that man was created “unisexual;” it was only after the Fall that there became a distinction between male and female. This doctrine is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture: “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). It is only through the power of the Gospel and the Cross of Christ that human beings, both men and women, can find equality and true “sexual freedom.”
The Church, through the Scriptural and liturgical tradition that She cherishes, regards human life as beginning at the moment of conception: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me as you have spoken” (St. Luke 1:38). The assent of Mary marks the starting point of the Incarnation. The conception of the Lord is celebrated on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25. The Church also celebrates the conceptions of the Mother of God (December 9) as well as that of St. John the Baptist (September 23).
The literature of the early Church, reflecting not only its life but also the timeless sinful character of human nature, is replete with prohibitions against abortion. An early document called the “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” more commonly known by its Greek title, “Didache,” which some scholars believe may have been composed at the end of the first century, says in regards to abortion: “You shall not slay the child by abortions.” This statement is reflected by many of the Church Fathers and in the Orthodox Canonical Tradition. The Church expressed Her opposition to abortion when it was a legally and socially acceptable practice in the old “pre-Christian” Roman Empire.
In our own day the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians must again expose the false promise that underlies the so-called “freedom of choice.” This will become even more critical in the near future when the door opened by the abortion issue leads to the deliberate killing of others. Persons who are too old to care for themselves, the severely retarded and those suffering from debilitating illnesses will be the next victims.
The infamous Dr. Kevorkian has already set a foot through this door. Those who have promoted the legalization and wide-spread practice of abortion have sought to justify their position by speculating that an unwanted child would not have a sufficient quality of lifeshould it be allowed to be born.
As social resources are strained in decades to come, unless the moral compass of America is turned around, we can imagine the same people who brought us abortion on demand to argue that any person not enjoying what they consider to be a sufficient quality of life should be put to death. Doubtless, they will have a kinder and gentler term for it.
Some voices are already arguing that “mercy killing” or “medically assisted suicide” should be presented as a “medical” option to families who have relatives suffering from such things as extreme senility or advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
The Abortion culture will not stop with the unborn. It will eventually claim all of us as its victims. Do not make the mistake of thinking that it will have no effect on your life. You might just be dead wrong.
– Fr. Lawrence Barriger