For the past many years, I’ve attempted to engage the arguments that pro-choicers have made for their finally indefensible position. So, I’m fairly familiar with the various lines of reasoning that the pro-choice advocates employ.
A couple weeks ago, in the pages of The New Yorker magazine, I came across a sort of compendium of pro-choice illogic, a summary of almost all of the twisted approaches that the pro-abortion faction uses.
It is Jeffrey Toobin’s article titled “Not Covered,”and it was featured in the “Talk of the Town” section of the magazine, a showcase of right-minded Upper East Side opinion.
Toobin commences with the undoubtedly accurate remark that “abortion is almost as old as childbirth,” and then adds, as though the second statement follows from the first, “there has always been a need for some women to end their pregnancies.”
I won’t focus on the facile euphemism about “ending a pregnancy” as though it were the equivalent of removing a wart. Instead, I will simply observe that, following the same logic, one could say that slavery has existed from the beginning of civilization and that economic necessity has legitimately dictated that “some people have always needed to enslave their fellow human beings.”
The commonness of a practice does not determine a thing in regard to its moral status. But Toobin persists in making this association.
He shares with us the statistic from the Guttmacher Institute that “35 percent of all women of reproductive age in America today will have had an abortion by the time they are 45.” And then he draws the ethical conclusion: “It might be assumed that such a common procedure would be included in a nation’s plan to protect the health of its citizens.”
I won’t dwell on Toobin’s willingness to disregard utterly the health of those unborn citizens killed through abortion. I will only observe, once again, how he blithely assumes that the ethical acceptability of a practice follows from its prevalence.
Graft, theft, street violence, prostitution and child abuse are also common practices, but we shouldn’t be tempted, on account of their popularity, to remove the legal proscriptions against them.
Toobin provides another delicious bit of euphemistic legerdemain in his criticism of the Stupak Amendment. He complains that Democratic House Rep. Bart Stupak’s proposal (backed by a number of Democrats, by the way) will make “abortion services” harder to come by, even turning them into “a second-class form of medicine.”
Once more, the child who will be killed as a result of this “service” is utterly disregarded. And how bizarre it is to hold that putting children to death might be legitimately construed as a type of “medicine” or “health care.”
Toobin beautifully demonstrates as well how the ideological support for abortion on demand is correlative to a tyrannical invasion of the government into the private sphere of conscience. Already uneasy with the Hyde Amendment, which put some restrictions on the federal funding of abortion some 30 years ago, Toobin now complains about the proliferation of “conscience clauses” that would allow medical professionals — nurses, doctors, pharmacists, etc. — to withdraw from cooperating with procedures that they find morally objectionable, especially abortion.
He is vexed at the Catholic bishops who, in fighting for these exceptions, have had the gall to “squeeze legislators in a way that would do any K Street lobbyist proud,” but he is relieved that “President [Barack] Obama has promised to revise and overturn the policy.”
The aggressiveness of the state apparently knows no limits.
Not only can it determine behavior through punishment and coercion, but it can reach into the privacy of the self and override the dictates of the conscience.
More to it, religious leaders have, it seems, no right to advocate publicly their point of view. Do you see why some critics have maintained that pro-choice ideology has conduced toward an erosion of some of the fundamental principles of a democracy?
Toobin’s final argument is the most specious of all. Referencing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, he says that “abortion rights center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.”
The first problem with this line of reasoning, of course, is its utter disregard of the other person involved — namely, the unborn child — who is accorded no dignity whatsoever and whose rights and citizenship are completely unacknowledged.
A second difficulty is the valorization of an “autonomy” divorced from moral objectivity. As Pope John Paul II never tired of reminding us, freedom is properly ordered to the truth, since the longing of the will is for a good that truly satisfies it. Pure autonomy — self-expression and self-determination — is the will turned in on itself, stewing in its own juices.
It is, of course, far from insignificant that the watchword of the anti-life movement is “pro-choice” and its preferred strategy (on full display in Toobin’s article) the conscious bracketing of the object of that choice.
Ideas have consequences. What has become especially clear in the context of the abortion debate is that bad ideas have very bad consequences indeed.
Father Robert Barron, founder of WordOnFire.org is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary.
Bishops' Letter to Senate (sidebar)
“Disappointingly, the legislative proposal now advancing to final approval in the Senate does not meet [House-approved] moral criteria. Specifically, it violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions. ...
“Despite claims to the contrary, the House-passed provision on abortion keeps in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of elective abortions and plans that include elective abortions. It does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds. It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions. ...
“The abortion provisions in the Manager’s Amendment to the Senate bill do not maintain this commitment to the legal status quo on abortion funding. Federal funds will help subsidize, and in some cases a federal agency will facilitate and promote, health plans that cover elective abortions. All purchasers of such plans will be required to pay for other people’s abortions in a very direct and explicit way. .. . There is no provision for individuals to opt out of this abortion payment in federally subsidized plans . ... States may opt out of this system only by passing legislation to prohibit abortion coverage. ”
— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Dec. 22 letter to the U.S. Senate