Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Abortion and Truth

I've got to admit, this recent article from Time about McCain and Obama on the abortion issue had me smiling--wryly, but smiling. It's either that or cry, when you read stuff like this:
Which is why McCain's much cleaner answer may come back to haunt him. It's not just that a majority of Americans favor at least limited access to legal abortion. (I've seen polls suggesting that a substantial minority of Americans thinks McCain himself is pro-choice, which is a natural mistake given his maverick image. Will independents like him less when they learn more?) McCain's construction that life begins "at the moment of conception" opens a whole new set of questions. There is a world of mystery in what transpires between the moment when egg meets sperm and the point of implantation, when that fertilized egg nestles into the uterus and begins to grow. [...]

Consider the obvious implications if rights attain the moment the egg and sperm meet: all kinds of embryo research become questionable, starting with the stem-cell research McCain says he favors. Couples who undergo in vitro fertilization and then choose not to implant all the embryos are surely violating the rights of those that are discarded or frozen. Some forms of contraception, such as IUDs and the morning-after pill, would presumably be illegal if they affect the ability of an egg to implant. Abortion opponents contend that the birth control pill itself, while designed to prevent ovulation so no egg is fertilized in the first place, may also have the effect of blocking implantation of any egg that sneaks through. Suddenly, a whole range of reproductive choices comes into question.
To that second paragraph there is only one proper response--but how can I phrase it politely? Um, no digestive system waste product, Famous Arthur Conan Doyle character? ;)

That's the whole point, silly pro-choicers. Reproduction involves the creation of new life. Making choices before engaging in the act likely to lead to reproduction is morally permissible, provided that the choices are moral (pre-marital abstinence, marital use of NFP or other morally permissible means of spacing children, marital acceptance of and love and care for the children who naturally result) and not immoral (sex outside marriage, contraception, serial divorce with its impact on children, etc.).

But making "reproductive choices" when reproduction is already a fait accompli is just code for "killing the unborn child we weren't prepared to accept despite the fact that we were engaging in the act known to lead to reproduction." And making "reproductive choices" that involve IFV and embryo manipulation will always be immoral, because the child is deprived of his/her natural right to come into being as a result of his/her parent's marital embrace, instead being objectified and manufactured in a lab as if he/she were a merely material product with no inherent rights or dignity of his/her own.

And it's that, the objectification of the unborn human, treating the child as if he is his mother's property to kill or not as she chooses, or to manufacture, or to avoid artificially through contraception, which has always been the motivation behind pro-life objections to abortion. We do oppose abortifacient birth control methods (and non-abortifacient, too, though for different reasons). We do oppose IVF. We oppose any so-called "reproductive choice" that directly and intentionally ends the life of a developing human being in the womb. And we always have.

Perhaps these new public discussions of life issues will bring a moment of clarity to those who are vaguely "pro-choice" who have never examined the moral incoherence of their position, and the firm consistency of ours. If we don't begin with the premise that all human beings are worthy of life from conception to natural death, we end with mushy relativism--and relativism is always surprised to discover the existence of truth.


Anonymous said...

I'm just amazed that the Time article managed to connect the dots and figure out the implications of life beginning at conception!

I've often thought that it's only the Catholic Church and the really rabid pro-choicers who are consistent in their positions. The difference is that biology clearly points to the position of the Church, and the pro-choice position has to argue that a fetus isn't really a human.

--Elizabeth B.

eulogos said...

But do you think we ought to aim to pass laws that would make IUD's and even the pill, illegal?

The law before R v W did not make these things illegal.

If R v W were repealed and everything went back to the state legislatures, you are not going to get "from the moment the sperm joins the egg" laws passed anytime soon.

In fact laws against abortion past the first trimester, with exceptions for rape,incest, and situations which threaten the life of the mother (hopefully not 'life and health') would probably be the best one could do even in conservative states. Later we might get laws which prohibit even in the first trimester with these exceptions. It is hard to imagine getting anything through which legalized full human status and rights from the moment of conception. Not in my lifetime, probably not even in the lifetime of younger readers here.

But, would you, if you could, aim at laws protecting the embryo from the first moment, which would make the IUD and the pill illegal?

Would you make those illegal, but continue to allow "non lethal" forms of contraception? Or do you think we also need to overturn Griswold?

Just curious.
Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

As a Catholic, Susan, I'd like to see all abortifacient contraception outlawed first, and then all non-abortifacient contraception on the grounds that it contributes to societal delinquency. I'd have no problem being upfront about that being my goal, either.

But as a citizen I know I'd have to be realistic. Certainly I think abortifacient contraception ought to be outlawed should abortion be outlawed, though I know it might take a considerable time to achieve any social consensus on that.

But demography is destiny, as a smart gentleman I know says. Sooner or later the people who don't and won't use contraception will outnumber those who do and will, and then it might be possible to make it illegal. We're talking in terms of generations, of course, not election cycles.