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Isn’t abortion basically a matter of personal freedom?

In recent years, a new dimension has been added to the Catholic Church’s pro-life teaching. It is an analysis of the meaning of authentic or Christian freedom, as opposed to the false but seductive freedom promoted by advocates of legal abortion. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Gospel of Life addresses this in three major points.

First, freedom is never merely about the well-being of the individual. It is always also a relational matter. Freedom necessarily involves “solidarity,…openness to others and service of them.” God “entrusts us to one another” to care for and serve each other. When people act as if freedom is just about “me,” the results are predictable: The strong people exercising their “freedom” completely dominate the weak “who have no choice but to submit” (#19). Christian freedom turns this on its head, saying that there is no freedom in running away from responsibility for others, but only in accepting a special obligation to care for the weakest. The unborn, unseen, unheard, physically and legally powerless are among these.

Second, Christian freedom sees “an essential link” between freedom and truth. Jesus told us, “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Acting against truth hurts not only the victim, but also the actor. It is easy to see how when a culture embraces the idea that “freedom” means “me” and “my opinion,” and leaves God out, abortion comes in with a vengeance. The powerless child is killed. The truth about the child’s humanity is simply denied in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary. We become blind to God’s image and likeness in the person of every single human being. Christian freedom, on the other hand, calls for a way of life in which the weakest are not merely spared, but are looked after with greater care.
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