Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beckwith on abortion

 Francis J. Beckwith said...

If Obama is standing up to his own party, then why is his position on abortion the most liberal of any prior Democratic nomination for the presidency, including Clinton? Remember, Obama supports FOCA, the freedom of choice act, which would, if passed by Congress and the next president, wipe out every legislative and judicial restriction on abortion, state, federal, and local. It will also require federal funding of abortion and the end of conscience clauses in some states that permit doctors to not refer patients to an abortionist.

FOCA also means that Christian hospitals would probably lose their accreditation if they are not willing to perform abortions, since accrediting agencies, certified by the federal government, require physicians to have a certain level of training adequate for the health of their patients. If abortion is essential to women's health, then ipso facto Christian hospitals and medical schools are toast.

Moreover, reducing the number of abortions is not the same as affirming a culture of life. For the way in which Obama's allies--such as Miller and Doug Kmiec--claim that he will reduce abortions--funding of prenatal care, help to unwed mothers--reinforces the idea that it is the chooser who must be pacified so that the child may live. Imagine, for example, we bribed wife beaters to stop abusing their spouses and reduced the rate as a consequence. Would that really be nurturing a cultural of spousal love and devotion? Nope. It would, ironically, reinforce to the husband that his power is all that matters and that the exercise of that power may only be legitimately curtailed if the abuser chooses not to exercise it. The fact that it is another power--money--that serves as the will's catalyst means that it is not the good of the other, the wife, that is doing the work. Thus, the noble goal of reducing spousal abuse is advanced by massaging the very posture that produces it.

Miller seems like a nice enough guy. But on this matter he has no idea what he is talking about.

 Francis J. Beckwith said...

Miller said:
"If McCain were strong on the issue, he would call it murder, saying abortion should be criminalized, and perhaps Cindy McCain would talk about the issue. Sara Palin would talk about how abortion should be criminalized."

What an odd thing to say. If one is trying to persuade people to support your point of view, you begin with the most attractive portion of your case and then tease out the consequences later. McCain and Palin are prolife, but their first task is to make a case for their unconvinced neighbors. Starting with the criminal law is no place to begin. This is, after all, politics.

Now, if Mr. Miller were consistent he would ask his friends on the left to come clean on what they are going to do with parents, churches, businesses, and citizens who resist same-sex marriage. Will they be subject to civil suits (as has happened in New Mexico concerning a photographer) or not allowed to place children up for adoption to only married heterosexual couples (as in the case of Catholic Charities in MA).

If Mr. Miller were really interested in the issue of abortion, he would know that his "objection" has been addressed by many, many authors since the ascendancy of the Roe regime. In fact, yours truly has addressed this question in Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, (Cambridge University Press, 2007).


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  2. Most people do not reflect on this issue other than to state the same talking points the politicians do: either abortion is murder or it's a fundamental "right".

    Perhaps the best way to approach it would be to simply question what criteria should be used to determine when a living being should have constitutional rights. What makes an infant three days before delivery less worthy of protection simply because he hasn't traveled out of the birth canal?

    I think most people (with the exception of Peter Singer) would come to the conclusion that biological dependency alone does not determine unworthiness for civil protections. If it did, we would suggest that infants and toddlers, due to depending on their mother for nursing, could be left for dead on a street somewhere.

    The problem with the Right is that they want to extend these protections to recently fertilized eggs. Most of us see no "personhood" in such a thing: there are no "symptoms" of life, no pulse, no heart beat, there isn't even a head. Perhaps if the ideologues dropped the insistence that fetuses be protected from conception, they might get somewhere.

  3. James said:
    Most of us see no "personhood" in such a thing: there are no "symptoms" of life, no pulse, no heart beat, there isn't even a head.

    Actually, there are "symptoms" of life (as you put it) because the embryo can be killed.

    And, FWIW, the right to life is a human right not a "person" right, and it is easy enough to prove that an unborn human fetus is, indeed, a human being (after all, that's what human's produce: human beings).

    In point of fact, those who try to make the distinction between "person" and "being" get themselves trapped in the arbitrary nature of their selection. What determines which human beings are human persons? If it is level of development, then more developed human beings (i.e., more mature) have more of a right to life than less developed human beings. Ergo, our idea that children should be saved during a crisis is flawed. It should be the adults first.

    If it is based on level of consciousness, then is the man with a higher IQ more worthy to be saved during a crisis?

    (And this comes into conflict with the above: what if we are dealing with a healthy but dull child and Stephen Hawkins, who is not as fully developed because he cannot walk; which do we save in a crisis?)

    All of these questions are only relevant if the debate is structured in terms of "personhood" rather than "being." The ontology of the fetus is crystal clear. And I daresay that there are very few people (especially on the pro-choice side) who can actually give a philosophical argument as to the difference between a person and a being in the first place.

  4. "The problem with the Right is that they want to extend these protections to recently fertilized eggs. Most of us see no "personhood" in such a thing: there are no "symptoms" of life, no pulse, no heart beat, there isn't even a head."

    Ah, yes, Peter, watch out with this one. He's using the very sophisticated "Zombie" criteria of personhood.