R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson
rj_anderson

Reason #2 why I love J. Budziszewski:

Neutralism is a method of ramming a particular moral judgment into law by pretending that it is not a moral judgment.
-- J. Budzizewski, What We Can't Not Know, p. 130
And it is terribly popular nowadays, especially judging by a flurry of recent posts on my LiveJournal Friends List. "I'm not in favour of abortion," many are saying with great earnestness and concern, "I'm pro-choice." And there is much outrage over the nerve of some US politicians trying to pass a bill making it more difficult for women to have abortions, not because abortions are desirable but because it's immoral to "take away women's freedom".

I appreciate that many of these pro-choice individuals would not personally choose to have an abortion, and some have even consciously made the choice not to do so. They regard abortion soberly, not lightly. Nevertheless, by asserting that society should make it safe and relatively easy for a woman to abort her unborn child if that child is unwanted or handicapped*, they are making the moral judgment that the life of an unborn child is sub-human and unworthy of protection. They are also asserting that the overriding moral imperative, the one to which all others must bow, is personal freedom -- in this case, the freedom of the mother to interrupt a natural process and so dictate the terms of her own life, not the freedom of the child to develop and be born unhindered.

As such, there is nothing neutral about the pro-choice position: it is a moral judgment, and a dogmatic one at that.

In any case, the term "pro-choice" is misleading. Human beings already have the power to choose any action which they are physically and mentally capable of carrying out: no amount of government legislation can obliterate free will, and even in an oppressive dictatorship people will find ways to do as they choose, even at considerable personal risk. The real question is, should making certain choices be easy or hard? Should they come with a reward, or a cost? And the answer to that depends entirely on your moral view of the choice in question. As such, I think a more accurate description of the "pro-choice" position would be "pro-making abortion an easier choice".

We would all, I think, be justly horrified to learn of a society in which murder (and by this I mean murder in the traditional sense, where one adult kills another adult for personal motives) is treated as a regrettable but sometimes necessary choice, free from legal penalty, and where murderers can even count on the assistance of trained professionals to help them carry the murder out, dispose of the unpleasant remains and give them emotional support afterward. We would be even more horrified if we learned that this hypothetical society commits tens of thousands of governmentally sanctioned murders every year.

But what right do we have to be horrified by such an idea if we continue to insist that personal freedom and self-will, the ability to dictate the terms of one's own life, is the most important consideration?

And on what basis do we insist that the convenience or comfort of a grown adult has priority over the very life of an innocent unborn child?

One of the points J. Budziszewski makes in his book is that it is fundamentally wrong to define human beings according to what they can do rather than what they are, and that deep down, all of us know this. The moment we start grading human beings according to the particular mental and physical tasks they are capable of performing for us or according to the amount of pleasure they bring us, instead of regarding them as valuable in and of themselves, we step into moral quicksand. Today the unborn, tomorrow the unwanted or handicapped infant or toddler, next week the mentally or physically limited adult.

Having deemed certain human lives of insufficient meaning and worth in comparison to our own, we accord to ourselves the godlike right to take those lives away, or at least to allow others the choice to do so if we find ourselves too squeamish. Even if what we have in mind is "the good of society" rather than just our own individual benefit, we thereby set ourselves up for a world in which only those who make measurable positive contributions to society (as we, the healthy intellectual adult elite, define our ideal society) are allowed to live, and the rest are hygienically disposed of.

And now I will stop, because I'm having flashbacks to Logan's Run.

--
* Yes, I recognize that in some cases it may be medically necessary to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. However, such cases account for only the tiniest percentage of the abortions that are actually performed, have traditionally been granted exception even where abortion on demand was not available, and as such are not relevant to this argument.
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