Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Abortion and Abuse of Power

In recent years we have heard a lot about power in relationships. The #MeToo movement revealed accepted patterns of men abusing their power with women. Parents misuse their power when they abuse their children. Elected officials routinely abuse their power when influencing legislation or policy. In nursing homes helpless residents have been abused by staff who have physical power. 

Some have called for the strong to exercise "power with" others rather than "power over" others. This sounds like empowerment and helping the weak become strong. Jesus never used his power over other people, but often shared that power with his disciples and common people. He used his power to heal, to encourage, to confront evil, to challenge.

There are many ways in which one person can have power over others. Sometimes it is positional power, as a boss over his direct reports. It can be implicit power, such as a well-dressed person may have over a poorly-dressed person. It can be power of knowledge, when an informed person can take advantage over the ignorant. It can be power of maturity, when an experienced person can out-maneuver a rookie. It can be physical strength, allowing for the kind of abuse found in nursing homes. 

Power, of course, can be used helpfully, productively. CNAs can bring comfort to nursing home residents. Police can diffuse a crime in progress with a display of force. Bosses can empower their employees. 

But power can go wrong. When the strong use their strength to harm the powerless for their own advantage, that looks like abuse of power.

Abortion always involves people with power using that power to harm the powerless. That happens every time. There may be circumstances that would justify that use of power. But too often abortion is a raw, violent abuse of power, allowing the powerful to avoid undesired circumstances. How could that be transformed into "power with" instead of "power over"?