Truth is dispensible if it makes you feel guilty

There is a breathtaking article in the Herald Sun today. Here it is with [my comments]:

No shame in aborting unborn life
Susie O’Brien
From: Herald Sun October 19, 2010

CHOOSING to terminate a pregnancy is better than ending up as a bad mother who hurts or neglects her kids. It’s time we realise that having an abortion doesn’t mean you don’t care about the unborn life you are carrying. [That’s the thesis. Now for the rationale, such as it is.]

Women abort potential babies because they would prefer not to be a mother at all, rather than be an inadequate parent. It’s not that they don’t care about the unborn child, it’s because they care so much. That is the startling finding that emerges from groundbreaking new Victorian research. [They learnt this from “research”?]

In the aftermath of the Queensland case that saw two young people put on trial for taking legally available medication to terminate a pregnancy, it’s time to reassert the rights of women who choose to have an abortion. [Is it? Remember the thing about rights: if someone has an authentic right, we have an absolute duty to provide it.]

Although Tegan Leach, 21, and her boyfriend, Sergie Brennan, 22, were acquitted, thousands of women are still made to feel like criminals because they choose to terminate a pregnancy. [Note the importance of feelings, note too the equation in this article between legal and moral/ethical.]

However, a startling new Melbourne study lifts the veil of secrecy on this issue, uncovering both the complex decision-making women go through, and the guilt and judgments they have to endure from doctors and others. [“guilt and judgements” – the true crime]

There is still a feeling in society that a woman who has an abortion is blithely ending the life of another potential human being. [Again, “there is a FEELING”. I don’t know whether the person who performs an abortion is doing it “blithely” or not, but the reality that a real (not only “potential”) human life is being ended has nothing to do with “feelings”.]

It’s said she’s selfishly putting herself before the needs of her unborn baby, or just using abortion as a form of contraception. [That may or may not be the case. The motives may be many.]

Let’s face it, lots of people have had abortions, but would never talk about it, and can find it hard even using the A word. Some hide their experience as a shameful secret from their loved ones for years. [Let’s face it, lot’s of people do it, so it must be okay, yeah?]

There are even still lines of people placarding abortion clinics, willing to call her a baby killer to her face. [“Even still”? In this day and age…]

And let’s not forget that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in the past has condemned the abortion rate, saying that he was concerned about an “abortion epidemic” and doesn’t “much like abortion, full stop”. [No, don’t forget him. How dare he!]

Now I don’t think anyone should be celebrating their abortion, or shouting it from the rooftops, but women shouldn’t feel bad about pursuing a courageous, legal course of action. [If it is “courageous”, it should be “celebrated”, no? But just because it is “legal” doesn’t make it moral.]

Yes, it is a big, important, life-changing event that should be taken seriously – but let’s get off the guilt-trip. [Because after all, guilt is the real bad here, not the killing of an unborn human being.]

In the only study of its kind in recent years, researchers spoke to a group of 60 Victorian women aged 16 to 38 who rang a Royal Women’s Hospital pregnancy advice service for help about their reasons for considering an abortion. The research team was led by Dr Maggie Kirkman from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Women’s Health and Society.

The group was hand-picked [so not random, huh?]to include women who were 16-18 years old, rural wome, and women who had rung the advice service in their second trimester (12 to 18 weeks). All but five went on to have an abortion.

Women in this position – and, yes, this includes me ( I have written previously about the fact that I had an abortion 20 years ago) [Right. So may we be excused for thinking that this article is some attempt to come off your own guilt-trip? A sort of “Oprah” confession? You want we should cheer you?]– were thoughtful and painstaking in their deliberations.

In making their decision, they assessed their capacity to be a good mother and provide for their child. They also took into account their relationships and the role of the father and the impact on other children. Many of the women had multiple reasons, and went through a complex process of making a decision, and weighing up the options. As one teen, Prue, said, she thought it was better to have an abortion than be a bad mother. [Because, like, you know, its better to just put an end to thier lives here and now, rather than have us all suffer later, you know?]

It might sound counter-intuitive, but it actually makes perfect sense. [???!!!!????]

We also shouldn’t harshly judge those seeking abortions in their second trimester. [No, you are right, we shouldn’t judge anyone (not the least because that might make the guilty actually FEEL guilty). Judge not and you will not be judged and all that. But we can point out faulty thinking and bad rationalisations and wrong reasons and evil actions. Love the sinner, hate the sin.]

One woman interviewed, Abigail, didn’t realise she was pregnant until this time, and decided to have an abortion because she had been drinking heavily and feared for the foetus’s health. [How curious. A kind of prenatal euthanasia…]

“You know, you don’t just have a child because you can,” she told researchers. [Um…?]

But it’s still not easy, and I think it’s important to acknowledge this. Out of the 60 women, only three made the decision quickly or with any ease. [You’re right. You actually have to work very, very hard to convince yourself that a really, really bad idea is a good one. And you won’t feel good about it, because you like me and everyone else actually have a conscience which tells you not to do what is wrong, but to do what is right. And you are trying to make these young girls feel better by simply telling them “It’s not wrong” in the first place.]

In her paper, published in the November edition of the international Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Journal, Dr Kirkman reports that women still feel stigmatised by doctors and others “both for being inappropriately pregnant and for terminating the pregnancy”. [So, how can we help people to be “appropriately” pregnant and KEEP the child?]

Now, around 80,000 women claim Medicare rebates for abortions in Australia each year, with about one in five women terminating a pregnancy at some point in their lives.

As I say, it’s not really a cause for celebration, but neither is it a cause for great shame or sadness. [You are right, it isn’t a case for celebration, because it is a tragedy. But unless you acknoweldge what a tragedy it is, if you want to cover it up and call it “courageous” and “smart”, then why not celebrate it? I will tell you why. Because you have a conscience which can’t quite get over the fact that there is indeed something wrong with abortion.]

There are so many parents out there making bad decisions or hurting their kids – ranging from the woman who drove kids home in the boot, to Robert Farquarson, to the South Australian parents who starved their kids then made them beg for dog food. [All of these are horrific, but than God, rare occurences. The occurence of child abuse in the community is high, but no where near as high as the abortion rate. The parenting instinct kicks in for most parents. In the mean time, this argument amounts to “We’ll hurt them now so we don’t hurt them later”.]

So it doesn’t make sense to harshly judge those who make a positive decision that they are not ready to be parents. [They should have thought about this before they had the sexual intercourse that resulted in them being parents. Once the conception takes place, bingo: you’re parent. If you fail to care for the child in the womb, you are no morally better than one who doesn’t care for the child after birth.]

Isn’t it better to end the pregnancy than be a parent when you know you are not ready for it? [You want it short and sweet sister? The answer is NO.]

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49 responses to “Truth is dispensible if it makes you feel guilty

  1. Tony

    [Helmet on]

    You use the ‘F’ word a couple of times, David, to really sink the boot into this writer. Yet your own feelings about the article come across very strongly.

    Outside of that, I really don’t know what your one-way ‘conversation’ is trying to achieve.

    😦

    • Yes, I do sink the boot in because she was expounding ideas that really really really needed to get the boot. They are bad ideas and very bad reasoning. If you want to know what my “feelings” are about this article, it is “angry”. I get angry when people try to make the unreasonable reasonable, or when they try to defend that which is evil by calling it “good”.

      This isn’t just a matter of opinion. Her reasoning is entirely faulty. She takes her starting point as “no one should feel bad (or be made to feel bad) about having an abortion” and then she seeks to rationalise why this should be so. But she fails dreadfully, because the basic argument amounts to “it’s better to kill them when they are really really little rather than to hurt them when they get older”. I’m sorry if it doesn’t offend you, but it offends me.

      • jules

        I agree with you David. What kind of culture and society sees it necessary to kill an unborn child for the sake of the mother’s comfort? Only a morally bankrupt one! Fact is 98% of abortions are elective, including socio-economic reasons or for birth control.

      • Gareth

        Totally playing the Devil’s advocate here David, (I am with you all the way) but Susan O’Brien has freely admitted in a previous newspaper article that she previously undertook an abortion and this was a decision that she completly understood (e.g. she admitted she was taking a human life) but ultimately it was something she was comfortable with and the ‘decision’ did improve her life.

        After being passionetly pro-life for ten years and willing to argue anyone, I freely admit that whilst I would never abandon the cause, I have given up arguing with people like this.

        Is there any logical response on behalf of our position besides pray.

        • Without question Susan O’Brien is attempting to deal with post-abortion trauma. Her way of dealing with the deep feelings of guilt that her experience of abortion has left her with is to deny and protest as publically as possible that any guilt at all is involved. She attempts to rationlise her feelings of guilt away (but not very successfully). But she can’t quite bring herself to “celebrate” her “courageous” action.

      • Yes, I do sink the boot in because she was expounding ideas that really really really needed to get the boot. They are bad ideas and very bad reasoning.

        On that basis I’m not sure about the value of your observations about ‘feelings’.

        If you want to know what my “feelings” are about this article, it is “angry”. I get angry when people try to make the unreasonable reasonable, or when they try to defend that which is evil by calling it “good”.

        Your feelings were very clear!

        … because the basic argument amounts to “it’s better to kill them when they are really really little rather than to hurt them when they get older”.

        This assumes she regards a pre-born life as life in the same sense as a post-born life, ie, a right to be protected from arbitrary killing (amongst other things). This is not that clear to me from the article although it would appear, from what Gareth says, that it is her position.

        Given that, her basic position — taking the ‘feeling’ language out — is that she believes that some lives are less worth protecting than others.

        I wonder if that’s how she sees it and I wonder how other pro-choice people see it. I assume others see a pre-born life as not life in that sense above — what we’d describe as ‘sacred’ (?) — but I just don’t know.

        I’ve only got close enough to one woman who had an abortion and, even then, the rational came from her partner. He said that she had an abortion as the result of an unplanned pregnancy. Before she knew she was pregnant she was working in a laboratory with chemicals that she believed endangered her unborn baby.

        I didn’t get any more information than that and, frankly, I wasn’t game to try. It’s such a minefield.

        I’m sorry if it doesn’t offend you, but it offends me.

        Irrelevant David.

        It seems to me that the ‘feelings’ aspect of this issue — generated by both sides — has all but destroyed any chance of communication in society as a whole and between individuals.

        That impasse works to the advantage of those who are pro-choice, it seems to me.

        • Tom

          Hrm, I don’t think that works Tony. It is irrelevant how the author see’s the pre-natal life (or at least, how they tell themselves they see pre-natal life, though this particular author out-right acknowledges that the unborn are babies).

          David picked up on something that is particularly interesting, and more to do with the question of philosophical psychology than anything else: why rationalise if there is nothing to rationalise for? Why claim that abortion should not be celebrated when it is called a ‘legal and courageous decision.’?

          David touches on the answer when he discusses conscience; I would go deeper. The medievals (by which of course, I mean Aquinas) had two words for what we today call ‘conscience.’ They used the word ‘synderesis’ and ‘conscienta’. The distinction between the two is this: the conscience (as we call it today) is that which calls attention to the natural law; it is our moral compass so to speak, and it is our sort of “bullshit meter” – calling us on both our own, and others BS.

          In order for us to call something BS though, we have to identify it first as false; our conscience is what identifies various claims as true or false (and the correlative good or evil). Synderesis might be called (so Budziszewski says) “deep conscience” in that Synderesis testifies to the most immediate and deeply pressing issues of the natural law. Synderesis testifies to the goodness of life; as an almost immediate corollary to that is the wickedness of murder. When we are talking about abortion we are talking about Synderesis. I shall come back to this.

          Conscienta is what we might call ‘surface conscience’ in that it deals with more complex moral propositions. Things that are possible for people to get wrong. For example, I may give money to a charity that I know supports abortion (eg: planned parenthood), but continue because I am convinced they do good work (eg: pregnancy counseling). Now, I would argue that such an act is evil because planned parenthood as an organisation is explicitly pro-abortion, and they actively encourage abortions; however the complexity of the moral proposition involved in my giving charity here is at such a level that it is possible for me to be mistaken.

          I can reasonably think that giving charity to planned parenthood is acceptable when it is wrong. This would be an issue that is not dealt with by the deep conscience because it is not something that is immediately obvious from the testimony of the natural law. Charity is good, planned parenthood told me they do good things for pregnancy counseling, ergo, I give charity to planned parenthood. In this sense, this is not an act that one could be considered morally blameworthy for (assuming one truly did not know the nature of the organisation), since the conscience was unformed, and uninformed.

          Synderesis does not work like this. The natural law in its most general propositions is known by all, in the same way. Nobody truly thinks that what is inside a woman is not a human. If it is not a human inside the womb, what do people imagine is inside a woman? Do women have dogs inside them until they give birth? Are there perhaps pine tree’s growing inside the uterus until such time as they give birth and they magically change into human beings? All the evidence of our life shows such reasoning to be a deliberate attempt to overcome the violent reaction we have against murder.

          (Again, I would HIGHLY recommend reading Budziszewski’s book “What We Can’t Not Know” and his treatment of this issue, which I am more or less plagiarising and treating rather poorly compared to his skilled and excellent treatment).

          Such arguments that “what is inside the womb is not really human” are a smokescreen. Given the ordinary circumstances (i.e.: when the unborn aren’t brutally murdered while they are defenseless), after 9 months a little human comes out. Little though it is, it is still a human. It has a human nature, it shares in the same subsistent identity. I am Tom now, I was Tom 20 years ago, I will still be Tom in 20 years, and I was Tom 27 years and 9 months ago when I was conceived. Who I was at conception has changed, but not essentially. Try asking yourself: “who was I, today, less my age and 9 months?”

          In order to think I was anything other than “I was who I am now,” requires a huge feat of intellectual acrobatics. The cause of this is synderesis; the deep conscience testifies to the goodness of life, and simply the fact that we grasp (in the most primordial nature of our thinking) the fact that adults come from babies leads us with a proposition that looks something like this.

          p1/ Human Life is Good [synderesis] (i.e.: murder is bad)
          p2/ Every baby is a human [basic human thinking]
          c1/ Every baby’s life is good, and its murder is bad.

          Suggesting that it is somehow reasonable to argue that the unborn are not human, or are not really babies, or are not really anything more than “a clot of blood cells” is more mental acrobatics than Heidegger performed while trying to justify his theory of Time.

          The difficulty with such an argument is that it can appear to be emotional: the reality is that this is the furthest thing from the truth. The claims that life is good and that even unborn babies are humans is SO blindingly obvious that in order to deny it there must be a whole raft of smokescreen reasoning in front of it. The reason such an argument then has the impression of being emotional is because there doesn’t seem to be an argument there. In a way there isn’t: it’s just so bloody obvious it doesn’t need to be argued. The assertion itself is just about (although not quite) self-evident. In order to argue the evil of abortion, one simply must point out the good of life. That is it. Knowing the meaning of the terms ‘abortion’ ‘evil’ ‘life’ and ‘good’ one immediately connects them, provided there is not some other heavily vested interest in disconnecting them.

          Such arguments will revolve around things like ‘right and wrong don’t make much sense,’ or ‘moral issues are usually so difficult and gray,’ or ‘to speak about the evil of abortion is to be just as bad as those who commit abortions because then it’s judgmental,’ or other such fudging’s of the issue, and stem from a vested interest in not being responsible for the child.

          The noetic reality of the natural law is such that the evil abortion is simply known to us; any attempt to evade it is simply an attempt to try and deny the most basic and fundamental moral principle we have: ‘life is good.’ The reason the argument gets so heated is that human beings suffer grievous and serious psychological problems from denying such propositions.

          That’s my dodgy summary of Budziszewski’s argument. I cannot emphasise enough: read his account, it is masterly.

          • Hrm, I don’t think that works Tony. It is irrelevant how the author see’s the pre-natal life (or at least, how they tell themselves they see pre-natal life, though this particular author out-right acknowledges that the unborn are babies).

            To me it is very relevant in trying to understand, and therefore communicate with, a pro-choice person.

            If a pro-life person has:

            1. Not thought about the issue at all, you can help them start to think about it (assuming they care and I think we should assume that).

            2. Regards a pre-born as not life then we can explore that rationale.

            3. Regard a pre-born as life, but has a philosophical position that says taking life in this circumstance is justified, we can explore the implications of that.

            David picked up on something that is particularly interesting, and more to do with the question of philosophical psychology than anything else: why rationalise if there is nothing to rationalise for? Why claim that abortion should not be celebrated when it is called a ‘legal and courageous decision.’?

            That assumes that there is a simple pro-choice view on the matter.

            You may regard abortion as having the same status as an apendectomy, but that doesn’t make it a decision that you want to make or one that you celebrate.

            Or you may regard an abortion as taking a life for (what you think are) good reasons. Again, that’s no reason for celebration.

            By way of analogy, you may kill someone in self defence in, for example, a war situation. It may be that you thought long and hard about being involved in that war and ended up being in a situation you didn’t want to be in. It doesn’t therefore follow that you’d want to celebrate it.

            Frankly, you lose me in the rest of your post. I’m not sure how it informs the discussion about the original post from David, or how it help can bridge the communication gap (that’s what interests me). But I’ll keep working on it …

            • Tom

              Alright, let’s put the rest of what I said aside. There’s plenty to work with here.

              Taking your examples (I assume you meant if a pro-CHOICE: it was a typo?)

              1. You are correct: if someone is pro-choice by fiat (i.e.: they have accepted the cultural norm, or inherited such views, etc.), then it is eminently useful to enter into dialogue to get them to examine such positions. That being said, I stick by the previous claim of self-evidence. The moral goodness of life is self-evident, the moral wickedness of abortion is self-evident. Provided one makes the connection in terms (life, good, abortion, evil) such terms cannot be anything but rationally assented to.

              That is, of course, unless one has a vested interest in denying the connection between such terms. Not because I wish to destroy dialogue, but because I wish to point out precisely where such dialogue must begin. I do not wish to assert the ‘rights’ of unborn children, nor do I wish to argue for legal protection. I am suggesting here that dialogue with pro-choice arguments must rest upon drawing out what is already known by people. I am making a fundamental claim here: I know the truth – that the taking of unborn life is depraved and evil. My discussion, even if it is not expressed in these words, begins from this starting point: just connecting the dots between the goodness of life, and the evil of murder.

              That is all that is needed with people who have not considered the position on abortion at all. If someone genuinely is interested in the truth, and has no vested interest in the abortion position (nor any vested interest in the pro-life position) then such an argument is enough.

              2. is interesting.

              How do they think of the pre-born as not alive? They have their own dynamic nature which causes them to develop and grow, and given sufficient time and care, they would emerge from their protective environment, young, little, but very much alive and still very much dynamic. (dynamic = has the potency to be the origin of one’s own change) The growth of the baby in the womb is not caused by the mother, it is caused by the baby; it is fueled by the mother, this is true, but it is directed and engaged with entirely on the part of the child (in much the same way as a 5 year old child is fed by his mother, yet is not ‘grown’ by his mother – unconsciously, but still dynamic in its growth and activation).

              If dynamism is what we call life (and, it is), then the baby is alive. Take what science has said about life: all life exhibits 7 signs of being alive (consumes, expels waste, grows, responds to heat/cold, pain, etc.) The unborn do all this, maybe in an extremely superficial way at the very early stages of development, but they still do so.

              How one can go about claiming that the unborn are not alive as such is beyond me. Usually they don’t. Peter Singer acknowledges that life begins at conception; he just adds the addendum that it isn’t worth protecting until they’re about 3 years old.

              In this sense, most pro-abortion arguments are an attempt to destroy Boetheius’ position developed in the 4th Century: a Human is an Individual Substance of a Rational Nature.

              Basically, the pro-abortion position says, ‘pick one of these terms and attack it.’

              Individual
              Objection: the baby is not really an individual since it is dependent on its mother. This basically refers to all the arguments that suggest the fetus is more like a “clot of blood cells” than anything else.

              Answer: dependency has absolutely nothing to do with Individuality. In order to be an Individual one must have one’s own identity: the delineation between mother and child is extremely clear. The mother and child are very close, but they are still distinct. Otherwise one might find oneself in the position that a baby of a few days old that stays up all night crying and has to be constantly carried by either their father or mother all day, because they cannot settle is somehow not ‘Individual’ – this is a position of absurdity. The unborn is dependent on the mother, true. This is now way makes it non-individual.

              Substance
              Objection: well, you rarely get objections on this one – most pro-abortionists are not sufficiently keyed into arguments about metaphysics to discuss the meaning of the term substance, so it’s not particularly important here. At least, I have never seen an argument that objects to the substantial reality of babies. One imagines that such an argument would be particularly troublesome to execute: “the baby is not really a substance, and so not really there!”

              Answer: So why do you need an Abortion then?

              Rational
              Objection: This is a big one – pro-abortionists love to bang on about how the unborn (and by extension the very young) are irrational, and as such aren’t really humans. In many ways this is a convincing argument: especially to our modern “evidence based” sciences. How does one get a 2 year old to sit still long enough to do any test, let alone score a sufficient ‘humanising score’ on an IQ test?

              Answer: being rational has nothing to do with actively engaging the intellect. By “rational nature” is meant the potentiality for the dynamic activation of a rational life. This is very clear; rationality exists as the potential which every child achieves as they grow up. If humans do not have a rational nature, where does our own rationality spring from? Do we wake up one day around the age of 4 or 5, and all of a sudden have rationality which we did not possess at all previously? No, not at all, such a position is absurd. That would be like saying “a young tree does not have the nature of having leaves.” One day the tree sprouts leaves, and we go, “ok, NOW it is a tree” – well what was it before? This is an absurd position that ends up drawing arbitrary lines in the sand (if you don’t believe me, try and work out a way of establishing the rationality of humans on a time-line other than their conception, that doesn’t also establish their humanity wherever it suits you). Basically, all babies are adults to be. That doesn’t make them not-human.

              In short, such an argument about the “irrationality” of young children can best be highlighted as absurd by the way in which parents raise their children. Why do parents encourage their children to think, to question, (or at a younger age) to explore or be inquisitive? All such actions belong to our being-rational. This is not something that is somehow divisible from who we are until a certain age.

              Nature
              Objection: the objection to the unborn having no nature is much the same as suggesting they have no substance. If there is no nature in the unborn, then what is it precisely that one is expelling during an abortion? The rejection of the possibility of ‘nature’ simply makes the entire exercise unintelligible. The nature of a anything is “that by which a thing is a what” – that which makes something what it is.

              Answer: To suggest the unborn has no nature is to beg the same question as before: what are you aborting? It makes the whole action of abortion itself unintelligible.

              Finally, I want to address the last thing you said, even though in many ways it is a re-hash of what was said in the first section.

              You are correct – this DOES assume that there is a simple pro-life stance in this matter. That is because that is in fact true, life is good. This is quite literally as simple as it gets.

              As to your objection to David’s argument – one may simply find an abortion nothing to celebrate. The whole point of referencing this in the author’s article was to highlight the inconsistency. The author called each abortion a legal and COURAGEOUS decision. Every decision of courage ought to be celebrated. Why do we give medals for courageous conduct in combat? For the simple reason that courage is to be encouraged. Courage is a virtue, something good. If abortion is a courageous decision, it should be celebrated.

              I support what David said in his original post; the whole reason there is no celebration is the implicit awareness that such an act clearly is not courageous.

              I think that answers all your points. It’s hard to tell because I can’t see all I’ve written and all you’ve written at the same time.

              • Tony

                Again, Tom, in a forum like this it is very hard to respond to around 1800 words followed by around 1400 words.

                I’m certainly not in a position to do that at the moment.

                I don’t pretend to effectively represent the pro-choice (yes, it was a typo!) view, but I do try to understand it.

                That seems an impossible task in the present climate. The gulf seems to be too wide and, as I suggested, this seems to me to be to the advantage of the pro-choice side.

                • Tom

                  Oh, I’ve no objection to trying to understand the pro-abortion point of view; I just think it is not a particularly difficult one to understand. They, like I, are a sinner. They, like I, are unable to face their sin. As a result, they, like I, try and rationalise it. The sincere application of rigorous thought to the question of abortion comes, time and again, to the answer that abortion is horrible and evil. Now how to get people to admit to their guilt? I guess we’re back to the “cum ecclesia” part of the blog: sentire itself will take us so far. Beyond that we need the voice of Mercy, Truth and Love…

                  • Oh, I’ve no objection to trying to understand the pro-abortion point of view; I just think it is not a particularly difficult one to understand.

                    With respect Tom, the fact that you’ve just written around 3000 words of, what is to me (and, I’d suggest, the general population), high level reasoning to convey your POV on abortion, seems to suggest there’s a lot more to it than ‘not particularly difficult to understand’.

                    • Tom

                      It’s part of the difficulty of lies: they take 5 seconds to say, and 150 seconds to explode.

                    • But that’s my problem, Tom. You can’t really listen … I mean really listen … to another point of view when, cutting to the chase (as you finally do), you think they’re living a lie.

                      And, believe it or not Tom, I don’t mean that to be personally offensive but I think it’s a symptom of why so many people are ‘talking past’ each other.

                      Again, that’s our problem, not ‘theirs’.

                    • Tom

                      I know you don’t mean to be offensive, and none taken. An honest dialogue always has some element of brutality to its honesty!

                      I don’t think I’m talking past anyone – I have answered objections as to why people might think abortion is acceptable. Granted, I designed the response for you, and as such did not feel the need to moderate my language, as I definitely would if I were talking to someone who had had an abortion.

                      This is not because I would change what I would say in any substantial way. I am simply suggesting that any dialogue on the question would be couched in less stark terms, primarily because they ARE living a lie.

                      It is a painful thing for anyone to have their own lies exploded for them: I assumed that in this forum that would not be happening so much, as I understood this to be simply a dialogue about the different ways in which people think about abortion.

                      This is not how I would approach such a dialogue face to face with someone. How I would approach such a dialogue face to face would depend on a whole raft of circumstances (including things like how well I knew the person, if they were in the Church or not, etc. etc.). This is not an attempt to talk past someone, just my attempt to point out the obfuscations and lies that are generally put forward.

        • This assumes she regards a pre-born life as life in the same sense as a post-born life, ie, a right to be protected from arbitrary killing (amongst other things). This is not that clear to me from the article although it would appear, from what Gareth says, that it is her position.

          Given that, her basic position — taking the ‘feeling’ language out — is that she believes that some lives are less worth protecting than others.

          A friend just pointed me to this article in the Weekend Australian: “Anti-abortion while remaining firmly pro-choice”. In this article, Emma Jane criticises the Anti-Abortion movement which:

          elevates the unborn baby from Human Lite to Maximum Being, while reducing mothers to invisible incubators, stripping them of their rights as independent humans.

          The problem with pro-choicers, however, is that they can tip too far in the other direction by quarantining the political and ideological from the ethical and existential. Acknowledging that terminationas do involve the end of potential lives is regarded as too damaging to the argument.

          What’s required is a more nuanced ethical line… [Foetuses] reprewsent life, but not as we know it. This is why termination is not on par with murder.

          Thus she is able to conclude, in regard to the Queensland RU486 case, that the young couple acted ethically:

          Sergie Brennan, 22, told police he helped procure the drugs because he didn’t want his girlfriend to have to go through the stress of a surgical procedure. “I wanted to give my kid the best,” he said in an interview replayed in the Cairns District Court. “At the moment I felt I couldn’t give my kid the best.” Hardly a criminal motivation in many people’s understanding.

          And it is this “understanding” that is completely up-a-waddle. It goes like this: Yes, the foetus is a real life. It is real human life, but only a potential human person. It is “Human Lite”, not “Maximum Being”. Since it is not really a person yet, any action taken against it at this stage carries less ethical significance than any action taken against it after it is born.

          The argument therefore relies on the belief that a human being has a lesser ethical significance before birth than after birth. This is, as Tom has shown so well in these comments, illogical and false.

      • Peter Golding

        Well said David!
        O’Brien appears to be a complete philistine who lives and operates in a values free zone.I suspect two of her favourite snngs are What About Me? and Me,Myself,I.

  2. Matthias

    Maggie Kirkman is i think either the mother or aunt of Australia’s first IVF baby. What struck me at that time and in subsequent interviews is her arrogance to issues around prolife .

    • Arabella

      Matthias,
      A woman with name Maggie Kirkman was part of a surrogacy arrangement with her sister giving birth to a baby for her. Maybe you remember the name from there. I’m not sure if she is the same as the writer of the piece David is discussing here.
      Google “Maggie Kirkman” and “surrogacy”.

  3. Pax

    When any one writes in defence of abortion I am always struck by the irony that they can only do so because they were not aborted.
    So many of the world’s greatest artists, musicians and thinkers would not have seen the light of day if the mind set that has come to be accepted today had prevailed in thier era.
    I agree with Tony in that it is important to listen to and understand how those who accept abortion have arrived at that position but then it is equally important to gently point out that they have been misled into false thinking and moral error.
    People sometimes say about horrific times of violence in human history how could people have let it happen. Yet today in our “civilised” country day in day out innocent babes in the womb {just as each of us once was} are allowed to be killed. Something very wrong is constantly being lauded as right.It is the worm corrupting our nation which like Blake’s apple is rotting from within.Every woman who has an abortion loses part of herself. It goes against the very nature of womanhood to destroy the child in one’s womb.We do a great injustice to all women if we do not speak out against this false thinking with every means at our disposal.To call abortion wrong is not a lack of compassion towards women but a defence of humanity itself.

    • to gently point out that they have been misled into false thinking and moral error

      I guess my post was not so “gentle”, Pax. I could have taken a different line, and perhaps should have done, respecting what I can at least recognise in Susie O’Brien’s piece: whether she recognises it or not, she is deeply scarred by her experience of the abortion she had when she was a young woman. But I don’t think she would admit to that, no matter how obvious it is to us in our piece. She is, as Tom put it, denying the deep “synderesis” which tells her that she aborted a human person.

      • Gareth

        Hi David,

        Call me cynical, but I think you are giving O’Brien too much credit here in claiming she is ‘scarred’.

        Whilst I have no doubt that there are many (probably millions) of people that do have a conscience and are deeply scarred by their experience as God has granted them the grace to do penance here on earth and suffer the temporal consequences of their sins, I also have no doubt that there are other people (probably millions) that just couldn’t care less.

        I really don’t know if O’Brien is scarred or not, but I do know that one-third of the human race has contributed or participated in the modern day holocaust known as abortion.

        That is an awful lot of people and they can’t all be walking around feeling guilty or scarred about it all. In fact I would say the vast majority wouldn’t give it the thought of day.

        Maybe I am losing my faith in humanity, but I just cringe when I here most humans have a deep conscious, because in my experience many don’t.

        I dont deny the mystery that God touches many in order that they understand their past errors and to live out a penance. All for God’s mercy.

        Sadly, I dont think O’Brien has much of a heart.

  4. Juano

    Many women that had an abortion justify their action by any means simply because they think that they could not live one second feeling the awful guilt and pain for having killed their sons.

    I met one of these women. Her life was a mess because of an abortion she had 20 years before. She had and has episodes in which she freezes as she feels the tools inside her killing the baby. She cries. She regrets loosing the chance of having a son (she could not have more after that).
    But every time I told her to forgive herself of that horrible mistake her answer was always the same: I did nothing wrong, I would do it again under the same circumstances…

    This kind of persons will not rationalize about abortion ever. If they did they would have to face a position they think cannot stand, so they need to dehumanize the victim to keep their world running.

    That is the reason why they argue about feelings, about judgments, about the mother’s role. They are talking only about themselves. Not about the babys, not about abortion… Those are minefields they cannot and will not step into.

  5. A question for you David (and others) and I’m not sure if it will help or hinder the discussion:

    I think we have similar views on the death penalty.

    How would you react, if I was to respond to an article written by someone who attempted to articulate their pro-death penalty position by using a similar tone to your bracketed responses here?

    Worse still, what if I called them ‘apologists for murder’ and called the judge, the prison guards and the exectutioner cold blooded murderers and talked about the collapse of civilisation because of their callous disregard for human life and the disturbing apathy to the death penalty?

    Do you get my drift?

    • I’d like to see the kind of article you have in mind, Tony. I can’t quite imagine it. The only thing that would come close would be an argument for the death penalty that went something like this:

      1) Having been found guilty as charged, X is to be punished with life imprisonment
      2) However, given how psychologically and physically and socially (and in ever other way) harmful permanent incarceration is, and
      3) given the expense and the State’s lack of resources to permanently house prisoner X for life,
      4) we judge that it is more humane and rational just to kill him now and be done with.

      I think that would be a fairly close analogy, Tony. What do you think?

      • You missed my point, David.

        As I’ve experienced it over the years there’s a kind of hierarchy of tone in the rheotoric directed to ‘life issues’.

        Abortion is almost always the high point and the language and tone used is pitched at a higher, more strident, level than say the language and tone used in discussions about war or death penalty.

        In microcosm and at a more moderate level, it has played out here. Compare the tone you adopt in the original post on this string to the tone you adopt towards Gareth in his defence of the death penalty in an earlier post.

        I’m not suggesting these examples are comprehensive proof, but they certainly are consistent with my experience.

        When it comes to abortion and to a slightly lesser extent, euthanasia, even moderate pro-life commentators can throw around terms like ‘murder’ without challenge. That kind of level of rhetoric seems to have no place in debates about war or the death penalty.

        For me this is a fundamental ‘perception’ issue. The church says that all human life is sacred, full stop. Yet, the perception is that the life of the unborn is much more important than the life of someone facing the electric chair in Texas. Or the life of a dying person here is more important than that of a civilian in Iraq.

        • Tom

          It is an issue of Justice – to give to people what they deserve. The death penalty issue says that some people might actually deserve death; their crimes, and whatever other circumstances that surround it, are deserving of death – now, reasonable people can see this differently. Some may think that no-matter the instance, life-imprisonment is better than the death penalty. Fair enough – that doesn’t mean there isn’t a debate to be had, or that people cannot be reasonably convinced by either side of the debate.

          It is not possible for the unborn to deserve death. Therefore, the killing of the unborn as an intentional act IS murder. That’s it…it is not possible for an abortion intended as an abortion to be a just act – to give to the child what it deserves.

          • Tony

            LOL Tom, I’m being accused of the ‘old game of senselessly arguing against posters who see the common sense in supporting the Church’s moral position on the evil of abortion’ in another place, but I’ll bat on.

            I guess I’ve let your response ‘sit’ with me for a few days in order to try and understand where you’re coming from.

            It is an issue of Justice – to give to people what they deserve.

            I don’t think the church’s view on the sanctity of human life has anything to do with what people ‘deserve’. Human life is sacred because … it is.

            The death penalty issue says that some people might actually deserve death; their crimes, and whatever other circumstances that surround it, are deserving of death – now, reasonable people can see this differently. Some may think that no-matter the instance, life-imprisonment is better than the death penalty. Fair enough – that doesn’t mean there isn’t a debate to be had, or that people cannot be reasonably convinced by either side of the debate.

            Crikey! What’s a ‘reasonable person’?

            I’m talking about a person who accepts the Church’s positions on ‘life’ matters, ie, abortion, euthanasia, just war, death penalty, etc.

            If we can use the term ‘murder’ in an issue like abortion, it seems reasonable to use the same sort of tone of language in other ‘life’ issues.

            But we don’t.

            It is not possible for the unborn to deserve death. Therefore, the killing of the unborn as an intentional act IS murder. That’s it…it is not possible for an abortion intended as an abortion to be a just act – to give to the child what it deserves.

            It is not possible for an innocent civilian to deserve death in an unjust war, but we don’t use the kind of language about soldiers that we use about those involved in abortions and there’s no suggestion that politicians who support unjust wars or who support the death penalty should be denied access to the Eucharist.

            To me the notion of what we ‘deserve’ or our state of innocence (or otherwise) is a condition on life or a qualifier. I think the Church’s position is very different from that.

            • Arabella

              Hello Tony,

              regarding innocence as a qualifier – indeed the Church’s position takes the quality of innocence into account.

              You write “I don’t think the Church’s view on the sanctity of human life has anything to do with what people ‘deserve’. Human life is sacred because … it is.

              Yet where the CCC (2258) speaks of the sanctity of human life, in the section on the 5th commandment, it uses the qualifier ‘innocent’: “Human life is sacred….[..] no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being”.
              Further the CCC (2267) when commenting on the death penalty states that “assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” This sentence speaks of guilt (unjust aggressor) as the qualifier.

              No where does the Church approve the direct taking of an innocent life, however in limited circumstances it approves the direct taking of the life of a ‘guilty party’.

              • Arabella,

                regarding innocence as a qualifier – indeed the Church’s position takes the quality of innocence into account.

                Not in the sense that is is a qualifier where one human has the right to not be killed and another one’s rights are taken away (except where self defence makes it necessary).

                Yet where the CCC (2258) speaks of the sanctity of human life, in the section on the 5th commandment, it uses the qualifier ‘innocent’: “Human life is sacred….[..] no one can under any circumstances claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being”.
                Further the CCC (2267) when commenting on the death penalty states that “assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined …

                By way of a tangent, I’ve always thought that a questionable statement. What’s ‘fully determined’? In the richest, best legally resourced, jurisdiction in the world where there is a culture if legal independence — aka the USA — conservative estimates have one in ten death penalty victims being innocent.

                Is that ‘fully determined’? Because if it isn’t, I’d suggest the ratio is even worse in other death-penalty countries.

                … the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” This sentence speaks of guilt (unjust aggressor) as the qualifier.

                Yes and it’s not the innocence or guilt of the aggressor that’s at issue, it’s their threat to the lives of others.

                No where does the Church approve the direct taking of an innocent life, however in limited circumstances it approves the direct taking of the life of a ‘guilty party’.

                Not because they’re innocent or guilty, but because the jurisdiction cannot protect a community from serious aggression. Even if they’re guilty of the most henious crime, the CCC recommends that where possible they be incarcerated. The death penalty is for all intents and purposes not justified.

                • Arabella

                  Tony you wrote: “Not because they’re innocent or guilty, but because the jurisdiction cannot protect a community from serious aggression”

                  The state using the death penalty to protect society from an aggressive and dangerous person would never be considered allowable by the Church if the person’s aggression is the result of serious mental illness or some other such incapacity. The amount of aggression, and danger to the community, may be the same but the difference is absence of guilt. Innocence or guilt does make a difference!

                  • Arabella,

                    The reference shows the difference between the 1992 and the 1997 version of the CCC and shows where it’s coming from on this issue, particularly:

                    the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. For analogous reasons those holding authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the community in their charge.

                    In other words, as I read it, the issue is the safety of the community, not the guilt or innocence of the aggressor.

                    It could therefore be conceivable that a person who was mentally disturbed could be killed by an agent of the state if there was no other way of protecting the community.

                    But even that older version draws on the same principle which was strengthened in the ’97 version:

                    If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

                    In other words, the issue of the innocence or guilt is not a qualifier. The ‘dignity of the human person’ is the one and only principle.

                    • Arabella

                      Hi Tony,

                      You say that to kill a mentally ill person who who poses a threat to society, because he is violent, in a pre-emptive way to avoid harm to others would be allowed in the same way the death penalty is under very limited circumstances.

                      I say the pre-emptive killing of such a man would fall under the same condemnation that euthanasia and abortion do – these being the direct taking of an innocent life. Even if the unborn child poses a threat to the life of the mother he cannot be directly killed. Non-combatants in war cannot be directly targeted, even if killing these could save lives (e.g an enemy soldier is shooting at you using a hostage as a living shield – you cannot shoot the hostage to enable you then to shoot the aggressor even if your life is under threat). There is not one ‘rule’ for the unborn and another for the born – there is an important principle at stake – one cannot directly kill the innocent.

                      The mentally ill man is not guilty due to his impaired free-will. He cannot be killed the pre-emptive way the death penalty does. Maybe if he is in the act of harming you and you use proportionate force to repell him accidently killing him (or even directly killing him as a last resort, though I’m not so sure about this) – that would be allowed. Your intention is self-defence and you would use any other means if possible.
                      That is different to the pre-emptive killing to protect society that the death penalty involves.

                      The CCC is carefully worded (although not carefully enough it would seem!). I’m not sure why you think it throws in the word ‘innocent’ regarding those who cannot ever be directly killed.

                      Cardinal Dulles and Pope Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) are worth a read on the issue of the death penalty.
                      http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0461.html
                      http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=27852

                    • Tony

                      What I’m alluding to, Arabella, is where I think the church is coming from in its attitude to the death penalty.

                      The church no longer says, ‘it’s OK to kill someone when they’re really really bad’. It says ‘if there’s really no other way to protect yourselves from a dangerous criminal you can take a life’. It is essentially a self-defence argument.

                      If it wasn’t, the CCC would not be saying that there’s virtually no reason to use the death penalty now.

                      The nastiness of crimes and criminals hasn’t changed, but our capacity to protect ourselves from a dangerous criminal has (mostly).

                      If we can do that, there’s no justification for the death penalty.

                    • Arabella

                      Tony,

                      OK – thanks for your reply.

            • Tom

              Hrmm, the blog got busy while I was AWOL.

              Quickly though: a reasonable person? You and I are reasonable people Tony 🙂 What I meant by that comment was just that some questions are not settled or outright clear-cut answers. In that sense, people can reasonably (that is, according to intelligible lines of reasoning, rather than prejudice or what-not) come to differing conclusions, usually by taking some factor or another into account.

              The question of murder, for instance, is one of those instances where there can be no difference of opinion. Murder as such (leaving aside the question of those things that might or might not count as murder) is wrong, and one cannot reasonably reject the wrongness of murder, as such.

              The question of, say, smoking (we’re back here!) can be understood in a few ways. I know a priest who thinks smoking is a venial sin, another who thinks it isn’t, and a third who thinks it depends on how addicted one is. This is a question that reasonable people CAN disagree on.

              For the second part, by the question of justice, one merely means “what someone deserves.” By that, the unborn deserve to be not killed, because of their innocence. That is, it is an act of justice NOT to kill the unborn.

              On the question of soldiers dying unjustly, you are correct. It is not just that innocent civilians die in war. That being said, the death of innocent civilians is not the object of the act of soldiers in war; they want to kill enemy combatants. In precisely the same way, an expectant mother who gets seriously ill, or trips and falls, and as a result miscarries, is not held to be at fault for the death of her child.

              I’m a little tired – so I don’t know, but I think that covers what you asked.

              Cheers Tony.

        • Gareth

          In all honesty Tony, I think you should stop wasting your time on the computer and spend your days in prayer and mediatation.

  6. Paul G

    I just heard an interview with Ian Brown, who is a Canadian journalist and is promoting his book called “The Boy in the Moon” about his severely disabled son and his life in the family.
    http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/10/19/3042442.htm?site=brisbane&microsite=conversations&section=latest

    Brown is unromantic about his experiences, but being an author, he is able to reflect clearly about the life of his son and his family. As I say, he is unromantic, but he explains how his son has changed the way he, and especially his daughter look at life.

    Regarding abortion, I think Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher, gives the lie to regarding an unborn child as “human lite”. Singer says animals (human or otherwise) derive their right to life from their ability to be self aware. Thus a severely disabled human has less right to life than a healthy monkey. He also says there should be a “cooling off period” after birth where we can assess the self awareness of a human child and decide if it is worth letting it live.
    I can’t see anything wrong with Singer’s logic, it is his assumptions that are wrong. Most other pro-choicers have both bad assumptions and bad logic.

  7. Pax

    Jesus was once a babe in a spotless womb.Each new life in a womb regardless of how it came to be in that womb has the right to be safe from any deliberate intervention whose sole intent is its destruction.
    One can every compassion for any soul who has given in to the temptation to abort but it does not change the reality that such deliberate killing is wrong.
    When reality is denied by any one of us we begin to have problems because we are meant to live in Love which is built on Truth.
    The work of Rachel’s Vineyard is very important in regard to abortion It hepls those who have been affected by abortion to find peace.