Nothing but Net

March 24, 2010 § 9 Comments

Apparently the argument is in the ether that it is OK to support legislation which permits or even funds abortion, as long as that legislation will result in a net reduction in the number of abortions.

That is a load of poppycock.
Lets assume for the sake of argument that there is a law up for consideration. This law bans all abortions for white people, but it permits other abortions already permitted under the law and adds in that killing, say, Haitians up to age six is now permitted.
Lets suppose that on a net basis this law will in fact reduce the net number of legal murders, even though it permits murders which were not permitted under the previous law.
According to arguments in some quarters it should be OK to support this new law, since on a net basis it reduces the number of legal murders. This illusion arises because some folks are interpreting Evangelium Vitae’s language – more restrictive – to mean a net decrease in some aggregate number. But this is obviously not what it means. More restrictive means more restrictive; it doesn’t mean using some net actuarial argument to grant permission to murder, or for that matter to fund the murder of, human beings whose murders are not federally funded under current law.
It is always wrong without exception to support removing the legal protection of the life of one single innocent in the law. That includes even the small legal protection of not having her murder funded by the government.


§ 9 Responses to Nothing but Net

  • JohnMcG says:

    I guess it depends on if we see the current restrictions on health insurance for federal employees as a real protection of the unborn.

    Today, almost all abortions are legal. Health care reform does not change that.

    What is changing is whether health insurance can pay for it.

    Here's a very simplified picture, based on some simplifying assumptions.

    Status quo:

    * Federal employees cannot have abortions covered by insurance.
    * Most employees of private companies do not have an option to purchase insurance that covers abortion.

    Under HCR:

    * Federal employees have the option to purchase insurance that covers abortion.

    * Employees of private companies have the option to purchase insurance that does not cover abortion, and this is likely to be the default.

    I would never accept or support a law that trades protection of one set of the unborn for protection of another. It drives me nuts when people argue that if pro-lifers hate abortion so much, then they should embrace contraception, since it would (according to them) result in fewer abortions.

    What I'm not certain of, and I mean this sincerely, is whether restrictions on insurance funding represent protections in the sense that JPII was referring to in EV.

  • zippy says:

    I think it is manifest that funding something is less restrictive of that something than leaving it unfunded.

    Evangelium Vitae even tells us that a born child's pitiful cries are part of her defense against being murdered; a defense that the unborn do not have.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “Employees of private companies have the option to purchase insurance that does not cover abortion, and this is likely to be the default.”

    Is this even clearly true? Absent some definite statement in the law that every private employee will be choosing his own individual plan, which might differ from that of all his fellow employees, I would assume that this is _not_ true. Right now, the employer selects the plan. Unions or whatever might try to influence the employer, but ultimately, the employer is the customer for the group plan and decides what group plan or plans are available to his employees. Why should it be any different under Obamacare? The most that I think you could say definitely (from what I already know) would be that every “market” will have to have available a non-abortion-covering plan so that Christian/Catholic/conservative employers who currently, for whatever reason, can't find a non-abortion-covering plan in their area or something would now be able to do so.

    If you have specific evidence that every individual employee of some gigantic corporation will have to be able to choose a non-abortion funding plan for himself, even if everybody else in his company chooses the abortion plan, I'd like to know.

    However, that's just for my own information's sake. Zippy is right beyond all doubt–and this isn't really controversial–that Obamacare will make federal involvement in covering abortions less restrictive by a dodgy change in what it means to say that “federal dollars don't fund abortions” from the previous concept.

  • Anonymous says:

    Where I'm at: I've recently begun to rethink my position on abortion, moving from being pro-choice to..not exactly pro-life yet, but having a bit of crisis of conscience. This has been helped along by reading Catholic-themed blogs, such as yours, even though I'm not even Catholic. The consistent life ethic (I'm not sure if that's specially Catholic) has been very appealing to me, even how it relates to issues such as human dignity, particularity regarding issues such as torture.

    At any rate:

    Apparently the argument is in the ether that it is OK to support legislation which permits or even funds abortion, as long as that legislation will result in a net reduction in the number of abortions.

    This is still a line of thought that I'm having difficulty getting my head around, even though I know you've written about how two wrongs don't make a right (can't think of the exact technical phrase).

    To my thinking, at the moment, it seems that some find a great deal of emotional and spiritual comfort in being hardliners, as if it provides a moral/emotional force field of sorts, where if you never compromise, you never have to ultimately be responsible for what actually happens in life, because you were simply staying true to your convictions, and hey, what more can one do? It seems to me to be a bit of a moral cop out masquerading as moral conviction, as if you're just going to let the chips fall where they may, and if that means more abortions than fewer, the unborn become some kind of collateral damage in your Pursuit of Purity.

    I'm sure you've dealt with these kinds of questions/debates ad nauseum. I hope you're not bored to tears by them.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for the blog.

  • zippy says:

    Thanks for the comment, Anon. Your instinct is right: that sort of objection is regularly raised against anyone who is a moral 'deontologist' on any particular question: that is, to anyone who is a 'hardliner' who believes there are certain things we should never do, whatever consequences may follow from not doing them.

    I think I've encountered it most in folks who have been mounting a defense of torturing prisoners for information — in fact it is argument number 26 in my series on waterboarding. (Part of the reason may be because of the sheer volume of discussion on the subject though).

    But I've encountered it elsewhere too, on issues like bombing civilians and contraception. Sometimes it can make for pretty interesting discussions at the margins.

    I think there are a couple of things to realize though. The first is that I think most people at bottom are deontologists in the abstract: that is, most people have at least a very strong intuition that there are some things we shouldn't ever do, even if it was 'necessary' to do it to save the world. Raping children and such would be kind of canonical examples, but each person's intuition tends to differ somewhat on the particulars. So when it comes to being moral deontologists I think at the end of the day we are mostly haggling over the price: over what precisely we shouldn't ever do. That's just my own gut instinct though, and I can't really speak for what is in other folks' heads.

    The second is that the supposed dilemmas are a lot less of a strain for a Catholic specifically than for a non-Catholic. We believe in God's ultimate Providence, that Christ has already won the victory, and that the long defeat in this world is less real than it seems – that is to say, it is not permanent. Human beings often create false dilemmas for themselves, for one thing. Other times the dilemmas aren't false, but we deontologists have the witness of the Saints and Martyrs on our side. I don't pretend that I could do as they did, that I wouldn't break under what they stood up to, of course; but that is my own weakness and failure, not a falsification of principle.

    The alternative to being a deontologist is to have some sort of 'teleological' moral theory — a moral theory where any action at all might be justifiable in some circumstance or other, based on the consequences of failing to perform that action. it isn't a crazy point of view on first – or probably even second or third – look; but I don't think it holds up even for a non-believer. That is, I think there are certain things folks will find themselves unable to do as a means to an end, no matter how important that end might be.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and I'm glad you found the blog of interest.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful response! In rereading my comment, I was harsher with some of my words than I had realized, I apologize for that.

    I'm glad you brought up birth control, because that's an issue that popped into my mind as I was writing my original comment, I guess it's sort of the go-to issue in this debate, eh?

    I don't actually know if more birth control = fewer abortions, I'm sure there's an argument that more birth control = more sex = more abortions, but for the sake of argument, let's say more birth control = fewer abortions.

    Now, I get that two wrongs don't make a right, I'm not having any trouble following (and respecting) that line of reasoning, which I don't think I was clear about. The specific problem I'm having is regarding dealing with the real life consequences of that argument.

    So I guess I'm less confused about the principle in question, or about the “at all costs” insistence of sticking to it, than I am about how one deals emotionally/morally with the aftermath/consequences of the principle.

    I want to be very clear: My argument/question isn't “your position leads to more abortions, abandon it!” it's “your position leads to more abortions, how do you personally process/deal with that information”? Because simply explaining to me that one can't do evil to prevent evil sort of just tells me about the principle (which I think I agree with anyway) which is not the aspect I'm struggling with, it's the actual human cost of that principle that is clouding my mind.

    To further clarify (ha), it seems to me that there's a trade off here, and that the trade off isn't being acknowledged/dealt with, in lieu of standing (which then feels like hiding) behind the principle.

    Thank you for your patience, I'm obviously not a theologian, heh.

  • zippy says:

    To further clarify (ha), it seems to me that there's a trade off here, and that the trade off isn't being acknowledged/dealt with, in lieu of standing (which then feels like hiding) behind the principle.

    I agree that that is sometimes the case, and I have tried to address the issue here and there. That is to say, doing the right thing sometimes has suffering as a corollary. People resist that, even Christians, though we ought to know better. In short, sometimes crime does pay, if you will.

    We have occasionally discussed related subjects here. See this post for example.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the links. You have fantastic commenters as well, I love the discussions.

  • zippy says:

    The commenters here are remarkably smart and remarkably civil. It is almost hard to believe it is the Internet.

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