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Frances Doesn't Get It

By John Mallon
©Catholic Online 2005

A recent essay by Frances Kissling, president of "Catholics for a Free Choice," entitled, "Is There Life After Roe: How to Think About the Fetus" points out the absurdity of her organization's name better than many of her critics could. She does so by expressing a worldview fraught with presuppositions about reality that are utterly alien and contradictory to those of Catholicism. These differences are so fundamental that to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it is like trying to explain wetness to a fish. Would that all Christians took to being in Christ as fish take to water.

Unfortunately, so many Catholics are unschooled in Catholic philosophy—or lack a Catholic upbringing that simply assumes it—that they do not recognize the problem.

Kissling is a bomb thrower who would love to be taken for a thinker, if not an intellectual, but she doesn't seem to recognize the problem. If she does recognize the problem and does what she does anyway, it indicates a greater degree of wickedness to her activities than previously thought.

Catholicism holds that reality is Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity in whom and through whom all things were made. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and she consented to be the Mother of God, the fertilized egg in Mary's womb was that same Second Person of the Trinity: fully God, fully human. That egg did not grow into being a person, or grow in value. That little tiny egg was God—and man—from that instant.

Kissling sees reality differently. The use of terms like "choice," "freedom of choice," "a woman's right to choose," and most ridiculous of all, "anti-choice," give the game away. The abuse of this poor little word, "choice," takes the God-given gift of free will and twists it to lend legitimacy to choosing evil. It takes the nobility of free will to falsely lend legitimacy to the most ignoble of causes: the deliberate killing of the innocent.

As for "abortion rights," no such rights exist in nature, that is, no such right was endowed by our Creator, from whom all legitimate rights flow, as the American founding documents rightly recognized. Thus, "abortion rights" are artificial rights invented not to serve the freedom and dignity of the human being but its opposite: ugly, degrading and deadly evil. She raises the question implicit in that "choice:" Who decides?" What she doesn't get is that it has already been decided. It's not our call.

Kissling's Catholicism is belied when she places the neo-pagan, Marxist moral relativism of radical feminism above Judeo-Christian morality, judging it as superior, as though it is something the Catholic Church needs to "catch up with." The fact is the arbitrary, pseudo "morality-by-feelings" model was something cast into the abyss on the first Easter morning.

Speaking in her time, Flannery O'Connor said, "When you govern by tenderness, tenderness leads to the gas chamber." Today's version is, "When you govern by compassion, compassion leads to the abortion mill." Compassion and tenderness however good, as expressions of goodness, are all to often subjective, and therefore not a suitable measure of morality.

So for Kissling, who has spent her career campaigning to snuff out fetuses—and attacking the Catholic Church for not approving the practice—to write on "Valuing Fetal Life" is a curiosity. Perhaps it's another Blue-State plan to win over the Red-State hillbillies to the Democratic party after the election. Or perhaps the many prayers offered for Kissling are taking effect.


She speaks of "fetal rights" and degrees of humanity, calling for discussion about what point the fetus acquires them. But "degrees of humanity" is a concept used the old American slave traders and Nazis. (Doesn't Kissling realize this?) The fact is, the growing, sovereign—albeit dependent—being in its mother's womb is certainly a living being, and it is certainly human—there is no species change when exiting the birth canal. It is a human being deserving reverence, legal and moral protection, and absolute, unconditional, delightfully, gratefully-given love. Something seldom mentioned in feminist doctrine.

As the saying goes, "You can't be a little bit pregnant. You is or you ain't." While Kissling's notion of gradations of fetal value is an improvement over granting the unborn child no value at all, it is still fatally flawed and self-contradictory (as much of the essay is).

She speaks of "assigning" value to the fetus in increasing increments as the gestation goes on, which demonstrates that she still doesn't get it. Value is not something "assigned" to human beings by human beings; no matter what the circumstances, in or out of the womb—it is intrinsic to the human person at all stages of life from when sperm meets ovum to the last eyelash flicker, when, God willing, the Beatific vision comes into view as the sound of your gathered grandchildren's Hail Marys fade, and your deathbed is left behind.


An archive of some of Mallon's articles may be found at

And his Blog may be found here:


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Abortion, Catholics For a Free Choice, Frances Kissling

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