The Virus, Abortion, and the Ethic of Isolation

This Coronavirus plague can really be a graced opportunity for the world to realize that radical autonomy from others is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

(Image: Andrew Gook | Unsplash.com)

As I pen these words tens of thousands of human beings have perished due to the worldwide pandemic of the Coronavirus—over 25,000 in Italy alone. Hardly a corner of the globe has been left unaffected, with the United States leading the way in the number of confirmed cases, with over 46,000 dead. Our world is in a universal “lockdown,” with “social distancing” from one another the norm, “stay at home” the new learned behavior, and an unprecedented restriction on travel. Restaurants closed, businesses closed, schools closed and nearly every church in the world has its doors locked—and in some cases literally sealed with chains or police yellow caution tape! The parents of grown children who even live nearby have for weeks not seen these loved ones, as the closest of human relationships are now governed by panic, fear, anxiety, worry, depression, in a society descending into sense of desperation and even despair.

How might we understand this current scourge visited upon the planet? Might it be, when all is said and done, that the human race—ironically or paradoxically or otherwise—is simply living-out an ethic it has embraced for many decades, and continues to embrace even in the midst of the crisis? Today the world, and this is certainly the case with American culture, has embraced individualism as the primary social-ethical value. Even Cardinal Robert Sarah has called the pandemic “a parable” that reveals modern man’s great mistake, namely our refusal to be dependent. As he stated recently in the French journal Valeurs:

Modern man wants to be radically independent. He does not want to depend on the laws of nature. He refuses to be dependent on others by committing himself to definitive bonds such as marriage. It is humiliating to be dependent on God. He feels he owes nothing to anyone.

I will argue that in no other area of societal experience and practice is this independence more dominant than in a “woman’s right to choose.” The slogan “I have a right to do what I want with my own body” is the creed that exclaims this radical autonomy upon which the quest for self-determination rests. My own body—meaning my own self—is not in-relation to others, and only by such a self-proclaimed autonomy may I truly be who I am.

This sort of radical individualism was enshrined within the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Roe v. Wade is not simply a court ruling with political impact. More than anything else Roe v. Wade is a philosophy. The decision articulates an anthropology about what it means to be human. Roe v. Wade’s denial of the right-to-life of unborn children is founded on two arguments. The first is that for the purposes of the right-to-life the unborn are declared to be non-persons, and as such they are not the subject of rights as the decision famously, or perhaps infamously stated: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” At most, unborn children represent “potential life.” However, the unborn stripped of their personhood is not enough to facilitate their slaughter. Plenty of things—literally things—are protected by law. Property is protected, ships protected, corporations protected and there are plenty of legal restrictions on how people may treat animals with some species absolutely protected in every sense. Thus, the “mere” failure of the justices to recognize the unborn as persons is not enough to have ushered in their extermination at the rate of over sixty million.

The denial of personhood to the unborn is an atrocious injustice. Yet, it is the other finding of the court that ultimately seals the fate of this disadvantaged class, namely the “right to privacy.” The “right to privacy” in Roe v. Wade is a privacy of a special kind—and indeed with Roe we have the invention, some may say “discovery,” of a new “right.” The “right to privacy” was engineered by the so-called Catholic Justice William Brennan—based on the earlier 1965 contraception ruling of the Court, Griswold v. Connecticut. Here, as many may already know, the Court found that prohibiting the sale of contraceptives even to married couples was unconstitutional based on the “right to privacy.” This “right to privacy” was expanded to include non-married couples as well in the 1972 Supreme Court case Eisenstadt v. Baird.

However, in Roe v. Wade privacy is no longer a right that encircles the family, husbands and wives, or male/female couples, insulating them from unwarranted government regulation and intrusion into their “private” sexual affairs. The “right to privacy” shrunk from privacy that encompassed persons-in-relation, to a “privacy” that now encircled one particular individual—namely the woman alone. In Roe v. Wade the “right to privacy” is a sphere of privacy only around the woman. The woman in the court’s decision completely stands alone. The decision created and defends the isolated female, who must first be placed in this sphere of isolation in order to exercise the ultimate power to kill another—to indeed cast out-of-herself that person most close to herself—her unborn son or daughter.

This is the dynamics of Roe v. Wade. The court ruling is based on the premise that there are no inherent human relationships. The woman stands alone, apart from literally everyone else in the world and within such isolation any moral obligations she may have toward others are shattered. For instance, according to Roe v. Wade husbands in relation to their wives within the covenant of marriage do not exist. In Roe v. Wade a wife who conceives a child within the marital bond may kill that baby and the husband need never know, indeed has no right to know that his offspring was exterminated! The Court determined the woman owes her husband nothing because the woman who stands alone has no marital-relational responsibilities.

Fathers do not exist in Roe v. Wade. If a boyfriend who begets a child wishes to save that child from being put to death, he has no rights over the life of that baby. According to the original decision, not even parents of a pregnant minor daughter had any say as to whether or not their grandchild lived or died. In many states without parental consent laws put into place by pro-lifers, this is still the case.

Roe v. Wade created the autonomous woman. It is an ethic of isolation—a manifesto that declares that inherent human relationships simply do not exist—they have no moral meaning. In order for the slaughter of the unborn to be accomplished the bonds of the human community had to first be undone. Legalized abortion is practiced according to that Sartrian principle that “hell is other people.” Here is the declaration that human freedom depends on being free from others—to be free from anyone who may restrict my right to self-determination. Privacy in Roe rests on the assumption that human freedom is freedom from being-in-relation to others as the very presence of others compromises my choices and thus, according to the ethic of isolation, my very self-hood.

My pro-life work has taught me many lessons—but one lesson stands out from all others. I am perhaps one of fifty human beings in the world who has had the rarest of experiences—as I have retrieved the bodies of the aborted unborn from the trash and buried them. My book Abandoned—The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars records how the greatest lesson of abortion was impressed upon me. In 1988 we had discovered that Vital Med, a pathology lab in Northbrook, Illinois, was leaving the remains of aborted babies out on its loading dock to be picked up by a waste incinerator company. The fetal remains were shipped there by parcel post from abortion centers as far away as Fargo, North Dakota.

Motivated by our faith, we knew we had to retrieve these abandoned bodies. Our first trip to the laboratory took place February 20, 1988:

Covered by the darkness of night, we wove our way through the labyrinthine streets between buildings and empty parking lots of the deserted industrial park. Finally, we arrived at our destination: a large garage connected to the building that housed the pathology lab.

We parked our cars in the parking lot of a building across the street. I got out of the car and breathed in the cold night air. Our small group walked to the entrance of the garage. A utility door on the right side of the garage doors had been left open, so we entered. We immediately stood on a long concrete ramp that led down to the loading dock. On the dock were three green dumpsters. Several heavy-duty cardboard barrels were stacked along the back wall. We began to walk slowly down the ramp. I could see dozens and dozens of boxes on the dock strewn about haphazardly. As we approached I felt a cold numbness stealing over me. When we reached the loading dock I knelt by a stack of boxes to examine them more closely. Pulling back the flaps of one of the boxes, I saw that it was filled to the top with the bodies of aborted babies. There were literally hundreds of them, all packed in Whirl Paks and specimen jars. Each box on the dock was similarly filled with fetal remains. Some of the boxes were open. The cardboard barrels also contained Whirl Paks, mixed in with waste and debris.

I was struck by the realization that all of these fetal children had been alive only a few short days ago. Now they lay dead and abandoned, cut from their mothers’ wombs, cut from the human race: corpses of fetal bodies stacked on a loading dock inside an industrial park in boxes marked “for disposal.”

As I stood on the edge of the loading dock it seemed my journey and theirs had brought us together at the edge of the world. Here the aborted had been cast adrift in a desolate sea. A dark, sad, heavy revelation suddenly took life deep inside my being. Abortion wasn’t just about killing—and pro-life work wasn’t just about restoring to the unborn their right-to-life. In the image of those tiny human lives scattered about the loading dock I came to know the true plight of the aborted unborn. The sort of deaths they suffered made them horribly, frighteningly alone.

We had to go to the edge of the world to bring them back—to give what remained of them their first and last human embrace.

My trips to “the edge of the world” taught me that the true plight of the aborted unborn wasn’t “just” that they are deprived of their right-to-life. They endure a deeper plight as they are plunged by abortion into a void of alienation. In their dismembered bodies is incarnated their dismemberment from the human family. I began to know their isolation and to understand that it is caused by the triumph of another individual in isolation–a lonely monadic self who must secure its own identity and power by suppressing or annihilating all who threaten to be in relation to it. The babies on the loading dock were apart from their mothers. Apart from their fathers. Apart from the towns and cities where they had been conceived. Far from home. In them I knew the denial of mankind’s most intrinsic bonds. Abortion doesn’t just kill the unborn—it is separation, the dissolution of human communion.

And so, the whole world is now thrust into separation by a deadly killer virus upon us as a plague. We cannot touch one another, cannot kiss, cannot embrace—and certainly we must never embrace the stranger. Indeed, we wear protection, donning masks and gloves. But our contraceptive culture, in its own way, already affirmed such barriers, perhaps prepared us for separation, by making sure that even in love-making our lives are not “infected” by another someone. The isolation we are forced to practice should cause us to recognize that we have forged it already in the ethic of isolation that continues to be defended.

Ironically, the isolation enshrined in the “right to privacy” that facilitates death is now the very necessary thing we must practice in order to live, even to the extent of a forced estrangement from loved ones. Might such “staying apart” be that living parable analogous to the breakdown of the integrity of the nuclear family that already defines our culture, as evidenced in sky-high divorce rates, absent fathers, out-of-wedlock births, mothers forced to raise children alone, and the dismissal and abandonment of the elderly? Yes, the isolation we experience now is pandemic-related, but it is a sign that certainly points to that deeper societal separation that may demonstrate to us that our ultimate problem is not a “mere” physical virus, but a false liberty that brings an end to human communion. From this we also need to be healed.

And perhaps nothing shows the dissolution of human communion more than, while most churches are closed for worship, most abortion clinics remain open. Catholic communal worship is suspended, that worship which is the primary instance of human unity in the world, as never before churches are shut up, dark, empty, and silent. Historically unprecedented, except for a few occasions of interdict, is the ultimate absence of the Catholic ceremonies that create human communion. With churches locked all over the world, it is at least nearly so! Yet, the rites of isolation continue to be offered in the still open abortion centers—as the right to self-determination enshrined in ceremonies of autonomy continue in homage to what the world considers truly essential.

This Coronavirus plague can really be a graced opportunity for the world to realize that radical autonomy from others is not all that it’s cracked up to be, to force humanity to regain a renewed appreciation for human communion and indeed embrace all the moral responsibilities toward others that are inherent in our God-given human bonds.

If God is not sending the human race this plague, He is certainly allowing it. And the history of the Faith tells us that God withdraws his blessings only to stir up and awaken His people. What is the lesson we should learn? If we wish to live by the ethic of isolation—we shall die by it. The world has been thrown into a terrible, sad, dark separation of persons—living the ethic it has embraced. But it is also a nearly historically unprecedented chance to renounce that deadly autonomy and come to know, welcome, and embrace the other.


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About Monica Migliorino Miller 4 Articles
Monica Migliorino Miller is Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society, teacher of theology at Father Gabriel Richard High School, Ann Arbor and Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and the author of several books, including The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church (Emmaus Road) and Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars (St. Benedict Press).

17 Comments

  1. Miller concludes: “But [the lesson we should learn] is also a nearly historically unprecedented chance to renounce that deadly autonomy and come to know, welcome, and embrace the other.”

    Luigi Giussani also said this about our self-inflicted and deadly autonomy:

    “. . . yes, religion is in fact that which man does in his solitude; but it is also that in which the human person discovers his essential companionship. Such companionship is, then, MORE ORIGINAL to us than our solitude…Therefore, BEFORE SOLITUDE there is companionship, a companionship that EMBRACES my solitude. Because of this, solitude is no longer true solitude, but a cry calling back that hidden companionship” (The Religious Sense, Ignatius Press, 1990, caps added).

    Dostoyevsky, in his Crime and Punishment, also speaks of a “subterranean solitude” that is even deeper than sin (as in the original sin?), but then of a STILL DEEPER fellowship.

  2. Togetherness reminds some of 1960’s and jazz pianist Bradley Sowash’s solo Kum Bah Yah from We Gather Together. It was the Age of Aquarius seminary days. Very beautiful. Very unrealistic. A parishioner recently queried whether familial togetherness is why God allowed coronavirus. Perhaps. It could well be a dimension of God’s intent. Although Lockdown is a reprieve from abortions nonetheless Planned Parenthood continues the mass homicide. “One Planned Parenthood affiliate said it’s actually seeing an uptick. Our doors will stay open because sexual and reproductive health care is extremely important, and we have to ensure access to it, Meera Shah, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood in the New York City suburbs of Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland, one of the hardest-hit regions in the country, told BuzzFeed News” (Reporter Ema O’Connor). Society seems unrepentantly amoral. If there’s a divine lesson in this we certainly are more aware of our helplessness. And hopefully need for divine succor. Although the cognoscenti among us Gov Cuomo now a national standout doesn’t perceive that need whatsoever. What makes this plague so different is not precisely its inherent deadliness. Rather its extreme deadliness due to its surreptitious very rapid, voluminous spread overwhelming health care delivery. Togetherness v bringing Christ to the Laity is the burning issue for faithful Catholics. We do indeed have a moral responsibility not to exacerbate the crisis by increasing its spread. Priests are not immune as evidenced by the dramatic number lost serving the sick and dying in N Italy. What is a bishop to do? Risk of death is trademark of our old time Catholic religion. Archbishop Milan Saint Charles Borromeo knew what to do. He followed state protocol closed churches prohibited large gatherings encouraged clergy to visit, attend to the sick and dying during the plague. Can that be done today? Yes. There is a virtuous mean between excess and defect. If the Church ever had a mission it is, had better be now while there’s time. Nothing conceivably can better bring the truth of the faith home to an increasingly disillusioned society. St Aloysius Gonzaga SJ risked and died. An eternally rewarded saint not a coward in fear of judgment.

    • Just an addendum note on accidental solitude. Society is increasingly amoral. As shown abortion is far from allayed. Watching pornography is high on the list of home bound activity for family units as well as singles. Increased well beyond what existed prior to Lockdown. Musing on great literature is fine, we enrich ourselves culturally to wit spiritually. For the many? Clearly for the previously so disposed. Reality on the ground doesn’t indicate a great resurgence of deep togetherness and familial bonding. Christ is better served by the Church proactively following the adage Never let a crisis go to waste.

  3. I wonder if the vaccine cure for COVID-19 wasn’t left in one of those loading dock boxes at Vital Med in Northbrook Illinois in 1988? We’ll never know.Then again that’s true of the over 60 Million lost Souls since 1973.

    • Vaccines are not cures. Especially today, when many use aborted fetal cells, they actually cause many adverse reactions which can be permanent or even deadly in many cases. Moderna is using a fetal cell line to develop the Covid-19 vaccine as we speak. Already in testing phase with humans. What is playing out before us now is the propaganda from the CDC and Dr. Fauci that only a vaccine will get us through this. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our children and grandchildren have suffered since the advent of an increased pediatric vaccine protocol since the mid-’80’s. The last two generations have been sickended with chronic diseases more then the previous generations. We can no longer trust or believe what the CDC or FDA have to offer us, since their ways have gone astray. The results are evident that a more natural, holisitic approach to medicine is better than only drugs and surgeries. Once you examine how vaccines are administered and tested, you will understand.

      • Catholicism is a faith that is rooted in truth and logic. Your argument against vaccines is rooted in neither. Vaccines have greatly reduced diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis and more. You claim the past two generations have been sickened with more chronic diseases than previous generations. Although you made this statement sound like a fact, this isn’t widely accepted. Data is needed to back up this claim. Your argument then makes the huge leap that vaccines are the cause of this. Even if the first statement is true, which you haven’t shown; you haven’t given any supporting evidence that vaccines are the cause of the degrading condition of humans over the many other differences in our lifestyle over the past fifty to a hundred years.
        Is what you say truth? There’s a slim possibility. But your argument is based in rhetoric and fear, not logic.

        • If you do the research yourself, you will find data and studies to back all of her statements up. I highly recommend watching The Truth About Vaccines, recent statements by Dr. Judy Mikovits, The Greater Good documentary, The Children’s Health Defense with Robert F Kennedy Jr., Plandemic, The Act that gave vaccine manufacturers full immunity from legal action due to injury, vaccine court, read the full insert of a vaccine, LearntheRisk.org. You have believed a narrative that may have started at an innocent place to help mankind but is now one of the biggest medical scandals in history. So many lies, corruption, data manipulation, lack of proper safety studies all to fill pockets with $. When the use of fetal DNA was known, the Church should have realized God was telling us exactly the source and future course of vaccine science…EVIL!

      • Agree 100%. I have embarked on a journey of research that supports your thoughts as well. The truth is being revealed!

  4. g.raff :
    “I wonder if the vaccine cure for COVID-19 wasn’t left in one of those loading dock boxes at Vital Med in Northbrook Illinois in 1988? We’ll never know.Then again that’s true of the over 60 Million lost Souls since 1973.”
    ****
    Exactly. Thank you for this.

    • In the year 1720 flue out break,1820 flue out break,1920 flue out break and now the year 2020 another flue epidemic.It looks like every hundredth year there is an out break of flue that kills people.I wonder whether this is the same thing that used to happen to the children of Israel when they were disobedient to the Lord he sent them affliction for a period of years and when they cried out to the Lord, He had mercy on them and he gave them blessings and unfortunately the circle repeated itself.There are many incidences mentioned in the bible where man went away from God’s ways and what followed was the effect of sin which is death. I wonder whether it is the same thing happening in 2020. Please enlighten me on this issues.

      • Maybe the workings of God do not add up to a hamster cage where things keep coming around cyclically and on schedule…

        The cyclical notion of history was a pagan myth, replaced by Judaism and then Christianity which together and in the Incarnation show history as having a gifted trajectory of sorts toward the Kingdom.

        The number of epidemics (and other afflictions)in human history is so prolific that one can randomly connect them on a calendar in multiple ways (not only by centuries), like the Greeks inventing constellations among the stars overhead.

        As for the flu pandemic of 1918 (not 1920), this was sandwiched between two other possible chastisements, World War I and World War II. God does work in history, in many ways including blessings, but maybe is not limited to our decimal system.

        Maybe, too, the name of the game is the theological virtue of hope rather than even a tendency toward fatalism, and not calendar numerology.

  5. Dr. Miller is a national treasure. Her tireless and courageous truth-telling in the face of diabolical opposition are an example for us all.

  6. Thank you, all beautifully expressed. This hit me:
    “Fathers do not exist in Roe v. Wade. If a boyfriend who begets a child wishes to save that child from being put to death, he has no rights over the life of that baby.”
    That IS the situation. The male partner has no right to safeguard the life he and the woman have created together. What else follows from that?
    It may some day occur to our judicial rulers: if he has no rights in the matter, then surely he has no responsibility either– if the woman (God bless her!) decides NOT to abort the child? I think it will come to that– “your honor, our client offered to pay for the ‘procedure’, surely that should be enough, without having to suffer financial consequences for the next 21 years? After all nobody is FORCING her to bear his child.”
    There’s a diabolical logic there!

  7. Dr Monica always has something of value to say or write. She is intelligent and passionate for the unborn and the human person in general. She is one of the reasons I have become so impassioned in the life movement and continue to counsel and pray in front of abortion mills if not only so that the babies won’t have to die alone.

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