The debate over abortion is a major controversy in America today. Certainly the number of abortions carried out in this country each year overwhelms the senses: in the range of 1.3 to 1.5 million abortions take place yearly. 70% to 80% of Americans disapprove abortion, agreeing essentially with Mr. Clinton's sound-byte: "abortions should be safe, legal and rare."
"Safe, legal and rare" is a mixing of categories which slips through the brain unnoticed. "Safety" is a medical issue, one which at least on the physical level is under control. "Legality" is a juridical issue, one which the courts at present have under control. "Rarity," however, is a moral issue, one which is not at all under control. Perhaps the President would consider that two out of three is not a bad average, but the chaos in the third category compromises the significance of the first two.
First of all, safety and legality are objective terms, but "rarity" is relative to the beholder. The call for abortions to be rare begs the question: what constitutes rare abortions? If I eat a hamburger once a year, for an American, that is rare. Is a woman having an abortion once a year rare? How about once in a lifetime?
The problem is that the simple announcement that abortion is legal undermines its rarity. The rationale for legality and rarity is that there are occasions in which abortion is proper, specifically those of rape and deformity. But the problem arises as to who is to judge which relationship was a rape, and what degree of deformity we are talking about.
But the toughest issue, the line in the sand between pro-choice and pro-life, is the status of the unborn in terms of its humanity. Pro-choice sees the fetus as non-human. Pro-life see the fetus as fully human. For pro-choice, abortion is minor surgery; for pro-life it is murder. There the matter sits, a battleground, and society has no authority established which can decide the matter once and for all.
This issue goes beyond theological debate when we refer again to the millions abortions in America, and to the Clintons' work to promote the pretentious "safe, legal and rare" abortioning worldwide through the UN. Consider that the pro-life movement has been termed the forefront of the battle to overturn the sexual revolution, and that the sexual revolution is the launching pad of the self-destruction of the American civilization. Consider comments of George Weigel, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC:
"There is one causal factor that sheds light on a lot of the rest of the crisis, and one issue that brings the crisis home inescapably: the causal factor is the sexual revolution, and the issue is abortion." (Colson and Neuhaus, Evangelicals and Catholics Together [Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995], p. 63.)
Many conservative religious and academic leaders view abortion as the frontline of the battle for America's soul, including Charles Colson, Richard Neuhaus, George Weigel and Jerry Falwell. Like it or not, it has become the watershed issue, the dividing line in the culture war. On one side array the profamily forces, on the other, everyone from the silent majority to the pro-choice activists. Where do we Unificationists stand? Until now we have stood with the silent majority who disapprove abortion but felt it should not be an object of legislation and politicization. We would not establish a unilateral yes or no. Where should we stand? We are profamily; why, one might ask, do not we make common cause with the profamily movement in America?
Unification is not a legalistic tradition. We do not set hard and fast laws in areas of ethics and morality. For instance, we have no rule against smoking or consuming alcohol. And yet, instances of such are extremely rare among members. I hope that it means the law is "written in our hearts," and hence law codes are unnecessary. In America's colonial and early national period, common wisdom had it that lawyers were present in inverse proportion to the effectiveness of a town's clergy. And now, I am told, there are more lawyers in Washington, DC, than in the entire nation of Japan.
In fact I have witnessed the recalcitrance of our Asian elders to set unilateral laws. "Case-by-case" is a familiar expression for us. It rubs against our grain to set universal codes of behavior, of crime and punishment. What we lose in consistency, we can gain in "human-heartedness." We are the friends of Jean Valjean, resisting the ruthless legalism of Janvier. But with the question of abortion-ah, here the rubber meets the road.
Our book of church practices, entitled The Tradition, states that abortion is permissible in case of severe deformity. The theological grounding here is, first, that "the fundamental concern [is] that the order of the cosmos not be interrupted." (Kwak, The Tradition Book One [New York: HSA-UWC, 1985], all citations from pp. 162-3) What is the order of the cosmos? It is expressed as the Principle of Creation, having to do with the sanctity of sex, eternality of marriage, extremely high valuation of children and families, parental responsibility, submission to the will of God, and so forth. The Tradition states that "We cannot presuppose God's will. Perhaps God has special plans for that child [in the womb] to influence future history." (Ibid., p. 163)
This teaching is given historical flesh in our understanding of God's regard for Esau and Jacob while still in Rebekah's womb (Rom 9:10-13), and even greater attention paid to the providential action of Perez and Zerah while in Tamar's womb (Gen 38:27-30). Perez pulled Zerah back into the womb and made his way out of the birth channel first. This is viewed as a foundation of substance removing the fallen nature, reversing Cain's murder of Abel, purifying the womb for the Messiah's birth, and completing the providential work of Jacob and Esau. It is hard to imagine that such could be credibly accomplished by anything other than fully human agents within the womb.
A further expansion of Principle, of relatively recent vintage, is that of the "three stages of life," the first being in the womb, the second on earth and the third in spirit world. Reverend Moon and others teachers often explain the importance of maintaining a peaceful atmosphere around a pregnant woman, for the benefit of the baby inside. Just last week in his True Parents' Day speech, Reverend Moon chastised women who fight with others while they are pregnant. The baby inside is affected by what it and its mother sees, hears and feels.
The Tradition states further that "God personally attends the creation of new life" in the womb, and that "the relationship of love between the parents and child is part of the law of the cosmos." Reverend Moon in recent years has expanded his teachings concerning the presence of God in the creative act of conjugal love, terming the sex organs the most precious components of God's creation and their unification "the palace of true love" and dwelling place of God.
Reverend Moon rarely speaks directly on abortion. My good friend Michael Kiely did a word search of 322 of Reverend Moon's speeches, and found two direct references. The first, spoken May 14, 1978, appears in the midst of a discourse on family relations:
"Now you know for sure why it is better to live with your in-laws. Unless you have loved three children, you can never say you have experienced the love of parents. Do you still have the concept of family planning, using contraception and having abortions? How many children would you like to have? If you only have two you still have further to go. You should have at least three."
The second came on April 26, 1992, and it is more direct:
" a great child will be born to you. Father has warned you about the difficulties you may have to face, but your Blessing is not for yourself but for your children and the world. There is much debate about abortion. Abortion is wrong. A fetus is more than just a few cells. It represents love, life and lineage and by killing it you will kill the parents. You must guard the fetus with your life. What if Father's mother had Father aborted? Impossible!"
I will offer some biblical reflections next month on this issue.
[Part Two next month]