Sunday, 7 October 2012

Abortion limits: A Truly Moral Response

"Every few years the tired, old refrain to reduce the upper time-limit for social abortions is heard. These calls have either gotten nowhere or, as in 1990, been counter-productive. There is no realistic prospect of any such amendments being passed by the current Parliament, any more than in 2008 when Nadine Dorries's amendments were defeated by large margins.
"Opening up the Abortion Act on the floor of Parliament will provide an opportunity for the large pro-abortion majority in Parliament to push for radical amendments to make abortion law even worse. The pro-abortion lobby will argue that early abortions are better than late abortions, and therefore that women need easier access to abortion. Such amendments have the support of David Cameron and many other frontbenchers from all the main parties.
"We need a fresh perspective on what can be done to save unborn children. Mrs Miller should instead be pushing for the government to stop its multi-million pound funding arrangements with the abortion industry, and to block broadcast advertising for abortion businesses. The government should also stop funding the promotion of abortion in developing countries and promoting access to abortion for children in school" 
[Anthony Ozimic of SPUC 4/10/12 - in response to the recent media-hype over Politicians repeating their positions on abortion-limit reductions ]

Last Month Francis Phillips followed up on her Book Review of Colin Harte's Changing Unjust Laws Justly: Pro-life Solidarity with the Last and Least
with a Catholic Herald post in Memorial of recently-deceased March for Life foundress Nellie Gray - whose
unswerving message of Harteist Solidarity "No Exceptions:No Compromises" is explained in this EWTN interview:

 Incrementalism vs Solidaritism is the major bone of contention among Pro-Lifers at present.
The argument was exemplified by the Anscombe Centre's debate between John Finnis & Colin Harte [published in the Linacre Centre book: "Co-operation, Complicity & Conscience"]

Unfortunately it's not online and a copy of the book on Amazon costs £891 but
the arguments are discussed by James Hanink in his Essay "Abortion, Prudence & Solidarity"

According to some present at the debate, Finnis 'unequivocally trounced' Harte;
but I'm inclined to believe rhetorical skills and wishful thinking might contribute more to that paradigm than the veracity and moral strength of the arguments.

I firmly believe Colin Harte's position to be the correct one - it's the only viable, authentically fundamentally moral position to take; lest we enter the realms of preference utilitarianism and the Caiaphas corrolary [while fallaciously/self-deludely appealing to a teleology of virtue ethics]

We argue life begins at conception - so what's the ontological/teleological difference between a child before & a child after any arbitrary abortion limit?

What is the difference in worth & dignity between a normative physically/mentally able child and one who is debilitated in some way?

Ditto one wrought out of sexual pleasure or one conceived from a nightmare violation.

Two people are hanging from a cliff on a single rope; one lower than the other - the rope might give way and kill both...
If the lower cuts the rope to save the life of the upper we consider it a virtuous act of martyrdom.
But what if the upper cuts the rope and the lower falls to their death?
Is a pregnant mother analogous to the upper or lower person?
Is it morally justifiable that the law says the mother is always in the upper position?
Is any jurisdiction regarding abortion restriction a 'rescue' or the re-signing of 'death warrants' [albeit potentially fewer] ?

Is it that if we vote for that reduction law we decree that there are now two distinct types of human being - the killable and the unkillable?

Supposing you're a clinician on an intensive care ward?
Five teenage patients have an incurable brain condition and will each die within a year..
Another patient is a child days away from death on a heart machine, respirator, dialysis and all manner of chemical procedures - they need a new heart, lungs, liver, pancreas & kidneys...given those by organ transplant the child could live another 80/90 years? They are avaliable if one exercises an expedient demise of the other five patients?

In another intensive care ward there's a man with locked in syndrome who is being treated for pneumonia but is rapidly recovering - all his organs are perfectly functioning - which is more than can be said for the five other patients in the ward.. one needs a heart, another lungs..etc etc You get the picture?
Do numbers matter in making the choice?

Or is it a choice we can never morally make?

There's an  old ethical dilemma of the explorer who visits a native tribe & is declared an honoured guest at a sacred festival to celebrate the end of a war against a neighbouring tribe and their enslavement - on this day the guest of honour must sacrifice the imprisoned enemy chieftain to the gods and the 99 other prisoners will be released...but if he does not kill the enemy chief all 100 of the prisoners must be executed to placate the gods - angered at the guest's sacrilege...?
Numbers again - and the chieftain would die anyway no matter what choice you make - so is it right for the explorer to kill him!??

Finnis is arguing one is morally obliged to kill that chieftain ; there is an opportunity to rescue 99 - you MUST kill that's not your fault he's going to die anyway so it might as well be at your hands because in the process you rescue the 99.

Harte is saying 'the Chieftain is a good man, a man innocent of any crime and is only in this situation through circumstance and no fault of his own - I will not kill him - no matter what the price - the price of my soul is too high! This festival custom is evil - and if I participate how many more will die when this tribe move onward and outward to enemy villages and perform the same ritual?

Finnis is telling everyone "it's all right to be a Caiaphas" because the lessening of a moral evil is in the number crunching...some injustice is better than total injustice..

Harte is telling everyone "We must say no" - because we're all in this together and we sink or swim together - but not one of us will be left behind - at any price - for such a price is always too high - let Heaven and earth perish but let right be done...

Crassus has made the offer - so do you hand over Spartacus or do you stand up and say "I'm Spartacus"?
...of course there's the issue that we're not the ones getting killed
But think of it this way:

Proponents of IVF argue that people who could never have previously existed now walk among us
...all it took was making [and destroying] significantly more siblings [whom would have never existed anyway]
...isn't it a price worth paying to bring forth another person into reality?

So what's the perspective of that IVF child?
That they're a miracle?

Or that they're a simple victim of fate in a game of in-vitro-russian roullette - they could just as easily have been the embryo being washed away down the happened to all their siblings?

Do they feel it's a price worth paying or a price too high?
What of the corresponding legislation that permitted a society to do this?
How very different is it from abortion restriction?
Complicated isn't it...
So why does Finnis say the issue is no longer debatable?

Evangelium Vitae 73.3 according to his definition - is the end of the matter - we are allowed to co-operate as this form of co-operation is material and remote ?

Whereas to Colin Harte EV 73.2 is the Crux of the issue - and as any vote which permits abortion is intrinsically unjust any co-operation with it is forbidden formal or proximate material co-operation. 

There are also a few further issues to contest in the claims of the gradualists/incrementalists arguments:

One is "Does a reduction in the abortion limit actually produce fewer abortions?"
It might seem obvious that it does - but is it?

Is there not more chance of early term abortion being so socio-culturally sanitising  and anaesthetising [i.e less gruesome and barbaric] that it makes it more 'clinical' and publicly acceptable and ironically contributes to abortion's furtherance?

Is there not more chance of a mother rushing into a hasty decision to abort at an earlier limit when a discretionary period of time [plus the child making its presence felt] might make the mother hesitate?
...and as incrementalism concedes a willingness to negotiate exemptions over certain 'types of unborn' in order save a greater amount of other 'types'...
..who is to say that if - hypothetically speaking - abortion was only made available in the case of rape - does anyone not believe that we should experience an exponential rise in the amount of claims of rape perpetrated by persons unknown?

In countries where abortion is only permissible if continuing with pregnancy risks the life of the mother there are a few tricks a mother may use to feign illness to hoodwink a clinician [the anecdotally famous one being the handful of amphetamine slimming pills and inhaling amyl nitrate to produce artificial lethal-symptoms of hypertension]

Is an incrementalist strategy - even if it were somewhat successful - effective in reducing the total amount of abortions?
Or is it simply limiting the amount of choices in widely varied readily available options to gain an abortion - thus having virtually no productive effect whatsoever?
These may be debatable issues - but they are certainly not as cut-and-dried as the incrementalists would have us believe....

Paying an immoral price for a 'greater good' might be grounds for mitigation - but to do a deal with the devil and then discover it had no benefits at all and abortions continued unabated - or the deal even aggravated the situation?
It would be farcical and devastatingly tragic.

It's a tough quandary:
Do we save every life we possibly can at any price?
If the price is the life of another of our neighbours?
That price is always too high!
...and Nellie Gray is right - once we make any indication we are open to compromise?
We lose!

Once we attempt to move from one pro-choice group to another brokering deals for the best 'bargain'
The past 45years of the most deplorable, tragic, genocidal faiure has proved that any deal is not worth the paper upon which it is written ; the verbal agreements are always reneged upon when the 'deals' reach the floor of Parliament.

Remember the farce of 1990? Where a reduction from 28** to 24 weeks actually led to virtaul abortion on demand up to birth for all those conceived via rape & incest and any with even minor physical defects or were of any detrimental physical or psychological harm to the mother?

 The result is we have virtual abortion on demand - a mother need only claim and be diagnosed with 'adequate' mental distress and an abortion may proceed up to birth.
[and lets not forget those with Downs syndrome who suffer from a cardiac condition or duodenal atresia - easily treatable ailments - may be left to die without this treatment - their nutrition and fluids removed until they suffer an excruciating death]

It wasn't merely the 'culture of death' which perpetrated this eugenic genocide of the disabled.

Conspiring in this by omission, silence and some twisted ideological appeal to a 'double effect' [which was no such thing]
..were pro-Lifers desperate to reduce the abortion limit.

They adopted a form of utilitarian calculus - the benefit was a reduction of four weeks - the price?  voting for that bill which included abortion to birth for the disabled or those who were 'psychologically damaging' to the mother...

Now Finnis contends that when part of that life-saving loaf is offered you MUST grab it and save any life you can...
You are neither responsible nor culpable for those who will be aborted up to that new lower time limit, nor are you responsible for the grave evils perpetrated against those exempt from the brokered deal - that blame lies solely in those of ill will who created that policy...
Instead you are to be commended for saving the lives of those non-disabled who would have been aborted between 24 & 28** weeks.

Now we have a moral duty to analyse what happened:
a] What abortions have been stopped by the reduction to 24 weeks from 28**?
b] What was the moral price and the cost in lives of 'negotiation' which left behind the disabled and those causing physical or psychological 'damage' to the mother?
c] What is the effect of this strategy - NOT the tactics - it's a strategy which automatically offers to negotiate; in other words it is fluid and pragmatic.

[** 28 weeks was NOT actually the previous legal abortion limit - this was never statutory and merely presumptive]

History reveals to us that Power only negotiates with another Power. It does not negotiate with the weak - and an opening gambit of negotiation indicates weakness, folly and an abrogation of the power one possesses.

Only by a wall of unreserved solidarity - no exceptions:no compromise - i.e. a position of power with a consolidated public will...
[and I'll concede for that to occur we'll need the National Church to get its Pro-Life act together - the past few decades have been scandalous in its negligence and dereliction of responsibility - especially from Our Apostles & their quangocrat delegates]

...can we even begin to hope that we can influence the opposing side into even considering negotiation.
Now what's even more ludicrous than this situation
are the recent comments from online Incrementalists who are DENYING negotiation is part of the incrementalist/gradualist strategy?!!!

Now one may argue the benefits/detriments of the Finnis position all one wishes - but for those who argue for Finnis while refusing to concede the strategy & tactics it axiomatically demands is indicative of either delusional sincerity or mendacious incompetence.

I repeat this is NOT merely an argument over tactics
[history has revealed that strategic absolutists or solidaritists can have utterly counterproductive belligerently antagonistic tactics [one of the major complaints made by incrementalists against SPUC] and fail dismally in the process by alienating all sides [including their natural supporters]]

This is a deeper issue - one of moral solidarity - a house built on rock... and that involves a strategy evoked by a fundamental moral principle.
Many incrementalists have adopted 'effective' tactics in affability, sincerity, appeals to metanoia and an overriding gentleness - but this is utterly futile when combined with a strategy of protean mutability subsumed in pragmatic relativism.
A position of strength - which will gather hearts and minds
is one of unswerving truth and unassuageable authenticity and sincerity - that is only to be found within the solidaritist position.
...and from this position of true strength will come the gentleness of the firm resolve...
...with the correct strategy we can adopt the correct tactics of moral conversion/coercion and educational metanoia - not treating the Pro-Choicer as the enemy - they are rather the patient and the victim - poisoned by the lies and chaos the enemy has wrought...

Now in this historical case even most incrementalists will now concede that the 1990 Alton Bill and the subsequenct Commons fiasco was a price too high...
..but nevertheless the same 'negotiate/compromise/deal-broker' mindframe exists where any chance to grasp that piece of the loaf MUST be seized...
...and this is where Colin Harte, Nellie Gray, Francis Phillips, SPUC and all solidaritists [including myself]...
...argue NO!
Not only is it a repeatedly proven failed strategy - it's moreso a gravely immoral one.
There are prices we cannot - MUST NOT - pay...
...and this isn't an appeal to, as someone contemptuously dismissed it ; an 'ideological purity'...
[ye gods! stating that no unborn child should be left behind or be considered less worthy than another is derided as if we were arguing over angels on pinheads rather than life or death?!]
...nor is it [as someone fallaciously opined] 'squandering lives in the process'

One might contentiously retort 'how many lives have been squandered by a repeatedly doomed and failing incrementalist strategy and a contumacious recalcitrance in considering any other strategy?'

And I'm sorry but it is cognitively dissonant to claim that negotiation & compromise regarding the fate of unborn lives are not part of incrementalism.
They are!

Rather than chipping away at the culture of death there is a chipping away at one's conscience with toxic preference utilitarianism, pragmatism, situationism and relativism.
When one begins to ask 'what price a human life?' one should instead be asking 'what price my soul?'

Last month somewhere else online the Colin Harte/Nellie Gray Solidaritist position was condemned outright as 'unconscionable'  by an, I suppose, leading [non-SPUC] Pro-Life activist and Catholic media spokesperson...
If those at the front line in the 'fight' against the culture of death can be so incredulously, defiantly, belligerently wrong?
We're sunk!
Until grassroots Catholicism starts listening to voices Like Colin's, Nellie's & Francis's and tells those allegedly speaking for them...
Our Pro-Life activists and lobbyists need to follow the suit of SPUC, concede their present strategy is an abject proven failure and realise a volte-face on incrementalism to solidaritism is now imperative....
This is a war - and we're not merely losing each battle - we've lost ground at every attempt we've made.

We need to ask ourselves why?
Colin Harte, Nellie Gray, James Hanink, Mrs Phillips and finally SPUC are giving us an answer and a prospective strategy to move forward and start saving the lives that are there to be saved...
I beg..implore...plead...with those Pro-Lifers who are defiantly Incrementalist to reconsider their position and to now, at this eleventh hour - turn to solidarity with all the unborn and fight for each and every one...not one to be left compromises...
Don't let reticence to admit past mistakes get in the way of doing the right thing now...

One cannot claim to believe one thing and then justify an action which exemplifies the direct opposite.
The claim of  'making political concessions' is quite misleading because it implies we have something - anything - with which we can authentically bargain or 'trade off'...


So the claim that we have anything other than a collective moral will reinforced with public support which provokes concessions from the opposing side... automatically negated.
I understand the argument that half a loaf is better than nothing - and on paper it looks meaningful and common-sensical and the practical approach.
But it implies we're involved in something akin to trade-negotiations or arguing conditions for a peace treaty...

We're not!
We're abolitionists - and there's little point lying about it.

Which is why it's ludicrous when we have Catholic politicians [or media commentators] claiming to be Pro-Life when they aren't.

e.g. they excuse abortion when the mother's life is at risk [and lie about it - claiming it's acceptable under the conditions of double effect {the usual intellectual sleight involves extrapolating double-effect principles in ectopic pregnancy to the womb}] ; or they agree with the right to abort in cases of rape or incest; or they equivocate away eugenic abortions or the destruction of life in IVF...

My message to them is
"Stop lying: Stop claiming to be Pro-Life when you aren't - and get out of our way"

Now the usual response to this message is
"How dare anyone accuse anyone else of not being Pro-Life 'enough' or accuse them of being Pro-Life-lite? - especially when they are a fellow Catholic or someone who has dedicated and sacrificed themselves for the Pro-Life cause!!"

My response is that if you are willing to adopt the Caiaphas principle that some human lives are worth more than others  or can be sold to buy others, that some of our neighbours can be left behind if it benefits other anything which opposes the Solidaritist principle...
Then I'm sorry - but you're not Pro-Life - you're actually Pro-Choice-in-denial.

Finally on this issue - one 'blogger' has argued that the Pro-Life cause is winning the battle over hearts and minds because scanning innovations like 4D imaging is repudiating the Pro-abortionist claims that a foetus below the abortion limit is little more than 'tissue' of slightly more moral equivalence than to a kidney stone...

In other words public opinion is gradually moving towards a reduction in the abortion limit based on seeing a mini-human smiling, sucking their thumb etc.

In this scenario an incrementalist strategic position MAY have some validity...

But unfortunately the poster's understanding of contemporary Pro-Abortion strategy is both limited and anachronistic...
Being fully aware of the risks of foetal images appealing to public heartstrings and challenging heretofore denial of the humanity of a foetus...
'Pro-Choice' lobbyists, activists, academics and polemicists are moving away from the foetal development arguments to justify their position.
Rather they are resorting to ideological arguments primarily involving philosophical notions of 'personhood' & secondarily 'human rights'.

Now the first of these arguments is another issue for another time
But when it comes to appeals to Human rights it branches off into two forms - the first of these being the traditional feminist Jarvis-Thompson 'libertarian-autonomy-right to remove a parasite' paradigm with which we are all familiar. A woman's rights over her own body
superseding and countermanding any other claim.

There is a new secondary appeal to human rights [which is ironically older than the feminist one - except it previously had a less congenial name]

"The Right to Foetal Dignity"

Now this principle has been pervading the halls of ethical academe for
over a generation but it's slowly inveigling its way into the public
forum - and is going to be a significant weapon used by the pro-abortion
activists to argue for the elimination of those children who would be
born deprived of these rights.... be born free be born healthy be born into a safe and secure environment be born wanted be born with all the mental and physical capabilities to engage in
personal development/flourishment comparative with one's peers

Do you see the irony?

This so called agenda for rights of the unborn is actually a eugenicist's manifesto!

Pro-Choice activists are slowly realising that biological equivocation
and mendacity regarding foetal devlopment is rapidly being disproven via
4d imaging etc.
That in this realm of 'battle for rights' the so-far predominant
overriding rights of the woman to self-determination regarding her own
body MIGHT lead to potential legal appeals to rights of post viability
and ultimately post self-reflective sentience within the foetus
countermanding a 'woman's rights'....

So the next strategy will be the above 'right to dignity for the unborn'.
One already witnesses it more in the increasing removal of new-born
children from drug addicted, homeless, mentally unstable or 'unfit'
One can see it that one of the first policies of the west when it comes
to areas of armed conflict in the developing world is to immediately
send in the mobile abortuaries... 

The 'moral arguments' will move from aborting for our own benefit
towards the mephistopheleanly mendacious aborting for their own
The prevailing mantra will become

"Nobody would be want to be born unwanted by their parents, or into
financial hardship, or the insecurity of war, ill-health or mental

Move further along this slippery slope and an extension of this paradigm will rapidly become  a mandate for
only certain individuals being deemed fit by the state to have
children...with abortion becoming mandatory for those not fitting that
criteria. [We have already witnessed enforced abortions occurring within
the remit of the Mental Capacity Act [2005] ]

Now how does the Incrementalist Pro-Life strategy which is grounded on a foetal development/ abortion limit reduction deal with this new principal strategy of the Pro-Abortion lobby?

Answer: It Can't!

It's neither grounded in nor designed to address the philosophical principles involved on this new battlefront.
But Solidaritism IS!

So not only was Incrementalism questionable in the previous situation where the fight was over time this new arena of human rights  an Incrementalist strategy is utterly untenable and an exercise in futility

The Pro-Abortion lobby wishes to move the goalposts, change the arguments and appeal to human rights...

Only Solidaritism can even begin to counter this
...for incrementalism was designed around redressing a fight dealing with the abortion limit and arguments-of-circumstance justifying abortion.

To even consider using an incrementalist strategy against appeals to human rights or appeals to personhood would be akin to attempting open-heart surgery with a spanner.

Solidaritism is an all-purpose universal strategy.

Perhaps because it involves no moral compromise?


Gertrude said...

Great post, but please Paul - get a 'Tweet' button so we can share; and keep blogging!

Mike Cliffson said...


On the side of the angels said...

Gertrude - being an utter technophobe I don't know how to do it...