It’s Not Just About the Hypocrisy: Representative Tim Murphy, Abortion, and the Problem with Rejecting Consistent Life Ethics

“We must, once again, become a nation respectful of all life. We must encourage and prioritize adoption and offer compassion and prayer for mothers and fathers who struggle with the questions of life,” said Murphy.

One of the first acts of newly-elected President Donald J. Trump was to reinstate long-standing policy to prevent U.S. taxpayers paying for abortions through foreign aid. The next day, the House of Representatives took up and passed H.R. 7 to permanently prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, as well as to prohibit federal medical facilities and health professionals from providing abortion services.

“I proudly sponsored and voted for this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn,” said Murphy. “Passage of H.R. 7 in the wake of the President’s executive action gives me great hope we will once again be a nation committed to honoring life and ensuring American taxpayer dollars are never spent to end a life before it even begins.”

That’s Representative Tim Murphy praising a new bill that had just passed in the House, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act. Sounds truly pro-life, doesn’t he? Especially with the emphasis on compassion, which appears to undercut the frequent argument from pro-choice advocates – and from the New Pro Life Movement – that Republican pro-life spokespersons don’t really care about women.

The problem is, he made this public statement just two days after pressuring a woman with whom he had had an affair to procure an abortion.

The media has made a lot of noise about how this – as well as prior, similar incidents – showcases the hypocrisy of the Right, on life issues. And given that Trump is lauded as a pro-life hero in these circles, we should not be surprised to see just how superficial this moral stance is.

What I want to address here is not simply the hypocrisy.

First of all, we should look at the root of the hypocrisy. I suggest that it is because, when one rejects a consistent life ethic, one lacks the moral strength and grounding to be genuinely pro-life even on this one moral issue of abortion. This is why some supposed pro-lifers not only fail to extend their politics to deal correctly with life issues pertaining to capital punishment, war, and gun violence – but fail, also, in their personal lives and choices. Rep. Murphy is a radical case, but consider the fact that far-right media and academic personalities are willing to act ruthlessly to silence opponents, even to the extent of depriving them of livelihood.

Secondly, we need to look at how the need for abortion is built, structurally, into the culture these men represent. I wrote about this last year, about abortion dependence in a production-based utilitarian economy which is almost inevitably patriarchal – and hedonistic. Everything Trump stands for.

Abortion has become a necessity for this system. The value of the individual in this system is relative to utility / productivity, so women who have gotten pregnant in the unaccepted context are devalued, and gotten rid of. A deferral than occurs – the unborn child is devalued, and gotten rid of. But the decision to devalue was not, initially, that of the woman. It is already the attitude of her society.

To those employers who value employees based on what, when, and how much they produce (a woman was not hired to produce a baby!), abortion is a necessity. This includes employers who profess to be pro-life. Our entire utilitarian system buzzes along as it does because of our unmentioned methods of disposing of those who are not useful to us.

By all means, we must shine a bright light on the hypocrisy of those whose pro-life platitudes are belied by their actions. But we must not let their example be taken as normative for a pro-life ethos. Rather, we should see from these cases that what these men and their supporters represent was never truly pro-life at all.

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