The comment went well beyond politics, though its political reverberations shook many a voting booth this week. During the final minutes of a debate, Richard Mourdock, a candidate from Indiana vying for the U.S. Senate, was asked about his stance on abortion after pregnancy by rape. He replied, about the pregnancy, “It’s something God intended.” What follows is the full quote of his response:
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
One has to respect a man who stands by what he believes, and Mr. Mourdock did so after his remark created a micro-burst reaction in the media. His pro-life comment seemed to imply that a woman in that terrible plight had no choice about dealing with the pregnancy, while saying even more about his own concept of God.
The ensuing controversy made me re-examine my own position on the issue. Whenever asked if I am pro-life or pro-choice, my answer, not lightly given, has been a very clear “Yes.” How could anyone not be pro-either of these?
Life, despite the violence that seemingly forever tears apart our world, should be sacred to everyone. Ideally. The fragility of the gift, whether because of fate, its humanness and humankind, makes life even more precious, and many of ours laws are meant to protect it.
Unfortunately, there are those among the world’s population who consider life to be less precious than it is, problematical and disposable. Narrow minds and selfish needs render others’ lives worthless compared to one’s own purposes. Yet, for all humankind, life should be an absolute, having every right to be protected and nurtured.
As for choice, nothing is more essential to the meaning of human life than free will. The power of choice gives everyone a share in their own “creation” or becoming. A life is shaped by the choices one makes, remembering, of course, that not choosing is in fact a choice as well. So, it seems that life and choice are forever and intimately entwined.
The dilemma posed by Mr. Mourdock’s reply comes down to one question: Whose life and whose choice is it? The woman’s, of course. Not a government’s, not a politician’s. The gift of human life includes, with varying degrees of ability, the right to make choices.
Ideally, the choices made are always about a perceived good; at least that is what philosophers say. But in real life, in real time, choices, even in their humanness, are about life and becoming.
Responsibility for both belong to the individual.
There is no answer here, just a challenge to all to make choices that enhance and affirm one’s life, one’s becoming. It really does not matter what a politician believes about such a dilemma, except to the politician himself.
What does matter is respecting the beliefs of others and their right to make the choices they believe affirm the responsibilities the gift of life requires of every human being.