Thursday, March 29, 2007
Do They Have An "If..." [Bob]
Along the same lines, Scott is famous, in his debates with pro-abortionists, for his promise to to concede that "elective abortion requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled" if ... the unborn are not human.
In both cases the biggest word in the sentence is "if."
In both cases the "if" puts all the emphasis on the centrality of the issue in question. If James Cameron is correct and Christ was not resurrected, the Christian faith is nothing but a giant effort in futility based on nothing but a hoax. Likewise, if the unborn are not human the pro-life position disintegrates for lack of a moral center.
So what is the pro-abortionist's "if"? What is the foundational issue on which they would concede their position as being indefensible?
Perhaps some would admit defeat if they were offered proof of the humanity of the unborn. I'm not sure what proof they require that has not already been offered. It seems to me that intellectual honesty would demand that, where any doubt exists about the status of the humanity of the unborn, we would err on the side of protecting it. I suppose that holding to such a position displays a moral bias that a relativized society does not share or acknowledge. But lacking that, the issue on the pro-abortion side can only seem to center on an emotional appeal that is the exact opposite of the component of moral outrage Jay has been addressing. Instead it seems to be an emotional stubbornness grounded solely in the supremacy of personal autonomy.
If this is true, we need to be more intentional about calling them on it by pointing out the fact that, while we are willing to concede a point where our argument is unsustainable, they are not.
I am relatively new to this debate so maybe my position betrays my naivety but it is staggering to me that there seems to be no "if" on the pro-abortion side. If there is one, I would like to know what it is.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Re: Partial-Birth Abortion [SK]
When critics call our descriptions of partial-birth abortion extreme, I first ask them to describe the procedure:
"Obviously, you must be an expert on partial-birth abortion to call my description medically inaccurate and extreme. So here is your chance to set the record straight. Why don’t you explain the procedure so those listening can hear for themselves where my description is extreme?"
Once the question is put like that, the game is up. Without exception, my critic either 1) doesn't know the specifics of the procedure, or 2) knows full well the specifics, but tries to dodge the question.
Either way, I proceed as follows:
"Apparently, you don’t know what partial-birth abortion is. Otherwise, you would answer my question and describe it for the audience. This is truly amazing. You favor it, but you don’t even know what it is? Well, let me explain it by quoting late-term abortionist Dr. Martin Haskell, who invented the procedure you support. Explaining how he delivers the child feet first, leaving only the head in the birth canal, Haskell writes:
The surgeon then forces scissors into the base of the skull. Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into the hole and evacuates the skull contents. (“Second Trimester Abortion From Every Angle,” Paper presented at the National Abortion Federation Convention in Dallas, Texas, September 13-14, 1992.)Ladies and gentlemen, my friend Greg Koukl is right: Partial-birth abortion is not extremist rhetoric. It's infanticide with the baby's head covered. If my opponent is still not persuaded, perhaps this editorial published by the Journal of the American Medical Association will help. Dr.'s Sprang and Neehorf write,
Conflicting information about intact D&X [partial-birth abortion] and its frequency catalyzed prominent medical organizations to evaluate the procedure. In 1996, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) convened a special committee to review it. According to the ACOG panel, intact D&X has been defined to consist of four elements: (1) the deliberate dilation of the cervix, usually over a sequence of days; (2) instrumental conversion of the fetus to a footling breech; (3) breech extraction of the body, excepting the head; and (4) partial evacuation of the intercrainal contents of a living fetus to effect vaginal delivery of a dead but otherwise intact fetus. (M. LeRoy Sprang, MD; Mark G. Neerhof, "Rationale for Banning Abortions Late in Pregnancy," JAMA Vol. 280, pp. 744-747, Aug. 26, 1998)If partial-birth abortion does not accurately describe the procedure above, nothing can.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Outrage Defined and Defended. Part 1 [Jay]
A reader very fairly citicized some of my points and drew out a distinction between moral outrage and emotional outrage. The following posts addresses his criticisms and other questions I have received. Although I always intended to follow up on this with more detailed posts, some of the elements will be clearly in response to particular comments from this reader.
I went back and read my original post to get my bearings on the path that we are following. It struck me as telling that I did not make a statement about what is an appropriate moral outrage. I did ask the question of what it was and clearly stated that I did not know what it looked like. My point has always been to question if we are reacting at an appropriate level of outrage given our belief in the humanity of the unborn.
First, let me address a definition to clarify where I am coming from. I found a third party definition for the sake of avoiding the appearance of reacting emotionally against intellectual arguments, as others think that I am doing on some level. Princeton Psychology Professor Dr. J.M. Durley defined it in the following manner in an article on how moral outrage influences the judicial process that he co-wrote with Dr. T.S. Pittman in 2003:
Moral outrage consists of both cognitive and emotional components that describe a reaction toward violations of values.
This definition represents what I am saying when I use the term.
It is not “either/or” but “both/and” for the cognitive and emotional aspects of moral outrage. In the definition of moral outrage that I am operating under the two are neither exclusive nor in competition but complimentary. My question is rooted in the fact that the cognitive argument for the unborn is strong. Is the complimentary emotional response equal to the strength of the cognitive element? I think this is a fair question. I have focused the question specifically on pro-lifers because we are convinced of the humanity of the unborn and can not claim to be intellectually unsettled on the issue.
As for the validity in working on both the cognitive and emotional levels, why do we use graphic images? Stephen Schwartz in Chapter 9 of The Moral Question of Abortion (1990) entitled “A Complex Issue or a Horror?”:
“Many people support the right of a woman to choose abortion without realizing what it really means. The pictures tell us. Many people are indifferent to abortion. Others are opposed but not outraged. If these pictures shake our complacency, they will have served a good purpose.
Some people may object that showing these pictures is an appeal to emotion. Indeed it is. When we show pictures of the Nazi holocaust while exclaiming “Never Again ” we are appealing to emotion. When we argue for a policy reducing the horror of mass starvation, and include pictures of starving people, we are appealing to emotion. And rightly so. We grasp truths not only with our intellects but with our hearts as well. And we should respond not only with our minds and our wills, but with our hearts as well. This applies to many things, including truths about massive horrors. What we should avoid are false appeals to emotion and emotional appeals instead of reasons.”(Pages 125 - 127) (Emphasis added)
I also wonder why we use ultrasounds if not for the strength of emotional impact? When all of our arguments have failed to convict the mind, the emotional connection is made through marrying a mother with the reality of her child.
As for the sanctity of life battle in our culture, I am in this to win. Questioning tactics and effectiveness is necessary. You claim that “moral conviction can be enough to spur action.” Alright. When was it enough in our country’s history? Emotional appeals were central to the abolitionist movement. If Lincoln was the enlightenment speaker, Frederick Douglass was the fiery emotional balance. Emotion was central to the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. And others kept the emotional sermons going to energize the base while legislation and legal challenges were filed and fought over in the courts and Congress. They were central to the Revolutionary War, Women’s Suffrage, and every other movement in this nations history as far as I can tell. The intellectual component is necessary, but as I have said, we have that in spades. What I am asking is do we lack the other element in sufficient quantities? If so, then we must focus ourselves on being certain that we emotionally connect people to the movement and ultimately to the unborn as we convince them of the full humanity of the unborn. The unborn are human and we must care about what happens to them.
I am uncertain what powerful moral outrage and conviction looks like in the absence of a complimentary powerful emotional response. Or am I? Is that what we are seeing? Again, it is not a competition to love the unborn the most. It is a recognition that in order to win the day we have got to be firing on all cylinders. That requires asking more than, “Do they understand my arguments?” It demands that we ask, “Are we certain that this is the most outrage we can muster?” If not, we better start figuring out a way to muster the rest of what we can get because victory will not come cheap. It will take a movement of passionate individuals convinced of the humanity of the unborn and upset enough about it to change the way that this whole country lives. I fear that task is too large for those who are not fully emotionally committed.
I will address the disparate emotional ties to others relative to my personal relationship to them in the next post.
Partial Birth Abortion and Medical Terminology [Serge]
First, if they are simply claiming that the term partial birth abortion is not found in the current procedural terminology (CPT) manuals, they are correct. The CPT are the codes that physicians use to describe the procedures that they perform. Looking through our CPT manual, there is no listing for partial birth abortion.
Isn't "partial-birth abortion" an actual medical procedure?
No. The term "partial-birth abortion" is not a medical term and it does not identify any particular abortion procedure.
Does this mean that such a procedure does not exist? Well, no. If that was the case, then facelifts, gall bladder removal, and heart bypass surgery also do not exist, for they are also not listed in the CPT manual. Physicians describe these procedures as rhytidectomy, cholecystectomy, and coronary artery bypass graft (frequently abbreviated as CABG pronounced like "cabbage"). Physicians frequently use more colloquial terms when describing procedures to aid in patient understanding.
It seems our opponents would like us to use only the "medical terminology" used by physicians, but certainly do not hold other procedures up to the same standards. I was reviewing a dictation on a surgery I performed, and the procedure stated "2-piece Maxillary Lefort I osteotomy with posterior impaction with a mandibular bi-sagittal split ramus advancement osteotomy for treatment of apertognathia, mandibular hypoplasia and maxillary transverse deficiency". I suppose I could use that language every time, but usually I simply state that I performed jaw surgery.
Is the term "partial birth abortion" accurate? Well, if someone claims that it is not, then please explain why. Here is some information regarding the procedure of intact dilation and extraction as well as visuals. Please explain how the term partial birth abortion is not accurate? Here is the picture of when death occurs in this procedure. Does it not appear that the child is partially born at the time death occurs?
The accurate use of "non-medical" terms to describe procedures is an accepted way of talking about medical procedures to the general public. It would be nice of our opponents would accept the facts of what they are describing, as opposed to hiding behind technical language.
By the way, for those interested my surgery described upper and lower jaw surgery where I widened and moved the back of the upper jaw up, and advanced the lower jaw to correct an open bite, narrow upper jaw, and weak lower jaw. It is somewhat similar to this case here by Dr. Steven Tucker.
Monday, March 26, 2007
When Ideology Replaces Argument [SK]
“Ideologies,” writes David Wells in Above all Earthly Pow'rs," are “worldviews with an attitude.” They are viewpoints one seeks to impose through power and intimidation. The intent of every ideology is to control and with the passage of time (coupled with the desire to be triumphant), ideologies become simplistic and intellectually lazy. One of the chief ways they express themselves is through dismissals disguised as arguments.
Ideologies are also intolerant, though they’re often expressed in the very language of tolerance. Consider this reply, sent to me by an abortion-choice blogger named Kevin (sorry, link lost):
“The problem is that anti-choicers are invariably intolerant of the pro-choice position. It’s not enough for them not to favor abortion in their own cases, or even to make themselves a nuisance by bugging other people who make other choices for themselves. Inevitably, they seek to force others to live by the values of the anti-choicers, through legal restrictions, harassment, and often violence or murder. That’s the difference between tolerance and intolerance, between holding a view and using force to make others comply with it. That’s the difference more anti-choicers need to understand.”So, is Kevin saying peaceful pro-lifers are wrong to live out their convictions in the public square? If so, who is he to impose that view on us? And what, exactly, does he want pro-lifers like me to do--become abortion-choicers? Moreover, Kevin has it all wrong: Pro-lifers aren’t imposing their views with intimidation (except for the very few who resort to violence); they’re proposing them in hopes the American electorate, at some level, will vote them into law. That’s called democracy. Yet Kevin’s own (tolerant) position seems to be “agree with me or get out of the public square.”
In short, I understand his position perfectly: We pro-lifers can believe anything we want as long as we don't act as if our view is true. As I wrote him at the time, his own view is anything but tolerant:
“Privately, you'll let me and other pro-lifers say that no human being regardless of size, level of development, or dependency should be killed without justification, but if we try to act on our convictions through the democratic process, you scream foul. In the real world of politics and law, the only view you'll tolerate is your own. Seriously, do you really think abortion-choicers don't force their views? Try running that by a private medical school that is now being told by "pro-choicers" that it must provide or refer for abortion training despite its strongly supported belief that elective abortion is unjust killing. Try running that by the 29 states where the people, acting through their duly elected officials, passed laws against partial-birth abortion, only to be told by the federal courts--with the blessing of "pro-choice" groups--"you must allow that procedure." Common, Kevin! Get off your perch of alleged moral neutrality and admit that you'd like to restrict the advance of the pro-life worldview as much as I'd like to restrict the advance of the abortion-choice one. Everyone takes a position here and you'd like yours to win and mine to lose.”Despite Kevin’s protestations, this is not a debate between anti-choice and pro-choice, tolerance or intolerance. I’m sure he and I are both anti-choice (intolerant) on a whole lot of things like spousal abuse, racial discrimination, the dumping of toxic wastes in our rivers. He is also anti-choice (I assume) on the question of killing toddlers for fun. At the same time, we're both pro-choice on women choosing their own husbands, careers, pets, and cars that they drive, to name just a few things. Hence, the real issue that separates us is not choice versus anti-choice, but "What is the unborn?" Are they or are they not members of the human family--like toddlers, for instance?
Until critics of the pro-life view persuasively answers that question, all their glib dismissals are far from persuasive. They hint of a people who’ve truly run out of ideas.
That’s sad, because there are thoughtful abortion-choicers who take the pro-life position seriously and engage it at a sophisticated and reasonable level. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I wouldn’t for a moment glibly dismiss arguments put forth by David Boonin, Judith Jarvis Thomson, or Dean Stretton (to name a few) as beyond the pale of rational thought. Though I disagree with their conclusions, each thinker has made an important contribution to the abortion debate and helped me think more carefully about my own position.
Diversity on Campus? [SK]
HT: Stephanie Gray. FYI, if you are a rabid abortion-choicer, don't debate this girl. You will lose.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
UCLA Does it Again [SK]
And if you have tickets, I want to become your best friend.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
What Fred Thompson Should Have Said [SK]
Good stuff. A week later, however, Thompson emphatically insisted that although Roe was bad law, he (paraphrase) would not prosecute women who had abortions or their doctors. No, he wouldn't support that.
So what will it be, Senator--laws with no teeth?
It almost seemed like he was playing pre-emptive defense against the predictable charge "So, you anti-choicers just want to toss women who have abortions in prison and throw away the key, right?"
Problem is, Thompson's reply is lame.
Here's what he should have said:
What's wrong with a law that says you can't kill innocent human beings and if you do, there will be legal consequences? That aside, I'm not sure we need many new laws, Jim. Mostly, I'd just like to enforce the ones that we have. Remember: The majority of states already have laws which state that if you kill a human fetus, you're guilty of a crime. The only exception is abortion. To show you how crazy we’ve become, a mother who her harms her unborn offspring with alcohol or drug abuse will be prosecuted in most states today. But if that same woman chooses to abort her child, we look the other way. That's absurd. If that weren't bad enough, imagine that same woman on her way to the abortion clinic. Just prior to arrival, the doctor scheduled to perform the abortion accidentally broadsides her car, killing her unborn offspring. Guess what he gets charged with in most states? You got it: homicide. What are we to conclude from all this, that a child has a right to life if and only if his mother wants him? We can do better than that, Jim.
Destroying 'Left-Over' Embryos: Aren't We Assuming Something? [SK]
I am trying to come to terms with how it is better to discard an embryo rather than use it for research. I should first state that I believe that creating more embryos than a person is willing to implant is wrong. Second, I believe that killing the extra embryos created by invitro is also wrong. Third, I would that all extra embryos be adopted. But if I am faced with two options, throwing them in the trash or using them to possibly create cures for diseases, why wouldn’t I choose the latter?Me: All of us are going to die sometime. Assuming we can benefit, do those of us who will die later have the right to kill and exploit those who will die sooner?
In the case of the leftover embryos, I see only one morally acceptable option: Wait for adoptive parents.
Imagine this: You oversee a Cambodian orphanage with 200 toddlers that are unwanted. The facility cannot care for them any longer. Funds are low and food is scarce. A scientist has offered to take the toddlers off your hands and use them for grisly medical research designed to cure cancer. He makes a good point: Many of these children will soon die or suffer grave hardship. Nonetheless, you refuse. You could never, even for a moment, consider turning the kids over to the scientist on grounds that "these kids are going to die anyway so let's put them to good use." True, given your impoverished circumstances, you are powerless to prevent them from dying, but you would never be complicit in actively killing the kids, which is what ESCR does.
Of course, there are many other examples to consider. Prisoners on death row are going to die anyway, but no one (especially liberals!) suggests that we use them for destructive medical research. And we don't slit the throats of mortally wounded soldiers to recover their organs.
In short, unless one begins with the assumption that the embryos in question are not human beings, the "they're gonna die anyway" claim doesn't work. So we're back to the one question: What is the embryo? That question, more than any other, brings moral clarity to the issue.
For more, see Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Back Up Your Contraception with Self Control Day [Serge]
So for those who are concerned that they need to supplement their regular contraception with a "back-up" plan, I suggest using an age old method: self control. You can start with a single day, but eventually you may find it to be a far more healthy alternative to regular contraception.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Outrage by Any Other Name [Jay]
In my mind, the best way to consider this is to look first at those who are convinced of the humanity of the unborn and see if their treatment of the pro-life cause is measurably different from those who are either unconvinced or even pro-choice. Do those who call themselves “pro-life” in general act like people who are convinced that 3,500 or so innocent human beings are being unnecessarily killed everyday in the United States with the permission and legal protection of the government?
The question can fairly be asked, “What is the appropriate response to that belief?” My honest answer is that I do not have the foggiest idea, but I assume it will look somewhat different for all of us. I can draw a parallel here to a Christian walk with God. I do not know what the Christian Jay is fully supposed to look like. I know that I am supposed to represent Christ, but I learn more about what that means every day. What I do know for certain is that the imperfect Christian Jay ought to look different than the non-Christian Jay. Accepting the truth of Christ must produce change in my life that we can look at it and say that something changed on that day.
Lets look at the lives of pro-lifers in the United States and ask the same question. How does the knowledge of the humanity of the unborn change our life? It is a more troubling realization than most are comfortable acknowledging, though. I live in a world where we kill people everyday on a massive scale for elective reasons.
If you want to test it, lets change a variable in this situation and see what happens. I know Scott and Greg love to trot out the toddler, but I want to go a little older. There are qualities that we say do not impact how we value a human being. Age and development both fall into those categories. That means that pro-lifers are saying that we do not recognize any difference in the value of a human life based on numerical age and developmental differences. A 10-week gestation fetus is of the same inherent value and has the same humanity as a 10-year-old child.
Now say that it was 10-year-old children being killed everyday in facilities all over the United States. Every other data factor stays the same, but we change a couple of variables that we argue do not matter. Would we be reacting in the same manner? The American people know that 10-year-old children are being killed because their parents do not feel like they can afford a teenager, or the child had a disease or a handicap that will be difficult to deal with as they hit puberty, or the mother is single and knows that a teenager is much more difficult to raise and can not possibly handle this on her own. How would they react to that? Would the reaction be the same for the average person who declares themselves pro-life? We say that we see no moral difference in these scenarios, but would we have a different moral outrage and response at functionally the same moral offense?
I am asking the question and that will be the focus of some coming posts. Have we convinced the world of our arguments? Are we convinced ourselves? And how do we simultaneously champion the moral argument of the unborn while awakening the outrage of those who already identify themselves as pro-life? It will do little good to convince the world that the unborn are human beings if the resulting moral response is so muted as to not make a difference.
Friday, March 16, 2007
The Fetus Chronicles Spread [Jay]
What I find interesting here is that I think the prolife movement for the most part has won the debate over what a human fetus is or isn't. I think when most people hear the term fetus, they don't think about a tiny grouping of cell with no value but rather they think about a miniature human being in the womb which has some value. Their minds go to the 3-D images of unborn children or they think of children who are born very premature as being in the womb. As time has passed, more people have become familiar with the term and it is not as abstract as it once was. Hardly anyone thinks fetal farming (killing human fetuses solely for their parts) should be permitted and reading pro-choice blogs I rarely see the term fetus used as if human fetuses weren't worth a dime. Only the dimmest of dim think this somehow amounts to some great point. Some prolifers have even used terms which were once so dehumanizing to humanize the unborn in the eyes of others.
I have two comments in relation to this. The first is that the intention of my initial post was aimed at pro-lifers that I encounter and my desire for them to realize that we are free to embrace the term fetus as an accurate and non-threatening term describing a developmental stage that we all pass through. I agree with Jivin that it is not a popular counter argument from well informed pro-aborts(at least not as a complete argument, many refined arguments are developmental in nature though not as simple as a fetus is not a human) and that as a point I think it so weak and reminiscent of an old mindset that I do not respect it at all. We are past this and so should act accordingly. The hesitancy of some pro-lifers is completely and totally unnecessary and the reason that I gave the illustration of Scott’s debate was to point out how incredibly weak the argument looks in context.
My second reaction is actually more of a question. If a large number of people in our country are familiar with the humanity of the fetus as a matter of fact, then why are we comfortable with the practice of legalized abortion on demand? I am not saying Jivin is wrong or even that this is his point, I am seriously asking the question. If so many people do not see a fetus as less human than a newborn then how do we marry that with a daily indifference to the reality of what is happening with abortion in our culture? How can these two propositions both be true?
1- Most people do not see the fetus as less human than a born child. (not dehumanized by stage of development)
2- Most people are not motivated to stop legalized abortion in the United States.
I see this indifference everyday as fundraiser. A donor and I were talking recently and he said that unlike me abortion was not something he thought about everyday. Why not? We believe that it is human life and yet are not terribly worked up about the large-scale destruction of it? And this is a pro-life donor. One of two things is correct here.
A - People are not as convinced of the humanity of the unborn as we would like to believe. Most people still see the fetus as less human than a newborn and the opposition’s avoidance of the argument is largely of rhetorical necessity and does not indicate a large scale victory on this issue for our side on a popular level.
B - The alternative is more chilling in my mind. Most people will now acknowledge the full humanity of the fetus and see the unborn as equal in qualities of humanity as the born. In this case, the moral response to the moral offense is disturbingly inadequate. If we know that they are fully human beings and have truly won this argument, what kind of people are we that we can not manage to rally any greater moral outrage than what we have seen so far?
If Jivin’s point is that we are winning this argument on the academic and political level in circles that daily consider and weigh the merits of bio-ethics arguments and that the pro-choice side is now largely incapable of dehumanizing the fetus by identifying its developmental stage then I agree. If the point is that the rest of our population who is not actively engaging the pro-life movement everyday, including the majority of those who identify themselves as pro-life, is fully in agreement with us and enjoys the knowledge and fruits of those successes, then I hope that Jivin is wrong. If this is the moral outrage that we can expect from a culture largely convinced that the fetus is fully human then we are in serious trouble.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The "Fetus" Posts Continue [Jay]
Serge touched on my point in the first paragraph of his Blue Oyster Post. The hesitancy to use the term is perceived as fear and ignorance. I do not think it ACTUALLY is fear and ignorance, but the impression is so strong that the opposition often thinks they have won a point by identifying what we call a baby as a fetus. This is, dare I say, idiotic, but it seems to be the case none the less.
To demonstrate the point, Scott contested two Canadian debate champions on the issue of legal abortion. Scott asked a direct question, what is the unborn if it is not human? The response from the opposition was that it was a fetus. Scott correctly pointed out that fetus is a developmental term that fails to describe the nature of the unborn. The debaters responded that it was a potential human, which is apparently how they misdefined a fetus. Scott asked again, “A potential X is an actual Y” so if the unborn is a potential human then it is an actual what? The answer again, a fetus.
This answer completely falls into the classic “So What?” category. That is why I hate to give it anymore respect than I think it deserves. If you say that the unborn is definitely a fetus, my response is, “So What?” The point neither addresses the argument that the fetal human is an innocent human being nor undermines the value of that life in any way. It is a non point. I wonder if the reason they think it is a strong point is tied to the fact that so many people wish to protest it unnecessarily? Why be hesitant to engage a weak and terrible argument head on? A better tactic is to publicly and consistently explain the toothless nature of the identification of the fetal developmental stage as somehow dehumanizing the life of the unborn.
And as a final note, I think baby is a fine term to describe the unborn. The problem I have is that a baby can be almost anything. My wife's nickname is baby and I call her that all the time. My mother can call me her baby, even though I am 36 years old, and it is accurate. My 4 year old son and my 2 1/2 year old daughter are both my babies and will be for a long time. Baby is a term that describes our identification of the object and can be used for anything from a zygote to a grown man.
It is wrong to kill innocent human beings for elective reasons. Fetal humans are innocent human beings. They do not have to be identified as babies by anyone for it to be wrong to kill 1,300,000 of them a year. Baby or not, they are human.
RE: Don't Fear the Fetus [Serge]
However, it is quite sad that the other side of this debate is using this accurate term in an intentional effort to deceive. The point of using technical language is to clarify and to be as specific as possible. "Jaw Surgery" is not nearly as descriptive or accurate as "2-Piece Maxillary Lefort I advancement osteotomy". The latter term is used when boarding the case or dictating the report, but in almost every other context, I would say upper jaw surgery.
The term fetus is used by pro-abortion choicers to attempt to differentiate human beings that they find valuable and those they don't. They are not attempting to describe the stage of development of a human being, but instead deceive by using a technical term. This is unfortunate. There is nothing wrong with using the term nulligravida to accurately describe a woman who has never been pregnant - but using the term to denigrate their value as a human being would not be accepted.
My solution is pretty simple. I try not to use the term fetus alone. I will always describe a human fetus, or better yet, a fetal human being. Adding the term human is not a rhetorical technique, but a clarification. It fits in well with the goal of using technical terms in the first place - better accuracy. This is done all of the time. My sister once came home from school stating that she had dissected a fetal pig - not a 'fetus'. (Although they probably don't do such things any longer).
Lastly, I have to admit that I changed the name of Jay's post slightly in order to say - More Cowbell!
A Response from Lydia McGrew [Jay]
I think the issue here is one of social usage. I was just on a blog the other day where the fellow was saying what an "emotional" thing it was (hence, bad) for pro-lifers to call the unborn child a "baby" instead of a "fetus." Now, we all know that we're surrounded by people who think just this way and deliberately use "fetus" to deny or "remain neutral on" the question of the personhood of the unborn child. You can say that the pro-aborts have hijacked the term, but the fact remains that they have been pretty successful in so hijacking it. If post-birth infanticide becomes acceptable, I expect "neonate" will be used the same way. There's nothing wrong with being sensitive to this social fact about the word's usage and using "unborn child" or something like that to avoid sending the message that we're neutral on the child's humanity. Nor, I think, are we being unscientific to do so. Of course, a lot depends on context.
One more point: It's starting to happen now in news stories that _born_ preemies who survive abortions are being called "fetuses." It's my understanding that definitionally the term "fetus" is not supposed to apply to a born child, regardless of stage of development. At least, it never used to. So the term is now being extended even into the realm of the born child, in an obvious attempt to lower sympathy for the child and raise sympathy for the mother who throws it in a dumpster, the abortionist who puts it in a back room, etc.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Fear not the term fetus. [Jay]
When I replied that the fetal stage is an actual developmental stage and that to call it a fetus is accurate she looked at me warily as if I had just started to reveal my pro-abort sympathies for the first time. I told her, “You are right that it is a baby, but baby is a nondescript word. It is also a human being and a fetus. It is a human fetus, but it is a fetus none the less.”
She quickly changed the subject, I assume it was because she strongly disagreed with me on this point and did not want to have to lower her opinion of me anymore in one day. I am not certain why this word is so hard for some pro-lifers to say, but the pro-life position is not compromised one iota by recognizing the fetal stage of development. It is just one of the stages that we go through. We are human beings. We all were at some point a human zygote, a human embryo, a human fetus, a human newborn, a human infant, toddler...you get the point. It is the big L on the SLED acronym. Level of development is not a factor in determining the value of a human being. Recognizing the full definition of developmental limitations in no way compromises our stance. The baby is a fetus, and that fact is simply irrelevant to the value of his/her life.
C. S. Lewis once said that if a proposition is true, then all of the world around us will testify to the truth of that proposition. (Paraphrasing of course) The fact that human life begins at conception and has value is supported by evidence from all the spheres of study on this subject including philosophical, scientific, and even medical. Using the proper terms is merely being consistent and accurate. The truth of the proposition that human life is valuable is plenty strong enough to overcome a few choice words.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Don't sue, put the child up for adoption.[Jay]
My defense is that I truly was dumb struck by the scenario. The woman sues saying, “You owe me money to raise this child because I wanted you to kill the child and you told me you did.” The defense is, “We honestly thought we killed your child and tried our best to do so, therefore, as sorry as we are the child was born, we do not owe you a thing.” I find the whole scenario so vile I lacked any sort of perspective to comment on it.
Mike asked me one thing, though, that I thought worth mentioning. Why doesn’t this woman give the baby up for adoption? If rearing the child is a burden, in fact burden enough that she believes that others must pay for the child, then why would she not relieve herself of the burden of the child and bless some other couple and this child with a happy home? Could it be that the child is something that this woman wants? Could it be that though she tried to destroy the life she now realizes it is something not disposable?
Our counselors often try to encourage woman to give their child up for adoption when offering abortion alternatives. Women who are considering abortion usually respond, “I could never give my child up for adoption.” Hmm... All together now, “You are willing to kill your child, but you are not willing to put it up for adoption?” We have got to get better at encouraging and counseling toward adoption. We have got to think of better answers to this objection, because we are so afraid to push it on resistant mothers for fear they will turn off and abort their child. They are far more comfortable with killing the child than giving it up to a loving family already.
Friday, March 9, 2007
You haven't seen me unreasonable yet. [Jay]
The mentioned appeal from the Republican at large for the pro-lifer to be reasonable is of interest to me. This I see as completely different from Scott and other apologists arguing to do the most good with our vote that we can when faced with unfavorable candidate choices. This is an appeal for pro-lifers to not make such a big deal over the abortion issue that we cost the GOP an otherwise “electable” candidate.
The quote in the article characterizes the Pro-Rudy GOP position as this:
"They hope that pro-lifers will 'be reasonable,' not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and go along quietly."
The response from the editors is classic and what I wanted to highlight here:
"But what dooms the deal from the start is the fact that it totally misunderstands what pro-lifers care about in the first place. When they ask us to “be reasonable” and go along with a pro-abortion leader, they assume that there is something unreasonable about the pro-life position to start with. We’re sorry, but we don’t see what is so unreasonable about the right to life."
They go on to make the point I have always stressed about the implications for the pro-life movement if a pro-choice leader gets through and becomes the representative of the GOP leadership. A friend of mine who works for the government and is daily up to his elbows in legislation from the Executive branch of our state supports this line of reasoning as well. He knows full well how the personal views of the Chief Executive influence the structure and proposition of legislative action. Promises may get the man elected, but the man himself will ultimately govern. (Or woman if you so choose)
As for the charge that pro-lifers are unreasonable. You haven’t seen me unreasonable yet. I am just getting warmed up. Let the GOP start trying to minimize the cost of the lives of the unborn in an effort to court some middle ground voter that is tired of hearing about the continuing state sanctioned murder of thousands of innocent lives everyday. I think the pro-life movement has enough fire in the belly to make a little noise. The problem with the eternally politically minded is that they can not comprehend those who operate on unwavering principle. Pro-lifers do not seek to see pro-life legislation championed so that our side might win a political victory over our opposition. We believe that the unborn are innocent human beings that are being killed with the legal approval of our government. No compromise will ever politically satisfy us, no matter how we tactically approach this issue. We will always be bothering everyone else about the sanctity of human life until the killing stops. Asking us to keep it down because we are upsetting people will only convince us that you still don’t get it.
Re: Root Causes [SK]
These 'root cuase' arguments from lefties are just precious. I loved this quote mentioned in your post:
Instead of focusing on the root societal causes of gender inequality that have given rise to disproportionate value placed on males, right-wing groups instead use this situation to try and assert arguments of fetal personhood and fetal rights.Well, let's try this: "Instead of focusing on the root societal causes of gender violence that have given rise to men beating their wives, anti-spousal-abuse groups instead use this situation to try and assert arguments of equal rights for women and female intrinsic worth."
See the problem?
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Female Feticide and the Left [Serge]
Right-wingers at the Commission on the Status of Women...but other right-wing groups are taking a much more subtle tack and cleverly utilizing the human rights language surrounding violence and discrimination against girls to attack the reproductive rights of women.
This is particularly true in discussions and presentations about sex-selective abortion or as the international right prefers to call it—female feticide. Sex-selective abortion has become a hot topic among the international right. Media attention to practices in India and China where preference for male children has resulted in the use of ultrasounds to determine fetal sex has been a boon for the right-wing. Instead of focusing on the root societal causes of gender inequality that have given rise to disproportionate value placed on males, right-wing groups instead use this situation to try and assert arguments of fetal personhood and fetal rights.
The argument from female feticide is actually not subtle at all. Pro-abortion choicers argue that the fetus is a bunch of cells with no moral status, which is why it is non-problematic to violently kill it at the request of the mother. The mother retains this right regardless of her reasons - in fact, it is wrong to even question any reason she may have request an abortion.
The fact that some countries use this "women's right" in order to kill a dispropriate number of girls is an intractable moral dilemma. If abortion is an unquestionable right, then they have no basis for criticizing women who use this 'right" in order to kill their offspring on the basis of gender.
On the other hand, if they acknowledge that it is wrong for a culture to devalue women such that they justify their intentional death, they have to concede that the fetus is something other than a valueless bunch of cells. Furthermore, they would have to acknowledge that it is reasonable to place some limits on the "right" to abortion. Pro-abortion choicers fight tooth and nail against either of these arguments.
Note that the author's solution, to find "root societal causes of gender inequality" is not a solution at all. In fact, in order to solve female feticide problem, a country would simply need to agree to kill more male children. That way the killing would be correctly proportioned, and the gender inequality would be taken care of. China could fix the problem by giving financial incentives to woman who choose to abort their male children. Such a policy would solve the inequality problem, but I have doubts whether it would be effective in progressing their point of view.
Now that I've showed the argument without being subtle or clever, I was looking forward to her response. Alas, such a response was not to be had. In fact, the rest of her post had a very interesting complaint:
Many of the organizations involved in the "Working Group" are right-wing European groups like the Institute for Family Policy and the European Federation of Women Active in the Home whose chief concern is raising alarm about the "demographic crisis" in European countries. In 2006, for example, the Institute for Family Policy released a report (PDF) citing abortion as a main cause of death in Europe, second only to cancer.The presence of groups such as this at the U.N. is alarming to say the least. But more alarming perhaps is the growing influence they wield and their ability to have their ultra-conservative voices heard when it comes to making policies on sexual and reproductive health rights internationally.
Did you catch that. She first states that groups she disagrees with are being subtle and sneaky, then she complains that a view contrary to hers is actually getting heard. This is tolerance? I suppose her solution is to censor every argument she disagrees with, so no one will need to examine their view and encounter any argument that could change their ideology.
This seems to be a new trend. Don't respond to argument that challenge your philosophy, but argue against your opponents right to make that argument. This flies in the face of every true liberal and tolerant ideal, but logical consistency seems not important. The brute expression of one's power to silence another is what they seek.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
What Does Christa Think? [Bob]
"This is just one patient. The result in one patient does not tell us whether any other patient will show similar results, nor whether this result will have any bearing on her"“Not appropriate?” It seems to me it is very appropriate; especially in light of the ongoing debate in both Europe and
"It raises the questions of ethics and experience of these patients, I think, to a new level," said neuroscientist Joy Hirsch of
's Columbia University Medical Center. "It raises the tension about how we treat these patients." New York
But, "making medical decisions based on this information at this point in time we say is not appropriate.”
It seems appropriate in light of the Australian issue regarding patients in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). There, bioethicists are debating "the potential use of patients with non-responsive brain function for such medical experiments as animal organ transplants—to bypass ethic prohibitions against using a living human being for medical experimentation, some even suggested designating such patients as "dead," saying their cognitive impairments justified treating them as cadavers."
Those in a PVS will not ever wake up, they feel no pain or discomfort and have no continuing interest in their own survival…”On this view, Christa Lilly could have been designated a "cadaver" and her body used for experimentation just minutes before she granted her interview in Colorado Springs.
While making the argument that PVS patients have no right to mental autonomy since they have no apparent functioning mental capacity, Dr. Curry excused the medical “use” of their bodies by suggesting such patients should be allowed to choose to donate their bodies for the good of science, saying, “…these patients must also have a right to risk that life for the common good.”
Serge can shed more technical/medical light on this subject but the fact that similar stories pop up from time to time is a reminder that the value of human persons is not just in question at the beginning of life – and that it still centers on the most vulnerable in our society.
To those who would deem medical decisions surrounding these issues as being “inappropriate,” I suggest they ask Christa Lilly for her opinion on the matter.
A Bit Close to Home [Serge]
Please pray for this girl and her family (I believe her name is Jessica).
Planned Parenthood: Been There Done That [SK]
Check out this story from March 2001. Here are the relevant quotes:
S.F. woman wins abortion lawsuitQuestion for abortion-choicers: Had the dismembered fetus lived (and not been deliberately killed months later), should he/she been allowed to sue for damages?
By Daniel Evans of the Examiner Staff
A woman who remained pregnant following a botched abortion three years ago has been awarded $672,610 from Planned Parenthood.
As the court clerk read the jury's award Wednesday, the woman, whose fetus lost two limbs in the abortion attempt before being terminated months later, lowered her head and wept, convinced her three-year court battle was finally over. And it is, but only for now. An attorney for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, which oversees nine clinics in the Bay Area, vowed to appeal the award...(Emph. added)
Trial dealt only with pain
The three-week trial dealt only with how much J.B. was owed for her pain, whether Planned Parenthood was liable. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Douglas Munson ordered the reproductive rights organization be held responsible for its failure to turn over critical medical documents to J.B. and her lawyer.
Stocker said she would not comment on why Planned Parenthood refused to turn over the documents, saying only that the organization felt they were "irrelevant" to the woman's case. But J.B. said the documents -- which include internal Planned Parenthood procedures and her medical records --must have contained something the organization didn't want her to see.
"If someone is covering up the evidence, it's obvious they have something to hide," J.B. said. "Why would you wash your hands if they weren't bloody?" The woman, a Yugoslav immigrant, described her experience in her testimony and in the original lawsuit.
In October 1997, she discovered she was pregnant and went to Planned Parenthood. But the care she received at the clinic on Eddy Street was less than ideal, said her lawyer, Chris Dolan. The first-trimester abortion J.B. sought went awry. Medical experts testified that J.B. was probably pregnant with twins. But the procedure she underwent in December 1997 only fully removed one fetus.
Though she was told the abortion was complete, J.B. said, she still felt pregnant two weeks later in a follow-up exam, and called several times for advice. Each time, she was told that her symptoms were normal. But on Feb. 18, 1998, J.B. demanded a urine test. The same nurse who had long assured her nothing was wrong came back horrified. J.B. was still pregnant, her lawyer said.
Given a list
She had been carrying the fetus for nearly six months. The Planned Parenthood clinic does not do abortions late in the second trimester, so she was given an apology, a list of providers who would do abortions in the second trimester, and shooed out the door, Dolan said.
Though Planned Parenthood did relent and pay for the second abortion, J.B. was emotionally traumatized, something that would only get worse.
An ultrasound at the Buena Vista women's center revealed the fetus -- or the remaining fetus -- had only one arm and one leg. "She sees the ultrasound, and has an emotional collapse," Dolan said. "She has to go through a three-day procedure to terminate the fetus' life, something that absolutely wrecks her." (Emph. added)
Since that day, Dolan said, his client has been haunted by visions of babies being killed, has contemplated suicide, and cries uncontrollably at the sight of young children -- particularly twins. "She is like a shattered human being," said the attorney, adding that J.B. has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "She has been unable to be in a relationship since this happened. She can't get in close proximity to a man without shaking and, sometimes, vomiting."
The trial began Feb. 2, and the jury returned its verdict after two days of deliberations. They awarded her $650,000 for mental anguish, $1,870 in past medical costs, $14,500 for future psychiatric expenses and $6,240 in lost earnings. "I think deciding the economic damages were fairly easy," said Paula Brown, who served as the jury's forewoman. "But the non-economic part was more difficult. It's not really easy to put a dollar amount on someone's life...."
In the end, however, Brown said the jury went with Dolan's recommendation, finding it was fair. Fair or not, the award will be reduced, due to a 1975 California law that limits non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. Though upheld by the courts on several occasions, the cap has never been increased.
I am not sure who to root for on this. [Jay]
Given the following quote addressed in this earlier post by Serge:
In a preposterous effort at recognizing the economic pressure on women who
may choose an abortion, some CPC's offer resources like food, formula, baby
clothes, strollers and help with the month's rent. "We're willing to offer $200,
$300, $400 on the spot, no strings attached," says Pat Foley, who runs the
Wakota Life Care Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. "No life should end because of
Hmm. This sounds promising, at first. Will these CPC's offer
monetary support for the next 18 years, though? Will they offer childcare for
the next 13-15 years? Start a college fund for the potential child? Of course
I presume those that criticize CPC's on this ground of thinking will endorse Planned Parenthood immediately compensating this women for all of her child rearing cost for the next 17 years or so. It is only fair. Not wanting to have this child ought to absolve this woman from any responsibility in the financial cost, right?
Ahh, so many things to dislike here. I think I will collect my thoughts and try to make sense of this later.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Another Reason to Home School [Serge]
"...during school hours in a classroom with an experienced teacher present, two sixth graders completed the act of intercourse...at least ten students were witnesses. No disciplinary actions were taken against the teacher... All teachers were told to keep quiet."
John Edwards: Jesus is Appalled By the Selfishness of You People [Serge]
What parts of American life do you think would most outrage Jesus?Just as a reminder, Edward's new home that I suppose he built by focusing on his own selfish short term "needs" is an 28,000 square feet behemoth that has a few luxurious touches. These don't include his main house, just the recreation center:
Our selfishness. Our resort to war when it's not necessary. I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs. I think he would be appalled, actually.
The interviewer did address the house in the interview, and when discussing his own personal selfishness, Edwards takes quite a different tone:
The recreation building contains a basketball court, a squash court, two stages, a bedroom, kitchen, bathrooms, swimming pool, a four-story tower, and a room designated “John’s Lounge.”
And so, you know, I come from a very modest place and I've done well and we have a very nice physical structure. It's completely unimportant.Just to put things into perspective, 28,000 square feet is about 80% the size of a football field. I'm sure he could take his "No Trespassing" signs down and let about 10 poor families in Orange county live on his indoor basketball court alone. Yet, he feels free to tell us that Jesus is appalled by us, and his extravagant living is unimportant. Maybe he feels he really does need the extra space for mirrors to check on his hair.
I'm most amazed that this house is being built right now, even though Edwards must know it will create controversy. Why not at least stay where you are until the campaign is over? The most ironic thing is that instead of keeping a low profile, Edwards has even written a book entitled, of all things, Home.
Monday, March 5, 2007
There is no other way to say it. [Jay]
Let me say one thing though. My heart hurts and I cringe when someone tells a pro-life ally (incrementalist or purist, however they are labeled)that they are participating in or contributing to evil based upon how they would vote in an election. Or how they would pass or not pass legislation or if they are a D or an R.
I would like to respond to this. Let me first say that I agree 100% with the principle behind the statement. I know that the pro-life movement must always advance on the commitment to the sanctity of human life and a shared sense of purpose to see the great evil of abortion on demand end in our lifetime. In that cause we are all united and of one accord.
My point of contention is in the idea that we can not argue our case for one tactic over another without stating the true nature of our disagreement for fear of offending one of our brothers or sisters in the pro-life movement. This must be about life, which means the discussion of tactics will force us to confront that bad tactics cost lives.
Ed Hanks and I disagreed on several posts over incrementalist versus purists position. (Side note: Why does that position get to be called purists?) Now I know that Ed Hanks hates abortion. His posts seem to indicate that he is passionately working to end abortion on demand in the United States. They also reflect a thoughtful and educated man. But make no mistake that what Ed and I disagree on is which tactic will ultimately benefit the greatest number of unborn. We may both be wrong, but we cannot both be right. The reason we both stake a position is our belief that the other position is flawed and will ultimately cost lives. It is an ugly reality. If the tactic of incrementalism is practiced and ultimately proved to be unsuccessful and in hindsight the purist position was true, then I inescapably argued for a position that served the purposes of those who wish to destroy life. The opposite is true as well.
It is important that we not lose that honesty in our arguments. We must argue in a spirit of shared purpose and devotion to the cause, but we must do so honestly. This argument is not about experimental political or tax strategies that effect a forever fluctuating economy ready to rebound with the next upturn. This is about the lives of human beings. That is why we MUST be clear in our thinking. We can never gain back the lives that have already been lost. We have to be sure that our next step does not cost lives unnecessarily. I can love my brothers and sister and disagree with honor and respect, but there is no other way to argue this point than saying I fear your tactics will cost lives. They are arguing the same against me.
Obama Reveals His Knowledge [Serge]
We have too many children in poverty in this country and everybody should be ashamed, but don't tell me it doesn't have a little to do with the fact that we got too many daddies not acting like daddies. Don’t think that fatherhood ends at conception. I know something about that because my father wasn't around when I was young and I struggled.It is quite revealing that a momentary true statement can undermine such a hard fought ideological position. Obama clearly understands that human life begins at conception, and the post-conceptus that he speaks of possesses a father. This in itself is an important admission.
However, Obama's main point here is even more revealing. He is arguing that a man who helped to conceive a child has obligations to that child. If these obligations are not met, then we have "daddies not acting like daddies." In other words, there are fundamental obligations that a parent has to their offspring, and when these obligations are not met, we should be "ashamed".
Implicit in this moral argument is that the child herself has value and can justly expect to be treated in a manner worthy of that value.
It all probably sounded good in the speech. Which is because it is all completely true.
However, it certainly flies in the face of his support for abortion rights without exception. If he expects one parent to live up to their obligations, what about the other? How can he expect to convince one parent to take responsibility for what they have conceived when he fights to allow the other parent to kill their offspring? This is a dilemma he cannot escape from. Either his words to fathers have absolutely no moral force whatsoever, or his support of abortion rights including partial birth abortion has no foundation. He can't have it both ways.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Don't Let Ideology Hijack Your Thinking [Serge]
Ask the girl how she's feeling. Not what she's thinking. Centers like
Woods' simply don't trust women to do any of the thinking. Wood claims that she
and her co-workers are caretakers and that her center does not pursue fear and
guilt tactics. Yet they do not hesitate to offer ultrasounds, despite the highly
questionable medical necessity of them, and brochures that clearly have
misinformation that are still in use
Eesha believes that we should not offer a diagnostic test to a woman because it may not be completely medically necessary. She implies that just because a woman may desire a view of her child, and the clinic has the capability, it should not be done.
Let me point out the obvious here. Abortion is not a medically necessary procedure. Abortion is an elective procedure that a woman requests. Somehow, Eesha believes that a minor girl should have the ability to choose to kill her human offspring without parental consent, but should not have the option of viewing a diagnostic ultrasound to aid her in making that decision because the latter is unnecessary. Amazing thinking, but it does not end there.
In a preposterous effort at recognizing the economic pressure on women who
may choose an abortion, some CPC's offer resources like food, formula, baby
clothes, strollers and help with the month's rent. "We're willing to offer $200,
$300, $400 on the spot, no strings attached," says Pat Foley, who runs the
Wakota Life Care Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. "No life should end because of
Hmm. This sounds promising, at first. Will these CPC's offer
monetary support for the next 18 years, though? Will they offer childcare for
the next 13-15 years? Start a college fund for the potential child? Of course
Its preposterous! When big words replace coherent arguments. According to Eesha, helping a new Mom get a start is preposterous unless the donor also agrees to fund her for the next 18 years, and then pay for college. Outside of that, those pesky CPCs should just keep their money to themselves and let Mom kill her offspring.
I wonder if she is consistent with this thinking. I mean, I support a local food kitchen for homeless families. It seems that unless I offer to fund three square meals a day for the rest of someones life, my support is preposterous in her view. It wold be better if I did nothing, I suppose.
Lastly, I should note that most CPCs do offer new Moms a means to better ensure an economic future for their children. Most provide adoption referrals, which enables pregnant mothers who cannot provide for their child a means to save their lives and at the same time help ensure a positive economic future.
Re: Ms. Wood [SK]
I couldn't agree more with your take on the TIME piece. I've written elsewhere on why I think it's mistaken for pregnancy centers to categorically reject the use of abortion images, but I'm not an insider like you. Hopefully, your careful thinking, along with your credentials, will speak powerfully to those who think we can love all women into loving their babies.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Wrong in Principle? [SK]
Great quote about Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
I think pro-lifers who make short-term, tactical moves to save some lives now until they can save more later are not choosing evil (as some of our perfectionist critics maintain) but are choosing the greatest good possible given current political realities. If I cannot advance the good, I'll move to limit the evil done.
Indeed, the incremental, pragmatic approach has done pretty well so far. We've passed pro-life legislation, installed ostensibly pro-life judges (i.e., strict Constitutionalists), and limited the legislative consequences of abortion on demand. I can't see how someone could reasonably argue that at any time in the last 30 years abortion could have been banned outright. More children are alive today because of the incremental approach. (See, for example, Michael New's research released earlier this month.) In short, the incremental side of the argument has demonstrative progress to show for it.
It gets stickier, however, when the topic turns to voting for less-than-perfect presidential candidates. We've both gone a round or two with the purists on that question and though you and I differ a bit (only a bit, I think) on what's the right thing to do, we more or less agree that if I cannot advance good with my vote, my next goal should be to limit evil in so far as possible given current political realities. (If I'm wrong about our alleged agreement, slap me with a correction!)
My take is that we might differ on the practical question--namely, if it comes down Rudy versus Hillary in 08, does voting Rudy over Hillary (or, over a more desirable, but unelectable third party candidate) actually give us the best shot at limiting at least some of the evil?
For now, let's cross our fingers and hope it doesn't come to that awful choice, but if it does, some pro-lifers say it's wrong in principle to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, even if there were a possible world in which doing so would save lives. I don't think that's your view, but others are convinced they have the moral high ground on what for them is a matter of principle. Indeed, some will stick to their alleged moral principle even if doing so results in horrific consequences for the unborn.
Suppose (warning: hypothetical alert!) it's 2024 and pro-life Republicans are expected to win a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress. The GOP majority already in power has introduced the "Uniform Right to Life Act" that bans all abortions save those needed for life of the mother. If that weren't enough good news, two liberal SCOTUS justices who support ROE have announced they will retire in 2025,and the GOP nominee has promised to replace them with the likes of now former justices Thomas and Scalia. The new Court would then be 5-4 in favor of conservatives. There's only one hitch: The Republican nominee for President, a wildly popular war hero, supports unrestricted abortion on demand--provided it comes from Congress and not the courts. In fact, while governor of Illinois, he signed the "Woman's Fundamental Right to Abortion Act." As a Presidential candidate, however, he ran on a campaign to overturn judicial activism, especially cases like Roe and Casey which he called "judicial tyranny". Bottom line: He wants abortion returned to the legislative branch so the people get their voice back on the issue. The Democrat, meanwhile, will preserve Roe and only appoint judges who support her view.
On Election Day, what should pro-life conservatives do? A) Vote for the GOP pro-abortion candidate and get a very good shot at reversing Roe AND passing the Uniform Right to Life Act by 2026, thus effectively ending elective abortion in America, B) vote against the pro-abortion GOP nominee, thus preserving principle, C) Vote for unelectable third-party candidate and risk the Democrat winning.
Admittedly, we don't face this kind of choice in the current election cycle, but how far should we press our "principle" when our vote could have been used to save human lives?
When I presented the above hypothetical example to a purist on another blog, she replied that even then she would not vote for the pro-abort presidential candidate.
To which I replied:
Generally speaking, voting for pro-life candidates is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That "end" is ending elective abortion as we know it. If voting for an abortion-choice candidate gets the job done, shouldn't that weigh heavily on how pro-lifers vote?Still, her answer was she wouldn't vote for the pro-abortion candidate.
At the executive level, I agree that scenario is not likely in play this election cycle, but it's possible it one day could be, as my hypothetical example above illustrates.
If I understand you correctly, you said that even if voting for an abortion-choice candidate would almost certainly end abortion, you would not vote for him.
While I appreciate your candor, I fail to see the moral reasoning used to support such a decision. You said you were standing on principle, but what moral principle justifies letting 1.3 million children die annually when we could have saved nearly all of them by voting for the GOP guy who's not pro-life? Remember--the abortion-choice candidate in the case I presented is powerless to stop a congressional pro-life bill effectively ending abortion. At the same time, SCOTUS in my example is now with us thanks to the GOP guy.
So, just to clarify your position, let me change my above scenario slightly. Suppose you have prophetic abilities to see into the future. God has told you that if the abortion-choice candidate for the GOP wins, that result will be the ending of abortion as we know it (via the means I outlined in my above scenario). But He hasn't said if that candidate will prevail or how you should vote. He's just told you what will happen if the GOP candidate does in fact win.
Given you KNOW that should this GOP abortion-choice candidate win, abortion will soon be history, would you still hold to your position? If so, on what moral principle?
As Greg Koukl once put it, the purist in this case is making a point but not making a difference. The non-negotiable "principle" isn't voting for pro-life candidates. It's getting rid of abortion. The principles of the purist are misplaced.
My colleague Melinda Penner goes one step further: "If it's in your power to do good by limiting evil to some extent and you don't, then you are perpetuating evil. If you can stop it and don't, then you're part of the problem not a solution."
Nevertheless, the purists in our blog discussion were convinced I was putting pragmatic concerns over moral ones. But what do they mean by “pragmatic?” I think pragmatism can mean a couple of different things in this case.
1) It could mean I justify bad behavior with pragmatism: "Well, boys will be boys, so let's make sure they use condoms and if their girlfriends get pregnant, lets make sure these boys have money to pay for abortions."
2) But pragmatism can also mean I'm working to achieve the greatest moral good possible given the hand I've been dealt. Unlike the first example, here my overriding concern is not the justification of (or surrender to) an immoral action, but the limiting of that action insofar as possible given the circumstances. In the first example, I've stopped opposing evil (indeed, at some level I'm cooperating with it). In the second, I'm still in the fight for good, doing all that can be done to save as many lives as possible. In this case, it seems the prudential (pragmatic) considerations slip over into the moral category, making it somewhat dicey to separate the two with a clean break.
If it's #2 that you mean, I guess you could say I'm a pragmatist. But make no mistake: I’m not embracing “pragmatism as a philosophical stance. Rather, as Penner points out, my pragmatism
“rests on the objective principle of saving the lives we can. This is very good, solid objective universal ethics. And why should we continue to sacrifice innocent lives when we can save them from waiting for some ideal possible solution we don't know will ever happen?”Well, there's some food for your weekend thought…