Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why Roe v Wade?

Russel Shaw asks this question at Catholic Exchange.
It appears to me that the only possible explanation for this voting behavior is that, no matter what many people say they believe about abortion, when push comes to shove the issue doesn’t carry all that much weight with quite a few. For them, clearly, it is not the great moral issue of our times that convinced prolifers—and not a few prochoicers as well—consider it to be.
His point is valid but he does not go far enough. Why are there so many pro-choice people?  Whether they are a slight majority or minority is not so important. We don't have the needed consensus on the issue to change a supreme court decision. Why not? In fact, among intellectual elites, the consensus is just the opposite. That is the real reason the Democratic part is pro-choice. It respects scholars more than the Republican party does. Why have they come down on the pro-choice side?

The first thing you need to understand is that Christian sexual morality without contraception is incoherent. Protestant Christians embrace the idea of sex that is not open to life. Most still discourage premarital sex but they have basically lost that battle. People just don't see why contraceptive sex is OK after marriage and not OK before. So the next domino falls. Then next people wonder why pornography is wrong. The whole moral ethic comes unraveled quite quickly.

Guess what? Now you have a society where the pro-life position is unworkable. Widespread premarital sex will produce far to many children without moms and dads prepared to raise them. Protestant Christians have basically not dealt seriously with the issue. Just make abortion illegal and deal with the crisis pregnancies as they come. But the system was being overwhelmed.

So Row v Wade was more a piece of social engineering than it was an opinion about human rights. Pro-life people rightly point out an unelected supreme court has no business engaging in social engineering. That is true. But was it needed? Pro-life people don't address that question much. They address the question of whether it is moral. That is one they can argue effectively. But does what is moral in terms of making sure every child is well cared for contradict what is moral in terms of an unconditional prohibition on murder? Christians don't see the need to address the question because God's law cannot contradict itself. You just trust and obey.

The trouble is the morals do contradict. Secular people think that is because these principles are not from God so we need to fix the problem by changing the principles in the most acceptable way. Protestants insist the principles are from God but they have God wrong. They don't have God wrong on abortion but they have Him wrong on contraception. So they trust that God cannot be in contradiction but He is not. They are.

Catholics get into the same problem. They often refuse to defend the church's position on contraception. They think since protestants are OK with it we should just focus on where we have agreement with them. So it leaves a very small number of people actually defending a logically consistent position.

So where does that leave us? Often you hear people saying there is no answer on the abortion issue. That no matter what people are going to accuse you of being immoral and/or irrational. But that is just because the one moral and rational position has very little voice.

Would it make any difference? Actually it might. I think liberal academics would re-examine the pro-life position if it was shown to be part of a consistent workable social policy. Yes, it would be hard to convince them that self-control is possible in matters of sex. But we can point to many societies that have had such control of their passions. Not everyone all the time but a whole lot better than we have now. So you would still have some crisis pregnancies but not so many as to make us abandon our respect for all human life.

We do have the advantage that there is no alternative. So we are again faced with a choice between Catholicism and atheism. Either we say that there is a huge design flaw in human morality or we trust that the Catholic church has been right all along. The first will lead to atheism. The second will lead to Catholicism. We, as Catholics, need to be unafraid to propose Catholicism to this world.

No comments:

Post a Comment