Okorocha and the Abortion Law: The Faulty Rhetoric of a Desperate Opposition By Okwuaku A.I Okwuaku
If I have to send a text message to the governor of Imo state , Owelle Rochas Okorocha, on his dramatic decision to repeal the controversial law on the protection of women and children against violence, which in the last few moments attracted the sensational title of “Abortion Law”, I would have written the text this way: ” Your Excellency sir, I am among those who understand the power of religion in controlling the mindset of a people and determining their collective reactions to sensitive issues that have direct or indirect bearing on the core of their faith, traditions and teachings. Of course, after all his treatises on politics and boardroom exploits, Machiavelli De Prince stated that “Religion and its Princess is a No Go Area.” Machiavelli understood the power of religion and the influence its princes, including the pastors, the bishops, cardinals and popes can exercise socially and politically, thus he advised anyone intending to attain the peak of power to avoid meddling with this area.
But above that, we can’t afford to ignore the fact that within the Christendom, the Catholic Church, which is the most institutionalized and dominant Christian denomination in Imo state, wields such a powerful torrent of political influence. In the last few decades this influence has been symbolized by its most influential radical prince, Arc. Bishop A.J.V. Obinna. Hence, on these pertinent notes, I congratulate you and your cabinet for radically opting to make a repeal of the controversial law that has been so sensationalized by people who thrive much on narrow interests, sir. Such a decision, aside being timely and demonstrating your willingness to govern by democratic dictates, remains politically strategic in a state like Imo where the opposition, bent on discrediting your administration by all means, seizes every opportunity to manipulate the gullibility of the largely uninformed masses and electorates to achieve narrow political expediency.
However, Your Excellency, I have a burden of conscience, just as many honest leaders of the Christendom including catholic leaders like Arch. Bishop A. J.V. Obinna do have, to state that a complete repeal of the law, even if it bothers on abortion, is not the best option. Deleting that section of the law completely is not the best possible alternative. In fact, calling for a total repeal of that section of the law instead of calling for a reframing of it is somewhat a misgiving of grave proportion, both against the government that signed the law on the good intentions of protecting endangered women/children, and the section of the society the law intended to protect. This burden of conscience is based on the fact that even the catholic teachings support indirect abortion based on “The Principle of Double Effect” and “The Thomistic Principle of Totality.” You can find the teachings in the famous encyclicals of Pope Paul VI. The document is known as “Humanae Vitae”. There are other numerous citable documents to this regard, sir. Even before Pope VI, the Dominican John of Naples had written extensively on that on behalf of the church in the 14th century supporting indirect abortion or what the church called therapeutic abortion.
Of course the Second Vatican Council declared: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” But the church in Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI provided that based on the principle of double effect, indirect abortion is allowed in some cases to save the life of the mother. In this case the pregnant mother is seen as an endangered species that must be protected, even if the death of the unborn child is foreseen in a therapeutic process to save the mother. In his famous Humanae Vitae, Paul VI writes that “the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever”. The document called this ‘Therapeutic abortion’ based on the principle of Double Effects and ‘The Thomistic Principle of Totality’ by St. Thomas Aquinas. In these cases, “the intended effect is to save the woman’s life, not to terminate the pregnancy, and the death of the embryo or fetus is foreseen as a side effect, not intended even as a means to another end.”
Such cases cited by the church where indirect abortion is allowed despite the fact that the medical personnel is fully aware that the procedure will lead to the death of the unborn child include cases of ectopic pregnancy, aggressive uterine cancer, and the treatment of a pregnant mother infected with malaria, knowing that anti-malaria medication is anti- pregnancy, etc. The principle of Double Effect simply means that in the face of two evils of grave proportions, you chose the lesser one. So in this case, allowing the mother to die is evil of grave magnitude, and allowing the child to die is evil of grave magnitude also, and you must necessarily chose to be guilty of one of them in order to save one of the lives. In this case, the church by its teaching opted to save the mother while foreseeing the death of the unborn child as a means, not as an end, Your Excellency sir. The Thomistic Principle of Totality simply implies that in situations of grave danger to the pregnant mother, removal of a pathological part, including the embryo, to preserve the life of the mother is morality admissible.
Your Excellency, I would have written this text to you before now, but I felt that such a position would wrongly embolden you to stand your ground against the dramatic sensationalizing of the issue evidently masterminded by a few individuals with narrow political interests. You taking such a stand would also send the wrong signal to the largely uninformed masses that you support abortion. In that case it will offend their sensibility and create disaffection between your good government and the masses. Of course sir, the opposition is fully aware that the masses who are also the electorates are too uninformed to study and understand the narratives of intentions that necessitated your willingness to sign this bill into law. But they also know that the masses are simply gullible, so playing the card of religion and faith would give them unjustified advantage in their effort to discredit the government and portray it as anti people. On this note, your decision was a wise one and very strategic for that matter.
In your speech you made the purpose of your call for a repeal of the law to bear when you stated that the law offended the sensibility of the masses and the very people that form the pillar of your administration, including His Lordship, ArchBishop A.J.V.Obinna and other prominent leaders of the Christian community in the state. Of course, even Arch Bishop Obinna knew from day one that in signing the bill into law, you never meant to permit abortion; rather, your primary intention was to protect women and children. Unfortunately the issue of abortion and the protection of endangered women and children run on complementary-contradictory narratives that can create a scenario of murky political waters for any government in this side of the world where influence of religion is high and enlightenment is low. Innocently you have fallen a victim and played into the hands of desperate opposition. But your willingness and humility to retrace your steps and call for a repeal is a great vindication and a smart political step to save the mandate the Imo people gave you. God bless you sir”
Now that the governor has asked for a repeal of that law, what happens next? This is where I think that based on conscience, the religious leaders whose intention the governor has respected should also help the legislature to do what it ought to do and not what it has been coerced into doing. They should reframe their demand to a “Reframing of the bill”, and not complete repeal, which leaves endangered mothers defenseless in extreme cases as supported by catholic/Christian teachings. In doing so, they would have demonstrated enough that they have not fallen a veritable tool in the hands of the opposition. However, one of the things that really baffle me is the fact that none of those who brought the bill before the House beginning from the time of former Gov. Udenwa to Gov. Okorocha’s time seems to be doing anything to put records straight or rise in defense of the governor in the media. Of course, most of them are in the opposition now, and keeping quiet to see Okorocha discredited serves their interest better than saying the truth. But let’s leave that out for now.
The fact is that almost everyone accepts that legalizing abortion in which the death of the unborn child is intended as an end in itself is totally wrong. Also, having a bill in which a section gives unfettered freedom to women to view their pregnancy and the unborn child on the whims and caprices of personal prerogative constitutes an absurdity in moral ethics. But here we are talking of a bill that aims at protecting same children and women but comes with a section that allows abortion. The error was that it was not rightly framed to indicate that the law views abortion as permissible only under certain conditions of extreme cases. On this note the reaction of His Lordship A.J.V. Obinna is rightly intended and properly placed, because allowing such a law to be will send a wrong signal to a womenfolk that is barely educated and informed. It will also, as the Governor rightly indicated, open up opportunities, unintended by the government, to perpetrators of crimes that include rape and incest. However, an attempt by anyone to attack the bill and ask for its complete repeal based on faulty rhetoric of desperate opposition in their bid to discredit Gov. Okorocha’s Government at all cost smacks off a dangerous trend in our polity. It becomes more tragic if religious leaders of conscious play into the hands of the opposition. The governor’s response has nipped that in the bud, anyway.
The fact is that three things stand out very clear; The governor in signing the bill into law did that in good will to protect endangered women and children, and not to legalize abortion for personal gains; The reaction of the religious communities and their leaders, including the masses are properly placed and well intended; Nevertheless, the desperate attempt by the opposition to sensationalize the issue out of proportion and context for political expedience is condemnable. The opposition rhetoric, beside the fact that it stands on faultlines of blackmail, also smacks off how desperate the opposition forces in Imo state are becoming in their bid to return their corrupt allies to the Douglas House, come 2015. Contrary to what the opposition and their fifth columnists would love the masses to believe, the governor is not at war over this law with any leader of the Christian communities, including the metropolitan see of Owerri, Arch. Bishop A.J.V. Obinna. The leaders, including many among the masses expressed their deep reservation about the law, and the government understood their point and addressed it by calling for repeal.
Okwuaku A.I. Okwuaku writes from Owerri
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