Friday, October 19, 2007

The death of the soul in the reign of pro-choice

This is a comment that swelled to post-size proportions. I think the issue of abortion and the truth of the pro-life movement demands "front-page" attention. Although I am speaking to a specific commenter, I want the 'you' I use to be understood as also referring to anyone who supports the so-called right to abortion, a term as incoherent as the right to tyranny. If what I say strikes you as sound, please pass along this post, either to challenge a pro-choicer or strengthen a pro-lifer. My first interaction with the same commenter on this same issue came from news I posted about a similar video being criticized in Taiwan but being defended by Fr. Lou Aldrich, SJ.

In response to my posting a video of the actual carnage of abortion, Michael Turton said the following:

Hey? Got any videos from the thousands of mothers who die in agony each year because abortion is illegal in their nation?

Naw. It's much harder to watch a 13 year old girl die on the operating table because the doctors have refused to operate on her because they cannot under the law because abortion is illegal. I should introduce you to some of the parents I knew in Kenya who lost daughters that way.

Want to reduce the number of abortions and the number of dead mothers? Legalize abortion, engage in comprehensive sex ed, give women more control over their lives. Anti-abortion isn't about saving lives, but about controlling the sexuality of women.

I reply:

Somehow I knew you'd be the first, and maybe only, commenter on this post. Alas, no amount of snarky rhetorical questions will win this debate. You're wrong from head to toe by defending the sacrament of abortion, and as I will show in the following, you don't even defend your wrongness very well.

(BTW, did you see my comment on the post below, about chumming over beer and about your exposure to Fr. Jaki's work?)

Let me first dispense of a basic logical fallacy in your argument. The fact that doctors perform bad abortions, clinically speaking, is not grounds for legalizing abortion; it is just grounds for better training doctors. The deaths of pedestrians by drivers on the highway are not grounds for legalizing more walking on the highway but for inculcating better driving. Motor accidents are the fault of bad drivers not of the speed limit. Likewise, you can't blame a gun maker if an old, poorly handled, or even a cheaply made, because illegal, gun blows up in your hand, or just never fires, when you try to kill someone with it. It may be wrong that you can't legally find better guns in your society and it may be wrong for someone to sell you a low-grade gun, but it's still morally wrong as far as your own actions are concerned to try murdering someone with the technology you manage to find. Blaming pro-lifers because some women fatally resort to poor technology, or technology that fails them, is wrong-headed. If I were a pro-choicer, I would not use this argument.

As for specific things you said, I must say I was scratching my head about this:

It's much harder to watch a 13 year old girl die on the operating table because the doctors have refused to operate on her because they cannot under the law because abortion is illegal.

First of all, why is watching a video like that "harder" than watching doctors mutilate and kill babies? Both are very sad happenings and I pray for the souls of such women who suffer in such cases. At least they die without also committing murder. I pity the supposedly lucky ones who can go on living with the guilt of having aborted a young life from their own bodies. The point is not which case is "harder" to watch but which case is actually immoral. As I said in the original post:

[A]bortion is the murdering of human beings. Those words are just as true without photographic enhancement, but seeing the carnage of "free choice" up close, without blinders, is essential to properly weighing those infinitely heavy words. Evil need not always look ugly, but hideous evil can be denied only at grave peril to one's own soul.

Second, just what kind of situation are you describing here? Why is this 13-year-old girl dying? From the shame of getting pregnant? From having tried an abortion on herself? From some kind of rare lethal miscarriage? Had the doctors in your scenario begun an abortion on her but then stopped in midstream with a case of cold feet? A woman's body is designed to bring forth a child once impregnated. Abortion, not a refusal to operate, is what interferes with her natural functions. If left to herself, she will not die, but have a child to care for. That may be hard but it's not certain death on a medical bed. So why is this girl, or any pregnant girl unsuccessfully seeking an abortion, dying? What are you talking about? As it stands, your scenario, while vivid, is incoherent. Further, the very fact that you can't produce such a video suggests the relative lack of such problems compared to the glut of fetal carnage that abortion generates every month. The footage I posted was of a 6-minute documentary, which means it was but a tiny selection of probably hours and hours of similar footage, which itself would only be a small fraction of all abortions compared to those that go unfilmed. Is there anything this horrid available in so much Nazi-like detail? In strictly phenomenological terms, the cases you bring up of girls struggling with illegal abortion utterly pales in comparison to the undeniable, plain-as-day horror of abortion as a campaign against the voiceless.

A few lines later you say the hope of women lies with the following:

Legalize abortion, engage in comprehensive sex ed, give women more control over their lives.

But assuming abortion were completely legalized and as common as the dawn, how you can say that would really solve the problem? Strictly speaking, the problem is not a lack of abortion clinics but a lack of access, because of costs, to them. If all women and families had enough money, they could travel anywhere for an abortion. What this means is that once abortion were legal – geographically accessible – it would still not ensure all women would have the means to procure an abortion. In which case, we could still see just as many deaths by women opting for “bargain abortions” or for "kill-it-yourself" kits. At that point perhaps you'd just shake more blood off your hands and insist all abortions everywhere be subsidized by the government. If, however, you're prepared to take that step, it's obvious your stance as some kind of brave feminist prophet of infanticide is not about saving women's lives in harsh conditions but about maximizing comfort and promoting cosmetic abortion as a part of a chic modern lifestyle. No one has the right to murder an innocent fellow human being, so you make a basic category error by trumping the moral evil of infanticide with the ethical good of human rights. You can't defend the right of women to have an abortion since having an abortion is a basic violation of the rights of the very humans gestating in their own wombs! Giving women more control of their lives in no way means giving them license to commit the evil of murdering babies. You might as well say giving men more control over their lives entails legalizing rape. I've never seen a fetus sign a release form, so abortion is hardly a mutually consensual matter. Your slogan (a necessity, since surely there is no better way to win an argument than with a boomer sound bite):

Anti-abortion isn't about saving lives, but about controlling the sexuality of women.

while doctrinaire and progressive-sounding, really is meaningless, since the issue is not sexuality, but the abuse of maternal obligations and the killing of innocent babies. Women are free to indulge themselves sexually in anyway they like, but they should be just as prepared to deal with the biological consequences of that as a man is prepared to deal with STDs or with the burden of being a father. (God have mercy on us when we think of parenting and children as diseases, which is exactly all that pro-choice arguments boil down to: a child is a massive sexually contracted disease and a fetus is a human-shaped tumor.) As I'll point out below, a sheer Darwinist has no reason to object to the curious link (somehow still surprising after all this time) between vaginal intercourse and pregnancy: there is no one else to blame but Mama Nature and Papa Natural Selection, right, so why are you getting all bent out of shape over mere matter-in-motion?

I realize you have strong feelings about this matter but the basic moral point is that endorsing abortion (viz., by legalizing it) is immoral because it amounts to abetting evil so that good may result. Murdering Hitler outside the law would have been immoral regardless how much "good" it might have produced on a different track of history. Likewise, committing the evil of infanticide -- which is to say homicide -- is wrong no matter how much good might come of it from another perspective. By not murdering an abortion doctor, I am not endorsing what she does and, notice, I am choosing not to commit a "lesser evil" to bring about a "greater good". Despite your emotional appeals to hard cases, the bottom line is that in every case, aborting a baby means murdering a human. It is simply immoral to murder another human being who has committed no wrongs, a stricture that as much protects English teachers in Taiwan as old folks in Nebraska as infants in the womb in Kenya. When you ask a question like this:

Want to reduce the number of abortions and the number of dead mothers?

it's obvious you simply don't the grasp the fundamental issue.

Being pro-life does not primarily mean wanting to "reduce" the number of abortions. It means working for a society which not only forbids abortion as intrinsically immoral, and therefore as a grave violation of human rights, but also promotes an order in which abortion is not even needed, since all women would have a husband, or at least a secure means of passing a child on as an orphan. /EDIT/: I'm willing to admit much of the scandal of abortion is rooted in the scandal of Christians not willing to adopt the babies whose deaths they protest. I'm willing to admit the abortion debate can appear less black and white when some Christians are not willing to adopt the babies whose deaths they protest./EDIT/ In any case, hoping to reduce the number of abortions as an end in itself is like hoping to “reduce” the number of rapes or child molestations. Because abortion, like rape and child molestation, is wrong in all cases, it should be opposed in all cases, not simply engineered down to an hypothetically tolerable quota. Doing the right thing is not a matter of compromise. It is only Christians' unrealistic, other-worldly hopes for, and faith in, a new kingdom -- the kingdom of God -- that have propelled mankind into the wonders of science, capitalism, academics, etc. (Consider the works of R. Hooykaas, S. Jaki, R. Stark, P. Duhem, C. Dawson, T. Woods, M. Weber, R.H. Tawney, et al., to see how the Christian vision has positively shaped the modern world.) It is only the historic refusal of Christians to settle for a “reduction” of evil, in contrast to a principled, systematic removal and conversion of it, that has brought so much progress into our fallen world.

In any case, on your own view, as a hardcore Darwinist, all is biological, all is physical, and all is humanly constructed. This is the basis for denying personhood, with its attendant human rights, to the not-yet-born. But embyrologically and metaphysically there is no gap between a zygote and the man it becomes. They are the same person in different stages and therefore enjoy the same rights in all stages. Yet you deny the inviolability of their rights because they are not yet biologically viable, or perhaps not socially functional, or for some other humanist reason. Does it escape you that the same reasons could be applied to the girls who die of bad abortions? They are, by the hard logic of Darwinism, not fit to pass on their genes, nor are they making any significant contribution to society. Hence, they lack the same grounds for rights that you say infants lack.

Perhaps you might argue that, if given better conditions, better circumstances to develop their potential, these girls could make a biological and social difference and therefore be rights-bearers. But by the same logic, so could the not-yet-born! What you seem noetically blind to – and never forget the fall of mankind has wounded our bodies as well as our minds – is that your absolute pleas for women as victims of bad abortions are vitiated by your assertion that morality is arbitrary and that human rights are subject to being ascribed or denied to various people depending upon society's verdict. If infants have no inalienable rights as human beings, why do the young girls have those rights? You have no coherent grounds for ascribing human rights to people since you deny not only their status as RIGHTS -- for rights, as opposed to your misconstrual of them as socially achieved privileges, are by definition not negotiable -- but also deny the reality of something called human nature (which is what HUMAN rights would require to be coherently predicated of people). Since you “made the cut” out of the womb, you feel justified to judge which fetuses are worthy of sharing the air with you. Regardless how passionate you are, your moral protests are tellingly selective, something Ronald Reagan hit on the head by saying, "I see that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."

For what it's worth, by the way, Tony Kaye (who directed American History X) does present the woman's aspect of the abortion debate, particularly with one dead woman hunched over a coat hanger after trying to perform her own abortion. He's not a Christian, that I know of, and he's not arguing for pro-choice. But he does insist pro-choicers get off too easily if they don't ever face in vivid detail what their position entails. It's a legal truism, because true, that hard cases make bad laws. Well, your entire case amounts to a quilt of hard cases, which makes for a ragged legal principle. In every case, abortion is undertaken with the expressed purpose and the assured result of killing a human, which makes it evil in principle in every case. By contrast, in only some cases does an illegal abortion kill a woman, which makes it a tragedy in the name of well-meaning evil.

6 comments:

Ron said...

You wrote, "I'm willing to admit much of the scandal of abortion is rooted in the scandal of Christians not willing to adopt the babies whose deaths they protest."

Sorry, but here you are simply wrong. We are forbidden from doing ALL evil at ALL times but we are not required to do All the good that can be done - only what we in our particular circumstance can. There's no necessary scandal in my not offering to adopt the baby you are threatening to kill. I have to make a prudential decision to do what good I can - not simply do every possible good that places itself before me. The scandal of abortion has nothing to do with adoption. It's an evil in and of itself. And there are many, many christians who are willing to adopt and have. Most women abort anyway. I know. I stood in front of abortuaries for nearly ten years.

P.S. Your site displays VERY badly in IE7 with large sections of writing blanked out by black bars which disappear when you hover over them.

the Cogitator said...

Hi, Ron, thank you for your comments. Even as I wrote that sentence, I was uneasy about it. It is a case of granting too much for charity's sake. What I think I wanted to say, and, in any event, that to which I amend it is:

"I'm willing to admit the abortion debate can appear less black and white when some Christians are not willing to adopt the babies whose deaths they protest."

I apologize for unintentionally giving the impression this inconsistency is either a widespread problem or that it compromises the strength of the pro-life position.

Hope to see you around FCA more.

the Cogitator said...

Oh, also, I know about the black bars over links. That's intentional: it's part of my little CIA fetish.

John Jansen said...

One heckuva of a series of smackdowns of vacuous pro-abortion arguments, this. Kudos to you, Cogitator.

Ron said: "Your site displays VERY badly in IE7 with large sections of writing blanked out by black bars which disappear when you hover over them."

Ron,

Do yourself a favor and stop using Internet Explorer. Use Firefox instead. It's, like, pretty much the best browser ever.

You'll thank me.

Michael Turton said...

The same black bar thing happens in both Firefox and Flock, which I use.

Second, just what kind of situation are you describing here? Why is this 13-year-old girl dying? From the shame of getting pregnant? From having tried an abortion on herself? From some kind of rare lethal miscarriage? Had the doctors in your scenario begun an abortion on her but then stopped in midstream with a case of cold feet? A woman's body is designed to bring forth a child once impregnated. Abortion, not a refusal to operate, is what interferes with her natural functions. If left to herself, she will not die, but have a child to care for. That may be hard but it's not certain death on a medical bed. So why is this girl, or any pregnant girl unsuccessfully seeking an abortion, dying? What are you talking about? As it stands, your scenario, while vivid, is incoherent.

Because abortion was made illegal and even worse, doctors were forbidden to operate on her. What's difficult to understand about that? What's incoherent about it? She's dying because she was forced to perform or obtain a back alley abortion, instead of a safe and legal one.

In any case, on your own view, as a hardcore Darwinist, all is biological, all is physical, and all is humanly constructed. This is the basis for denying personhood, with its attendant human rights, to the not-yet-born.

I can't believe you've trundled out that tired chestnut: atheists don't believe in human rights.

Since you “made the cut” out of the womb, you feel justified to judge which fetuses are worthy of sharing the air with you.

This is sheer nonsense rhetoric. It ain't my body that the fetus is in, so it ain't my decision what to do with it. The whole point of the pro-abortion side is to preserve the choice of the woman. In fact the abortion argument is rooted in the issue that underpins all this, which is the sexuality of women -- a point consistently ignored. Historically the function of restraints on women's sexual behavior is to support men's needs. Note how you construe the "natural function" of women is to have babies .... yet, naturally, all human societies regulate their population size, for the harsh reality is that environments have specific carrying capacities. It is perfectly "natural" for women to abort fetus and commit infanticde of various kinds. Note that I do not condone it because it is natural. I merely point out how silly the use of the term "natural" is in this context. Abortion does not interfere with what is "natural" but simply extends a normal practice throughout human history.

: there is no one else to blame but Mama Nature and Papa Natural Selection, right, so why are you getting all bent out of shape over mere matter-in-motion?

What can one do with obscurantist rhetoric like this?

since the issue is not sexuality, but the abuse of maternal obligations and the killing of innocent babies.

See, you don't want to confront the issue. Anti-abortino positions are part and parcel of larger social programs to control the bodies of woman.

Women are free to indulge themselves sexually in anyway they like, but they should be just as prepared to deal with the biological consequences of that as a man is prepared to deal with STDs or with the burden of being a father.

Sure. And one of the biological consequences of sex is the necessity for an abortion. All cultures everywhere recognize that, whatever lip service they pay to other morality.

The fact is that your position simply assures that more evil takes place. If you really, really believed that abortion was a gross evil, you'd drop your doctrinaire approach to it and work on ways to reduce it. Instead, we get mass carnage like we see in South America, where abortions are rampant, as are dead mothers, and infertility thanks to back street abortions because of the rigidity of official Catholicism. Your position lacks any moral ummmph, because you refuse to view the real consequences -- a vastly increased number of abortions and dead mothers (see Latin America). This tells me that you are more interested in displaying adherence to a position, than in actually doing anything about the reality of abortion as it exists today -- really, that you are using your commitment to a moral stance as an excuse to do nothing, and to shut your eyes to the horrific consequences of what you advocate.

I know abortion is not a good thing -- that is why I'd like to see it reduced. And you anti-abortion types are preventing reductions of abortions in the world and the icnreased safety and health for mothers by making abortion illegal and setting up stiff penalties (of course, capital punishment is still legal under canon law, so really, where you get off complaining about my morals I have no idea). I can only conclude that the reason you adhere to this position is precisely because it generates funds and followers and enhanced status for yourself, and that it is in your interest for abortion to continue, so that you can continue to rake in the cash, followers, and status, that comes from sustained support of a moral position no sane society on earth has ever adhered to.

Michael

the Cogitator said...

My reply to Michael Turton on 11/30 is here: http://veniaminov.blogspot.com/2007/12/rigor-mortis-but-still-dead.html