A Further Thought

(Originally I called this post “A Final Thought”, but I figure there’s always more to say on this subject.)

What are we lacking right now? Are women who get abortions lacking support systems and help, from pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike?

Or do we lack people who are willing to yell “Repent, for you have sinned!”

If your answer is the same as mine you understand why I’m much more concerned with calling spades murderers rather than victims.

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14 Responses to A Further Thought

  1. Syllabus says:

    My knee-jerk impulse is to say “both”, with the caveat that I don’t have any stats to substantiate the claim that many women who seek abortions lack the social capital they deem necessary to sustain the child and themselves through the pregnancy and the raising of the child.

    The problem I see with the latter is not that it’s a wrong position to take. It’s the correct one. Abortion is the intentional taking of an innocent human life, and therefore sinful. Saying “Repent, sinner!” will work on people with a background assumption that there are these things called “sins”, and abortion is one of them, and therefore they ought to feel compunction about considering it or undertaking one. But it won’t serve as a deterrent to someone who lacks that understanding. A warning, an exhortation, maybe. But I doubt that it’ll deter someone who doesn’t grok the concept of sin.

    I think that if we’re in the business of wanting to extirpate abortion, a substantial part of the necessary project is certainly using the “Don’t sin” message, but we’ve also got to use the other method. Because, quite frankly, I think that civil society is in such a state of disrepair currently that a non-trivial amount of women do think — and rightly — that they haven’t got the resources necessary to bring up a child, and consequently — but wrongly — think that they’ve no choice but to abort a child when they get themselves pregnant. Does that mean it’s not sinful? Nope. Still sinful. Still awful. But in some cases it’s a sin borne out of perceived necessity (akin to, say, Fantine’s prostitution), as opposed to, say, the career woman who has frequent and multiple sexual partners and then aborts because she doesn’t want to be a mother. Those are distinct cases.

    So if we want to prevent a sin generally, there are (at least) two[1] ways to do it. First, admonish the person considering the sin to not sin. If that doesn’t work, try and create conditions that would render the sin either unpalatable or no longer apparently necessary.[2] The former will usually only work with people who already accept the background required for it to work, though you can also argue them into it. But the second is also (it seems to me) a necessary component.

    None of this is to say that we should switch foci from proclaiming that abortion is immoral to being bullied into socialized medicine, large scale wealth redistribution, and so forth in the name of “stopping abortion”. It’s just saying “here are two tools that are of use in this enterprise; let’s figure out how to use each to their greatest level of effectiveness”.

    [1] I exclude a third option — constrain them not to sin — because that’s a more contentious issue, I support the illegality of abortion across the board (with the exception of something like a Fallopian tube implantation; that’s a matter for the doctrine of double effect), but it’s a slightly trickier case for immoral acts in general.

    [2] Now an obvious problem with this is that it can be used as a cudgel/blackmailing tool, and that’s a serious problem. But I don’t think it detracts from the principle.

    • I’ll put this another way. Mike T, back in the original thread, pointed out three basic scenarios – varying in degrees and all of that, but good to look at as broad categories:

      1. Those who are “loud and proud” about their abortions.
      2. Those who openly defend it, but act like it was a necessary evil.
      3. Those who admit it was the wrong choice.

      Scenario three is, if not repentance, at least a step on the way. So women who admit it’s the wrong choice are not a part of the problem I’m referring to.

      Scenario one is cut and dry.

      So the crux point is scenario two. I don’t actually disagree that we need to do other things. I don’t think prayerful sidewalk counseling and gentle conversation are bad things. I’m very much in favor of education about adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers.

      But I’m also not willing to compromise on the truth. The fact is, these women killed their children, and if we don’t tell them that’s what they did, that’s the choice they made, we’re doing them a disservice and putting ourselves firmly in the service of the Father of Lies.

      • Syllabus says:

        The fact is, these women killed their children, and if we don’t tell them that’s what they did, that’s the choice they made, we’re doing them a disservice and putting ourselves firmly in the service of the Father of Lies.

        I mean, pedantically, the abortion “doctor” did. But I understand what you mean, and mostly agree. But I think you’ll agree that there’s a certain asymmetry of culpability between someone who sins having a true belief about a scenario and someone who sins having a false belief about a scenario. So while I think that the killing of the unborn child is objectively the taking of innocent human life, and therefore carries the due amount of culpability, it differs, at least in some instances, from murder in much the way manslaughter does.

        Consider the following thought experiment: let’s say someone is playing GTA, and is running over civilians and so forth. Later he finds out that he was, unbeknownst to him, controlling a real car and running over real people. Now, he still carries a certain amount of moral culpability, I’d wager, but it’s different from someone who really was running over civilians. Both killed people, and by the same means, but there’s a difference in the act intended. The guy playing GTA still bears culpability, but it’s not culpability for the same thing that the guy running over people with intention bears.

        I think the blindspot here is that most people don’t think they can be held morally accountable for things that they didn’t directly intend. I’m inclined to think that that’s not always true, and women who abort with the idea that the unborn child isn’t — I dunno, a person, fully human, whatever — belong to that category. They’re still guilty of the intentional destruction of a human life, but not the intentional destruction of a human life as human life.

        So, yes. If we tell women who have had abortions anything other than that they are guilty of the intentional destruction of human life, we’re doing them a disservice. But I think we’re equally doing the a disservice by telling them that their actions are on a par with a common murderer.

      • I just do not believe that there is any excuse for a woman not to realize that the thing growing in her uterus after a man had sex with her is not a child.

        She wasn’t playing Ender’s Game.

      • Syllabus says:

        I just do not believe that there is any excuse for a woman not to realize that the thing growing in her uterus after a man had sex with her is not a child.

        I certainly can’t understand why they think that, but I have to ask — why do you believe that? Is it some sort of “things we can’t not know” view?I think the justifications for why the unborn child isn’t a person in the relevant sense are pretty shitty, but I don’t buy the line of “there’s no way they can honestly believe that”. Some probably don’t, sure, but I don’t see how you’ve reached that conclusion.

      • You would, in the United States, need to grow up in an environment where you don’t know what sex does and not know what pregnancy is.

        You can “honestly” believe they’re not people, but there’s got to be a layer of delusion there.

      • Crude says:

        I think the justifications for why the unborn child isn’t a person in the relevant sense are pretty shitty, but I don’t buy the line of “there’s no way they can honestly believe that”. Some probably don’t, sure, but I don’t see how you’ve reached that conclusion.

        To throw in with Malcolm a bit here: I think people can make arguments that they believed the unborn child was, in fact, not a ‘person in the relevant sense’. But they happen to be arguments that are extremely close to the ones nazis can make about jews and cripples, or why ‘All men are created equal’ just of course doesn’t apply to blacks.

      • ^Also, what Crude said.

      • Syllabus says:

        @Crude:

        But they happen to be arguments that are extremely close to the ones nazis can make about jews and cripples, or why ‘All men are created equal’ just of course doesn’t apply to blacks.

        I agree. Hence the “they’re shitty justifications” line.

        @Malcolm:

        You would, in the United States, need to grow up in an environment where you don’t know what sex does and not know what pregnancy is.

        You can “honestly” believe they’re not people, but there’s got to be a layer of delusion there.

        I don’t think your conclusion follows, because you need to show, not that the woman in question knows that the baby is human, but that he or she is a human person in all the relevant sense of the word. That’s kind of a sophistical distinction, sure, and not one with which I agree. But what you seem to mean is that, from the knowledge that the unborn child is human, the conclusion that it is at every stage of development a person in all the relevant senses of the word is not only evident upon sufficient reflection but intrinsically and intuitively evident without the need for any sustained reflection, I don’t think that follows.

        One reason for that is that I don’t share that intuition. I think that from at the very least an extremely early gestational period the unborn child is entitled to the same basic dignities a 3 year old child is. (I’m bracketing out the debates about “when does personhood start” because while I find the arguments tracing it back to conception pretty coherent, I am not entirely sure that I agree with them. Though I do think it’s at the very least a very good prudential principle to treat the zygote as if it were a foetus of 6 months.). But I don’t think that because I have this intuitive sense that it is — I think that because of philosophical and biological arguments.

        So in that sense, I don’t buy your claim that the mere fact of knowing that the end result of bumping uglies is a child entails as a necessary connection the knowledge that the unborn child has, at every stage of gestation, the same basic dignity as a 3-year-old. It’s possible that I have some sort of faculty deficiency in that regard, but I don’t think it’s a result of being deluded. Mostly because I grew up pretty pro-life (though in the “abortion is wrong” sense, not the “abortion is wrong, and here’s the metaphysical justification for why it’s wrong” sense), and so it’s hard to see where the delusion could have set in.

        Now — I do think that there’s a certain amount of the natural law that’s just intuitively evident. But I don’t think that amongst that amount is the claim “the baby is a human person in the relevant sense throughout all periods of gestation”, for the reasons I gave above. To which I will add that the fact that St Thomas didn’t think so either; he thought that the embryo did not at all times have a rational soul (De potentia, Question 3 Article 9), though because he thought it did have at least an animal soul up until a point (SCG Chapter 89) it’s probably safe to say he would have been against abortion in any event.

        My point is not that the embryo doesn’t have a rational soul, but rather that if you’re postulating that this apprehension is reached instinctively or intuitively, or even upon reflection, it seems bizarre that one of the most gifted philosophers after Christ should have failed to come upon that belief. My explanation for that would be: we get it wrong sometimes, either through faulty background information or other causes, Sometimes it’s through suppression of the knowledge of the truth, but I think it’s a stretch to say “always”. Obviously, we’ve got a good deal more scientific knowledge concerning embryology now than we did in the 13th century, but whether or not the foetus is ensouled or a person is a matter of metaphysics, not cell biology.

      • Okay. So you agree that once you actually need to have an operation to remove a fetus that looks humanoid, we’ve reached the point of no return level?

      • Syllabus says:

        So you agree that once you actually need to have an operation to remove a fetus that looks humanoid, we’ve reached the point of no return level?

        Once you’re chopping up and sucking out an unborn child, you’re definitely in “this is definitely, unambiguously sinful” level, yes. If anything I’ve said gave the opposite impression, then I expressed myself poorly.

      • All right. Like with the racial issue, I think we probably agree with essentials and are quibbling with specifics.

        I’m not really talking about the person who takes a morning after pill (though the person who does that over and over with no qualms whatsoever probably does have SOMETHING off with their moral sense), but the person who actually gets an abortive procedure.

  2. Crude says:

    Or do we lack people who are willing to yell “Repent, for you have sinned!”

    I think we lack a lot of things.

    We lack the nerve to tell women that their rotten decisions are both rotten, and many times, largely their own fault.

    We lack the perspective that would make us realize that a woman who will get an abortion if she faces any criticism whatsoever is culpable for her acts.

    We lack the cultural wherewithal to be critical of our own friends and family members, especially our children.

  3. Chad says:

    Of course a woman is culpable for the act of killing her child.

    Knowing what murder is, and knowing what sex and offspring are, are knowledge that is naturally obtained without effort. Simply living does the trick, and even those with incredibly low IQs and all lack of wisdom grasp it (besides the faithful religious, they have some of the most children)

    To deny those things takes active effort to reprogram your beliefs, thinking, and morals. It takes a hardening of heart that is years in the making. It simply is a hardened heart that is hard to see, because it hides its death behind a guise of pragmatic niceness.

    Every step of the rationalization process is in control of the person. Why woulf we -NOT hold them culpable when they’re the ones responsible for creating the very mess that allows them to become eaters of the flesh of their children?

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