Monday, April 21, 2014

I'm Personally Opposed To Abortion, But I Won't Force My Views On You

Recently Frank Coleman, the incoming Premier of NL, released a statement clarifying his pro-life views. I think a succinct summary of his position is that he is personally opposed to abortion and marches each year in the March for Life in Corner Brook. (That is, in fact, why he is branded an “anti-choicer.”) But he goes on further in his statement to say that he does not intend to impose his views on anyone else.

This posting presents two critiques on the Coleman position, one often espoused by political candidates. The first is by Dr. Peter Kreeft and the second is by Mark Crutcher (see video at end of posting).

Peter Kreeft, moral philosopher at Boston College, tells us why the “I’m Personally Opposed, But” (IPOB) argument falls flat when politicians try to use it to find a safe place in the abortion debate.

The full audio is here.

The conclusion of this argument is, of course, that if it's always wrong to deliberately kill an innocent person, and if abortion deliberately kills an innocent person, then abortion is always wrong. Always. Just as rape is always wrong. There's an addition to the argument, a third premise that you can add, that brings it into the social, political, and legal area. Some people will say, "There's nothing wrong with this argument, but I still don't want to legally force my views on people who don't agree with me. I'm personally opposed to abortion, but I wouldn't make it illegal."

An innocent person is killed

So, why do I also believe not only that it is immoral, but that it ought to be illegal? Not everything that's immoral ought to be illegal. The structure of legal reasoning has a moral premise, but then it has a legal premise. If a thing is not morally bad, we don't want to prohibit it by law. But some things are morally bad that we don't want to prohibit by law. Maybe smoking is morally bad, maybe it's irresponsible. I don't think there should be a law against smoking. Maybe not wearing a seatbelt is bad, irresponsible. I don't know whether it's a good idea or not, but I'm sympathetic to those that say there shouldn't be a law about seatbelts. I don't think smoking marijuana's a good idea, but I'm not sure whether illegalizing it is a good idea or not; maybe so, maybe not.

So, you have to add a legal premise to the moral premise, to get a conclusion that this thing that is morally ought also to be legally prohibited. All right, so what's the purpose of law? Law is to protect people. If law doesn't do that minimal job, it's not doing anything. Law has to at least protect the innocent and weak against the guilty and strong. Nobody seriously maintains that there shouldn't be laws against theft, rape, or slavery, because those are clearly cases of misusing human beings, oppression. Well, the legal premise that can be added to this argument is that the law must protect the rights of the innocent and weak against the powerful and strong. Well, if abortion is killing a person, and if that person is innocent and weak, shouldn't he be protected?

I used to call myself a liberal, back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement, because I was on the side of the poor, the oppressed. Blacks and women and the poor, and they had to be liberated. They had equal rights, they were the little guy. I still feel that way, very strongly. And that's precisely the reason why now I vote—and now I'm going to say an obscenity I suppose at Wellesley —Republican. There are a lot of things I don't like about Republicans, but at least they don't justify this slaughter. I think I'm against capital punishment too, and I agree with the liberals there. I tend to be very suspicious of conservatives because they don't show a sensitivity to conserving things like the environment. But those issues pale in significance if abortion is what I just described, if it is the legalized murder of a million of our children every year. So, that's a judgment call.

Why be "personally opposed" if it is not murder?

"I'm personally opposed, but I wouldn't want to make it illegal." That sounds a little bit like Pontius Pilate: "I'm personally opposed to crucifying innocent people, but on the other hand, I wash my hands of responsibility here." That's almost like saying, "I'm personally opposed to slavery, but I'm pro-choice. If you want to have slaves, go ahead." I want to ask one of these politicians, "Why are you personally opposed to abortion? Is it because you believe that abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent person. If not, why are you personally opposed to abortion? It's just, it's yucky? Like you're personally opposed to yogurt?" If abortion doesn't kill a human life, I agree with the pro-choicers: it is an intolerable oppression of women's freedom and women's bodies to tell them what to do. If that's their body and not somebody else's body, you have no right to tell them what to do. But if it's somebody else's body, they have no right to kill that other person.


Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics in the USA

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