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To choose or not to choose

Thomas J. Euteneuer, as President of Human Life International, brings a barrage of statistics and scientific data into his argument against abortions

Fr. Thomas Enteneuer:'We care for the woman and the baby'

YOU EXPECT a man of religion to talk morality and religious doctrine, and not quite statistics and genetics. That is why Thomas J. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International (world's largest pro-life organisation), foxes you as he presents his argument against abortions with case studies and scientific research findings. For good measure, he also brings in psychological and human rights issues into play.

The tone and tenor of these arguments have, clearly, been influenced by the movement's long-standing quarrel with feminists, who have argued for a woman's right to complete control over her reproductive processes. The logical extension of the feminist argument is that a woman has a "choice" in keeping or aborting an unborn foetus. This democratic rationale is persuasive enough even at the level of commonsense, and is validated by its own set of data.

Pro-lifers counter this not only by moral persuasion (by holding prayer meetings before abortion clinics and so on), but also by giving women who are entering a clinic "correct information" (it's called "sidewalk counselling") on how an abortion could harm their own bodies and minds in the long run.

Rev. Euteneuer was in town last week to interact with the movement's representatives here. Excerpts from an interview:

Tell us about what you call long-terms effects of abortion.

The Pro-life Movement often gets accused of caring only about the baby. But it cares about the woman as well as the baby. In the U.S., for example, we run 3,000 crisis pregnancy centres. And there are only 700 abortion clinics. And they have a business interest in having women come in. So, it is the Pro-life Movement that is doing all the work to reach out to women in need! We tell them the negative side effects or abortion that abortionists prefer to hide. First of all, it takes a tremendous emotional toll. Women might first feel relief that they got out of the crisis. But that is a short-term solution. Studies show, for instance, that such women are more likely to commit suicide and get addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Abortion has been linked to cancer...

A group called Elliott Institute in the U.S. has studied this link. Some 85 per cent of their studies confirm it. Hormonal changes happen in a pregnant woman's body in anticipation of the baby. And when the pregnancy is cut short, these processes don't come into maturity. Studies show that many of the cellular changes happening in a woman's breast to produce milk become cancer-vulnerable. Contraceptive pills, which inject hormones into a woman's body, are also connected to breast cancer. These are studies by creditable doctors.

Shouldn't the abortion debate be context-bound? Arguing for the unborn baby's right to life could, sometimes, mean awarding the woman a life sentence.

But we are also giving the baby the death sentence, a baby which has done nothing to deserve this. If we don 't respect the fundamental human right to life, what other right can we ever respect?

Do you believe that life begins at the moment of conception?

You don't have to consult the Church, but science on this. With advancement in genetics, we are able to determine that when an egg and the sperm come together, they form a unique human being that has a different genetic package than that of the mother or the father. Then that little embryo is a different human individual. Feminists argue that conception begins when an embryo implants in the uterus. But it begins earlier in the fallopian tube when the egg and sperm unite. So, let's be clear about terminology, and use the word "fertilisation" rather than "conception" while talking about what is life.

What kind of confrontations have you had with feminists?

American feminists earlier talked about the right to vote, abuse of women and so on. They are all legitimate issues. But they now seem to exclusively promote abortions. They use the word "choice". But we ask, choice of what? It is we who are talking about the right of the baby and the physical and emotional integrity of the woman. But at the same time, we are against all forms of violence. Some people who call themselves pro-lifers may have set fire to abortion clinics and killed abortionists. But we reject any violence because it is no solution. We argue that it is actually the pro-abortionists who commit violence. Check out on this.

There are many anti-life factors at work outside the realm of procreation. There are direct and indirect wars being fought which claim millions of lives. In our country we have an economic structure that is driving farmers to suicide. So, shouldn't we be talking about life that is already there and being pushed to death rather than the unborn foetus?

We are concerned about all these issues too. The Catholic institutions are the largest providers of private healthcare in the world. They take care of 25 per cent of all the AIDS patients in the world. We may not meet every farmer in desperate circumstances, but we are not a government. We are only a private charitable organisation. And we are a minority here, just two per cent of the population. But it's a disproportionate amount of healthcare that Christians provide in this society. Do you know that Catholic institutions run more educational institutions for girl children in developing nations than any other organisation, with the exceptions of individual governments which have an obligation?


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