Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reproductive Rights: the ultimate misnomer

With the advent of Obamacare and its full implementation, the greatest misunderstanding being perpetuated by this administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) involves so-called "reproductive rights", a term that is so twisted that I am frankly shocked it has not been more seriously challenged beyond sound bites and bumper-sticker slogans; a term that simply transcends "basic health care".  A turn of a simple phrase or a play on words is how we have been able to successfully de-humanize an unborn child by calling "it" a fetus, teaching the scientific term to school-age children who are thus taught to separate or remove altogether the utter miracle of life from pregnancy, reducing it to mere biology.

"Reproductive rights" insinuates a right to reproduce or not.  Whether such a right exists may be debatable at least in the way we've come to understand "rights" as entitlement.  That we have the capacity to reproduce is without question.  It must be said, however, that much like any other "rights" also comes with them enormous responsibilities we cannot avoid, though we apparently do try.  That we can reproduce does not necessarily mean we should.  Make no mistake, however; this statement is not about advocating for birth control.  It is rather about self-control which is not only a right without question but is, more importantly, a duty in all aspects of our being; a personal, social, moral, and doctrinal duty to ourselves, to our families, and to our society.

How has it come to be, then, that arguments for reproductive rights are more closely associated with terminating a pregnancy or using birth control as a means to avoid pregnancy than it is about the act itself (of reproducing)?  Even if it could be argued that we possess an inherent "right" to reproduce (and I think such an argument can be made), there is within that same argument a right not to reproduce; that is, a right not to participate in that one act that causes parenthood if we are not seeking to become parents.

If we dare, we may be getting closer to what the whole argument is about; whether or not we possess a "right" to have sex, married or not, without consequences.  If we can at least be honest on this one point, we may come closer to understanding what "rights" we truly possess, what "rights" we think we are demanding, and how we must exercise responsibly any "rights" in our society while simultaneously understanding what is truly innate within us as human beings.

Pope Paul VI observed in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, that "with regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man's reason and will must exert control over [his drives and emotions]", meaning we must never surrender to pure impulse in our "drives and emotions" but are rather challenged and called upon to act responsibly as humans with the capacity to not only reproduce but also with the capacity to reason, to think things through (like counting to ten when we're angry).  That we are born with an innate sexuality does not necessarily mean we are compelled to express this sexuality by whatever means whenever possible.  

As we must necessarily consider the significant number of those who not only reject the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church but also the teachings of the Holy Scriptures in part or in whole, there is still a common thread upon which we must all surely agree: humans have a social duty and moral obligation to one another to refrain from acting as mindless animals strictly subject to physiological impulses.  We are born with the capacity to rule over these impulses, this capacity as innate as our sexuality; and whether by divine decree or social responsibility, we are compelled to exercise our innate ability to reason.

All this boils down to a concept (or, rather, a misconception) of what truly constitutes freedom.  Are we really free to do as we please when we please, or is freedom best expressed in doing as we should when we should, including not engaging in sexual intercourse?  Some suggest it is the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church which compels (commands?) us to act as the Church thinks we should when the Church thinks we must, but I suggest it is anarchy that allows us to do as we please when we please - with no moral or social restraints.  That kind of society truly becomes one ruled by the "fittest" with the weakest among us subject to the whims of what would soon become the "fit" majority in which only the strong can possibly survive and flourish.  Aside from biblical principles which prohibit such a concept, it makes no sense in a civilized society that one can act as one chooses when one chooses regardless of how it will affect others.

That birth control and abortion exist is, unfortunately, without question.  That we have the capacity and free will to choose participation in these and other destructive acts is also without question.  That we have come to expect and demand this things, that we are somehow entitled to these by legislative or judicial fiat by means compelled of others (taxes and other fees, such as insurance premiums) is morally and ethically questionable at best, which renders the HHS contraceptive mandate (and underlying motive to soon mandate unrestricted access to abortion services) morally and ethically questionable - especially when others will be compelled by tax legislation to finance them in spite of our religious and moral objections.  And isn't it the height of irony that "family planning" involves the intentional destruction of an unborn child??

I dare say this is but the type of the iceberg in what we can soon come to expect from this behemoth legislation that even our own legislators and president cannot pretend to understand.  Let us pray, however, that we may soon come to our senses before we find ourselves in deeper than even our most liberal friends envisioned - because whatever "rights" we believe are granted to us by any entity can soon be taken from us by that same entity, including the right to protest - if we ever do come to our senses before we self-destruct.

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