Thursday, January 9, 2014

This Scares Me

I read a bone-chilling article this morning (nod of acknowledgement to Mike Flynn for posting the link). The terror began right at the headline: "So what if abortion ends life?" If you have the stomach for it, let me walk you through the main points. (Article quotations are in italics.)

In the first paragraph we read:
"I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice."
OK... what? I can't imagine what philosophical underpinnings could support this view. (She never does defend her position: lots of asserting, no supporting.) I suppose she's intentionally trying to be provocative. And if so, she's succeeded, but not surprisingly. Most morally reprehensible statements are provocative.

Next she presents us with her main principle:
"Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always."
The author merely asserts this principle without trying to prove or support it in any way, and makes the typical pro-abortion plea to "life is complicated." But let's address these "complicated" questions. How can any human being have any fewer basic, starting-point, natural rights than any other human being? What makes the mother of the unborn child "the boss" in such an absolute way? My boss doesn't have the right to kill me. Why should the mother's life and desires "automatically trump" the rights of her child? Is the child's status as "non-autonomous," presumably meaning "unable to decide or care for itself," the factor which renders it right-less? How is the child in utero any different from a one-year old (or even some 16-year olds) in that respect? Does the author think the mother's rights "trump" those of her children to the point of infanticide? I would be interested to see her explain herself--I know it's not the point of her article, but perhaps it should have been.

Well, we have to make choices, she says, and they're always difficult:
"But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise."
Here the author points out other instances in which society takes life, be it war, capital punishment, or (apparently) euthanasia, and argues that, since the conversation doesn't stop at "You can't take a human life" in these cases, it ought not stop there in the case of abortion. Which, of course, is a straw man argument, because the argument against abortion has other essential pieces to it. The major premise in the argument against abortion is not, "It is always morally wrong to take human life," but rather (as Blessed Pope John Paul II put it in Evangelium Vitae) "The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end." That's the argument, dear author, which applies to all of your above-mentioned cases, and applies differently. Address that. 

But she would rather not. Instead she'd rather continue to arbitrarily assert the rights of one person over another.
"And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing."
How simple it is to sacrifice other people's lives for your own ends! Of course, if someone were, say, to want the author's job, or her car, or her wallet, and see hers as "a life worth sacrificing," the author would naturally object that this is unfair, immoral, unconscionable, etc. Would she find any comfort in her would-be murderer telling her, "Please, understand, I believe you are a human life... but for what I want, for what I feel is right for me and my circumstances, you must be sacrificed"? Would such a statement lead her to call this a morally acceptable act? I doubt it.

It used to be a commonly accepted principle, stated in one of our nation's founding documents, that "all men are created equal." The author of this article denies that. I hesitate to speculate at her motives, but I can't help but wonder what the direction of her thinking is: does her desire to legitimize abortion lead her to conclude that "all life is not equal," or does she first hold this maxim then conclude from there that it's morally acceptable to "sacrifice" children for the sake of their mother's desires?

There seems to be a trend in some sectors of public thought away from reasonable decision-making--there is a revolt against rationality. How else can you describe an argument that says, "Yeah, this is contradictory--so what? Whatcha gonna do about it? This how I feel, so this is what I'm gonna do." Ah, there it is! The appeal to feeling and desire as the governing factor in morality! "Life is just so complicated, who can know these things, so let's do what we feel like." They've fallen to David Hume's assertion that "Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions." We don't let our intellects guide our desires; we let our desires determine how we will rationalize our choices. But why bother rationalizing in the first place if reason doesn't decide the matter? Doesn't that just make it a charade? And if we let desire decide the day, then what actually ends up deciding the day is not desire itself, but the size and strength of the one desiring. Whoever can enforce their feelings gets their way. Might makes right. Nowhere is this more evident than in the statement that a mother, whose child is more dependent on her than any thing that depends on any other thing, can kill that child if she desires. Why? 'Cause she's got him right where she wants him.

This scares me. C.S. Lewis would call such thinking "the poison of subjectivism" which will "end our species and damn our souls." God forbid such thinking should become commonplace. But I fear it has.

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