BBC Radio4 - Thought for the Day
13th October 1999
Just after the birth of our first child, a parcel arrived from a local charity – stacks of nappies and fruit for my wife. When I asked the charity, “why us?”, they replied, “it’s a bit of support we give for all the new-born in our community.”
We weren’t in dire need, but we did appreciate the gesture. However, the Catholic Church in Scotland has received much less appreciation for offering financial help to a twelve year-old to continue her pregnancy. There has been no judgement on social workers who strongly advised her to have the baby aborted. But questions are being asked about giving expectant girls money to consider the alternative.
Would there be such an outcry if it had been a secular agency helping disadvantaged parents? Or do we fear the spectre of someone with a moral mission? Perhaps, we’ve witnessed so many atrocities from people imposing dogma and morality on others, that we’re wary of a religious body wishing to insert a moral perspective into society. It seems we’re more ready to accommodate human failings, even in our politicians, than to tolerate a church’s stance on ethics.
Hindu philosophy also argues that life begins at conception. From the moment the embryo attaches itself to the womb, it is a distinct person, though fully dependent on the mother’s body. Even so, in situations of real medical danger, Hinduism says that the life of the mother takes precedent over an unborn child.
This twelve year-old may lose out on education and career, but her condition is not life-threatening. Nor does she seem abandoned. She has parents, apparently supportive of her wish to have the baby; even if others think she’s being silly. And she has a helping hand from a faith community to ease the costs.
A serious amount of cash-in-hand, might wrongly influence a person’s decisions. But, a modest amount of baby clothes and paraphernalia without undue conditions, may be all that is needed to open up the options. That should be welcomed if it enables a person to follow the path of their choice.
Decisions, especially the big ones, must be holistic – we cannot ignore any factor and certainly not our conscience. Acting on principle alone, can be disastrous. The same goes for decisions made solely out of expediency. Every angle should be considered and the truths we hold dear are vital to that process.
Whether or not we agree with the Catholic Church’s doctrine on abortion, we need to support individuals’ rights to make choices for themselves and to help and be helped in ways which allow them to live according to their conscience.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.