Sunday, October 14, 2012
Abortion and Waffles
When defending abortion in the public life, a man must typically make either one of two claims. Either he will argue that abortion is not a moral evil, that it is either morally good or morally neutral and hence must be permitted, or else he will make a second, stranger claim. His second option is to claim that though he personally accepts that abortion is a moral evil or that life begins at conception, he should not "impose" this belief on other people, hence he should promote and protect a person's ability to have an abortion.
As far as the man who claims the abortion ought be legal because it is either morally neutral or morally good, I can respect, if not his belief itself, at least the consistency with which he holds it. What I cannot respect at all, however, is the man who claims to believe that abortion is morally wrong, but that he "should" not impose this belief on others. A man might as well claim that though he oppose slavery personally and thinks a slave is a person, he thinks it wrong impose that belief on slave owners. Indeed, who is he to tell slave owners what to do with their property? Such a man might as soon claim that though he thinks rape wrong, he thinks it wrong to impose this belief on others, or that though he believes theft or murder wrong, he should not impose this belief on others.
Such a belief is absurd. Either the fetus is a human being or is not. If he is, then it is vain to claim that one does not think he can morally oppose the destruction of that person. If the fetus is not a human being, then it is equally vain to claim that one personally thinks that the fetus is a human being. In the former case, a man has a clear moral duty to prevent and oppose the evil act or abortion, in the latter case, he has a moral duty to support it, or at the very least not to oppose it.
For a man to claim that he thinks abortion is morally wrong, but that he should not oppose it may not only be absurd, however, it may be outright contradictory. The claim seems to be this: abortion is morally wrong (because a fetus is a human being), but one should not impose that belief on others. This is functionally equivelant to saying: "abortion is morally wrong, but one should not act to limit abortion and must continue to promote it."
Where then the possible contradiction? That lies in the use of the word "should"- one should not oppose abortion. The word "should" implies moral obligation or duty. Hence, in a man saying that abortion is morally wrong but he should support abortion, such a man is claiming that though abortion is morally wrong, he is morally obligated to support it, ie. that he is morally obligated to support an immoral act. Since it is immoral to support an immoral act, this amounts to claiming that one is morally obligated to do an immoral action, which is probably simply contradictory.
To claim that abortion is morally wrong, but that one should not "impose" this view on others amounts to moral waffling. On this issue, though, there is no room for compromise, as there is no room for compromise on rape or murder. Either the act is morally wrong, in which case one must oppose it, or it is morally permitted, in which case one must not hinder it. What one may not find, is a convenient middle ground. Here, none exists, and all the syrup in the world cannot make this waffling acceptable.