If Catholics want to change society they had better start living out their baptismal vocation: ethicist.
By Anthony Barich
Catholics need to radically live out the Gospel to change the culture of death rather than stand aghast at “frightening” abortion statistics, Perth’s top Catholic bioethicist says.
Responding to data released last month by Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital on the circumstances of women who had approached its Pregnancy Advisory Service for abortions, LJ Goody Bioethics Centre director Rev Dr Joseph Parkinson said its results are “tragic, frightening and disappointing”.
Among the results, the PAS data showed most women reported that their pregnancy was at “the wrong time”, and very rarely had anything to do with rape and everything to do with individuals and couples being unwilling to accept the consequences for their actions, he said.
But these results are not surprising, he said, to anyone who has realised that “we have become a ‘me-first’ culture in which everyone has to be free to do whatever they want as long as no one else – ie no one who has been born – gets hurt”.
“We see it in our suburbs, on our roads, in our public and private institutions, so it is not surprising that it has also infiltrated the bedroom,” he said.
The solution, he said, starts with the faithful becoming the Church God created us to be, to build among ourselves a core community of Christians committed to living in and with Jesus Christ”.
“It is not enough to critique the direction our society is taking – we need to create and give witness to an alternative way of living. So trying to live the values of the Gospel as friends and disciples of the Lord would be a good start.”
He said that the report reveals important questions that need answering.
While it said that between 20-30 per cent of women aged 18-59 have accessed abortion, rev Dr Parkinson noted that abortion is not just a women’s issue as there is also a man involved in every unwanted pregnancy. “Where are the men?” he said. “(The report said that) 70 per cent of women seeking abortions report that their partners are ‘aware and supportive’ of the woman – but not, apparently, supportive of the pregnancy.
“We are told that access to ‘safe’ abortion is necessary so that women can exercise choice but the strange thing is, it seems that many men and women simply don’t want to accept the consequences of their choice to have sex in the first place.”
Violence was reported as a factor in seeking an abortion in 16 per cent of cases, mental health issues figure in 10 per cent of cases, and a combination of drug, alcohol and disability issues figure in another six per cent. “But what about the 68 per cent of remaining cases” Rev Dr Parkinson asks. “Are these just ‘elective’?”
He said the fact that rape figures as a factor in just one per cent of cases “explodes the myth that access to ‘safe’ abortion is necessary primarily in order to deal with the unwanted effects of unwanted intercourse”.
He noted with disbelief that despite less than 30 per cent of women reported use of contraception, 40 per cent of these said that their method of contraception was ‘reliable’.
The key, Rev Dr Parkinson said, is to “overlook our horror” at the abortion toll and make greater efforts to provide practical options for women facing unwanted pregnancy, adding that one such organisation that does this, Pregnancy Assistance, deserves “personal and professional support from everyone concerned at these figures”.
Catholic hospitals also invest in ongoing counselling and social support, and also deserve to be supported and promoted, he said.
“Then we need concerted action at all levels of civic life – government, education, health, social services – so that every person is encouraged to become more responsible at every level of their life,” he said.
“Our Church and our schools continue to play a part here, but we can always do better. As a Church we are called to be a power for good in the world, and that has to start with the conversion of our own lives.”