Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s: A reflection on abortion
By Luis Enrique Morales
Abortion is a controversial topic even in countries where it is legal. There are generally two camps: those who are in favor of abortion, and those who are against it. I personally remember my first experiences with the topic back around the start of secondary school. A Spanish teacher told us stories of clandestine abortions being performed in places we knew well. Months later, a classmate from my English class shared that his mother wanted to abort him, and that this was the reason his left eye was wounded. The teacher told us “these things just happen, and if it doesn’t work out the children are never told.” Two questions—the moral and political—arose. A year later, I saw the police surround a private clinic and take a doctor away. The newspaper reported that he was arrested for performing clandestine abortions. In his statement, he said that the girl insisted because she was desperate. Her boyfriend had run away, and her parents would never support her.
I remembered these events when a Portuguese colleague from Swedish class asked me to join him for a smoke. He had something to tell me. We went outside. He told me that he was going out with a Swedish girl. She was pregnant. I congratulated him. Then the anxious colleague, lost in thought, told me: “Eu não quero ser pai.” He continued on, telling me how he had asked her to throw out the fetus (as he worded it in Portuguese), but she refused. She clearly wanted to have the baby. I told him: “seu corpo, sua decisão.” He threw the butt of his cigarette to the ground in desperation, and without pausing lit another. A little nervous and agitated with anger, he told me his plan. His idea was to bring her to a secluded beach in Portugal and kill her. Then he would weigh the body down with rocks and throw her to the sea. I thought about this for a few weeks. The next time I saw him he was happy. He had convinced her to terminate the pregnancy.
Another time, an African colleague asked me to loan him some money. He did this occasionally, sending the money to his family, but this time it was because his girlfriend was pregnant and through a mutual agreement they had decided to abort. I was surprised because they were very Christian people. He explained: He was supporting his two children in Africa, and his mother, nephew, and sister-in-law as well. His brother was irresponsible. His current girlfriend was a single mother. So, having one more child would take resources away from one or two in Africa. This was his reasoning. Wouldn’t the aborted baby be a savior? I saw the Lamb of God on the cross. I thought about this as he finished his story.
These are just a few stories that came to my mind recently when a few days ago abortion was legalized in Argentina. The question of abortion has arisen constantly since my youth, so I was not surprised by these memories. It seems to be something that has always happened. Like the Spanish prof and her stories, my classmate with the life-long wounded eye or the arrested doctor, there are those who seek out abortion and those who do not. Some chose it out of necessity, others for desperation. Others don’t seek it, yet find it, while others don’t pursue it at all. What would I have done if I were that doctor? And if I were the desperate girl? If I were my Portuguese colleague, would I have gone to Portugal to commit femicide out of desperation? Would I have given in and agreed to an abortion that I didn’t want? If I had to choose to support either a family in Africa or a family in Guatemala…would I have chosen abortion? These are metaphysical-moral questions, though there is a difference between a political question and a metaphysical-moral one, as Darío Sztajnszrajber said at an informational meeting on the voluntary termination of pregnancy in Argentina in 2018.
In that talk, Sztajnszrajber mentioned the philosopher John Rawls and his book Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical. He synthesized—very well, in about seven minutes—the main ideas of the book, expressing that in the land of the gauchos the focus has been on metaphysics instead of politics. The decision to abort is first a political question and secondly an individual one. Whoever wants to abort has the right to decide to do so, and whoever doesn’t want to doesn’t. This discourse makes me think about Guatemala again, because there is a strong relationship between religious organizations and political interference. There are frequently those who are against abortion, though they themselves teach that salvation is an individual matter based on goodness and “Giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” The body of Christ leads us to the absurd conclusion that the legalization of abortion means it would be committed compulsively without any responsibility.
There is a social, psychological, religious, and economic protocol surrounding the voluntary termination of life (as seen in the movie Nymphomaniac: Volume II). Our religious tendencies also lead us to believe that prohibition is the solution. What is there to say about all of the abortions conducted in inhumane conditions? How many pregnant girls and young mothers? It is also clear that abortion is something that will keep happening, and to prohibit it outright is absurd. I think that the approval of abortion necessitates a very precise plan from the government that respects liberty, guarantees the health of the mother, and seeks equality. While that girl who ran to the doctor was in crisis, her boyfriend simply disappeared and her family was nowhere to be seen. She was alone and nobody was there to guarantee that the clinic met any minimum standards.
Because of this, my brothers, I believe that it is just and necessary that you open your Bibles to Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother.” And now, my brothers, turn to John 8:7: “But when they continued asking him; he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her.” Now go and draw your own conclusions.
Luis Enrique Morales was born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in 1989, and is a writer, poet, and columnist. A 2012 graduate of the University of Galileo, he currently lives in Stockholm, where he teaches and is completing postgraduate studies in Educational Sciences (Pedagogy) at the University of Stockholm.
The previous article was originally published in gaZeta, a nonprofit, lay, nonpartisan digital media source open to all opinions. The original article can be read at this link: https://gazeta.gt/dad-al-cesar-y-siempre-a-cesar-una-reflexion-sobre-el-aborto/
Cover Image: Providav Lugo