A few days ago, Victor Reppert posted one of his morally and intellectually muddleheaded musings on abortion.
“If Roe v. Wade is a mistake, what is the mistake?”
Basically, two mistakes:
i) It was a mistake for the proabortion justices to pretend that our Constitution even speaks to the issue of abortion, one way or the other. The Constitution is silent on abortion.
ii) It was also a mistaken for justices to think they have the prerogative to set social policy for the nation. The Constitution doesn’t accord them that prerogative.
“Conservative jurisprudence says Griswold went wrong in affirming a right to privacy, since it doesn't say p-r-i-v-a-c-y in the constitution.”
Where does Reppert come up with these rampant caricatures, anyway? Does he get his information from reading what the Huffington Post says about conservative jurisprudence? But, of course, Reppert is incapable of honestly representing a position he disagrees with.
i) The issue is not whether a specific word occurs in the Constitution. In theory, the concept of a right to privacy could be present in the Constitution even if the Constitution never used the word “p-r-i-v-a-c-y.”
ii) In theory, a right to privacy could be logically implicit rather than explicit in the Constitution.
iii) In addition, conservative jurisprudence takes legislative intent into consideration when ascertaining original intent, such as floor debates at the Constitutional Convention. Or the Federalist/Anti-Federalist papers.
iv) Moreover, conservative jurisprudence would take into account the cultural assumptions of the day, such as preexisting Colonial statutes.
v) Furthermore, conservative jurisprudence would also consider the intent of the states which ratified the Constitution. Their ratification was contingent on a particular understanding of the document.
vi) Finally, even if the Constitution teaches a right of “privacy,” that hardly entails a right to abortion. For one thing, what was the scope of privacy in view? After all, privacy is a very flexible notion. Does a right to privacy mean that every child is Constitutionally entitled to his own bedroom and bathroom? Can’t put two brothers or sisters in the same bedroom?
“I'm skeptical of the anti-privacy argument, so even if I were thoroughly pro-life, I would have a problem with voting for politicians who would nominate justices who were going to overturn Roe via the anti-privacy arguments, since to my mind that would be to use a bad argument to reach a good end.”
Well, that raises an interesting question, although Reppert typically fails to pursue the ethical implications of the question he raised. Since he can’t be bothered to do the work of a professional philosopher, I guess a layman like me will have to do it for him:
i) To begin with, he conflates the reason a voter might vote for a candidate with the reason a candidate might try to overturn Roe. But that’s simpleminded.
Both a voter and a candidate might share the same goal, but have different reasons for their common objective. Suppose a voter has a good reason, while a candidate has a bad reason. The voter can vote for the candidate based on the voter’s rationale rather than the candidate’s rationale. In that event, the vote is justified by the voter’s rationale instead of the candidate’s rationale. Why is Reppert too intellectually indolent to draw this rudimentary distinction?
ii) In addition, while it’s better to do the right thing for the right reason, it’s still better to do the right thing for the wrong reason than to do the wrong thing.
Suppose a serial killer refrains from murdering a particular woman because she reminds him of his mother. Well, that’s a bad argument. It’s not as though he’d be entitled to murder her as long as she didn’t remind him of his mother.
So, by Reppert’s logic, he should go ahead and murder her.
iii) Or, to take another example, suppose a hostage negotiator uses a bad argument to talk a bank-robber out of executing his hostages. By Reppert’s logic, it would be better to let the bank-robber execute the hostages rather than persuading him to release the hostages on the basis of a bad argument.
At the risk of stating the obvious, one of the things that philosophers are supposed to do is to anticipate counterexamples to their position. Why doesn’t Reppert bother to do that? Does he lack the intellectual aptitude?
“There also seems to me to be a severe moral cost in outlawing abortion and enforcing those laws.”
Does he also think there is a severe moral cost in outlawing murder and enforcing those laws? Should we have laws against euthanizing everyone with brown eyes? Or would that carry a severe moral cost?
“Government has to get really intrusive in order to prevent abortions, and has to intrude into areas which we are inclined to think of as private.”
That’s very funny coming from an outspoken champion of Barak Obama.
“Further, while in my father's day, a working class family could survive on one income, in today's economy this won't work.”
So we should have abortion on demand since children are too expensive? Like culling the litter?
Does Reppert think we should put excess babies in a rock-laden sack and toss them in the nearby canal?
What about aborting prenatal philosophers? After all, philosophers are consumers rather than producers. Can we really afford philosophy profs.?
“There is also the fact that while lawmaking bodies are mostly male, the burden imposed by pregnancy, for obvious reasons, falls on women and not on men.”
A classic example of liberal male chauvinism masquerading as compassion. Women can run for public office. Women can vote for women who run for public office. And, to my knowledge, female voters outnumber male voters. So women are in a position to achieve parity or dominance in the legislative branch if they choose to.
If male lawmakers out number female lawmakers, then that says something about the priorities of most women. Why doesn’t Reppert respect that?
“Feminist concerns that outlawing abortion will push women in the direction of barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen are legitimate and would have to be addressed.”
Yet another example of Reppert’s liberal male chauvinism masquerading as compassion. Does he think women don’t know where babies come from? Is pregnancy an unforeseen consequence of sex (without contraception)?
But, of course, in Reppert’s world, it’s okay to be a male chauvinist pig as long as you’re a liberal pig.
“We can't rely on the law to be our moral compass. Strict constructionists have to be open to the possibility that a moral outrage might exist, but the Constitution doesn't provide a way of addressing it.”
He acts as if this has never crossed the mind of a conservative. Once again, where does he get his information about conservatism? From the Daily Kos?
“In the area of marriage, for example, it's perfectly legal to commit adultery, leave your spouse and marry the person you were committing adultery with. It's also horribly immoral. But the law shouldn't be involved in preventing it.”
There’s a distinction between prevention and deterrence. Even if you don’t think that should be illegal, there’s nothing wrong with legal deterrents or impediments to that behavior. There ought to be civil disincentives to certain types of socially destructive behavior. For the social fabric is only as strong as the family.