Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The logic of Pro-Abortion "Liberty"...

...is laid out for all to see in an op-ed piece in today's Age "Abortion must always be about choice."

How would you react to the following statement:
Those with moral objections to murder should not commit murder. Neither should they be allowed--in a free and democratic society--to impose their particular moral beliefs on others, nor have those beliefs imposed through the law.
Well, okay, that isn't exactly how Anne O'Rourke begins her piece. What she actually says is "Those with moral objections to abortions should not have abortions..." and so on as above.

But what sort of basis is this for any system of ethics or law? Even if you don't want to accept that there are immutable laws that have independant existence apart from those who think them (something that few people in this rights-ridden day and age would be willing to argue), surely community consensus has something to do with the matter of determining right and wrong, and surely the community has not only the duty but the right to impose these standards on all members of the community?

Sometimes I wish that pro-abortionists would just listen to their own rhetoric for a bit.

6 Comments:

At Tuesday, December 18, 2007 9:38:00 am , Blogger Fraser said...

Dear David,

Perhaps better would be:

Those with moral objections to slavery should not own slaves. Neither should they be allowed--in a free and democratic society--to impose their particular moral beliefs on others, nor have those beliefs imposed through the law.

Slaves, after all, aren't real human beings, are they?

 
At Tuesday, December 18, 2007 10:37:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

You could play endless games with this construct, just replace "abortion" with the questionable act of your choice...

How about "Those who are worried about climate change shouldn't use anything that emits greenhouse gases. Neither should they be allowed--in a free and democratic society--to impose their particular moral beliefs on others, nor have those beliefs imposed through the law."

Does anyone else want to play this game?

 
At Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:52:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Your criticism of O’Rourke’s reason is absolutely spot-on.

But it discloses a problem, which is that if we appeal to “community consensus” and to the right and duty of the community to impose moral standards established by that consensus, then:

- undoubtedly the predominant, if not consensus, view in Australia is that abortion is a choice for the woman concerned, and

- does not the community therefore have the “right and duty” to enshrine a woman’s right to choose in law?

And this, of course, is not the conclusion we want to reach.

I accept, of course, that you appeal to “community consensus” as the arbiter of moral standards only after suggesting objective moral standards. But the political and practical realities in a democracy are that, even if some people, or a majority of people, accept that objective moral truths exist which do not depend on popular acceptance for their validity, those moral truths can only be discerned for the purposes of enshrining them in law through community acceptance.

Consequently we always come back to community standards, and the plain fact is that after forty years of public debate on this issue, the dominant community standard is not a pro-life one. Thus the argument which refutes the nonsense offered by O’Rourke also tends to support a pro-choice legal environment.

 
At Tuesday, December 18, 2007 3:22:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Yes indeed Peregrinus, I do not myself use "community consensus" as the arbiter of all that is good and true in my personal life, but I acknowledge the role it plays in forming law in a democratic society.

Regarding your assertion that most Australians wish to protect a woman's right to an abortion, you are also correct. But you omit the fact that most Australians also do not like abortion and want to see a good deal less of it, and only want it to be used when really necessary.

Both these facts are included in the Sexton survey to which Nick Tonti-Filippini refers in his original op-ed piece (and in the book that he authored with John Fleming).

It seems that Australians, like most human beings, are quite adept at holding two (or more) contradictory ideas in their heads at any one time.

 
At Tuesday, December 18, 2007 6:28:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

The two ideas are not necessarily contradictory. I’d like to see less adultery committed – no adultery, in fact – but I would oppose the criminalization of adultery.

Granted, if we look at the issue of abortion through a “fundamental human rights of the unborn child” lens, the two ideas become difficult to reconcile. But fact that they are widely held in conjunction should make us think, not “the Australia people are inconsistent”, but rather “the Australian people dislike abortion, but not because they see it as an infringement of fundamental human rights”.

And I think a couple of points flow from this. The first is that a pro-life campaign which presents a “fundamental human rights” argument and seeks legal change is not likely to have wide appeal, or meet easily with success. And I cautiously suggest that experience has born this out.

Secondly, if we stop focussing on the problem (Australians don’t see abortion as a human rights issue) we can more easily see the opportunity (Australians don’t like abortion). It seems to me that pro-life activity ought to build on that, rather than to beat its head repeatedly against the brick wall of calling for legal restrictions on abortion.

The truth is that catholic moral discourse has not, historically, been framed in terms of “rights”. I have always assumed that at least part of the reason why pro-life campaigns are so often rights-focussed and law-focussed is an attempt to build common cause with non-Christian and secular moralists who do not accept the moral authority of the Catholic church and are not generally persuaded by its moral analyses, but do accept the concept of fundamental human rights and their legal protection.

If that is the motivation, it hasn’t worked. But, precisely because it isn’t rights-focussed, the Catholic moral tradition must be a rich resource for pro-life reflection, and pro-life activity, which does not used the human rights argument and instead seeks to build on pro-life (or at least anti-abortion) feelings that are apparently more widely held.

Time, perhaps, to try another tack. Law is, after all, just one of very many factors which influence human behaviour, and if we can reduce recourse to abortion without criminalisting it, why not?

 
At Tuesday, December 18, 2007 11:45:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

You are right. Rights are a novelty in Catholic theology. Astounding is the fact that the recent doctrinal note on evangelisation couches the duty to evangelise in terms of the right of all human beings to receive the gospel!

I am blogging separately on something I read today on this matter that could be helpful.

 

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