Sunday, November 09, 2003

I realized this morning that I don’t have to take my niece to Columbus today. I’ll have to do it tomorrow, but a day’s reprieve is always good news.

Anyway, today I’m going to do something a little different. While I’m a person generally very interested in politics, and someone who talks about politics quite a lot, this blog has been traditionally pretty apolitical. Still, I’ve had a lot of conversations about a certain topic recently, for whatever reason, and I think I want to try to synthesize my thinking into something more resembling a statement than a defense.

So: Abortion. It’s no secret that I’m pretty pro-life. My thinking on the topic has evolved over time, particularly back when I was a regular on the old Politics board on AOL, before it got overran because of AOL’s lousy advertising policies. And while I can make arguments regarding the legality of abortion, about Roe v. Wade, and can do so relatively effectively, I won’t here because I don’t find it very effective when talking to normal people about the subject.

Moral arguments aren’t particularly convincing to people who don’t share your moral system, and I don’t suppose that most people reading this blog share mine. But I will still make a general appeal to morality. There are very few people in the world who call for universal abortion. Very few people like the idea of using abortion as birth control, for instance. The reason is that there’s something about abortion that makes people uncomfortable. Deep in the pits of our stomachs, we can feel that there’s something wrong with killing the unborn.

And even people who have abortions, presumably people willing to overlook what they imagine to be temporary moral conflict, have to deal with guilt over having had them which lasts over the rest of their lifetime. One of the first questions a psychologist will ask a woman in her forties, particularly a childless woman in her forties, if they are depressed, is whether or not she’s had an abortion in her past. The guilt and pain that abortion causes women is horrible and often disfiguring.

The corollary argument, of course, is that adoption causes women guilt and pain as well. Any time a women becomes pregnant with an unwanted child, there’s bound to be anguish, I think. But there’s less pain associated with adoption. You’ve given your child a chance for a life with a family that loves him, and there’s comfort in that. There’s no comfort in knowing that you’ve killed your child, for any reason whatsoever, particularly if you’re reasoning is that the child is inconvenient.

Many would argue at this point that it should be a woman’s decision whether or not she’d prefer undergoing the pain of raising an unwanted child, the pain of giving a child up for adoption, or the pain of aborting the child. But I would disagree. And while I stated earlier that I wouldn’t make much of a legal argument, this is the one instance in which I’ll indulge myself. The state has a compelling interest in reproduction, and one of the rights guaranteed to us in our constitution is that of life.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Roe v. Wade decision did not decide that an embryo or a fetus is not a person. Though it’s a common tactic of pro-abortion factions to dehumanize the unborn, scientifically, the embryo and fetus is as human as the newborn or the teenaged or the adult. Roe v. Wade upheld this view. It argued that the state had a more compelling interest in protecting the mother’s right to privacy than it did in protecting the child’s right to life. This is an interesting conclusion most notably because there is no constitutional right to privacy. There is no privacy amendment whatsoever. And while an argument can be made for a “right to privacy” based on a reading of the amendments, en masse, and collecting several which seem to promise “privacy” in one sense or another, there’s no evidence that this right of privacy would extend to a woman’s womb or that it could possibly be more compelling than a child’s clearly stated right to life. The “right to privacy” would promise, for instance, that no one could trespass on your land, not that you could privately terminate your pregnancy without consequence.

The biological argument, that the unborn is less human than the born, does not stand up under scrutiny. As the father of modern genetics, Jerome LeJeune, said: “If a fertilized egg is not by itself a full human being, it could never become a man, because something would have to be added to it, and we know that does not happen.” Arguments based on the sentience of the child are not scientific, but moral arguments. And such arguments are double edged swords. Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer is famous for advocating post-birth “abortions” for women based on his belief that newborns aren’t self-aware and are therefore “non-persons.” The man generally seen as Singer’s primary opponent, fellow Princeton professor Robert George, a devout Catholic, largely agrees with Singer’s assessment of sentience in the unborn and the newly born, calling Singer a challenge to people who are pro-abortion but not pro-infanticide. George has said: "Both Singer and I see very clearly that abortion and infanticide are the same thing. They're both the killing of a human being in the early stage of that human being's development. We both see that if abortion is justified, then infanticide is justified. And we both see that if infanticide is unjustified, then abortion is unjustified."

Historically, abortion has been viewed differently in different cultures at different times. Nevertheless, the Hippocratic Oath bans it. Meanwhile, on the opposing spectrum, Roman law allowed even born infants to be exposed and left to die if the paterfamilias decided it was in the family’s best interest not to raise the child. St. Thomas Aquinas allowed for abortion until “ensoulment,” a process he believed to occur at six months into the pregnancy. The Didache banned abortion universally at any stage. But I’m unaware of any culture which ever considered abortion, pre-birth or post, a great good. Ostensibly, any culture which did so would be a culture that didn’t last very long. Cultures which have allowed for abortion have done so apologetically. The same Roman law which allowed for the exposure of infants banned the execution of pregnant women until they had given birth and banned the burying of dead women until it was clear that they would not still bring forth children. The Romans, like modern American law, never claimed that the unborn weren’t children. They claimed that it was okay for a person in authority to take the life of their subordinates. In the Roman case, the paterfamilias could expose an infant or take the life of his disobedient teenage son; in the American case, a mother can take the life of her unborn child – though, we’re too squeamish to follow through with the natural extension of this logic: the ultimate power of life and death of a parent over their child. The Romans, and Peter Singer, are more logically consistent than modern American law.

Those who share Peter Singer’s logic on abortion share a view of life that most Americans would decry. And rightfully so, because we’ve seen, even in the last century, where Singer’s logic leads us. It leads to Holocaust. I’m not the sort who makes broad emotional appeals to Nazism when I think something is disgusting. The fact that Hitler ate toast, or went to high school, doesn’t make toast consumption or high school attendance heinous. But Hitler’s view of human life, that some human beings have a compelling right to life, and that other human beings – people which are physically human, but with whom Hitler had some moral qualm – have no right to life because they are subhumans, or as Singer calls them “non-persons,” is directly linked to the Holocaust. Hitler didn’t begin his campaign of death by murdering Jews, though his argument that Jews were subhumans is akin to many pro-abortionist arguments toward infants. But rather instead, he started by killing off what he termed “useless eaters,” people who didn’t contribute physically to society because of physical or mental disability. Singer shares Hitler’s view and advocates a platform of eugenics because of it. Both Hitler and Singer, and anyone else who dubs abortion acceptable, advocate mass slaying based on social utility. I’m not saying that pro-choicers are miniature Hitlers. But all Germans during the second World War weren’t miniature Hitlers either. But they helped to bring about the Holocaust because they wouldn’t oppose those who would destroy innocent human life.

I believe that abortion is wrong and that it should be made illegal. I don’t argue that this will bring about a utopia of happy families, or that it will eliminate pain due to unwanted pregnancies. I don’t dispute that abortions will still take place, ostensibly in dangerous back alley operations, and that this is a very bad thing. My argument is that making abortion illegal will discourage abortion, and will make abortions far less frequent. Logical consistency requires that we protect all human life or that we do not protect human life at all. People know that abortion is wrong, deep down, and that’s why you’ll rarely hear anyone argue that abortion is an acceptable means of birth control. It’s why even Peter Singer spends thousands of dollars caring for his non-person mother, a woman afflicted by Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s why we recoil when we hear about the human toll of the Holocaust.

Morality requires that we oppose abortion. It requires that we do whatever we can to discourage it, including making abortion illegal. We must listen to our conscience. And if we don’t, history will remember our sin.