Pro-Life Hypocrisy? Not This Time

Pro-Life Hypocrisy? Not This Time February 8, 2010

When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage of the Tim Tebow Super Bowl commercial described the groups advocating for or against the ad, it described them as anti-abortion and pro-choice, respectively.  Now, I have no problem being described as anti-abortion, but the skew here is obvious.  I have long believed that the discussion around abortion would be aided by clearer labels.  (I think “pro-legal abortion,” and “anti-legal abortion” are about as close to objective labels as we can find, though someone is bound to complain that being “anti-legal abortion” implies being for illegal ones.)  Each group chooses its own title for itself and for the opposition.  “We are pro-life, they are pro-abortion (or even pro-death).”  “We are pro-choice, they are anti-choice.”

These are quite unworkable.  As the pro-legal abortion folks point out, no one (or almost no one) is actually pro-abortion.  Even the majority of those who think abortions should be legal admit they are a tragedy.  And, as fewer people point out, everyone is anti-choice on issues of morality.  Hell, I don’t even support someone’s choice to drink and drive, let alone take a life directly.

As useful as the standard labels are for identity politics, they do nothing for the actual public discussion.  In fact, since words actually mean things, they cripple that discussion by leading to ad hominem attacks and fuzzy thinking.  I recently came across an extremely blurry case. On its homepage, WordPress featured a piece about the Tebow situation from a blog called “Fixed Air.”

Now, Vox Nova, has gotten in trouble with some in the pro-life crowd in the past for calling out hypocrisy in the pro-life movement.  Our basic concern is that the pro-life movement has no credibility when it is coupled with advocating things like preemptive wars or the death penalty.

Heather at “Fixed Air” sees pro-life hypocrisy not in the fact that some pro-lifers advocate anti-life positions on issues other than abortion, but in the fact that they think that the choice to abort is wrong.

Huh?

Let’s look at her own words.  She writes: “Let’s review: a doctor advised Mrs. Tebow of the risk associated with her pregnancy, Mrs. Tebow weighed her options, and chose to remain pregnant. Mrs. Tebow was given a choice. This is the key to a woman’s right to choose for herself what she will do to her body. However, Tim and his mother are taking a stance against the very choice that Pam Tebow had. This is hypocrisy at its most salient.”

It is?

Now, my first reaction to this was that it needed no response.  Often enough we here at Vox Nova do not engage the pro-legal abortion folks, not because we agree with them, but because stuff like this refutes itself.  It just does not read like an intellectually serious argument.  On the other hand, WordPress’s selection of the piece as a feature, and the supportive feedback in the com-boxes indicates that some people take it as such.

Now, when two intelligent and serious people can both look at the same argument and see it as alternately ludicrous and devastating, there is a very good chance that the roots of their disagreement lie deeper than what is being stated openly.  When this is the case, it is all too easy to conclude that those with whom one disagrees are either stupid, ill-intentioned, or both.

I don’t know Heather well enough to judge her intelligence or intention.  I suspect she, like the vast majority of people I meet, is neither stupid, nor ill-intentioned.  (Incidentally, I meet more stupid people than ill-intentioned ones, but both are relatively rare.)  But I think she has made a very poor argument.  Her responses in the com-boxes to the reader who pointed out her surface error, demonstrate that her mistake lies deep in a faulty presupposition.

Heather has let the (quite artificial) labels given in the abortion debate frame the question for her in an unworkable way.  “Choice,” as such, has become such a positive good that the actual content of a real, existential choice has become unnecessary for judging the morality of the resulting action.  It is only possible to say that “Tim and his mother are taking a stance against the very choice that Pam Tebow had,” when one assumes, a priori, that a given choice has no moral import.

Furthermore, Pam Tebow simply cannot be a hypocrite in any meaningful sense of the word if she did not believe that she had a choice.  Mrs. Tebow did not “weigh her options” and choose “ to remain pregnant” any more than I weigh my options and choose not to beat my wife.  Certainly the possibilities of terminating a pregnancy or beating my wife exist in the concrete, but when one is convinced that something is gravely evil, it is ruled out from the start.  Pam Tebow always knew she would keep her baby in the same way that most of us know that we will not kill our children when we get home from work today.  Pam Tebow is not denying a choice to anyone that she did not deny to herself.  You can think she’s in the wrong, but it makes no sense to call her a hypocrite.

Because of the way ‘choice’ language is used in the abortion debate, Heather has confused existential possibility with moral neutrality.  Without this confusion she could not have suggested that, because Pam Tebow had the existential possibility of an abortion, she is a hypocrite for claiming that abortion is morally wrong.

It is unfortunate that I must digress here to assure my readers here that I sympathize with women caught in tough situations.  In comparing beating my wife and abortion, I do not wish to imply that every woman who has an abortion is deliberately committing a conscious evil.  In fact, I believe, as most pro-lifers I know believe, that women receiving abortions are more victims than criminals in a culture that does whatever it can to limit the consequences of sex for men, including foisting all of those consequences on women.  It is unfortunate that I must digress because all of that should go without saying.

Nevertheless, abortion is objectively at least as grave as the examples I use above.  It is the direct taking of an innocent life.  The “pro-choice” label has allowed people like Heather to form her conscience on this issue with no reference to the actual content of the act of terminating a pregnancy.  Even the Planned Parenthood counter-ad spent a lot of time talking about choice, and no time at all talking about what the choice is for.

Choice is never an independent value.  It depends precisely on what is chosen.  And everybody already knows this. We don’t talk about being pro-choice on state executions, or unjust wars, or sex between adults and minors, or paying taxes.  Some don’t even think that parents should be allowed the choice to spank or not.  (For the record, my wife and I don’t spank.)

Questions of preference and questions of morality both require choice, but they are not the same kind of question for all that.  In questions of morality the choice is between right and wrong, just and unjust, harmful or beneficial.  It is hard to imagine a philosophical justification for including the choice to abort one’s child in the same genus of choices as that between chocolate and vanilla.  But with or without justification, that is how Fixed Air is treating the issue of abortion.

The label “pro-choice” does not simply serve to make those who oppose legal abortion appear anti-women’s rights (though it certainly does that as well).  Its more subtle function is to short-circuit the question of abortion by emptying the act of any moral content before the debate even begins.

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto.  He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.

"It does make things more complicated and suggests that there's more to be done with ..."

Four Episodes from a Consistent Life ..."
"Joe,thanks for this detailed comment. I appreciate your sentiments about ensoulment though the very uncertainty ..."

Four Episodes from a Consistent Life ..."
"David, I likewise applaud your series on how you came to believe in a consistent ..."

Four Episodes from a Consistent Life ..."
"Just so you know: Henry Karlson no longer blogs with us, and I doubt he ..."

A Christian Interpretation of the Mahāvākyas

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • phosphorious

    I’m really not sure I see the problem here. Obviously, merely choosing an action does not make it good.

    But at the same time if an action is not free, if their is no choice, then it is neither good nor bad. Mrs. Tebow would not be a model of motherly sacrifice if she had been forced to go through with the abortion.

    This is a point that conservatives have no trouble seeing with welfare: if charity is legally required, then it is not true charity.

    Well, self sacrifice that is legally required is not real self sacrifice.

    Mrs tebow is saintly. Had she been forced to give birth, she wouldn’t be.

  • First, I had no idea WordPress was going to feature this piece. Normally I write about things like movies and fashion.

    Second, you’ve completely misinterpreted my position. The issue at hand here is autonomy over one’s personhood. The reason why abortion is legal is this country is because the government has chosen to recognize a woman’s right to make decisions concerning her health. Women are allowed to make critical choices about their lives for a reason, and Pam Tebow is no different. “Pro-lifers” are aiming to overturn this de jure decision for religious reasons. However, if a woman chooses not to have an abortion due to such religious reasons, that’s the choice she is allowed.

    Third, this appears to be a Catholic blog, so I am unsure of whether you know of the repressive practices of Focus on the Family (which is not a Catholic organization).

    Fourth, I can confirm that I am neither stupid nor ill-intentioned. Please save your pitchforks and torches for someone else.

  • ron chandonia

    Raising “choice” itself as an ethical ideal is not confined to the abortion debate. Rod Dreher had an excellent post recently about the research of Notre Dame prof Christian Smith into the ethical reasoning of young adults raised in a relativist environment.

    Key finding: “There’s a lot of ‘whatever people think is true is true because people make it true by believing it’ in their moral reasoning, Smith says — and a lot of what Alasdair MacIntyre calls ’emotivism’ — basically, the idea that truth claims are merely statements of subjective opinion, and should be treated as only that.” In ethical reasoning, then, what finally matters is just choice, the act of choosing, not what is chosen.

  • brettsalkeld

    Phos,
    Good thing I’m not a conservative and I have no problem seeing virtuous giving existing alongside welfare. Still, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Are you supporting legal abortion with the same argument you (I think) reject when conservatives use it about welfare? Do you support having no legal restrictions on any moral question so that people can always behave virtuously? I find your post quite confusing.

    Fixed,
    Thanks for stopping by. I’m afraid that what we disagree about is precisely what the issue at hand is. You think it is autonomy, I think it is the possibility of killing another human. My whole point was that disagreements about what the issue even is are possible only because of the way the terms define the arguments in our minds from the get-go. You won’t be surprised that I prefer my definitions to yours. I expect the same from you. But as long as we shout back and forth about what the issue is, without investigating the presuppositions that make each of us define the issue differently, the conversation will go nowhere. That was my point.
    Glad to hear you are neither stupid or ill-intentioned. I suspected as much. The torches and pitchforks comment was a bit much though. It seems to imply that I am either stupid or ill-intentioned for disagreeing with you. Some of us just want to engage the issue in a new way because we’re sick of the cultural shouting match. You don’t have to agree with me about abortion to be able to respect that.
    And don’t worry. Neither I nor Vox Nova have much to do with Focus on the Family. Stick around here for a bit and you’ll see a lot of people calling us the ‘L’ word. We hate guns and the death penalty, can’t stand preemptive war, are concerned about the environment and get upset when people vilify gays. We just think there are better solutions to unwanted pregnancy than abortion.

  • phosphorious

    Good thing I’m not a conservative and I have no problem seeing virtuous giving existing alongside welfare. Still, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Are you supporting legal abortion with the same argument you (I think) reject when conservatives use it about welfare? Do you support having no legal restrictions on any moral question so that people can always behave virtuously? I find your post quite confusing.

    I am merely suggesting that it is problematic to legally enforce saintly behavior. Conservatives who fume against “forced charity” have no problem forcing a woman to sacrifice her life.

    Welfare is less of a burden on the taxpayer than anti-abortion laws are on the mother, and yet conservatives despise the first and revere the second.

    There is no principle at work there, just emotion.

  • brettsalkeld

    Phos,
    So are you arguing against anything I wrote, or just fuming against conservatives and the things I might have written if I was one of them?
    You’ll have no argument with me if you’re just calling for conservatives to be consistent, but if that’s all you’re doing, I’m not sure why this post is the place to do it. I am not aware of having supported any of the positions you criticize.

  • phosphorious

    In ethical reasoning, then, what finally matters is just choice, the act of choosing, not what is chosen.

    A danger perhaps. But certainly choice is a necessary if not sufficient condition of moral behavior.

    That an action was freely chosen doesn’t make it good, but unless it is freely chosen, it is neither good nor bad.

  • Brett is a great example of what the pro-life movement should look like. Thanks for this excellent post, Brett.

  • phosphorious

    So are you arguing against anything I wrote, or just fuming against conservatives and the things I might have written if I was one of them?

    No, I am also pointing out that choice is not quite the frivolous thing you make it out to be.

    Mrs. Tebow’s decision was not a trivial one. She risked her own life. It’s hers to risk. But “pro-lifers” want it to be legally required of women in the same position to take the same risk.

    Women are more than incubators. Their welfare is worth consideration, their autonomy worth protecting.

  • brettsalkeld

    Phos,
    I will grant that if there ever is a genuine conflict of values on the question of abortion, it is when the woman’s life is threatened. If those who were against the Tebow ad were simply supporting the possibility of abortion in cases where the mother’s life was at risk, the culture war would be a much calmer affair. We all know that that is a heartrending situation. What we don’t like is when appeal to that situation is used to support the status quo on abortion under which the vast majority of terminations have nothing to do with women’s health.

    Women are more than incubators and babies are more than ‘fetal tissue’. They are both worth our very best. Abortion is not our very best.

  • David Nickol

    Nevertheless, abortion is objectively at least as grave as the examples I use above. It is the direct taking of an innocent life.

    Brett,

    You are arguing as if everyone accepted your assertion that abortion is the direct taking of an innocent life. Not everybody believes that. In fact, most people don’t believe it or they wouldn’t accept abortion in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. Abortion isn’t “objectively” grave. You see it as grave because the Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception, and you believe that.

    The torches and pitchforks comment was a bit much though. Not everyone who disagrees with you is stupid or evil either.

    You should never have said, “I don’t know Heather well enough to judge if she is stupid or ill-intentioned.” It was inappropriate, and one can hardly blame her for responding in kind.

    By the way, if you check out the recorded interview with Pam Tebow on the website of Focus on the Family, she says the doctor told her she was not carrying a fetus, but rather a mass of fetal tissue — that is, a tumor. I can’t believe an “abortion” under the circumstances is wrong. It is certainly not the taking of an innocent human life. As I have said elsewhere, the story makes no sense and contradicts the story as we have gotten it from other sources. But she and her husband are recounting it in their own words.

    My advice to any woman who is told she has a tumor growing in her womb is to ignore the Tebows and if there is any reason whatsoever to suspect the doctor is wrong, go see another doctor. But don’t do nothing other than trust in the Lord for the next seven months. That’s not faith. It’s foolishness.

  • phosphorious

    We all know that that is a heartrending situation.

    No, apparently we don’t. The whole point of the Tebow ad is to suggest that if you “choose life” everything will work out okay. You too can have your very own football hero.

    It’s the same prosperity gospel that sells so well in America, and departs so egregiously from the gospel.

    They should be more honest about what they want: “Once you are pregnant, your life is worth less than the child’s, and the law will act accordingly.”

  • brettsalkeld

    David,
    Yes, I am not going through the process of demonstrating that abortion is objectively grave. Do I really have to write an extra three paragraphs about that for every post on abortion at a Catholic blog? If I spent those 3 paragraphs, would it have changed your response anyways? We both know the answer to that.

    But don’t presume too much about why I believe what I believe. Even when I was an atheist, I thought a fetus was a person and that killing a person is objectively grave evil. I don’t see any reason why that position could only be held by an obedient Catholic.

    As for the comment about Heather, the point was actually to say that I assume that she is intelligent and well-intentioned. I think that is clear from the context. Here is the structure:
    1. It is easy to assume that those who disagree with us are stupid or evil.
    2. I don’t know Heather well enough to judge if she is stupid or evil.
    3. Though I disagree with her, I think it best to assume she is intelligent and well-intentioned (even when the temptation in such cases is to assume the opposite).

    I was criticizing assumptions of the first type. Not making one. The torches and pitchforks comment is hardly “responding in kind” to someone who is saying it is best to assume even those who radically disagree with you are intelligent and well-intentioned.

    If you don’t like the rhetorical style (which I have now altered slightly to make the possibility of misreading lower), that is one thing. And I’m sorry to Heather if the point was not clear at first reading because of it. But don’t take a quote out of context and act as if I implied that Heather was stupid. The whole post is trying to get at why two intelligent people can disagree about something that seems so cut and dried to each of them. Your accusation is disingenuous.

  • brettsalkeld

    Phos,
    I really can’t tell what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you have any concerns with my actual positions, or are you pretending to disagree with me just to argue against someone who didn’t write this post? I grow weary of defending this fellow.

  • phosphorious

    I really can’t tell what you’re trying to accomplish.

    Perhaps we are talking at cross purposes. My apologies.

  • The best solution to unwanted pregnancy is the prevention of it. What is the “Vox Nova” position on the use of birth control?

    Another issue, for me at least, is the whole concept of ensoulment at conception. This concept labels use of the “morning after pill” as abortion, rather than as contraception (which I believe it to be.) If you disagree with me, do a little research sometime on the statistics for spontaneous failure of the fertilized ovum to implant in the uterine wall and thrive. Once you have that figure firmly in mind (feel free to use the lowest number you can find), please come back and explain to me why God went to all the trouble to create those “persons,” when He surely knew that they were never going to have any life on this earth.

    • Rodak

      I don’t think there is a “Vox Nova” position but many opinions. My own view is that NFP is itself a form of birth control, and one which is allowed by dispensation. I think we can give dispensations for a few other kinds, but not for pills. And if we keep it on the level of dispensation, we can then make sure people realize the extraordinary circumstances going on, and why it is not in accord with the normal state of affairs.

  • brettsalkeld

    Rodak,
    I am inclined to think that the fiction of sex without consequences that is implied by artificial birth control has made a significant contribution to the widespread acceptance of abortion. But that’s not what this post was about. (The central points of this post stand whether one is pro or anti artificial birth control.)
    This post was also not about the morning after pill, or about ensoulment. And the central points stand whether ensoulment takes place at conception or implantation. It is a little frustrating to be forced into conversations that ignore the subject of the post at hand to chase every poster’s particular bugaboo.
    But I’ll bite, this once. I’m really not sure what it would prove if 99% of people died before implantantion. That they weren’t human? That they weren’t alive? That if they do implant, they shouldn’t be considered human or alive for some period afterward?
    Surely God’s creating humans whose only life is one of radical suffering is a greater problem than the fact that the evolutionary process has led to a certain percentage of people dying before birth. Another percentage dies before adulthood, and another before old age. Is there any other times in life where fragility equals lack of personhood? 100% of old people die.

  • brettsalkeld

    By the way, what I will respond to from now on will be concerns about how the labels we use in abortion debates form the way we approach the issue, and whether or not my particular interpretation of this phenomena as outlined in this post has merit.
    I am not afraid to talk about other things, but I simply don’t have time to re-debate every aspect of the abortion issue with every post. Furthermore, chasing our tails on these things is a good way to ensure that the actual content of the post is never discussed. Let’s stay on topic folks.

  • brettsalkeld

    Phos,
    Apology accepted. Thank you.

  • grega

    Brett one has to appreciate your deep commitment towards a rationale discussion and gets the sense that you really try very very hard to see the good in people on all sides of such thorny issues. However I doubt your effort to calmly relabel the (in your eyes) ‘unworkable’ pro choice towards the more accurate (in your opinion) mouthful ‘pro legal abortion’ are obviously not going anywhere beyond this post.

  • David Nickol

    Yes, I am not going through the process of demonstrating that abortion is objectively grave.

    Brett,

    Actually, I read your piece too hastily and responded too quickly, for which I apologize.

    You were making the point that “women receiving abortions are more victims than criminals,” but nevertheless, abortion is objectively evil. While I disagree (probably) that abortion is objectively evil, what I was protesting was the notion that abortion is so obviously evil that even pro-choice people know in their hearts that it is wrong. You were not making this point at all.

    But don’t take a quote out of context and act as if I implied that Heather was stupid.

    I accept the criticism, but I still think it was unwise to get into the whole thing. You are still implying that — while the odds seem to be against it — she may be either stupid or ill-intentioned, and you just don’t know her well enough to say. It seems to me that unless you are going to actually accuse someone of being stupid or ill-intentioned, you should give the person you are arguing with the benefit of the doubt and not imply that it may be so.

  • “It is only possible to say that “Tim and his mother are taking a stance against the very choice that Pam Tebow had,” when one assumes, a priori, that a given choice has no moral import.”

    That’s true. And it is also true that millions of people, including women who are pregnant and don’t want to be, do not view the choice as a moral one. They don’t understand a first-trimester fetus to be a person, and their choices are not moral, but pragmatic. E.g. I can’t afford another child; or, I’m not married and don’t want to raise this child alone; etc. They do understand the abortion of a first and/or second trimester fetus to be a medical procedure. Current statute law recognizes this, as well. So choice IS the issue to any person for whom the choice is not a moral one. And choice IS the issue, according to the law at this juncture.
    The response to this concept–and, as I see it, the only response–is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirming the legal status of the fetus as a person.
    All attempts to enforce that which is fundamentally an article of faith–and not shared by all faiths, as is the case with murder, thefts, etc.–by statute law are unconstitutional in a secular society. This is why I brought up ensoulment; and why I don’t consider bringing it up to have been off-topic. The Catholic has no morally licit choice where abortion is the issue is abortion. Therefore choice is not the issue for a Catholic. But choice is precisely the issue for the secular and some liberal Christians.

  • brettsalkeld

    Grega,
    I doubt it too. Hopefully the alternate labels contribute to the broader point of the post, but I have no illusions of being able to change such a long-ingrained practice with one blog post. Still, if we are aware of the problems with the current labels, we can respond better.

  • brettsalkeld

    David,
    Fair enough.

  • David Nickol

    Brett,

    I am going to grudgingly admit that I think your basic point — as I understand it — is correct. Suppose I am working my way up in organized crime, and my next step is to “make my bones” (kill someone to prove my loyalty). I decide that is wrong, and I leave organized crime. It would certainly not be hypocritical of me to criticize someone who stays behind and kills someone on the grounds that I made my choice, so he gets to make his.

    So I think you are correct in criticizing the idea that choice is the ultimate good.

    I do think, however, that the country (through the Supreme Court and otherwise) has come to the conclusion that abortion is such a difficult and personal decision, and that each case is so unique, that it should be up to the woman involved and her doctor to make the decision. So while it would be a mistake to elevate choice as the ultimate good in all things, and it would be a mistake even to say it is the ultimate good when it comes to abortion, I do think that those who want to criminalize abortion are seeking — from the viewpoint of pro-choicers — to take away a legitimate choice women currently have. They want to overturn the current agreement that the decision to abort is so personal, individual, and private that legislatures should not take it upon themselves to make that decision for every single woman in every single circumstance.

    Pam Tebow is being held up as a hero. Sarah Palin is held up as a hero for not aborting a Down syndrome baby. I agree with those who are uncomfortable with the law mandating heroic behavior. Someone mentioned (if I understood this correctly) that there is a saint who is considered a martyr for dying from a problem pregnancy because she would not abort. I am uncomfortable with the idea of American law requiring a certain percentage of women to be “martyrs.”

  • M.Z.

    Autonomy is the value being sought by the pro-choice side – like you I don’t care for the labels, but I prefer the original ones, pro-abortion and anti-abortion. And while autonomy is certainly inadequate as a value when juxtaposed against the life of the unborn, in other contexts we do recognize it as valuable enough to displace other goods. For example in the case of spanking children, we reject (at least for the time being) the regulation of spanking for the very reason that we believe grave reason is required to violate the parent child relationship. Society will tolerate severely impaired parents, like those with alcohol or drug abuse problems, in order to defend this value.

    When speaking of abortion, women talk about the inviolability of their bodies. And I think there is certainly truth to the claim. In law there is the concept of the issue of dispute but there is also the issue of standing, i.e. does the claimant have the right to make the claim? And the truth is that we do privilege the individual in making claims about their bodies. It is not insurmountable though. For example, even today society reserves the right to quarantine someone. And in the end, I think the life of the unborn child is sufficiently grave to warrant compelling a woman that which she doesn’t desire to do. While I’m not aware of an instance where women exert that kind of control over a man’s body, I don’t see the inequality of that to be a sufficient claim for allowing the life of the unborn to be taken.

  • David Nickol

    What is driving me crazy about almost every discussion of the Tebows that I have read is that everyone is ignoring the story the Tebows tell on the website of Focus on the Family. I’ll say it one more time and give up. Pam Tebow was not advised to abort a baby. She was told she had a tumor — not a baby — growing in her womb and it was a threat to her life. She ignored the doctor. Fortunately, the doctor was wrong. But it seems to me the conclusion is inescapable that Pam Tebow did not act wisely. Unless for some reason it was impossible, she should have sought a second opinion. It is simply not appropriate, when a doctor tells you there’s a tumor growing inside you, to say, “I’ll put my trust in the Lord and die if necessary.” I can certainly respect a decision to go through with a risky pregnancy. I can’t respect a decision to ignore medical advice about a tumor. Pam Tebow should not be held up as a role model.

    All of the above is, of course, assuming the story the Tebows told is true.

  • Pinky

    Rodak, recall that for most of human history, there were a lot more stillborns and infant deaths than today. Each one is a tragedy, to be sure, but nature is oftentimes a horror. We’ve become disconnected from the brutality of life. I mean, we’re griping about 2 feet of snow on the East Coast, but not many people are going to lose a hand to frostbite this winter.

    As a digression, I wonder if the high percentage of live births is the reason we’ve stopped thinking of babies as miracles.

    Anyway, the frequency of failed implantation, miscarriage, or other tragedy isn’t an argument against ensoulment. If I were God, I might do things differently, but I really am not God. And maybe somewhere in His infinite knowledge and mercy, what He’s doing is right.

  • Pinky–
    Saying “Well, it’s mystery why God does things that way, and beyond our limited comprehension” is a fine faith-based point of view. But it is not a point of view upon which statute law can be based in a secular society.
    Nobody, I think, would argue that a Catholic should ever choose abortion. But, that said, if one is arguing that the Catholic point of view on the issue of abortion should be made universal and legally binding, then one must provide a reason for that universality that even an atheist would have to acknowledge as valid. A constitutional amendment would be that reason. The atheist might not like it, but he’d necessarily obey it, or face the consequences without hope of recourse through the courts.

  • There was some of this commentary around Sarah Palin in 2008 as well — that pro-lifers shouldn’t celebrate her decision, since by their lights she would have no decision, and she was tested, proving that she was open to aborting (http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/09/quote_for_the_day_3.php)

    I suppose one benefit of the current labels is that it calls on those of us supporting restrictions on abortion to at least pay lip service to issues like capital punishment and war. Perhaps we should see it as an ideal to be pursued rather than tool to expose hypocrisy?

  • Rodak,

    I understand that slavery was ended and the women’s vote was granted via constitutional amendments, but my understanding is that both of these were a culmination of a variety of efforts in a number of arenas rather than a single-minded focus on a constitutional amendment, ignoring all other avenues.

    The requirements for a Constitutional amendment will require cultural consensus. We just saw how difficult it was to pass health care reform even in an environment with large pro-reform majorities in both houses and a president who supports it. An amendment would require seven more votes in the Senate.

    This would require a massive cultural shift, and I don’t see that happening outside of some incremental legal steps that start to whittle away at the notion that abortion is just like any other medical procedure and purely a matter of personal autonomy.

  • David Nickol

    But, that said, if one is arguing that the Catholic point of view on the issue of abortion should be made universal and legally binding, then one must provide a reason for that universality that even an atheist would have to acknowledge as valid.

    One of the problems, it seems to me, is that the current argument of most pro-lifers is that life (personhood) begins at conception, and since anything from a fertilized egg onwards is a person, that person has a right to life, and denying that right is murder. Almost nobody actually believes this. Even John McCain, who argued that human rights begin at conception, is in favor of embryonic stem-cell research. The same is true of a number of other prominent pro-life politicians.

    Abortion was banned for many decades without claiming a fetus was a human being with a right to life.

    Pinky refers to the frequency of implantation failure and miscarriage. The best estimates that I have seen put failure of implantation at about 60%. That means most “people” who are conceived are never born. It is a staggering thought. And of course the knowledge that no one looks upon this as a serious medical problem makes one wonder how seriously anyone takes the idea that life begins at conception. If 60% of all babies died within a few days of birth, it would be considered disastrous. But nobody seems to care that 60% of all the “persons” conceived die within a few days. Some say we can do nothing about it, but cattle breeders are concerned with the problem and are working on it, so why aren’t humans?

    I think it is actually harmful to the anti-abortion movement to set the bar so high. We all might agree that life in the womb is precious and should not be terminated except for a very serious reason. But convincing people that a fertilized egg or an 8-week fetus is a human person with rights is much more difficult to do, and in reality is a matter of religious faith (even if some atheists believe it for whatever reason).

  • John–
    Yes. And since the current cultural consensus clearly favors legal abortion, I wish that pro-lifers would stop supporting war-mongers on the basis that they claim to be “pro-life,” thereby adding thousands of already-born dead to the numbers of the aborted.
    David makes some good points, along the same lines that I was trying to get across: bad abortion arguments do more harm than good in the slow development of the pro-life consensus that will be needed to change the law.
    I think it would be possible to grant legal personhood to the fetus on the basis of genetics; a scientific basis for a change in the law. That is an argument that cannot be dismissed out of hand by the secularist as absurd on the fact of it; it is therefore an argument that can be won. The argument that must unavoidably be reduced to ensoulment cannot be won, imo.

  • Pinky

    David, the high percentage of failed pregnancies doesn’t argue against belief in the sanctity of those lives. There’s simply a recognition that we’re unable to control a lot.

    Rodak, I agree about the legal claim based on genetics. The question of ensoulment is irrelevant to the athiest in your example.

  • Pinky

    One other comment. The idea that we can pick another party’s label isn’t realistic. For example, my sister calls her church “nondenominational”. It’s not. It has a creed, a form of worship, and members and leaders. It’s a denomination. But that doesn’t change the church in my sister’s eyes.

    So what’s the value of calling a supporter of abortion on demand “pro-abortion” or “pro-legal abortion”? Obviously when they call themselves “pro-choice” they’re casting their position in the most favorable light, but you can’t call them out on it eight times during a conversation. All that does is alienate them.

  • brettsalkeld

    I agree Pinky. I am not actually proposing we try to impose new labels. My real concern is that, since we’re stuck with problematic labels, we will do better in our conversations if we understand the presuppositions that underlie them. My hope is that such understanding would lead to less talking at cross-purposes and a better ability to identify the real issues.

  • Your problem Brettsalkeld, is that you–in protecting your own presuppositions–take it upon yourself to project onto those who call themselves “pro-choice” presuppositions of your own devise. As I’ve tried to point out above, the presuppositions that you–with your set of beliefs–see as the only possible presuppositions that could be motivating the pro-choice contingent, do not necessarily partake of reality. Most pro-choice people have values; they are just not your values. This isn’t a conflict between virtue and faith on one side and selfish nihilism on the other.

  • brettsalkeld

    Rodak,
    “The reason you’re wrong is because you think you’re right,” doesn’t carry much weight with me. I don’t think everyone who disagrees with me on abortion is a selfish nihilist. I certainly never said they don’t have values! But I do think that my position on abortion is the correct one and I try to present the case to the best of my ability. I think if you are honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit that you do exactly the same thing.
    I do my best to sort out the presuppositions I see in the arguments of those who both agree and disagree with me. I don’t expect that effort to be flawless, but I don’t think it is off limits to try understand why people I disagree with might have reached what I consider to be flawed understandings. And I wouldn’t begrudge someone on the other side engaging in the same exercise. Paranoia about trying to understand what other people think while still feeling they have made a mistake will only exacerbate the cultural divide.
    In fact, if anyone (whether the are pro-life or pro-choice) would have actually engaged the content of this post, we might have actually come to a deeper understanding of one another. As it is, we just get the standard things everyone floats on every post about abortion regardless of its actual content and concerns. We all have our pre-prepared arguments about birth control and ensoulment and life of the mother and privacy/autonomy so we’d rather rehash that than poke and prod at my analysis of presuppositions to see what holds water and what doesn’t. I simply don’t accept your contention that it doesn’t hold water simply because it tries to analyze presuppositions (of those with whom I disagree.)
    If you want to talk about where you think my analysis goes wrong, I am interested in hearing that. I have reread your earlier posts and, from what I can tell, you point out that pro-choicers disagree with me. I took that for granted. I’m not sure where you actually try to show that the presuppositions I see on the the other side “do not necessarily partake of reality.” Of course, for them choice IS the issue. My question was, “how does the language with which we frame the debate make choice THE issue for them, while allowing them to ignore the (to me obvious) fact that taking a human life is another (and greater) consideration here?”
    And by the way, this is obvious to me for the reasons you give (i.e. biological), not the reasons David gives (i.e. article of faith).

  • Maybe I’ve misunderstood your point. My understanding is that you are saying that for anyone who is pro-choice it is “choice per se” that is the supreme value. That it doesn’t really matter WHAT is being chosen, so long as no outside force is able to interfere with my act of choosing. A person who acted on that basis would, indeed, be a nihilist and without values.
    If this is not what you’ve been saying, I apologize for having misrepresented your argument in my response.

  • grega

    Brett,
    I do not think that “identifying the real issues” is the problem. Both sides as well as the even larger group in the middle perfectly well understand the issue.

    Rodak very eloquently raises a good number of points- points that very much could help you gain in understanding – and yes I do think you should bother to ponder his/her points – they are not “every poster’s particular bugaboo.”

    I also view your ‘sex without consequences’ theme as a bit of a chicken and egg problem.
    In my view we would be hard pressed to retract why our society morphed the places it happens to have morphed too. Group dynamic is a bit hard to pin really isn’t it?
    I certainly do not view us as cynical sex addicts – I however see a large majority of very responsible mature adults that enjoy having a certain control over number and spacing of their children.

  • Pinky

    Brett, if you really want to decode the thinking of the pro-choicer, I think you’ve got to look deeper at the meaning of “choice”. You or someone else said that they see choice as an end, not a means. That’s only part of it.

    First, there’s the concept of freedom in general. The West has held for the most part that individuals have free will, and also that individuals have the right to exercise it. (So I guess that’s first and second.) That second sense is where we get rights from. Most people believe in the inevitability of gradual improvement, especially with regard to rights. The entire history of the country, they would say, is one of continuous expansion of individual freedom. They see progress as both true and good, and are inclined to look at pro-lifers as false and bad.

    In that sense, choice is an end. But it’s reinforced by a practical sense, the assumption that by taking away the choice to abort, you’re fixing all future decisions of the woman as well. In this thinking, abortion is the first choice of many, but carrying a child to term is the last choice the woman will ever make. Overturning Roe is seen as forcing every woman to become an uneducated housewife for 60 years, then die. In this sense, choice is a means to all future freedoms.

    Of course, there’s a lot of interplay between the three notions of choice. You hear it when pro-choicers criticize pro-lifers. “They treat women as less than human, they want us all barefoot and pregnant, just like we used to be in the old days, but we won’t go back because we’re equals now.”

  • David Nickol

    David, the high percentage of failed pregnancies doesn’t argue against belief in the sanctity of those lives.

    Pinky,

    No, but our reaction to the fact that so many “people” die in the earliest stages of life says something. Many pro-lifers seem sympathize with, and even claim a kind of empathy for, aborted babies. Deprivations miscarried babies and aborted babies suffer (if any) are presumably identical to the ones suffered by babies who fail to implant. Are the latter even remembered in prayers? And who says we can’t do anything about them? As I have said, the cattle industry is working on the problem of early embryo loss. If lost embryos of human beings are people who suffer in some way for never having a life on earth, aren’t they more important than cows?

    Note: I am not saying that natural embryo loss in any way justifies abortion. I am asking the question why aborted babies are the object of so much anguish and lost embryos are not. Even deaths that nothing can be done about are mourned. If we had some terribly calamity that resulted in 60% of newborn babies dying within a few days of birth, and there was no possible way to prevent their deaths, the problem would not be minimized because there was nothing we could do about it. Part of the pro-life message is that all lives are in some sense equal, be they adult lives or embryo lives. So why does no one give any thought to early embryo loss?

  • David Nickol

    And by the way, this is obvious to me for the reasons you give (i.e. biological), not the reasons David gives (i.e. article of faith).

    Brett,

    I believe I have conceded your main point. Choice can’t be held up as the ultimate good. The claim that Pam Tebow is a hypocrite because she got to make her choice but would deny others the right to choose doesn’t even actually make sense. Pam Tebow would only be a hypocrite if she professed to believe in “a woman’s right to choose.”

    However, agreeing that choice is not the ultimate good does not necessarily imply that women should not have a right to choose abortion.

  • Dan

    A well crafted reply Brett.

    In this situation, I believe the medium is the message – the labels we use are symbolic of the divergence in the mutual understanding of the nature of the central issue.

    However, I fundamentally agree with your point that it does exacerbate the situation and create further divergence on the issue, particularly for those who haven’t given much it thought and are shallowly forming their opinion based on an emotional attachment to something tertiary, such as women’s rights.

    That being said, I do believe Rodak has a point. If you do not, a priori, agree that life begins at conception, then you are more likely to create language around your position that supports what your main premise is. It would be unnatural to adopt language that may misrepresent what you feel the core issue to be. Hence the reason the moniker is exactly appropriate from their perspective.

    Where I do disagree with Rodak is on the nature of the premise. I think a significant number of women do either consciously or unconsciously understand that they are terminating a life, hence the reason it is seen as a tragedy and is such a psychologically damaging experience. Many of them simply weigh the tragedy of this option with their circumstances or psychological capacity to deal with it, and come to the conclusion that it is an inevitable requirement (e.g. the baby would be better off to “not come into the world” than living in the circumstances I could provide). This is the “choice” that they want – the ability to control their circumstances more than their bodies. The “body” argument is a red herring.

  • Dan–
    I completely agree that many women who have abortions do so in full knowledge that they are terminating a life and feel guilt for having done so in the aftermath. I don’t think that even most of these feel that they are committing murder, however. Still, this is an element of choice, and is usually a tough decision, based on trying balance a lot of different and competing factors. I think that it is almost never a philosophical/political decision, based on an ideology of personal autonomy uber alles. I think that most women who abort would not do so, if they saw any hope that having the child would work out well for either themselves, or the child, or other individuals involved in their family circumstances.

  • Btw–
    Somebody stated above that the “body” thing was a red herring. Although I’m male, so can’t speak with final authority on the subject, it seems to me that it is not a red herring. Throughout approximately 2/3 of its development, the fetus cannot survive separately from the body of its mother. They are, in effect, one body, if not one person. So to dismiss the claims of some women that they alone should control their own body can certainly be disputed, in the case of abortion, but it is not, imo, a mere red herring.

  • brettsalkeld

    I however see a large majority of very responsible mature adults that enjoy having a certain control over number and spacing of their children.

    Grega,
    If I may be so bold as to assume the adjectives ‘responsible and mature’ I consider myself among this majority.

  • brettsalkeld

    I believe I have conceded your main point. Choice can’t be held up as the ultimate good. The claim that Pam Tebow is a hypocrite because she got to make her choice but would deny others the right to choose doesn’t even actually make sense. Pam Tebow would only be a hypocrite if she professed to believe in “a woman’s right to choose.”

    However, agreeing that choice is not the ultimate good does not necessarily imply that women should not have a right to choose abortion.

    David,
    Though I am unsure of what in my quoted words about me believing in the humanity of a fetus for biological rather than religious reasons led you to write this, I am so very glad you did. You concession of my main point includes a sentence I tried very hard to write but was not able to complete to my satisfaction. It took me two paragraphs to say that “Pam Tebow simply cannot be a hypocrite in any meaningful sense of the word if she did not believe she had a choice.” I think I shall edit my original post in light of your clarity. Thank you.
    As to your final sentence, I agree. On this count, I am in basic agreement with M.Z.’s pertinent post above.

  • brettsalkeld

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood your point. My understanding is that you are saying that for anyone who is pro-choice it is “choice per se” that is the supreme value. That it doesn’t really matter WHAT is being chosen, so long as no outside force is able to interfere with my act of choosing. A person who acted on that basis would, indeed, be a nihilist and without values.
    If this is not what you’ve been saying, I apologize for having misrepresented your argument in my response.

    Rodak,
    I have been saying something close to this, but not exactly this. Thank you for writing this. Perhaps if I offer a clarification in light of this comment, we will come closer to understanding one another.

    It is not that I suspect every pro-choicer of understanding their approach to morality in this way. As Pinky points out, choice is a multi-vocal term and can have many applications in ethics. Furthermore, as David and M.Z. point out, autonomy is essential, if not sufficient, for Catholic ethics as well.

    What I do suspect is that the rhetoric of choice allows the public justifications given for the pro-choice position to completely ignore the actual content of the choice, i.e. killing a baby. As Dan points out, when the choice becomes an existential reality for a given woman, this kind of surface rhetoric rarely holds. Ironically, one of the most common reasons women give for having an abortion is that “I had no other choice.” They feel trapped and, far too often, it is the men in their lives (boyfriends, husbands, fathers) who force abortion on women who have no desire for it themselves.

    To summarize, though I don’t suspect most pro-choicers of being morally shallow individuals, I do suspect that the rhetoric of choice in the public sphere, with no reference to the content of that choice, allows morally serious people, like Heather, to continue on without considering an essential factor in the debate. Furthermore, I think it is essential for those of us who insist that the life of the child is an essential factor in this debate do well to try to understand why those who disagree with us seem capable of glossing over it, and that their capability stems from their (in our view, flawed) presuppositions and not their moral depravity and callousness.

    Does this help?

  • Yes, that clarifies your position for me quite succinctly. Thank you.
    It doesn’t, however, help you with an approach to the law, because you argument still reduces to “it’s killing a baby.” Even if it’s the morning after, it’s “killing a baby.” Well…No. It’s not.
    Now where do we go from there?

  • Kevin

    Rodak,

    The pro-life(anti-abortion) definition of life is that it is life at conception. The next step is to then ask the person holding tht pro-choice(pro-abortion) their definition of life. Our definition is logical, logically consistent and scientific. The only other logical points if not conception are implantation, heart beat, brain wave, viability and birth. All others are an arbitrary point in time. What is your definition of life?

  • Ellie

    “No, but our reaction to the fact that so many “people” die in the earliest stages of life says something. Many pro-lifers seem sympathize with, and even claim a kind of empathy for, aborted babies. Deprivations miscarried babies and aborted babies suffer (if any) are presumably identical to the ones suffered by babies who fail to implant. Are the latter even remembered in prayers? And who says we can’t do anything about them? As I have said, the cattle industry is working on the problem of early embryo loss. If lost embryos of human beings are people who suffer in some way for never having a life on earth, aren’t they more important than cows?

    Note: I am not saying that natural embryo loss in any way justifies abortion. I am asking the question why aborted babies are the object of so much anguish and lost embryos are not. Even deaths that nothing can be done about are mourned. If we had some terribly calamity that resulted in 60% of newborn babies dying within a few days of birth, and there was no possible way to prevent their deaths, the problem would not be minimized because there was nothing we could do about it. Part of the pro-life message is that all lives are in some sense equal, be they adult lives or embryo lives. So why does no one give any thought to early embryo loss?”

    The reason why miscarried babies or embryos that do not implant are not mourned is because: the pro-life movement sees those as natural deaths willed by god.

    The reason why an abortion is seen as tragic is because those were caused by the hand of their own mother.

    Which do you think is more tragic, a 9 year old that dies naturally from a congenital disease or a 9 year old that is murdered by their own mother? Of course they are both tragic, but there is something even more tragic and horrifying about a mother killing their own child vs nature taken its course.

    Children die from cancer all the time, those never make it to the news, but a child that is murdered by their mother always does. The public is far more haunted by a mother that murders their own children than they are by a child that dies from a natural death. Look at Andrea Yates and Susan Smith, people still talk about that, are still outraged, but not much air time is given to children who die from a congenital disease.

    And actually, many Catholics do mourn miscarried babies. In my area, there is a whole section in the Catholic cemetery reserved for miscarriages.

    Women are allowed to collect the remains of their miscarriages, put them in a container and bury them in that part of the cemetery. A mass is said for them and you can ask the cemetery for a service to be held.

  • “What is your definition of life?”

    It isn’t a question of “life”–a shelf fungus is “life.” It’s a question of personhood. The law has gradually pretty much defined “personhood” to begin when a viable fetus can be separated from the mother. If this occurs pre-term, it can have been done surgically, if necessary to save the life of the baby or the mother; or it can happen spontaneously. If the latter, the premature fetus can often be kept alive artificially, using our wonderful medical technology. The law does not, at this time, recognize a blastosphere as a person, or as a “tiny little innocent baby.”
    All of that said, my personal religious view on the matter is irrelevant to the law, since we are not living in a theocracy.
    Since this thread started out as a discussion of terminology, this might be a good place to bring up the use of the word “baby” by the anti-abortion contingent. To many “baby” properly refers to a live human birth; or, perhaps, to the fetus, but only once it has quickened in the womb. When anti-abortionists refer to one-month fetuses as “babies” they do so for emotional, rather than for logical, impac–and to distort the “scientific” angle of the debate.
    I do think that a solid, scientific argument can be made for legal “personhood” beginning at conception on the basis of the genetic make-up of the fetus. It is certainly human, and uniquely so, even before it has arms and legs, or a brain. It does not, however, yet have a “life” of its own. So, to me, “life” is a useless word in this controversy.

  • grega

    I understand the selfserving reasons why pro choice folks bring up the natural embryo loss issue in responds to the equally selfserving assertion by the pro life folks that embryos are babies – oh I am too modest -in our times of general hyp embryos are children these days of course. Yeah right.
    Come on, we do not need such verbal crutches to cover up the hard facts. Yes, fact is most folks in the pro choice camp use the natural embryo loss issue as a mere moral crutch to cover the morally somewhat difficult truth that they in the end are willing to grant adults choice.

    I by the way find the theoretical numbers accumulated by pro life groups particualr here in the US equally dishonest.
    In my view if all those aborted embryos would have resulted in birth likely we would have much higher teen pregnancy and much younger mothers but NOT necessarily a significantly higher number of children per family .
    As a society we seem to have concluded that it much more preferred to have mothers give birth to children when they are socially/ mentally/ physically fully ready to have them.

  • David Nickol

    The reason why miscarried babies or embryos that do not implant are not mourned is because: the pro-life movement sees those as natural deaths willed by god.

    Ellie,

    Why would you say natural deaths are “willed by God”? If people die of lung cancer from smoking, that is a natural death, but is it willed by God? In some sense, of course, everything that happens is God’s will, from the earthquake in Haiti to all of the abortions that take place in the United States.

    And, as you say (somewhat contradicting what you said earlier) people do mourn miscarriages. Basically everyone I have ever known in my entire life who has died has died of natural causes. I did not mourn them any the less. Murder is certainly shocking, but a death is a death, and we mourn all deaths except the deaths of embryos that fail to implant. If you believe that life begins at conception, then an embryo that fails to implant is just as much the death of a person as a death by miscarriage, abortion, or death at birth, or death a few days after birth.

  • David Nickol

    Yes, fact is most folks in the pro choice camp use the natural embryo loss issue as a mere moral crutch to cover the morally somewhat difficult truth that they in the end are willing to grant adults choice.

    The very high rate of natural embryo loss is of interest for a number of other reasons. For those old enough to remember the Baltimore Catechism, among the earliest questions and answers were these:

    Q. Who made you?
    A. God made me.

    Q. Why did God make you?
    A. God made me to know, love, and serve him on this earth and to be happy with him forever in heaven.

    Now, given the rate of early embryo loss (perhaps 60% or higher), what are we to make of God making humans to “know, love, and serve him in this world”? If every fertilized egg is a person, the majority of human beings don’t get the opportunity to know, love, and serve God in this world. What exactly is this world for if the majority of human beings bypass it? What does it mean to say that baptism is essential for salvation if the majority of human beings cannot possibly be baptized? Even baptism of blood and baptism of desire are impossible for a lost early embryo.

    The explanatory power of Christianity is seriously diminished if persons come into existence at conception but the majority of them die before implantation. The Church does not know what happens to unbaptized infants. Some Christian denominations think they go to hell. For centuries the Catholic Church taught (officially or not) they went to limbo. Now the Church says we can hope they are saved, but we can’t know. It is a huge gap in what the Church is able to say about human beings. It doesn’t know the eternal fate of the majority of them.

  • Rodak

    Yep.

  • grega

    David, it might surprise you, but personally I consider myself pro choice – pro choice certainly in terms of Abortions related to Rape/Incest/Medical reasons. Generally I find abortion related laws here in the US however a bit too relaxed and prefer the type of laws established in my native country Germany. Which is in essence a hard limit at 12 weeks and mandatory consultation and a waiting period for those seeking abortions. The German catholic church actually participated in this until JPII prevented them from continue doing so –a huge mistake IMHO– since much more was accomplished by being on the table and thus being able to positively influence women away from seeking abortions. In my view a serious discussion pondering all the possible alternatives – a clear presentation of the available social and financial support followed by a brief waiting period does much more to actually lower the indeed tragic social related Abortion rates than all the chest pounding and hot air wasted in this country.

    I by the way do not see any problem for the Church and Christianity arising from fact that “Nature” indeed is unbelievable brutal. Thus in my view scientifically life indeed very much might begin with conception without contradicting my understanding of God. Yes God obviously allows for plenty of tragedy (from our limited selfish human perspective at least) – add to that tragedies of our own makings and you have a rather unpleasant reality – but you also have plenty of beauty and greatness . Certainly our planet could not survive if all of a sudden we humans became much more efficient in reproducing than we are. It seems to me one way or the other we are forced ( either by choice or brutal nature) to gravitate to a sustainable situation – in the past brutal nature limited explosive human population growth – these days we come to recognize that some modesty in terms of number of children is very much in order. Indeed in most industrialized nations we see the average family size ever so slowly declining towards perhaps sustainable levels for this planets resources.

    That said I realize I did not express my prior sentiments very well – actually after I had a bit of time to ponder your points I can see your perspective – sure it is important to point out the reality that life is very fragile – 60% + of embryos never make it etc.. In my view that thought however can not be used to justify piling on top of already pretty bad percentages. The cold reality that nature indeed randomly does not allow for every embryo to mature does not make for a particular strong argument to deliberately add to the pile of tossed life.
    Thus in my view that sort of data is a crutch at best.

    These days a predominant scientific world view really frames large parts of all our everyday agenda.
    Most of us very much enjoy trying to understand our surroundings and attempt to influence it in mostly positive ways – these days we successfully cure all sorts of ailments that would have killed much higher percentages in previous generations – we overall are rather successful in creating comfort, housing, clothing, we grow more food than ever, communicate with more people, understand more about the world, create stunning things and have over all a jolly good time.
    Consequently our average live expectancy more than doubled the last 2000 years.
    (LOL we should have some of the pro life guys run the numbers – if they can add up to 50 Millions killed “children” due to one Supreme Court decision 30 plus years ago in the US, I imagine using the same math we could arrive at many billions actually living humans as a direct consequence of progress in science and technology.
    Big surprise in any case that for the majority of us parents ( catholic or not) just popping out children is not exactly the most timely responds– in my view the decline in average children per family is not a tragedy at all but the natural responds of conscious responsible humans reacting to the reality of our time.
    In this country we are free to have any number of children – yet on average most of us seem to stick with a number between 0 to 3 – go figure. And yes of course in such a society it is acceptable to make choices – still while most of us use one form of birth control or the other most of us would never consider Abortion for our families.
    On average we are doing just fine as a society with the laws the way they are really.
    And honestly this kind of mindset did not fall from the sky overnight. Isn’t it curious for example that our last two Popes came from rather small families for its time –
    JPII was a single child and the Ratzinger family of 3 was slightly below average for a catholic bavarian family. Plenty of choice by those parents if you ask me.

  • Kevin

    The explanatory power of Christianity is seriously diminshed if person come into existence at conception but the majority of them die before implantation.

    Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

    Don’t assume we know God’s way. Or what it means to know, love and serve God.

    Speaking only for myself, I am pretty sure those persons that die before implantation are doing a better job of knowing, loving and serving God than I am.

  • Kevin–
    Can you explain why your first paragraph doesn’t render your second one meaningless?