I’ll post the 25 stipulations from Part I at the bottom of Part II for easy reference; I’ll be quoting the number in some cases. But not right now…I realized that an introduction is necessary.
It’s important to clarify an essential point up front: as long as the two sides in the abortion controversy refuse to acknowledge the validity of the other side’s interest and concern, no solution to the problem is possible, and until that point, it is almost a waste of time discussing it. In this respect, it is like another ongoing ethics conflict, the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. (That one I believe is hopeless, and the only solution is an unethical one: a war that leaves one side or the other standing. That may happen; I don’t see it as a likely resolution of the abortion question.
Related to this condition precedent to any resolution is the fact that the pro- and anti- abortion sides (Let’s send “pro-life and “pro-choice” to ethics hell where they belong) must stop demonizing the other. That practice makes compromise and literally impossible, and a problem like abortion cannot be addressed ethically without the recognition that balancing of interests must occur at some level.
In this area, abortion separates itself from the ethics and human rights dispute it most resembles. The analogy is useful in some respects (as we shall see), but not in the area of compromise. The period preceding the Civil War was a fiasco of attempted compromise regarding slavery, and every attempt made the situation worse, more unethical, more unjust, and more contentious. Slavery really is an absolutist problem: it is absolutely wrong, and there are not ethical principles on both sides, unlike abortion. The pro-slavery case was economic, making slavery an ethics dilemma (non-ethical considerations vs ethical ones), unlike abortion. Because abortion is an ethics conflict, each side must accept a solution that is partially unethical, or there will never be a solution.
An aspect of the problem that is analogous to slavery, however, is the need for some cultural thunderclap to shock the apathetic and open-minded into reality. In the case of slavery, it was the 1852 novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Suddenly hundreds of thousands of Americans who had never considered the issue realized that blacks were human beings, not property, not distantly-related primates, but people, and the clarity triggered a cascade of ethical conclusions. The Golden Rule applied. Empathy kicked in. What was once seen as mere commerce was recognized as cruelty and brutality. Defenders of slavery who were once successful using the argument that slaves weren’t human lives at all (sound familiar?) had to retreat to rationalizations, like calling slavery a “peculiar institution” and tradition ( The “Everybody Does It” adaptation “It’s always been this way”) and “They deserve it,” a version of ruthless Rationalization #2A, “They had it coming.“ At that point, the battle was lost; we just had to fight a war to make the change in public perception clear.
I don’t know how, when or if such a catalyst will arise in the abortion issue. The Left so dominates literature, art and entertainment that it will take a luck and inspiration for abortion’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” to get written, much less published.
In 2005, much-derided action director Michael Bay [“Transformers,” “Armageddon,” etc.] produced and directed a gutsy anti-abortion allegory, “The Island.” In that film, wealthy people had clones of themselves warehoused on an island until the the originals needed an organ or three. The clones had no rights, and the abortion metaphor could have hardly been more obvious: the deceived and exploited clones were nourished in a giant amniotic sac. But critics trashed the film, and did so without even referencing abortion, just to make sure nobody paid attention. Nobody did.
In contrast, the pro-abortion forces got their “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in the dystopian film of “The Handmaiden’s Tale.” It was and is a dishonest and hysterical bit of fear-mongering, and one that, of course, pretends that unborn children aren’t human enough to warrant consideration.
Absent something that causes a tipping point in public opinion on the same level of influence as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the approach to abortion I offer in Part 2 is, and will ever be, impossible.
[This is the end of the post. The white space below apparently can’t be eliminated, and I have no idea why. Some readers have expressed concern that text is missing. No, just a user-friendly platform. Part 2, for which this is an introduction, will be in a separate post-JM]
[Update: The white space vanished as soon as I posted the above. But I don’t know it it will return if I delete it, so it’s going to stay.]