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« Can Atheists Believe in Moral Values? | Main | Dawkins and the Information Question »

February 25, 2008


Thanks for this. I was recently challenged on this issue, and I think you have explained my problem with "reducing abortions" better than I could at the time.

I guess it would still be a good first step if in the end we still would want to end abortion completely. Kind of like your article on stopping foreign slave trade and eventually leading itself to ending slavery. It's a first step at the very least. Maybe they do want to end it completely?

Agreed. "Reducing" is a way they think they will please everyone--by being for choic and against abortion all at the same time

I want to ask these people why they want to "reduce" abortions.

If the unborn are innocent humnan beings worthy of our protection, reduction is a start but not good enough.

If the unborn aren't innocent humnan beings, there is no value in reducing abortion. (borrowing Greg's logic)

Stated another way: If a fetus is of no intrinsic human value, if the unborn is a lump of tissue or as some put it "a parasite" of no more human value than a tumor until born, then why is reducing the number of abortions important at all?

Either the unborn has intrinsic human value or it doesn't.

If no intrinsic human value, then a policy of reducing abortions is reprehensible political pandering and morally meaningless, unless one is trying to make the argument that such reduction has some utilitarian value in reducing medical costs or unpleasantness or inconvenience to the woman. But if that's the case why not vigorously and passionately pursue a public policy, embedded in a political party's stance, that reduces the number of wart and mole removals?

If there is intrinsic human value then a mere goal of "reduction" is morally horrifying, as the blog points out.

Perhaps we should start with an apt analogy. The apt analogy in "ending" abortion isn't the campaign to end slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, rather it is with the attempts in the twentieth century to enact the circumstances under which the state might wither away and we would all live in Worker's Paradises.

"Ending" abortion would require a one-world totalitarian state in which women of child bearing age were required to take monthly pregnancy tests.

All we can do is reduce abortion. Abortion cannot be eliminated as long as we have nation states and social classes. We can reduce it by criminalizing it or we can reduce it with incentives or we can do both. Either way will require increasing public expenditures.

We should at least be honest. You all focus on criminalization because to do otherwise (focus on incentives) would lead to an uncomfortable confrontation with ones political and economic ideologies. It would also end the political coalition in which you are enmeshed.

Alan -
You would be incorrect in your statement that:
"We should at least be honest. You all focus on criminalization because to do otherwise (focus on incentives) would lead to an uncomfortable confrontation with ones political and economic ideologies."

Having participated in Justice For All events a couple of times, as well as debating the subject otherwise, I frequently point out the alternatives to abortion that are readily available in order to demonstrate that the desperation that leads one in the balance to excuse the killing of certain persons is not is not a warranted desparation. I know that I'm far from unique in pointing this out.

However, I would also have to point out that leaving the argument _centered_ in the incentives realm is like arguing that you should not beat your wife because people will like you better if you don't. Hogwash! The reason I don't beat my wife like a gong is first because I love her (and I even like her too), and second because I believe that I ought to subjegate my passions to the moral principle that it is wrong to beat her even if I feel really angry. It would in fact be unjust(ified) of me to put anger over principle and therefore it would be just for me to be punished appropriately if I did put anger first.

If grave and imminent harm are threatening the life of innocent human persons, especially in a legally institutionalized fashion that is contrary to moral sense, then we must stand our moral ground in the ring of justice which identifies a wrong done to the victims and implies an appropriately just response to check the harm before we engage in the alternatives.

"You all focus on criminalization because to do otherwise (focus on incentives) would lead to an uncomfortable confrontation with ones political and economic ideologies."

Personally, I'm happy to explore any option to stop abortion, but criminalization is a necessary step. However, imaging focusing on "incentives" to stop any other immoral or illegal behavior -- be it murder, counterfeiting, or speeding. We don't give people good reasons to do what is right -- we simply expect it. We punish doing what is wrong.

And the confrontation with "political ideologies" and ending coalitions runs both ways.

The fact the Clinton's have adopted the "reduce" rather then "end" approach is prima facia evidence that the argument is self-serving sophistry.

ChrisB, you make some good
points. They reminded me of an analogy that I think fits here. Let's exchange abortion with child sacrifice and see how the term "reduction" works. And, by the way we might look at the abortion industry as child sacrifice because that is exactly what it is, seeing how the gods of convenience, money, free sex, and others are being worshipped at the expense of human persons. We might not have come along so far as a culture as we might have thought.

Brad B

Alan Aronson writes:
> "Ending" abortion would require a
> one-world totalitarian state in
> which women of child bearing age
> were required to take monthly
> pregnancy tests.


I think we were talking about ending *legal* abortion, vs. reducing it.

We don't have a totalitarian state subjecting everyone to weekly inquisitions to determine slave ownership, yet we've "ended" slavery in this country, haven't we?

Alan, once again you're trying to muddy the water. Most sincere pro-lifers I know spend their time and resources trying to win hearts and minds so as to protect the unborn. Yet you persist in feeding this notion that our focus is on criminalization. I can't speak for every pro-life, just as you can't speak for every pro-death advocate, but my goal has never been to punish abortion-seeking women. I want them to know that they can do better than killing the life that dwells within them. They may think that snuffing out that precious little life for the sake of comfort and financial expediency won't leave scars, but it will. I know plenty of women who have had problems carrying babies to term because they subjected their bodies to abortion. If I was the kind of callous person you think all pro-lifers are, I would see some measure of just desserts. I don't. Hurting people are hurting people, whether the wounds are self-inflicted or not. Also, I wonder if the people who might have one day produced cures for AIDS or cancer were unwittingly aborted because someone's boyfriend wanted the sex without the responsibility of paying the consequences. We'll never know on this side of eternity. But I can never bring myself to think that it's OK to play God with a baby's life. Maybe I'm just biased because I'm a former fetus ... just as you are.

Dwight - do not hold your breath on a direct, precise and logical reply from Aronson. It will not happen. He comes here only to stir the pot. There is yet no evidence that he engages discussion from a logically complete perspective.

Are there ways to reduce abortion? What are some of the ways proposed? Shouldn't prolifers want to take measures to reduce the number of abortions?

If as Mike Westfall said the debate is only between making abortion illegal and reducing it, then it should be preferable to reduce abortions because the ideal outcome is to end abortion and "ending" abortion requires reducing the number of abortions to zero or as near to zero as possible.

In all honesty, the best way to know that lives are being saved is to take measures to reduce the number of abortions before criminalizing it. If the number of abortions dwindles even while it remains legal then one can be sure that abortion is truly infrequent.

This is an important part of the discussion. What can be done now to save lives even while courts refuse to condemn abortion is probably the best focus of efforts while the issues remain unsettled.

Melinda's point is not lost on me. It is disgusting to see politicians not condemning injustice and refusing to go to the core of an issue.

Pro-lifers do need a two pronged attack. Reducing abortion is the first prong.

So, what do we do after the elections? Do we sit and wait until the next election when a pro-choice candidate wins? Do we let the pro-life candidate tell us that all the pro-choice politicians won't cooperate? No, we must accept whoever we are given and demand that they do our bidding while offering whatever support possible to see a plan through to fruition. We are called to accept and not necessarily to approve of our politicians (Romans 13). Hold any politician to this goal of reducing abortions whether pro-life or pro-choice.

Alan Powers writes: "Dwight - do not hold your breath on a direct, precise and logical reply from Aronson."

That may be so... While Alan A may be coming just to stir the pot, I don't know precisely his state of heart, and while he speaks intelligently, I think his wisdom in using his faculties falls short. However I do consider the admonition in Matthew 7:6 when I engage, even as I consider the possibilities suggested in 1 Cor 13 (particularly 13:7). As he may disagree strongly, he is at least as civil as most of us here, and therefore rather more than a swine, even if he may speak falsely. I rather hope that Alan A. continues to be a worthy sparring partner and requires us to exercise a bit. I should hope that we should all extend to him due charity even if we don't particularly hold his ideas to have the best merit, and I would hope he does the same, even as I hope he is honest enough to listen to ideas of merit here. By and by I hope that God catches him in spite of himself through his continued visits here.

we've "ended" slavery in this country, haven't we?

Not by Alan's standards. We still have an underground sex slave trade. So we better go to a totalitarian government or just make it legal all together.

I would love to eliminate all abortions. But their are some things to be considered.
1) Occasionally tragic pregnancies do occur for an example my mother's second child started growing in her fallopian tubes, and was two big to get out of them. If abortion was 100% illegal she would have died well before her baby would have been capable of living outside the womb.
Granted this was decades ago, so they might have been able to help my sibling now. But if it is a choice between letting both mother and child die, or an abortion as tragic as the choice allowing one of them to live, I would prefer one live.

Second, Most big goals need to be sliced up into smaller easier to manage goals. Unless you are a Supreme Court Justice, or a member of Congress, or the president I think we should all have two goals. The first one is to reduce abortion, the second should be to eliminate abortion.

I don't know if it is even possible to eliminate all abortion, but chances that are within a couple of miles of where you are right now is a young girl with a pregnancy test is wondering what in the world she is going to do HELP HER. Saving her child's life will only reduce abortion, but that is how most goals are accomplished, one small step at a time.

"If abortion was 100% illegal she would have died well before her baby would have been capable of living outside the womb."

Wanda, I don't know of anyone who would refuse an abortion to save the life of the mother.

"If abortion was 100% illegal she would have died well before her baby would have been capable of living outside the womb."
My sister in law's first pregnancy had the same problem, Wanda, and like your family, she tragically lost the baby, too.

I think there's a distinction that gets lost here. Intent matters, and intent is at the crux of the moral point of this issue. By my quick perusal of a few definitions of "abortion" as well as my unofficial understanding, the intent of abortion is first and foremost to prematurely end the pregnancy. The point is to take life - not to preserve life. A doctor acting morally however seeks first and foremost to try to the best of his ability to "do no harm". This, alas, puts the doctor in a difficult place in a fallen world, having to triage a crisis, knowing that oft times, it is impossible to save all lives. So the doctor does the best they can to prioritize and go from the best odds to the worst odds. We don't say of a doctor that is performing a risky conjoined twin separation surgery "He's going to commit infantacide in order to save one of the twins", even when one of them often dies anyway. Abortion providers _may_ be charitably granted the assumption that they are seeking the lesser evil (sensibly concluded or not). But a moral doctor seeks the greater good - and that is not the same thing even if it looks like it on the outside.

This post coincides with a piece I wrote for my own blog last week, which was tipped off by Bill Clinton's recent unscripted outburst at pro-life students in Ohio. I point out specific measures that have been shown to reduce abortion rates worldwide and how pro-abortion politicians have not contributed in any way, though taking credit for such a decline.

I would ask the same question I've heard others ask of the now famous "safe, legal, and rare" mantra of the pro-abortion left: if it is safe and legal, why should anyone want it to be rare? The inherent double-talk in this phrase alone should be enough to disqualify any such discussion on abortion reduction. Pro-abortion politicians don't mean what they say, and they don't say what they mean.

In attempting to limit the number of abortions, how much responsibility do we have to do it within our legal framework? Do we try to reduce abortions, but only while accepting and respecting that under current constitutional law, a woman has a fundamental right to an abortion prior to the fetus's viability? This approach, I think, would prohibit us from supporting laws that unduly burden this right (and candidates who suuport such laws). Otherwise, we would be saying it's ok to ignore certain constitutional laws because we don't agree with them, which is an untenable position. Obviously, we can fight for a change in the constitutional jurisprudence, but what do we do politically and legally apart from that?

Short on time but here's an interesting exchange from Kevin Drum on topic - follow the links:

Replies later.

BTW, another of our favorite topics is ripening. Next week (March 4) the California Supreme Court hears the Same-sex Marriage Cases. The California Channel will carry the oral arguments live. Briefs from the principals and amici are also on line. For fans of Robert George, he is a party to the amicus brief filed by James Q. Wilson.

Apologies for being off topic but I figured some may be interested.

Hi Alan, I know better than to get involved in wife-beating discussions : ). Anyway, Alvin has a good point. prongs keep things alive. If abortion was actually made illegal that would take everything underground. A credit card and a short flight (for most of us) and all but the poor still have access to the procedure. meanwhile, the issue dies here, for the most part, funding dries up and life moves on.

Anyway, consider this; President Obama will likely appoint Sen. Clinton and two or three other folks to join the Supremes (think Thurgood Marshall). There goes that plan for a generation or so.

I understand that some of you are convinced that we have a person at conception. I wish you all would try and understand that quite a few of your fellow citizens simply disagree.

I was simply trying to find some common ground. With your backing we could cut abortions considerably in a few months. No something in the way future pie in the sky.

BTW, when someone hands one a gift, it is sufficient to accept it with gratitude; it will likely be counterproductive to ask why.


By…Michael Westfall

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