Politics, Sentimentality and Utilitarianism

One of the problems with the pro-life debacle this week in Britain is that the pro-life cause relied too much on political, sentimental and utilitarian arguments.

The political argument is, “This is a matter of women’s rights.” or “This is a matter of the unborn human person’s right to life.” When you argue something in terms of human rights, nobody really cares about human rights. They care about who is stronger or richer or more powerful. In this case, the woman is stronger than her infant. So her rights prevail. The feminist is stronger than the fetus, so her rights prevail. Political human rights arguments (which used to be about defending the rights of the weak and vulnerable) are now arguments about the defense of my own ‘rights’ which is code for my own wealth, my own power, my own autonomy. Any argument based on political rights will be won by the strong.
A sentimental argument is one that appeals primarily to the emotions. The main sentimental argument in this case is the appeal on fetal pain. “The fetus feels pain so we must not allow abortions.” The difficulty with this is that the baby killers will simply say, “Oh, does it feel pain? I guess we should anesthetize the fetus first, then kill it.” or they say, “All the more reason to make later term abortions a rarity. Let’s abolish all restraints on early abortions and make them available to everyone everywhere.”
The Utilitarian anti abortion argument uses recent medical advances to argue for a lower limit. “We can keep premature babies alive now who are born at twenty three weeks. So we need a lower abortion limit.” They don’t get it. The baby killers don’t think that way at all. They think the pregnancy should be ended whenever the mother wants it to be ended. Whether the ‘baby’ an survive or not is immaterial. As long as it is still in the womb it is the mother’s decision.’
Sentimental and utilitarian arguments are fine as part of the arsenal, but the only way abortion will really stop is when people decide that it is gravely immoral. They will only decide that it is gravely immoral when they decide that killing an innocent person is gravely immoral, and they will only decide that when they really understand what a human person is, and they will only understand that when they come to believe that each person is an immortal soul created in God’s image, and they will only come to believe that when they start believing in God.
Every argument is a theological argument.
"Catholicism has always defined the ideal but there are no limits on God's mercy and ..."

Tony Palmer: Is There Salvation Outside ..."
"With all due respect, Shaun, are you relegating the actual Faith to whatever the local ..."

Notes on Tony Palmer’s Funeral
"There are good parking valets and bad parking valets. There are good housesitters and bad ..."

The Case for Conversion to Catholicism
"did you vote for Bush Fr Longenecker? would you have?"

Understanding Iraq

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Brilliant and true, only through God do we know our worth.

  • The argument over abortion will not be won on its own. Abortion has to be fought as part of a Catholic vision of human life as a whole – All men and women made in the image and likeness of God, the complimentary difference between men and women, marriage and sexuality (more in my next post), the dignity of life from conception to natural death

  • Bravo! for your posts re abortion. I believe we need a whole new word for the living person between conception and delivery, but a word that avoids developmental stages e.g., embryo. “Baby” is arbitrary and inexact; “Unborn” is too negative, clinical, and undignified; “Premmie” is unspeakably cute; “Baby killers” is horriblly applicable also after delivery. I hope the word we need is out there somewhere and that whoever knows what it is will share it with the rest of us.

  • As long as artificial contraception is condoned, abortion is going to be tolerated.

  • I think that those who have committed an abortion have strong psychological reasons to deny the gravity of their actions. Only a theological response can turn them around. Only by preaching God’s infinite Mercy and love can they be reconciled, within themselves and to Him. Hostile confrontation is not likely achieve anything.

  • M

    That’s quite a skill you’ve got: putting truth clearly and concisely. Beautiful!(and btw, “m” is me, MargoB. I couldn’t get any of the openIDs to work, so had to use my gmail account.)

  • Hi Fr, I was wondering if you could plug my blog please?It’s http://www.madtrad.blogspot.comJP

  • Amen, father!

  • Father – excellent argument, I agree wholeheartedly. I also echo what kkollwitz said, as long as we condone contraception legally/spiritually we will have abortion. In America that was the final argument which paved the way for Roe v. Wade – if we can contracept, we should be able to abort (in simple terms) We won’t be rid of abortion until we are rid of contraception.