As the pro-abortion lobby has rushed to defuse the ticking time bomb of comprehension that might make lazy and inattentive American think. “Wait, that’s what happens in an abortion?,” its dishonest, desperate, and unethical arguments have been as revealing as the videos themselves, and as damning.
Frankly, I’ve been surprised: they really don’t have much that makes ethical sense, just “it’s legal!” and “It’s Our Bodies And We’ll Kill If We Want To!” (a little known B-side flop by the recently departed Leslie Gore.) I recently wrote about their defenses in the posts Planned Parenthood Videos Surprise: Forced To Defend Abortion Ethics Acknowledging The Existence Of A Second Human Life In The Equation, Advocates Run Out Of Arguments (Part One) and Part Two: Bad Analogies. As I wrote in the latter: “If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.”
More evidence that they don’t possess them and also don’t care to have an honest debate recently came to light.
The most bizarre was an article in the Washington Post ostensibly about the ongoing drama at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The female panda there gave birth to twins (“Awwwww!”) then abandoned and neglected the smaller one (“OH NO!!!”) which soon died. Before the little panda’s demise, those clever abortion advocates of the Post saw an opportunity, and had a female reporter, Sarah Kaplan, author an article which the Post titled “The perfectly sensible reason why panda mothers and other creatures selectively abandon babies.”
If you want to think it’s a coincidence, go ahead. I don’t. To Kaplan’s credit, she avoided any overt analogies to human beings, and played it straight, as she always does. (She’s a terrific reporter.) Still, there is that headline. It’s sensible to “abandon” babies that will be too difficult for the mother to care for, “abandon” in the wild being the equivalent of “kill.” This points to Rationalization #51—the latest on the Ethics Alarms list-–as a defense for abortion: “It’s natural.”
Writes Kaplan: “Among bears, cats, dogs, primates and rodents, it’s common for mothers to eat a deformed or dying infant.”
All right, I’ll concede that abortion is much preferable to that.
More significant—I’ll concede that the panda article may have been just bad timing—was the hypocrisy of Vox, the progressive website launched by Post progressive Ezra Klein that purports to “explain” complex issues in the news. What Vox calls explaining is to argue that only the progressive side makes sense, and that any opposition is made up of, in President Obama’s dignified and presidential characterization of opposition to his Iran deal, “craizies.”
As reported by blogging philosopher Brian Leiter (whose excellent blog I need to add to the Ethics Alarms links), Torbjorn Tannsjo, Kristian Claëson Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University, was invited by Vox to write a piece on the “repugnant conclusion.” The Vox editor wrote that he found Tannsjo’s argument for the “repugnant conclusion”—that people should have children—“very compelling.”
“It’s a fascinating problem,” the editor wrote, “and one that’s fairly easy for lay readers to get into — people care about population size, and ‘We have a duty to make the world’s population as large as possible’ is a proposition that demands peoples’ attention.”
Prof. Tannsjo did so, and submitted his essay to Vox.
It was rejected. Prof. Tannsjo was informed by the embarrassed editor,
“I ran the piece by some other editors and they weren’t comfortable running it; I think the concern is that people will misinterpret it as implying opposition to abortion rights and birth control, which, while I know it’s not your intent, is a real concern.”
Leiter commented ruefully about how difficult it is to present a thoughtful piece about a complex issue for an “audience which apparently is more concerned with taking the ‘correct’ view than with the reasoning.
After the episode was related by Leiter and picked up by the dreaded conservative media, so Vox, via its creator Klein, felt it had to explain itself. He wrote in part:
“The idea that every human being has a moral obligation to produce as many children as physically possible has, to say the least, a lot of implications. Two of them, though by no means the only ones I raised to Matthews, were that birth control and abortion are, under most circumstances, immoral. I am very, very uncomfortable telling anyone that it is their obligation to bear child after child, starting at the moment of first fertility and ending only at menopause. And I didn’t think the piece made its case convincingly enough for us to stand behind a conclusion so sweeping and dramatic.”
Then Klein tries to make the case that Vox is even-handed and objective on the abortion issue.
Vox isn’t even-handed and objective on any issue, though it may think it is. Not recognizing one’s biases is fatal, however, to good journalism and ethical punditry.
Klein’s argument doesn’t pass the giggle test. How does publishing a philosophical piece expressing the views of one scholar equal Vox, or Klein, “telling anyone that it is their obligation to bear child after child”? Moreover, that was exactly the article Vox requested!
Responds Leiter (I really like this guy!):
“If I were feeling generous, I would describe the response as pathetically stupid. Prof. Tannsjo actually supports free abortion, as he told me. But what he supports or doesn’t support is not the issue! If you solicit a piece from a philosopher, knowing what their work is about (as was clearly the case here), you have an obligation to publish it, subject to reasonable editing. What you can’t do, if you are an even remotely serious operation (and not an echo chamber), is reject it because someone not paying attention might think the argument supports a conclusion they find icky. This rule for adult, scholarly discourse applies to the so-called “right” and to the so-called “left.” Vox will be hard-pressed to get any serious scholars to write for them after this. But the same warning applies to so-called “conservative” sites (who are terrible offenders on this score too). If you really want to challenge your readers, then invite serious people with serious arguments, and don’t reject them because their conclusions might be deemed offensive to casual readers. The Socratic ideal, which so many profess allegiance to, and so few act on, is to let the arguments run their course. That is what Vox failed to do.”
Abortion advocates don’t want the argument about the ethics of abortion to run its course. After all…they might lose.