To anyone who is capable of compassion and objectivity, the abortion controversy represents a classic ethics conflict: two ethically defensible positions based upon undeniable ethical principles that are in opposition. Both factions have their absolutist wings which would deny the other side’s interests, holding that either the life of the unborn ( abortion opponents) or a woman’s autonomy (abortion advocates) is such a societal priority that nothing should be permitted to compromise its primacy in any way. Yet the best solution to most ethics conflicts, if possible, is balancing, resulting in acceptance of a reasonable middle position that acknowledges the validity of both interests.
Recent comments from prominent pro-abortion advocates are ethically troubling, because they suggest a complete denial that any valid interests on the other side exist at all. This signals a retreat from reason and fairness into zealotry and fanaticism, and it makes balancing not merely more difficult, but unimaginable.
In an interview on the cable station Fusion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards had this revealing exchange (video above):
JORGE RAMOS (interviewer): Can I ask you a philosophical question?CECILE RICHARDS: Sure.RAMOS: So for you, when does life start? When does a human being become a human being?RICHARDS: This is a question, I think, that will be debated through the centuries, and people come down to very different views on that.RAMOS: But for you, what’s the point?RICHARDS: It is not something that I feel like is really part of this conversation. I mean, to me, we work with women – I guess the way I’d really like to I think every woman has to make her own decision. What we do at Planned Parenthood is make sure that women have all their options for health care, and they have the option to have a healthy pregnancy, they have the option to put a child up for adoption if they decide to carry the pregnancy to term, or they have the right to make a decision to terminate a pregnancy…For me, life (of her children) began when I delivered them.
The translation of this moral relativism is that Richards doesn’t care when life begins for the unborn, even though her organization may have a critical role in ending the lives, indeed millions of lives, of such human beings. Her final statement is fascinating: “for her,” the lives of her children began when they were delivered. “For her?” The issue of when life begins is critical for the alive-or-not unborn themselves, first and foremost. But abortion, in the mind of zealots like Richards, see it differently: facts can be customized to need, even if it means denying humanity and the right to exits to the most vulnerable human beings imaginable. This has always been the ethical Achilles heel of abortion advocacy, the myth that the beginnings of life and rights can be altered to fit the needs and wants of the mother, rather than dictated by science, observation, objective analysis and fact. “I want my unborn child to be a non-living, non-human object right up to the point where I choose to abort it, sparing me accountability, pangs of conscience, sacrifice, or the requirement of ethical balancing. Therefore, it is so.”That’s Richards, and her organization, presumably. Not only is this an unethical set of mind, it is a corrupting one. This is the ultimate rationalization, applied to a decision that must be approached without rationalizations, lest it lack ethical legitimacy.More evidence of ethics rot was on display in the pages of the New York Times, where columnist Gail Collins asked, “The gay rights movement has been having some remarkable success lately. Why do abortion rights keep losing ground?” It is a jaw-dropping, brain-free question that ought to disqualify any pundit from future publicized opinion on the grounds of ideologically induced ethics dementia. The question itself presumes that all difficult policy questions are inseparably linked together like a string of paper dolls, and if you take one, you must take them all (and indeed, this is how lazy partisans and ideologues think). Moreover, the issues of abortion and gay rights are different in important ways, notably that the gay rights movement is seeking fair and equitable treatment and rights for a group of human beings, while the abortion movement is seeking to deny life…and its attendant rights…to what many reasonable and rational people believe are also a class of human beings. Collins, apparently, has been incapacitated by abortion fanaticism so thoroughly that he only sees the similarities: both gay rights and abortion are opposed by many on religious grounds—-that is, morality. She doesn’t even see ethics any more, the considerations of right and wrong.Collins’ answers to her own ethically-clueless question support the diagnosis. Here first explanation for why gay rights are winning hearts and minds while abortion rights still cause discomfort is this howler:
“Obviously, abortion is an issue that only relates to one gender, at one particular stage in their lives.”
If it isn’t obvious to a reader what is the matter with the logic and ethics of this statement, then that reader is suffering from Collins’ perceptual malady. It assumes the “facts” necessary to the conclusion! An abortion doesn’t involve a living offspring of the father, but just some inhuman other, so the father has no material interest in the abortion at all…except that isn’t true. “Obviously?” I would say, in contrast, that if a potential human offspring of two people, if left alone, will develop into a human child carrying on the genetic line of both parents and being able to experience the unique benefits of a life that will also affect in myriad ways the lives of both parents, and many others, the father obviously relates to the proposed elimination of that potential offspring in powerful ways. How can Collins think this, write this, and submit it to be published in the Times? Collins’s statement is smoking gun evidence of ethics blindness.Then she offers this:
“The biggest difference between the fortunes of gay rights and abortion rights, however, is that politicians who vote to limit women’s rights to control their own bodies know that, for the most part, they’re only hurting poor people.”
Here is blogger-law professor Ann Althouse’s reaction to that: “The biggest difference?! Aw, come on. The biggest difference is that abortion — to those who oppose it — involves killing a baby. But Collins trips happily toward the end of her column, talking class politics.”Of course she does. Baby? What baby? Problem? What problem? Ethics?In a related story, it appears that Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has decided that its mission includes promoting bondage and sado-masochism as safe sexual practices for teens. You see, once you reject the validity of morality, and yet refuse to engage in the essential, objective business of ethical analysis, the ethics alarms might just stop ringing at all.
Sources: NYT, Newsbusters, Althouse
26 thoughts on “Ethics Blindness: The Pro-Abortion Ethical Disconnect”
I’m always a bit amazed when those (typically left) who are in favor of legal abortion can use class, race, and sex to support their stance, yet remain willfully blind to the same arguments on the other side – like the recent ‘revelation’ that more than half of the black infants in NY are aborted.
The other side is only “war on women.” That should shut it up.
As science progresses, perhaps maybe 2 or 3 centuries down the road, it’s possible that abortion of pregnancy will not mean abortion of life if an embryo/fetus could be incubated in an artificial womb.
In that instance though, who would foot the associated costs of bringing a fetus to term and then ensuring a family?
Which will give pro-abortion absolutists headaches as they desperately attempt concoct ways to deny that even a viable embryo isn’t “a human life.” I’m betting they’re up to the challenge.
Since I have been told, to my face, that women should have the right to abort right up to the day before delivery (and no it wasn’t satire. She’s a state politician now too) I don’t doubt it.
This is a great example of a problem that is so polarized, common sense will never prevail.
In 2014, in America, with the availability of education, medicine and contraceptives, it is socially, morally, and ethically reprehensible to make the decisions that make an abortion preferable. I don’t care whether we call it an embryo, a fetus, or a gherkin pickle, that’s a life. That is a life full of potential. Full of choices. And we snuff out all that potential and all those choices as a matter of convenience. That’s…. so wrong.
But on the other side, is it right to bring up a child when you don’t have the faculties to do it? If you have genetic problems you will certainly pass on? At the expense of the mother’s health?
I personally feel that with the exception of a bona fide peril to the mothers health, life, even life stunted by disease or poverty, is better than no life. But I can at least understand the position of the opponents. I don’t believe the state holds the answer to this, this is an education problem. We need to inform the choices people make before conception, not legislate what happens after those choices are made.
To save my esteemed and fellow readers a great deal of time, let’s just pretend this issue has been rehashed in full already:
Its a good read and an exposé on nearly all the pro-abortion crowd’s rationalizations and equivocations, as well as associated deconstruction and refutations of them.
Holy crap…. 309 responses…. Is that the record?
Almost makes me regret my post, it all must have been said here before.
Don’t regret your post. I posted in a light hearted manner anyway, I don’t mind at all seeing this discussion fleshed out again, I think a certain side of me enjoys seeing the tap dancing and illogical knot tying done by the pro-abortion crowd.
Also, I think the record is over a 1,000 posts (before I was a regular I think).
Not the record…it’s been exceeded many times, most recently by the comments on the “affluenza” case. Still, this is a different issue, at least in focus, which is the gradual corruption of core ethical reasoning the ethics jiujitsu required of abortion absolutists eventually produces. Arguing that a fetus isn’t a life I can understand and even respect—being unable to acknowledge that life is at the center of the anti-abortion position is not respectable. It is shocking.
Many philosophers and writers have correctly observed any atrocity can be justified when driven by ideology.
I remember during the Scott Peterson trial- remember, he was convicted of double murder for killing his pregnant wife. At the time I asked a few of my strongest abortion-proponent friends why it should be double murder since the baby wasn’t born yet, and the response was “she intended to have the baby so it counted as a baby, it’s her body so it’s her choice.” Which is gibberish of course- an act of will isn’t what determines someone’s human status.
Really a lot of it comes down to the chanted mantra of “no ovaries, no opinion” (and yes, I’ve had that chanted in my face). Gibberish of course, but an easy argument to latch onto and doubly damaging when paired with “war on women!”
Even worse, that principle accurately worded would go like this “a human being that is wanted has a right to life. A human being that isn’t wanted does not.”
Or rather, “a human being that is wanted has a right to life. A human being that isn’t wanted isn’t a human being.”
Much more accurate. Thanks! And chilling.
They really said that? I seldom hear it blandly expressed, although that is, for many abortion advocates, the real logic at play, the ultimate rationalization crossed with logical fallacy.
Yes, yes they really said that. Although I disagree with it personally, I can understand the stance that a fetus isn’t a “real person” until X point and before that point it’s the mother’s sole and exclusive decision what to do with it. I cannot fathom the mindset necessary to think that personhood hinges on desire.
In the Petersen case the victim was 8 months pregnant, which I’m pretty sure is generally post-legal-abortion. Do any of you know how the law handles the murder of, say, a woman not known to be pregnant until autopsy, or a woman known to be pregnant but still well within the threshold for legal abortion?
Hey look, Wikipedia is my friend. From their article on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (emphasis mine):
“The Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-212) is a United States law which recognizes a child in utero as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence. The law defines ‘child in utero’ as ‘a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.’
The law applies only to certain offenses over which the United States government has jurisdiction… [b]ecause of principles of federalism embodied in the United States Constitution, Federal criminal law does not apply to crimes prosecuted by the individual states. However, 38 states also recognize the fetus or “unborn child” as a crime victim, at least for purposes of homicide or feticide.
… [T]he bill explicitly contained a provision excepting abortion, stating that the bill would not “be construed to permit the prosecution” “of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf “, “of any person for any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child” or “of any woman with respect to her unborn child.”
So there you have it… apparently while I wasn’t paying attention the Federal Government ruled that babies at all stages of development are people, unless the mother decides they should be dead, in which case they are not.
The arrogance and ethical blindness of this woman is astonishing. It kind of reminds me of the Nazi era when the Down’s syndrome people were pushed into extermination vans and gassed with carbon monoxide. I’m sure that the guards and officers that did it by and large justified it by reminding themselves that these were untermensch (sub-human).
Ironic, considering our own solution to Down’s syndrome?
What solution would that be? Serious question, no snark- I know a handful of families with a kid with Down’s and I don’t know of any particular special thing that’s done
Null may be referring to selective abortion of Downs babies.
Ah, that would make sense. I thought s/he was talking about some sort of official policy or standard requirement, not just something that some families do.
That’s how I read it.
Euthanizing the “inferior” for “their own good” is way easier when we can’t see them with our own eyes as well as considering them non-human.
I recently read that abortions dropped significantly in 2013 compared to recent years. Education is taking hold I think.
Teen pregnancies also dropped by a ton, so that figures. We can hope.