Abortion is the greatest injustice of our time. Over 3,000 children are aborted every single day in the United States. Pope Saint John Paul II taught that the deliberate destruction of human life is a symptom of a deeper loss of human respect. It is jarring to hear abortion called a symptom and not the central difficulty. For the past two years, I have been working full time in the pro-life movement and after having thousands of conversations on campus, I realized that not only is Saint John Paul’s assessment correct, it is essential to understanding the pro-abortion mindset.
The key to the issue of abortion is understanding human nature and sexuality. In our culture, human sexuality has been reduced to a physical event. That understanding of sexuality misses the mark of the richness of authentic union made possible with our bodies and souls. As human persons, we are composites of body and soul. Our bodies are not who we are. They are a part of who we are. Because a person is a composite of body and soul, reducing sex to a physical event reduces the person to a mere animal. In sex, we fully give our bodies to another; however, if we do not also give our souls to them, we are dividing ourselves. Only in marriage can we fully give ourselves to our beloved.
In marriage, we give our futures, our souls, our everything to our spouse, which is why sex, the giving of our body to our spouse, is considered a “renewal of the marriage vows.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen called sexual sin a “rehearsal for death.” He calls sexual sin a “rehearsal for death” because both death and sexual sin are temporary separations of the body from the soul. After death we become “disembodied souls” and, as we proclaim in the Nicene Creed, “we believe in the resurrection of the body.” So, death is disembodiment and life is a full union of body with the soul. Sex either leads us to death or prepares us for eternal life.
Sex that strives for eternal life is always open to the possibility of children. To accept your spouse completely is to accept all of them including their fertility. Our culture is obsessed with animalistic sex, which means that culturally we are constantly rehearsing for death, constantly separating the body from the soul and in a sense killing our sexual partner’s personalities for sexual pleasure. It is this rehearsal for death that relates abortion so closely to sexual sin. Abortion is a symptom of the loss of human respect in our most intimate and vulnerable relationships. If we cannot value the whole person in our sexual relationships, then we will not value the people that result from those relationships. Abortion is the result of the rehearsal of death so common in our culture. We are called to value human beings more than we do. We are called to see each person as a gift. Reclaiming the value of the person in sex will help turn the tide for the pro-life movement.