Monday, May 18, 2009

Abortion Abolitionism: How the Right Can Win the Abortion Debate

Last week Gallup reported that for the first time more Americans consider themselves pro-life than pro-choice. Later in the week, Barack Obama, who is pro-choice, spoke at what was once a Catholic university, Notre Dame, where he brought up the issue urging people on both sides to be more open-minded in the abortion discussion.

Pro-life advocates should win the abortion argument by simple virtue of the fact that we hold the moral high-ground. Pro-choice advocates may argue that liberty is the highest virtue, almost everyone in our free nation would recognize that liberty extends only as far as another person, and abortion provides one of the most profound intersections the liberties between two people.

The path to winning the abortion argument can be found in a cursory study of history. In the early 19th century slave states were using many of the same arguments based on personal liberty that pro-choice advocates use today.

Personal Liberty: "It's my body, so I can do as I please."
The slavery advocates actually made a very compelling case against the federal government's involvement in the slavery discussion. As a freedom-loving proponent of personal liberty, I can understand where they were coming from, but the immorality that was slavery trumps personal liberty and even states' rights.

When the federal government abolished slavery, it did infringe upon states' rights and personal liberty, but the morality of such a decision was overwhelmingly more important.

In the same way, the call for an outright ban on abortion does infringe upon a woman's right to choose, but the moral abomination of a sink full of baby parts should sicken us at least as much as a field full of African-Americans working against their will.

Scientific Evidence: "It's not a person."
When the moral argument failed for the slavery advocates, they retreated to the position that took morality off the table.

From the beginning of the 19th century, you find a number of scientists, who begin to look for differences between racial populations. Most important was Dr. Samuel Morton, who in 1839 and 1845, produced a couple of major books that wouldn't have been read by the people at large, but were read by other scholars. And in these books he argues that there are physical differences that can be measured; there are differences in the brains of different populations who are called races.

By the time you get to Morton and then later Louis Agassiz and a number of other people, they are arguing that blacks are not only inferior but they're a separate species altogether; that they were not created by God at the same time as other human beings, but they were a lower form of human - which is a fascinating kind of thing when you think about it.
Shocking, I know. But in the 1800's people were actually arguing that the African was not even fully human, so slavery was not immoral because, as science proved, they weren't even fully human.

Sound familiar? "It's just a tissue blob." "It's a cancerous growth within the womb." And so forth. See if it's not a person, morality doesn't matter. That argument didn't stand then and it shouldn't stand now.

Economic Impact: "I shouldn't be punished with a baby."
The slave states' depended on slavery as a means of supporting a relatively weak economy. The slave states argued that their economy would collapse if slavery were abolished, and they were probably right.

But economic stability is not a sufficient reason to abandon morality. Just as it was not a valid argument when the slavery proponents were using it, it is not a valid argument when pro-choice advocates use it.

You may think that they don't actually use this argument, but Barack Obama employed it when he said this during the campaign:

"I have two daughters... if one of them makes a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."

Exactly how does a baby punish a woman? Barack Obama equated having a baby with contracting a sexually transmitted disease. But the physical impact of child birth, traumatic as it may be, is perfectly natural for a woman, unlike an STD. Clearly his point was that this baby-punishment would affect her life in a significant way, socially and, no doubt, economically.

The preservation of the slave states' culture was not an acceptable reason to keep men and women enslaved against their will. The preservation of woman's social and economic status quo is not an acceptable reason to snuff out the life of an unwilling child.

Seek Common Ground: "I would never have an abortion, but I won't tell someone else they can't."

At Notre Dame last week President Obama asked the nation to be open-minded in the abortion discussion try "to find common ground."

The argument given in the title of this section sounds like a good middle-ground compromise, but it fails on a number of levels. In the 1800's several compromises were tried and failed. The Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Compromise of 1850. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The only thing that worked was a change to the Constitution that outlawed the horrific act of slavery in this nation. And we are a better nation for it.

But to place the pro-choice advocate's words in another time period, the argument sounds like the abomination it is. "I would never own a slave, but I won't tell someone else they can't own one." It's absolutely reprehensible.

To find middle ground on the issue of slavery would abandon 4 million men and women to chains who by God ought to be free. And each year that abortion remains legal in the United States, we as a nation abandon the lives of almost 1 million children in the womb who by God deserve life.

But thank God the abolitionists would not settle for compromise. Thank God they chose "extremism" and "ideology" over finding "middle ground." Thank God they fought for the lives of those 4 million slaves so that our country can enjoy the richness that all cultures add to our nation's tapestry.

Dare we be half as brave as those abolitionists were, abortion in the years ahead may be merely an embarrassing page of our past and a dark lesson learned for our future.

Did I miss something? Are there other ways the abortion debate can be analogous to the slavery debate? Leave a comment and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas!

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