Reach for your phone and call up Jesus, this catholic girl might just be a sinner. Why? Because continually when November rolls around I vote pro-choice. Call me a hypocrite, call me a fake, but sometimes morals and ethics clash. With a torn heart, I firmly believe that we are called to love everyone, women and babies alike, and being forced to choose between the two seems cruel. In some aspect, the two sides of the issue aren’t in opposition at all; one is a moral argument against the killing of the innocent and one an ethical argument of not telling others what to do with their bodies.
Morals are a personal compass of what’s right and wrong, it’s individual and internal. Ethics are rules of conduct recognized by society or a class of people, and are dependent on others for a definition. The majority of the time the two closely align but occasionally, they are opposing forces. One can follow ethical principles without having morals and a moral person can follow ethics in cases where morals may not fit. This is the exact conundrum I, the United States, and Spain face when it comes to abortion. Spain is a nation that is built on the tradition of the church but is full of liberally minded individuals. Almost identical to the bewilderment I feel while deciding where I stand, Spain is a nation torn by the face off between ethical and moral beliefs.
The Church believes and teaches that life is sacred, from conception until death. Killing in any form, especially killing of the innocent, is wrong. Children are viewed as one of the greatest blessings and therefore should be treasured. This standpoint, widely known as pro-life, is a largely moral argument, and many people stand by it with a steadfast heart. Looking for first-hand opinions on the topic here in Spain, I waited after mass scanning the crowd for someone to talk to. María Gonzalez, a León native and practicing catholic, told me, “Personally I stand by the church and believe in life and love for all humans no matter how small.” Simply said and hard to argue against, Gonzalez had no problem telling me how she felt. Gonzalez is not alone in this position, in the United States 46% of the population stand by her and in Spain an estimated 250,000 to almost 2 million people attend pro-life rallies.
A larger portion of the population is still yet to be accounted for. On the hunt for information I contacted a women’s rights group, Lunes Sin Sol, in León, Spain. Isabel Muelas, an activist in the group believes, “Women need to have rights to their bodies and to their children. Only the woman knows what is best for her.” When a mother believes that she can’t properly care for the child, it could be more responsible to not have the child. A woman has rights to her own body and since the fetus lays inside the women it belongs to her not to the law. Commonly referred to as pro-choice this stance is less about moral beliefs and more a stance of ethics. In a worldwide poll, including the United States and Spain, 57% of Catholics stand by the stance that abortion should be allowed in some cases.
In Spain, moral beliefs and ethics are deeply intertwined and it is complicated to unpack the controversy. Abortion has been legal in Spain since 1985. In 2010, the laws were even further liberalized. During the first trimester, there are no restrictions and it is up to the woman. During the second it is only legal if there is a serious health risk to the mother or if there are fetal defects. Still there are regular protests and attempts to have tighter abortion laws. In 2014, a law was passed mandating that minors must have permission from their parents before proceeding with an abortion. This brought the topic of abortion to the forefront yet again as citizens fought over what’s right.
The lives of women and unborn children are directly affected by these laws but it doesn’t end there. Families and communities alike battle for the rights of their people, born and unborn. In the United States, we are fighting the same war. Since 1973 abortion has been legal but abortion laws may be restricted to varying degrees by the states themselves. Washington state has zero restrictions while other states such as Arizona ban abortions past twenty weeks. In addition, if at any point the pregnant women’s life or health are at a serious risk it is not legal to force her to have the child. Even still individuals continue to fight the laws either to further restrict or loosen the law.
From a glance, you would likely guess that the controversy in the states and the controversy in Spain would look much different. Surprisingly though, Spain is more catholic in traditions than in practice and as a result is a nation just as torn by the issue. A clash of morals and ethics creates difficult choices for individuals and nations. If a friend came to me seeking advice on abortion without a doubt I would say don’t do it. Life is a precious gift and there is always someone wanting a child to love. If a stranger asked me the same question I would likely have the same answer, but even with a stranger this interaction is intimate. Much more intimate than the government mandating the decision. With an issue as personal as this, it’s not right for the government to step in, regardless of how firmly I stand by the right for life for all. If you haven’t already dialed up God to let him know my failure, take a minute to think. There’s two side to every story and maybe in this case both are right.