When acts such as abortion are morally suspect, judgment hurts

Over the past few years, many states have passed a slew of abortion restrictions, ranging from enforced waiting periods and parental notification to tougher regulations for clinics performing surgical abortions. Opponents howl that women are being dragged back into the evil past, but the criticism of some regulations, especially parental notification, seems out of proportion. After all, we have one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world, save perhaps North Korea.

At the veterinarian’s office, however, I recently discovered why some people find any abortion restriction offensive.

Our elderly and beloved dog Poochie had dislocated his hip, and the vet offered an operation that involved an osteotomy of his femoral head, significant pain and a long recovery. For me, a working mom with five children at home, it meant a large expense and a lot of time caring for an invalid dog. I decided, with difficulty and after much discussion with my husband, to have the dog put down. A shelter for a chance at adoption was out of the question, as we did not want him to suffer or to have to worry about him feeling lonely and abandoned.

Our veterinarian basically refused. She was horrified that I would even consider ending his life. I then called several clinics around town. I thought I could just make an appointment for euthanasia, but every receptionist said I would have to make an appointment first with the vet, to make my case.

I was offended. Wasn’t it my choice? Wasn’t it my dog and my decision? Wasn’t it my right to end his life? Who were they to inject their opinions and values into a difficult moment?

It occurred to me then with blinding clarity that a restriction on abortion license, even the most innocuous, creates the same feeling of offense in those who seek untrammeled abortion on demand. A law asking that abortion clinics follow the same medical safety procedures that a dentist’s office does might seem reasonable, but it is perceived as a way to place roadblocks in the way of women seeking abortion to reduce their number.

If people want to reduce the number of abortions, they must think it’s a bad choice, right? They are injecting their opinion and values into a difficult moment. This creates the same feelings I felt when I was being judged harshly for my decision regarding Poochie.

Those are bad feelings: humiliation, shame, fury. I don’t wish them on any one. But guess what? I’ve decided those people who made me feel that way were right. It was an important moral and ethical decision I was making. I was taking a life. It was a life I owned, that I had bought and paid for. It was a dependent life, incapable of taking care of itself. It was an unwanted life. Nevertheless, it was a life, and they were right to treat this choice I was making as a morally suspect one. And because I was making them complicit with my decision, they had to be sure I was doing the right thing.

Abortion is much more momentous than euthanizing a dog. It ends the life of a human being: someone’s daughter or grandson, someone who might have achieved some great good, maybe just someone with a gentle smile or a talent for making others laugh. It is right that the community as a whole should agonize over these endings. It is right that we bicker and fight over it, that feelings get hurt and that women feel aggrieved at being second-guessed and judged.

Like the receptionists and the vets at those clinics, we are all being asked to be complicit in a morally suspect act. Our tax dollars go by the millions to Planned Parenthood, and it turns out that Obamacare is funding abortion on demand in five states. When we vote for a politician like U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who is so popular with the abortion lobby that it has pledged over $6 million to her campaign, we are buying in to that lobby’s vision of abortion on demand.

Poochie is no longer with us. We all miss him a lot, especially our youngest daughter who adored him. I still feel guilty about putting him down. But I’m no longer angry that I found all those barriers to my “choice.” And I’m no longer surprised at the anger of those who find one of the most liberal abortion cultures in the world too restrictive. They are feeling judged, and that hurts.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie of Miami specializes in radiology and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.