Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On saving babies

I believe that abortion is seriously morally evil. And, I think that most people, most Americans for certain, believe that it is a morally questionable practice, though many often adopt something like a knee-jerk relativist “it’s wrong for me, but who am I to say?” reaction when the issue is raised. I know from my experience with students that this is more or less the way they react—in my experience with students in ethics classes, this is the more or less standard reaction from male students, while female students are more likely to think that there is a serious moral problem with it. And, as I have said before on this blog, I think that it is a shame that the Democratic Party has become so deeply wedded to the pro-choice side in the abortion debate.
However, with Thomas Aquinas, I do not think that legislating what is morally best is always what actually gives us the morally best outcome. If Roe were overturned tomorrow—and, no matter what side of the issue you are on, Roe is one of the most horribly argued decisions imaginable; the sections on the philosophical and religious tradition are just horrible—I know that there are many states, because of laws already on the books, that would immediately outlaw abortion, but I also know that many states, like California and New York, would make no such move. Or, I think that it is unlikely that they would do so. Recall that many states had very liberal abortion laws before the decision. My problem with pro-life politicians is that they package their opposition to abortion together with other policies that remove options for poor women who might end up single mothers. (To be fair, this is not the case with all pro-life activists, but it is with almost all pro-life politicians.)
At the same time that we hear that we need more conservative Justices so that Roe will be overturned, we hear that we need fewer social welfare programs, that we need to push people off of assistance and into work, that we need laws that are more favorable to business and less regulation, that we ought to tax health benefits, that pro-union laws ought to be repealed, that we ought to have vouchers that allow those who can to choose schools other than the poor inner-city schools that so badly serve the underclass, while ignoring the effects that these policies have real effects on the poor and, in particular, on those who might feel that they have no option other than to abort. At the same time, they advocate further cuts in any sex ed class that would actually discuss ways to prevent pregnancy in favor of abstinence—certainly a noble idea but not realistic in such a sexualized society given the failings of human nature. And, these same conservative Justices who are most likely to vote to overturn Roe tend to embrace a legal philosophy in which the government has no role in protecting individuals from business practices, in which the government more or less has nothing more than a very minimal role.
The right response seems to me to be that which was advocated by Hillary Clinton a few years ago—and for which she took a beating from the pro-choice activists—namely, that we ought to make abortion as rare as possible. That is, we ought to work on building a society in which no one feels pressure to abort, where raising the child, even on one’s own, seems like a viable option, where we praise those who work hard to raise their children rather than sneering at “welfare queens” or “unwed mothers” and where contraception is available—for even if one thinks that contraception is a moral evil, it is one of a very different order than abortion. This, I believe is the best way to reduce the number of abortions, better by far than to overturn Roe.
That is why, though it always pains me to do so, I will probably continue to vote Democratic, in spite of my opposition to abortion.


Anonymous said...

Why a woman "should not" abort during early first trimester, according to your own moral code, needs further exploration - since taking a mere economic perspective - if she weighed the pro's and con's she would be far far worse off.

Second concern, at what point does the female have any say in the matter, if at all?

Tyler Hower said...

I'm at a loss, genuinely, with your first comment, mostly because I do not see the moral realm and the economic realm linked in the way your question assumes they are. If something is seriously morally wrong, e.g., beating your child, no economic concern would make it morally acceptable. Even if, I think, something is in your own best interest, it may be seriously wrong for you to do.

Secondly, I wasn't providing a moral argument for the wrongness of abortion. I believe it is wrong and I have arguments, but I was here concerned with the intersection of morality and political calculation in this case.