Skip to Navigation

A Case Study on Abortion

Case Study on Abortion
From a work in progress:
Remaining Orthodox in a Heterodox World: Facing the Moral Challenges of Post-Modernity*
By: H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Brian Christopher Partridge, and Susan G. Engelhardt © 2005
A note from the V. Rev. Dr. Joseph F. Purpura, Chairman of the Department of Youth Ministry and the Very Rev. Anthony Yazge, NAC Teen SOYO Spiritual Advisor
Teens are encouraged to share this case study within their youth group and to discuss the questions listed at the end of the case.
Pastors are encouraged to join our teens and help them discuss this issue after they have read the case study and answered the questions as a group. Typically the questions are explored in small groups of 3-5 teens, with all teens coming together after small group discussion to share what each group discussed. After small group sharing time, it would be good for Pastors to be available to help answer questions and illuminate discussion with an Orthodox Perspective on the Sanctity of Life.
Case Study
Paige: “Theodora, my sister Peyton won’t have to have an abortion. Isn’t that wonderful?!”
Theodora: “Paige, why would Peyton ever have to have an abortion?”
Paige: “Oh, Theodora, don’t you remember my sister? She’s the real successful one in my family. She’s the famous lawyer. She has finally made senior partner in the famous law firm of Brutus, Nasty, and Short. However, it took until she was 39, so she and her husband only decided to have a child when she was 40. The risk of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome was really high, so they did the responsible thing. She had an amniocentesis to make sure the fetus wasn’t defective.”
Theodora: “So, Paige, you’re telling me that if your sister Peyton had had a child with Down’s Syndrome, she would have aborted it and killed it?”
Paige: “Naturally, Theodora, it’s the only sensible and responsible thing to do. If they had had a child with serious handicaps, that would have really hurt their life-style and their important careers. You can’t just go ahead and do the important things you are aiming at if you have a child with problems.”
Theodora: “Does that give you a right to kill the child in the womb?”
Paige: “Oh, come on. It’s not a child until it’s born.”
Theodora: “So tell me what the big difference is between being a child for nine months in the womb and being born? From conception to birth, the baby grows. Anywhere you draw the line is arbitrary. Would your sister have killed her child, had it developed a serious disease the week after its birth, leading to handicaps?”
Paige: “I don’t know about all that. I just know that it’s the responsible thing to use abortion so that you can go on with your life, your career, and your plans. Without abortion, think how many of the career plans of women would really have been derailed.”
Theodora: “Why would that be the case?”
Paige: “You know, Theodora. What would happen if you got pregnant during college? You would never finish college.”
Theodora: “I am committed to not having sex until I marry, so I really think that’s not a likely problem for me. What you are telling me is that if people are not going to be chaste until they marry, then the women who have sex with men who are not willing to marry them or whom they are not willing to marry may be tempted to kill the child in their womb. What you are telling me is that one sin leads to another, that things go from bad to worse. What you are telling is that one irresponsibility leads to another.”
Paige: “Oh, Theodora, grow up! We’re in the 21st century. Your view is positively medieval. Are you afraid that the fetus has a soul? Who knows when a soul comes into a fetus?”
Theodora: “Rest assured, Paige, my view is older than the Middle Ages. I know God exists. I am an Orthodox Christian. I also know that we as Christians know that abortion separates us from God, and, as St. Basil the Great said, we are not interested in hair-splitting about how old the fetus is or when it has a soul or doesn’t have a soul – any of that stuff.”
Paige: “How do you know that it all makes sense?”
Theodora: “We know, because our way of life produces saints. We have experience as to what ways of life make people not just good but holy.”
Paige: “What do you mean, holy?”
Theodora: “Paige, I mean living so one can come in union with God. That’s what life is all about.”
Paige: “Huh?!”
Theodora: “I know that’s hard to think about when you first start. It seems that the most important thing, at least according to our culture, is to be rich, famous, and powerful. We are young now and think we will live forever. But that’s a lie.”
Paige: “What do you mean?”
Theodora: “What Christianity is about is teaching us to be concerned with being responsible in a way that counts for eternity.”
The following questions are to be discussed in small groups of 3-5 people. Each small group will then share their discussion and group responses with the larger group. The group leader should facilitate further discussion and help teens come to a deeper understanding of the Orthodox Church’s Teaching on the Sanctity of Life.
Discussion Questions
1. Has our contemporary culture turned morality on its head, so that it becomes responsible to consider killing one’s child in the womb?
2. Has this temptation become widespread because our secular society accepted sexually irresponsible ways of living, so that abortion has become a part of an established sinful way of life?
3. Is the Christian understanding of responsibility radically different from that of the secular culture?
4. What will you need to do in order to live as a responsible Christian?
5. Have you thought of the ways in which you might have accepted secular values without having noticed it?
6. Can one understand what responsibility means apart from recognizing God and our responsibilities to Him?
7. If we are beings created to love and worship God forever, can we even begin to make adequate sense of our lives without recognizing God and our obligations to Him?

* This booklet developed out of a presentation, “Moral and Ethical Issues Confronting Orthodox Teens,” made at Antiochian Village, Pennsylvania, November 20, 1999.