Saturday, January 27, 2018

Why Gender Justice Does Not Justify Abortion

                It seems to me that the main justification for the pro-choice position is from the need for gender justice. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains, “Also in the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course… her ability to stand in relation to man, society, and the state as an independent, self-sustaining, equal citizen” [“Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade,” in The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. Louis P. Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1994), 124]. She holds that the Court ought to have included in Roe an argument concerning gender-based classification, for it, along with reproductive autonomy, “influences the opportunity women will have to participate as men’s full partners in the nation’s social, political, and economic life” (Ibid., 119). Many defenders of the pro-choice position reason this way, including Justice Harry Blackmun, Alison M. Jaggar, Catherine MacKinnon, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and Kate Michelman.

            Philosophically, the argument is not difficult to refute. Would pursuing an economic or political opportunity justify killing one’s two year old daughter? Of course not, pro-choice people would surely agree. S/he thinks this is a bad analogy because the unborn are not fully human persons. But that is the very question at issue in the abortion debate. The pro-choicer is begging the question rather than making an argument that the unborn are not human persons.

            But if the argument is that easy to refute logically, why is it so influential today? Understanding the theory behind it may help answer this question. The ethical theory is act-utilitarianism, which says that a person’s action is justified by its bringing about greater happiness, in this case by providing her with equal access to socio-economic and political opportunities. The end justifies the means.

This reasoning has fatal flaws. You cannot know your or your offspring’s future, whether actual or possible. History is replete with examples of people who regretted past decisions or who were relieved that they did not do something they had considered doing.

Also, David DeGrazia, Thomas Mappes, and Jeffrey Brand-Ballard point out that act-utilitarianism seems unable to coexist with the notion of human rights [Biomedical Ethics, 7th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2010), 12]. One of the common arguments for enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo Bay was that these methods used on high-level terrorists could potentially save many lives by finding out about planned terrorist attacks. This is a utilitarian argument that many, especially on the liberal end of the political spectrum, rejected, for the prisoners have rights as human beings. By the same reasoning, one could justify killing an older, unhappy couple to relieve them of their unhappiness.  Or one could frame an innocent person on a capital offense to avoid deadly rioting.

Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen explain why it is that rights cannot coexist with any utilitarian or consequentialist ethic.

Within any such ethic, there will always be human beings who are dispensable, who must be sacrificed for the greater good. Utilitarianism fails in a radical way to respect the dignity and rights of individual human beings. For it treats the greater good, a mere aggregate of all the interests or pleasures or preferences of individuals, as the good of supreme worth and value, and it demands that nothing stand in the way of its pursuit. The utilitarian thus cannot believe, except as a convenient fiction, in human rights or in actions that may never be done to people, regardless of the consequences [Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, 2nd edition. Kindle version (New York: Doubleday, 2011), loc. 1420].

Michael Tooley, Alison Jaggar’s colleague at the University of Colorado, who also defends abortion, sees the problem. “It seems to me very doubtful that the broadly consequentialist considerations that Alison advances would suffice to show that legal protection of that right [i.e., the unborn right to life] is not justified” [Michael Tooley et al., Abortion: Three Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 184].

            But pro-choice people who use the utilitarian gender justice argument base their demand for such justice on the human rights of women. Thus, they have a contradiction right at the heart of their thinking on abortion. You can either embrace utilitarianism or human rights, not both.

            I doubt that the persistence of the gender justice argument is animated by loyalty to utilitarian theory. Rather, the utilitarian gender justice argument is a species of Marxist proletarian morality, the notion that whatever helps the oppressed (the proletariat) in their class struggle against the oppressors (the bourgeoisie) is right. Abortion helps women in their struggle against a male-dominated society and thus must be allowed by law, otherwise the legal system stands against equality. Deleonist socialists make just that argument (see “The Abortion Issue: A Socialist View,” accessed January 18, 2018,

My oldest daughter just received a significant scholarship to attend Northwest University, a conservative Christian school. I am profoundly grateful that Northwest judged her on her merits as a student and did not discriminate against her based on gender. I know that many women around the world do not enjoy such treatment. There is much to be done to secure the rights of women and girls worldwide. But there are right and wrong ways to do so, and zeal must not continue to lead us to oppress one group of people for the sake of another, which is exactly what is happening if pro-lifers are correct that the unborn are distinct, living, whole human persons. Everything we have argued against utilitarianism stands against proletarian morality. And Marxism’s history is stained with the blood of over one hundred million people whose deaths were justified by the ends. With 60 million unborn Americans and 1.4 billion people worldwide having been exterminated through abortion, the unjust history of Marxist utilitarianism continues. People deserve better because all of us, regardless of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, have an unalienable right to life.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How To Get Away With Murder (By Holding The Poor Hostage)

Today I would like to briefly address one of the worst defenses of abortion that is given, and of Planned Parenthood more specifically. It is a common talking point by celebrities and lay-persons alike, but it is one with virtually no substance. In fact, it is really a barbaric statement when it is reasoned to it's logical implications.

                                                     (Photo Credit: Dank Pro-life Memes)

The claim goes like this: "Planned Parenthood should continue to get federal funding, since they provide a lot of services for poor Americans, especially women and minorities, that they wouldn't get elsewhere. Plus, abortion is only three percent of what they do!"

I had this stated to me repeatedly(and quite loudly) by a student during a pro-life outreach with Students for Life of America in the San Diego area late last year. She was outraged at the material on the display, which quoted the statistics found in the Planned Parenthood annual report.

Now, aside from the dispute over where lower-income Americans can go to get quality healthcare(It's a flat out lie that PP is the only organization in the nation that does provide these services, or will provide them in the future. A quick google search of local health care centers will prove that), the assertion also makes a fatal flaw: It "begs the question"; that is, it simply assumes that abortion is not the intentional killing of an innocent human being.

To show how this mistake happens, let's pretend for a moment that a local hospital purposely killed a certain percentage of it's patients in the pediatrics ward. If parents decide that their toddler is too much of a burden for them to take care of, they can have their toddler killed by the hospital staff, with no risk to the parents, whether medically, financially, or legally. To take this thought experiment a step further, suppose the hospital staff is caught dismembering the toddlers, and selling their body parts for profit to medical and research firms.

Would there be outrage? You'd better hope there would be.

Now imagine that after all of this outrage, the hospital's PR department states that since the facility provides free, life-saving healthcare for the poor members of the community, then the state health department would essentially be "killing the poor" by shutting down the hospital in order to end the killing of toddlers(Which seems to be the hospital's primary mission.)

In this case, the hospital PR department has essentially tried to get away with murder by holding the poor hostage. It's like a criminal telling a victim of his crime, "Don't go to the police, or else your loved ones will die." Should any reasonable person go on to defend such an action? Not if they were committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us.

It should be obvious that Planned Parenthood doesn't even care about the poor, no matter how emotional they are in the media. Especially when President Donald Trump offered to continue federal funding to them if they stopped their abortion "services", they refused.(This is not a post to defend President Trump; it is merely to make a point). It should be plainly obvious to anyone who values truth over easy to get sex: An organization that supposedly cares for the "poor and downtrodden" will only do so if it gives them leverage in the public square. No one committed to justice should support such a behavior.

In conclusion, the arguments given in favor of Planned Parenthood can only be morally justified if the unborn are not human. Because if the unborn are in fact human(And the evidence shows they are), then we have a literal case of an organization that is getting away with murder, by attempting to hold large numbers of the population hostage. It's amazing that anyone who is firmly committed to justice would be even remotely open to the idea that the poor and underserved could be used as a bargaining tool for political gain.

Monday, January 1, 2018

How The Christian Story Gives Life, Gender, and Sexuality Meaning

This week I was able to complete the newest book by Houston Baptist University professor Nancy Peacey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality.

In her typical style, professor Pearcey takes the worldviews of the most hotly debated topics in our society today(Life ethics and sexual ethics) and relegates them in a way that is both understandable, yet still accurately conveys the philosophies behind the issues. She then goes on to argue for why the Christian worldview makes the most sense of the issues themselves(such as the importance and meaning of human life) in a way that doesn't lose the sense of urgency behind many topics.

She takes on each topic in individual chapters, where she then breaks down the topic into a number of sub-sections, each of which is jam-packed with the insight that she carries with her everywhere she goes. Starting with the issue of abortion, she takes on the underlying philosophies of many of the key thinkers on the pro-choice side of the issue; mainly, the sort of "dualism" that drives many arguments in favor of abortion: The fetal being may in fact be human, but not in the sort of sense that we are obligated to care for and protect.

This argument has been articulated by a number of thinkers in a variety of ways(Thinkers like Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Mary Anne Warren, and others) have all argued that it is certain key functions that will give a human being value that is to be respected by society at large.

However, this view has a number of fatal flaws, the biggest and most apparent Nancy highlights in in her section on the issue: We now have no basis for fundamental human rights, and thus, human equality is a myth for the ash heap of history.

Nancy suggests an alternative that is worthy of consideration: The only grounds for affirming the most famous line from the Declaration of Independence, that "All Men Are Created Equal"(Nevermind if the founders didn't live up to this at all times. If the statement were to be rejected on that ground, we would have no standard to measure the founders life decisions up to) is best rooted in the idea of a Creator. Nancy argues that the Christian story provides not only the best explanation for human value, but for why we know humans are special kinds of beings with value in the first place.

She moves on to other topics in the later sections of the book, in particular, the implications of the sexual revolution in the West. Her chapter on the so-called "hookup culture" is particularly insightful, in that this cultural practice explains many of the biggest problems our society faces today.

Not only does professor Pearcey highlight the pain that "hooking up" for one night stands(having sex with someone that a person is not remotely interested in, other than for sexual interaction) brings to many young people, she goes on to argue for the Biblical worldview of sexual intimacy as having the most meaning when it comes to the question of sex. One segment of the chapter is a particularly insightful one: She gives an overview of the sexual ethic of the ancient Roman culture that the New Testament was written in, including the segments written regarding marriage and romance. In many circles today(Especially modern feminist circles), the Christian ethic as outlined in the New Testament by Paul and others is considered "anti-woman" and repressive.

However, as Nancy highlights, the Roman sexual ethic was not, in any way, "pro-woman", pro-child, or even pro-man. Surveying historical analysis of the time, it is noted that sexual interaction was a form of prestige, and men within society would have many sexual partners, regardless of the approval of their spouses. Women weren't even given a voice that was acceptable by the broader culture(There is a reason why many historians are astounded that the first witnesses in the Gospel accounts to the risen Jesus were women; Crafting a new religion to purposely woo the people would never have included such an embarrassing detail).

Enter in the Christian story. When Paul writes to the New Testament church that husbands should "Love their wives as Christ loves the church, and gave himself up for her"(Ephesians 5:25), he is saying something truly special: The Christian sexual ethic not only calls on men to show love to the women they are married to(Which Roman culture ignored the needs of women), but to love in a way that is self-sacrificing and other-centered. Far from a culture built on legalism, "chastity belts", and fear, the Christian sexual ethic gives the deepest purpose and meaning to the love expressed within a marriage between a husband and wife, by using marriage(and other non-romantic relationships as well) to give humankind a picture of the love behind all of reality: The love of the Creator for His creation.

In conclusion, Nancy's book couldn't be any more timely. With growing cultural tensions, and with subjects like abortion, assisted suicide, sex and homosexuality, and gender identity coming directly into the living rooms of America, there are at least three groups of people who would most benefit from her book:

1. Parents: Many Christian parents are unsure of how to instruct their children in the matters addressed in the book. With Queer Feminist theory(and the worldviews behind it) and explicit sexual material making their way into even elementary age schools, many parents are at a loss of how to give their kids a way to think about the subjects being taught. While this book is most assuredly not appropriate for younger audiences, it can help parents start teaching their children how the Christian worldview makes the most sense of our world, and the issues surrounding us.

2. Christian college students: Unfortunately, many Christian students are woefully unprepared for the constant barrage of worldviews that are thrown at them as soon as they step onto a college campus. From freshman orientation onward, worldviews such as postmodernism, Marxism, secular humanism, and sexual libertarianism are being practically(and, at some schools, even literally) shouted on street corners and from rooftops. When I first attended my school, CSU San Marcos, during the transfer student orientation, several of the women's studies professors encouraged the students to chant "Consent is Hot; Assault is Not" multiple times, and jokingly stated that even having "two or more" sex partners in bed at once was acceptable, as long as everyone agreed to be involved. These kinds of statements can make the task of not only living out one's Christian faith on campus seem daunting, but having a thriving relationship with Christ that is a public witness can seem almost impossible. I would recommend, not only read this book before the school semester starts, but master it. Detailed margin notes, highlights, and unreadable pages from underlining are a must.

3. Pro-life advocates: A popular slogan of the United States Army is to "Train how you'll fight", and pro-life work is no exception. Unfortunately, I have noticed that many pro-life advocates can end up on the "front lines" under-equipped for the worldviews they will encounter when on the streets. This book will change that. Pro-life advocates will be equipped to understand not only the viewpoints of those they will meet who are defending an abortion-choice viewpoint, but also will be ready to respond with grace, truth, and compassion when needed most.

Love Thy Body hits bookstore shelves tomorrow nationwide, and I would argue, this is the most important book for Christians to pick up in the New Year of 2018.