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Get Ready for the Anti-Abortion Zealotry against Joe Biden's Resurgence

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 5, 2020: No doubt the resurgence of former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign in the Democratic primary will prompt a resurgence in anti-abortion zealotry in the weeks ahead, especially among conservative American Catholics. Biden is a practicing Catholic, but he does not agree with the Roman Catholic Church's official, but incoherent and indefensible, opposition to legalized abortion an opposition rooted in misogyny.

Biden is known for his working-class politics. But in the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald J. Trump received the support of many white working-class voters, including many white working-class American Catholics and many white working-class American Protestant Evangelicals. And President Trump has delivered on his 2016 campaign promise to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.

Now, in my estimate, the most cogent arguments against anti-abortion zealotry of the Roman Catholic Church are set forth succinctly by the American Catholic writer Garry Wills (born in 1934) in his op-ed titled "Abortion isn't a religious issue" in the Los Angeles Times (dated November 4, 2007):

At the end of his op-ed, Wills acknowledges that he has adapted his succinct presentation from his more fully developed argument in his book Head and Heart: American Christianities (New York: Penguin Press, 2007).

Wills argues that "[t]he subject of abortion is not scriptural. . . . Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments or anywhere in Jewish scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils."

Wills says, "Lacking scriptural guidance, St. Thomas Aquinas [1225-1274] worked from Aristotle's view of the different kinds of animation [i.e., life-forms] the nutritive (vegetable) soul [i.e., life-form], the sensing (animal) soul [i.e., life-form], and the intellectual soul [i.e., life-form]."

According to Wills, Aquinas "said a material cause (semen) cannot cause a spiritual product [e.g., the spiritual soul]. The intellectual soul (personhood) is directly created by God 'at the end of human generation.' This intellectual soul [i.e., life-form] supplants what had preceded it (nutritive and sensory animation). So Aquinas denied that personhood arose from the semen. God directly infuses the soul at the completion of human formation."

Later in his op-ed, Wills says, "Aquinas said that the fetus did not become a person until God infused the intellectual soul. A functioning brain is not present in the fetus until the end of the sixth month at the earliest. Not surprisingly, that is the earliest point of viability, the time when a fetus can successfully survive outside the womb."

Wills also says, "Aquinas, following Aristotle, called the early stage of fetal development vegetative life. The fetus has a face long before it has a brain. It has animation before it has a command center to be aware of its movements or to experience any reaction as pain."

Finally, Wills says, "Under Roe v. Wade [1973], no woman is forced to have an abortion. But those who have decided to have one are able to."


But anti-abortion zealotry is opposed to Roe v. Wade.

But couldn't the American Catholic bishops just ex-communicate Biden and perhaps also Wills for good measure? Yes, in theory, they could do that. But doing that to Biden would just make him a martyr, figuratively speaking, for his cause which could boomerang and attract more supporters to his campaign. So that might not be a prudent strategy.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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