Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Terribly Sad, but Not Justification [Jay]

This article by Rowan Pelling for the Telegraph is well meaning, heartfelt, and completely misses the point. She is writing simultaneously the day before she goes for a 20-week check up on her unborn child and during the week of the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act in Great Britain. She shares several scenarios where friends or acquaintances were forced into a dilemma where they had to choose between a poorly timed pregnancy and some other option that was gut wrenching and terrible. For example:

"Take the young woman whose mentally unstable boyfriend said he would kill himself if she continued with her pregnancy, or the wife who felt it would be injurious to her own health and her familial responsibilities to have another child in her late forties?"

I have no doubt that these situations were emotionally trying and difficult. That said, is she arguing that the emotional instability of the father gives us sufficient cause to terminate the life of an innocent human being? Does she believe that a woman who is pregnant at an unusually advanced age is morally justified in destroying innocent human life, much less the life of her own child? She must believe so, because barring the acknowledged humanity and value of the unborn it is completely unnecessary to justify abortion at all. If the unborn life does not matter and has no value as a being, then you do not have to come up with such compelling arguments to defend legalized abortion. If the unborn human life is intrinsically valuable, then the examples, though difficult, are nowhere near the neighborhood of compelling enough.

How about these?

“What about a friend of mine who fell pregnant when she had just started her own company and knew her colleagues' jobs and investors' return depended on her being chained to her desk for the next two years?

I know of several families where three or four children arrived in almost as many years and the parents felt an already strained marriage couldn't survive a precipitous extra arrival.”

Do you see the insanity that is underlying in these anecdotes? They appeal to emotion, but they create a system that is terribly dangerous. My coworkers will suffer financially if I do not abort this unexpected life?! Well that is life in the grown up world people. We lose jobs (believe me I know), the market changes, economies go in the tank, and people unexpectedly leave positions which results in income loss and unemployment for others. That is what we call life. What it is not is justification for ending the life of an innocent unborn human. As for the marriage, are you seriously suggesting that destroying children is a morally acceptable path to marital reconciliation? Why not kill some of the ones that you already have? If getting rid of the unborn life is helpful, think of how much more helpful picking off one of the older ones will be. Pick the one you like the least. If you think I am being ridiculous and insensitive then tell me why it is any different. Because the older child is alive? So is the unborn child. Because the older child is a person? Now we are getting to the point. As Scott would say, AHHH! Then if the unborn child is also a person/human being with intrinsic value, it is equally wrong to kill them as well. This means the emotional anecdotes are really not helpful. They may tell us why people have abortions, but they never explain why it is morally right or even acceptable for them to do so.

Here is the strange logic of the pro choicer in all its glory, though. In the same article she writes both of the following:

“Women who have abortions for social rather than medical reasons also often face tough dilemmas. While I don't doubt there are a small number of callow young females who will abort a foetus with less thought than they give to their manicure, I have yet to meet or hear of one.”


“All the women involved in these cases revered the miracle of life, but they also had to acknowledge the miracle of getting pregnant when you're, variously, on the Pill, using a condom, having a period or over 45. The consequences of owning a womb and wanting a sex-life aren't always tidy.”

These women revere life and she has never heard of a woman so insensitive as to not agonize over the need for her abortion. But then later she writes:

“The scale of public disquiet over the hideous irony of killing 24-week-old babies in one ward while trying to save them in another demonstrates a widespread demand to engage with the ethical dilemmas.

Although I am theoretically pro-choice, I was horrified by this weekend's statistics detailing foetuses aborted in the South-West between 2002 and 2005 for having club feet (54) and extra or webbed digits (26).”

Why so horrified? Why the scale of public disquiet? Because no matter how much we want it to be otherwise, abortion is a bloody awful mess. Emotions run high and lives are irrevocably changed by unexpected children, but we must stop being a people that sees permanently killing life as an answer to temporary problems. We need it legal for the really tough cases, and then also if the child is physically inferior, and in case it disrupts my financial planning, and if it is a girl and I wanted a boy, and ah hell I just don’t want to have a baby. Let me have sex and live free. The callousness grows because without extreme justification, all of these decisions are in the same moral family. And Rowan just does not get that point.


  1. John List had his compelling reasons for shooting his entire family dead. As long as we look only at John's anguish, and not at the bloody corposes of his wife, children, and elderly mother, we can sympathize with him.

    But he loses our sympathy the moment he pulls the trigger.

    Certainly wanting to escape a bad situation is understandable, and evokes our sympathy. But the moment you decide that somebody else's death is your escape hatch, you've overstepped the line.

  2. Beautifully put, Jay. These arguments are the hardest to answer for those of us whose heart wants to agree. You do an outstanding service in demonstrating why we should lead with our heads.

    Thanks ...


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