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Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 1999 /16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

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Should we be pro-life in all cases? -- SOME WEEKS after the British government launched a moral crusade to reduce the number of teen-age pregnancies, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland upped the ante by offering financial support to a poor, pregnant 12-year-old on the condition that she not abort the baby. Although, according to an Associated Press report, teachers and social workers urged the girl to terminate her pregnancy "because of her age," her parents had contacted the Scottish church's Pro-Life Initiative, a program that offers alternatives to abortion.

Predictably, the pro-abortion crowd responded furiously. Sarah Colborn, head of the National Abortion Campaign, is quoted by the AP as saying, "We are talking ... of money being offered to a child to keep a baby, which removes choice." Sue Carroll, a writer for the tabloid Daily Mirror, wrote that "offering 12-year-olds cash for babies is tantamount to bribery."

But Monsignor Tom Connelly, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the church's offer gives the girl "real choice, so the child in the womb does not suffer at all, irrespective of age or race or creed."

I offered this dilemma for debate with my radio audience and received commentary more than 2-to-1 in favor of the Catholic Church's offer. More important than the voting were the commentaries themselves:

-- "I am sure you are aware that one of the favorite criticisms leveled at the Catholic Church for our stand in abortion is that the church (the pope and the entire clergy and parishioners) simply talk but do nothing for the mothers and the babies after they are born. This proves otherwise."

-- "I have to admit that I had a knee-jerk reaction. (Don't worry. I didn't hurt myself). My immediate response was this: I'm tired of explaining the value of life. It's the opposition's turn to explain the value of death. You want to know the truth why the pro-deathers are so upset ... because that girl's family said 'yes' to life. How very, very sad."

-- "I was appalled at the comment from the woman from the National Abortion Campaign who said that the church, by giving the young girl the option of carrying the baby to term with their financial help, was removing her choice. I guess for the abortion rights group, choice is only choice if you choose their way."

-- "This is not a bribe; it is merely a leveling of the decision field. Now she can make her 'choice' without the pressure of medical bills. Now she is free to choose to not kill her baby because of financial circumstances. It's certainly better for the unborn baby!"

-- "I find it odd that abortion advocates are of the opinion that this intervention by the Catholic Church has eliminated the child's choice. It seems to me that the child had the choice to have sex or not. It's even more odd to me that the abortion advocates feel this 12-year-old will in no way be traumatized by her action (having sex) but will be irreparably traumatized by enduring the consequence (giving birth) and would not be traumatized by killing her own unborn (abortion). Typical, isn't it?"

-- "Hopefully they will continue to offer her spiritual guidance because I totally believe this is not just pro-life vs. pro-choice. This is a spiritual battle for the souls of our young people."

-- And finally: "Anyway, what does a woman's right to control her own reproduction have to do with protecting the innocent and valuing life?"

The commentaries that countered these perspectives were equally impassioned. As one listener wrote, "I do not understand how any parent can allow a 12-year-old girl to give birth. In this case, she should have an abortion, and her entire family should be in serious counseling. Maybe the government should take the 12-year-old and put her in a foster home where appropriate morals are being taught."

-- "I don't think she is going to learn anything except how to get some extra spending money."

-- "I'm anti-abortion when it comes to the issue of adult women. But in this case, when a 12-year-old child is having a baby, anti-abortion does not come into the picture. Where does the church let this immoral act of having a baby out of wedlock still support her stupid wrongdoing?"

I fervently agree with the church helping the family out financially in order to preserve the unborn child's life. I further believe that the impetus should be to having that child put up for adoption. However, first things first: Pay the money to support the gestation, because if the child's life is terminated, there is no such later option. In this and other cases, it is probable that the family will assume child-raising responsibilities. Is this ideal? No, of course not. The ideal is an adult, heterosexual, married, two-parent, stable family.

However, scenarios short of that are still superior to death. As Tom, one of my listeners put it: "Admittedly, I'm biased. I'm one of those unwanted, unplanned pregnancies whose birth mother chose not to pour me down a sink -- and gave me up for adoption."

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