I’m still working on the Ethics Alarms prescription for an ethical national policy regarding abortion. The briefs and oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case now before the U.S. Supreme Court are useful, but I received a special assist this morning from Times columnist Ross Douthat, who presented a full page, marvelously thorough and ethically spot-on analysis of the issue in an essay titled, “The Case Against Abortion.”
I wish I had written it, but I am grateful that he did. He deserves to have it read thoroughly by all, but some especially apt sections shout out for special mention:
“At the core of our legal system, you will find a promise that human beings should be protected from lethal violence. That promise is made in different ways by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; it’s there in English common law, the Ten Commandments and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We dispute how the promise should be enforced, what penalties should be involved if it is broken and what crimes might deprive someone of the right to life. But the existence of the basic right, and a fundamental duty not to kill, is pretty close to bedrock.
“There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing.”
And that must be the starting point for any policy debate.
- “This means that the affirmative case for abortion rights is inherently exceptionalist, demanding a suspension of a principle that prevails in practically every other case. This does not automatically tell against it; exceptions as well as rules are part of law. But it means that there is a burden of proof on the pro-choice side to explain why in this case taking another human life is acceptable, indeed a protected right itself.”
As Ethics Alarms has mentioned repeatedly, the pro-abortion movement refuses to discuss the issue on this basis, or even acknowledge that a human life is involved other than that of the mother.
- “At its most rigorous, the organism-but-not-person argument seeks to identify some stage of neurological development that supposedly marks personhood’s arrival — a transition equivalent in reverse to brain death at the end of life. But even setting aside the practical difficulties involved in identifying this point, we draw a legal line at brain death because it’s understood to be irreversible, the moment at which the human organism’s healthy function can never be restored. This is obviously not the case for an embryo on the cusp of higher brain functioning — and if you knew that a brain-dead but otherwise physically healthy person would spontaneously regain consciousness in two weeks, everyone would understand that the caregivers had an obligation to let those processes play out.”
What Douthat does not explore is what marks this and other tortured denials of the unborn’s humanity as intellectually dishonest: they have all been developed to reach a predetermined objective: justifying abortion.
- “Is it really necessary to found equality for one group of human beings on legal violence toward another, entirely voiceless group?’
Good question, which is why pro-abortion advocates refuse to consider it, because they know once abortion is conceded to be “violence toward another, entirely voiceless group,” it becomes ethically untenable.
He concludes his essay this way:
“It’s not a model I would ever cite for pro-life legislation….But…According to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, who surveyed the facilities that provide about 93 percent of all abortions in the state, there were 2,149 fewer legal abortions in Texas in the month the law went into effect than in the same month in 2020. About half that number may end up still taking place, some estimates suggest, many of them in other states. But that still means that in a matter of months, more than a thousand human beings will exist as legal persons, rights-bearing Texans — despite still being helpless, unreasoning and utterly dependent — who would not have existed had this law not given them protection.
“But, in fact, they exist already. They existed, at our mercy, all along.”