Abortion’s Underlying Issue

Abortion’s Underlying Issue May 23, 2019

The great Anthony Esolen has written a brilliant article for Public Discourse on the underlying issue in the abortion controversy:  autonomy.  That is, the insistence on being a law unto oneself.  Having a child puts us in relationships and gives us obligations that undermines the possibility of sexual, economic, and personal autonomy.

Read the whole essay.  It begins by showing how logic, science, evidence, experience all support the anti-abortion position.  In fact, all of the arguments for abortion have been shot down.  But for those committed to abortion, the facts do not matter.  Today, supporters of abortion refuse any limits to the mother’s and her doctor’s “right” to kill that child, even when the baby could live outside her womb, when there is no question of the fetus being just a part of the mother’s body.  Politicians who support abortion cannot even bring themselves to vote for a bill that would protect the target of abortion even after he or she is born, should the abortion be bungled.

Esolen asks, why is that?  And then he offers an explanation. . . .

From Anthony Esolen, When Reason Does Not Suffice:  Why Our Culture Still Accepts Abortion:  

Think now of the poor bleeding and half-mangled child who survives an abortive attempt on his life. He is breathing on the table nearby. He poses not the most suppositious threat to the life or the health of his mother. But he does pose a threat: an existential threat. His mere existence poses a threat to the mother’s and everyone else’s imagined mode of existence, which is autonomy.

As long as that child exists or has existed, whether the mother relents and takes him to herself, or gives him up for adoption, or even whether he is given medical care and lives for a few weeks before he dies, he stands as an exemplar of how we exist, utterly dependent on our Creator, and, in a human sense, an exemplar of why we exist, for the sake of others, for and by means of love, which by its nature does not count the cost. Not that love is improvident. But for what and for whom do we provide, if not for those we love, and for their true welfare, not for their avarice?. . . .

Every time a man and woman go to bed together to do the child-making thing, the question is present, because they may make a child. To say, “You may not kill the child you make,” is to imply, “You have no business doing this thing in bed, if you are in no position to care for a child.” To imply that is to imply that we are not the lords of our bodies. The earth heaves from beneath us.

For then the entire “culture” of sexual autonomy is to be rejected. Feminism, which is based on a separation of woman’s interest from man’s interest, and of either interest from that of the child, is to be rejected. Man’s use of woman for sexual release, without reference to the family, is to be rejected. The nightmare world of pharmaceutical and surgical mutilation, to try to squeeze the body into the phantasmagorical molds of the imagination, is to be rejected. Sodom and Gomorrah are to be rejected, Seattle and Portland, Hollywood and Wall Street, Yale and Princeton, insofar as they build upon sexual autonomy as allowing for, and lubricating the quest for, avarice in all its forms, are to be rejected. Man is for woman, and woman for man, and both together for the child.

Then let the pro-life movement be advised. We are really asking for a moral revolution. If the child lives, the mother’s life will not be the same, because if we accept the principles that allow the child to live, none of our lives can be the same. There is no way to guarantee, as some pro-life people seem to want us to do, a world safe for the unborn child that is also a world of total sexual and economic autonomy. In any world in which autonomy is the highest ideal, the child—that incarnate sign of our dependence and existential poverty—must go.

The serpent says we shall be as gods. That is the argument we must defeat.

I suspect that proponents of abortion would agree that this is what is ultimately at stake:  personal autonomy; freedom, with no restrictions; abortion as the essential capstone of the sexual revolution, assuring the ability to have sex without procreation and thus everything that follows from that disjunction, from feminism through homosexuality.  Those of you who are “pro-choice,” do you agree with Esolen on that?  Do you see Esolen’s points on why that can be problematic?  Or do you reject them–as well as all of the other arguments on the issue that he cites–out of hand, without considering them?  If so, are you proving his point?

Esolen shows how abortion is one facet of a whole web of moral, spiritual, and worldview issues.  How might these be factored into pro-life strategies?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay, Pixabay License

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