Monday, 11 March 2013

On the use of Graphic Foetal Imagery in the Fight against Abortion

Over the past few days there has been more vociferous opposition in the media to the use of photos of aborted foetuses outside abortuaries...
By the Pro-Choice lobby?
No: Rather self-appointed 'Pro-Life' commentators who claim it's counterproductive - but ironically they then proceed to give reasons which seem to provide diammetrically opposing justification to disprove their claims....[e.g. the images cause distress!!!]
Now this opposition to the use of imagery  is becoming a widespread ideology amongst  well-meaning Pro-Lifers who are far from demure or reticent in opposing those who disagree with them
Hence I will re-post this blogpost from January as a message of support to those whom at present are enduring tongue-lashings and lambastings from people who claim to be on the same side!

Last October Peter D Williams argued in the Catholic Herald blogs that "Graphic images of abortion are profoundly counterproductive and damage the pro-life cause"

I cannot disagree more strongly with practically everything Peter said on the issue [a position which is becoming more habitual on almost every doctrinal/moral/political issue, but "c'est la guerre!"]

This was my response at the time and my position has since grown significantly more resolute - especially given the situation in Ireland with too many Irish Pro-Lifers claiming that using such photos is counter-productively provocative. They could not be more wrong - and dangerously so.

This is what happens when Pro-Life advocates don't have a sound understanding of fundamental moral theology. 
The use of aborted foetal imagery is an intrinsic moral disorder which scandalises and desecrates our deceased unborn neighbour. 
Its usage is normatively gravely sinful and is actually a ferendae sententiae canonical crime [in the 1917 canon it was actually an excommunicable offence to desecrate either a body or to abuse/violate their graphic image] 
Therefore it may ONLY be used in the condition of moral dilemma - the negative double effect - where one is confronted with a possibility to prevent a direct, grave objective evil occurring. 
Therefore in grave, direct, critical circumstances when an abortion is imminent IT IS PERMISSIBLE to use such imagery. 
The situation must be grave, intrinsically unjust and reactive. 

Now Mr Williams argues that the imagery does serve an effective purpose in other circumstances. e.g. in a voluntary academic or sub-political setting with advocacy towards abortion reduction and legalislative restriction. 
Now this invokes problems for Mr Williams in that he has, on the record, dismissed and denounced Colin Harte's Solidaritist position as naiive, ridiculous, stupid, misguided, untenable and even recently as 'unconscionable' 
- instead he chooses to side with John Finnis's position of Incrementalism and gradualism regarding abortion legislation. 

[n.b. For more information on the Incrementalist vs Solidaritist positions please read here]  

In order to do so Mr Williams must, with John Finnis, adopt the position of which proposes an INTERPRETATION of Evangelium Vitae 73.3 which they believe permits actions whereby voting for restrictive abortion legislation is merely remote material co-operation in an unjust law - one is only participating in the just parts of the legislation and one bears no culpability or responsibility for other unjust aspects of the bill. 

BUT in doing so this automatically NEGATES the permissibility for ever using aborted foetal photographs [note: not graphic representations] in political, educational or voluntary academic circumstances as participation in such circumstances is not confronting intrinsically unjust circumstances - merely unjust ones.
 ...and foetal photographs are expressly forbidden to be used in pro-active, non-grave circumstances where one is not confronting an intrinsically unjust circumstance. 

NOW: In order for foetal photographs to be used in such circumstances legislation, educational propaganda and pro-abortion activism MUST be deemed as intrinsically unjust - one must be resorting to the negative double-effect in moral dilemma to redress an objective evil 

But in Peter's own paradigm - those circumstances are merely unjust - not intrinsically unjust [otherwise Evangelium Vitae 73.2 would be introduced and prohibit participation in restrictive gradualist incrementalist legislation - something Peter not merely defends - but promotes while dismissing any other position as 'unconscionable'] 

a] Peter Williams is arguing that aborted foetal photographs SHOULD NOT be used where Catholic moral teaching says it is permissible to use them. &
b] That there are circumstances where they may be used - but Catholic moral teaching expressly forbids such usage IF Peter's incrementalist position is valid. 

Hoisted on one's own petard! 
By arguing that one is permitted to engage as an incrementalist in restrictive [non-solidaritist] abortion legislation with exceptions and compromises; One automatically negates the permissibility to ever use aborted foetal photographs while fighting abortion legislation or promoting common opposition to such laws in academia or the debating floors. 

Peter: Your very own principles prevent you from holding the position that they are ever acceptable in any circumstance. 
You declare they shouldn't be used is the only place in your moral framework where they are ever permissible to be used. 

Now - to get back to their usage outside an abortuary: 
Why shouldn't they be used? 
Peter makes the claim that women in crisis pregnancies are viscerally emotionally charged with heavily empathic 'right-brain' acuities which 'de-rationalises' their decision-making processes and the confrontation with aborted foetal imagery will lead to either nothing or might [I note the Vitae 'report' says 'probably'] lead to counterproductive hostility and an emotional backlash which will reinforce the determination to proceed with the abortion... 

Primarily the use of 'left brain/right brain' analogies is without any authentic scientific credence - there is no academic foundation for such propositions. That they are more open to empathic intensity axiomatically implies that they are more susceptible to such imagery and more likely to change their mind when confronted with it - not the reverse... 

Secondly where is the evidence for this 'counter-productive opposite effect' other than Vitae's reactional study/anecdotal 'research' performed in situations not involving women about to abort? 

Thirdly there is ground-based evidence that producing foetal imagery at that critical juncture has been effective - lives have been saved. 

Fourthly Peter is arguing that use of such imagery alienates other women whom are already pro-abortion but by such actions have their convictions intensified where gentle persuasion might have diminished them - but this is NOT the reason for their use outside an abortuary - they are guerrilla shock tactics aimed at convincing a woman about to abort that she will be murdering her child. 

I'm sorry Peter but yet again you're appealing to utilitarian principles. 
Whether or not society or pro-abortion campaigners are outraged at such tactics or become more belligerently hostile and the situation is aggravated by further accusations of bullying/intimidation/heartlessness doesn't matter!! 

That's not the point of the action in itself. 

The morality at issue is the desperate attempt to save a life at a critical juncture as a desperate final recourse at the eleventh hour to confront an expectant mother with the intended results of what she's about to do... 

 An action which is permissible in Catholic teaching 

Irrespective of the consequences - the resultant negative perception, the media backlash, the intensifying of pro-abortion campaigners and their mendacious propaganda - none of these matter and should NEVER be part of the discernment process and examination of conscience before the person making that attempt to save a life performs the action... 

We are NOT utilitarians 
You are arguing that aborted foetal photographs should not be used because: 

a] It's counterproductive and when it isn't utterly ineffective it actually makes the woman more resolute to continue with her abortion [because of the woman's addled cognitive functions [ aside - don't you think that's a little bit patronising and misogynistic?]] 

To which I say 
It might save lives - you have no substantive evidence to make such a claim of counterproductivity - and if it distresses those women who are about to abort or enrages those who are consciously choosing to abort without any moral reticence? 
Someone's just been murdered and your neighbour just tried to stop you from doing it... 

b] It has negative consequences for the Pro-Life movement/ 

To which I also say 
It's an irrelevance in regard to the morality of the single act which was a desperate attempt to save a single life. 
How many times do I have to repeat? 
Catholicism has no time for the Caiaphas corollary!!! 
Someone is trying to save a life - it is permissible to resort to such tactics - and let the world perish in fire and water before anyone has the right to say that the person has either done wrong or should not have made the attempt because of the awkward consequences for others.... 

Let right be done! 
And woe betide anyone who stands in Heaven's way by saying it shouldn't be!

  [my additional comments can be found in the comments box - in conclusion if you haven't seen this video - I strongly recommend you do]

No comments: