Conservative Abortion-Ban-Exception Delusions

mars_canals_and_vampires_piouseye_davidmhodges_2016Believing true what one wants to be true rather than what actually is true may be a less prevalent phenomenon among conservatives than liberals, but it is certainly not unknown among conservatives. For instance, one needn’t watch Fox New, the Fox Business Network, or an economics-related conservative event for long to hear someone who has been successful in the free market argue that his experience is “proof” that all one has to do to be guaranteed success in that market is to “work hard and play by the rules.” One has to watch only a little longer to hear someone who’s achieved some dream he’s obsessively pursued—turning away from other opportunities that, though not his dream, would have ensured a financially secure life—counsel people in general to “pursue their dream at all costs,” whatever the risks. (The extent to which people see their own experiences as authoritative is stunning. “Well, I did such-and-such and this-or-that happened,” to remarkably many, ends debate. Others’ experiences of doing such-and-such without this-or-that happening carry no weight.) These sorts of delusions survive because, of course, people who work hard and play by the rules but get nowhere for it don’t become role models and interview subjects, and no one writes biographies about them; and those who obsessively purse their dreams, accepting no substitutes, and end up with neither those dream nor any of the more realistic alternatives that presented themselves along the way, are likewise no one’s role models or interview subjects, and no one writes biographies about them either. Such delusions can ruin lives, but at least they don’t (usually) kill people.

One delusions that does kill people is the delusion that “emergency contraception” reliably prevents conception rather than causing early abortion. The term “contraception” naturally leads one to expect this, and it is certainly something conservatives, who realize killing unborn children for the sins of their sires is morally indefensible, would like to be true. Soundly pro-life persons (and persons who qualify in the eyes of most as conservative) who’ve let this appealing delusion take hold of them, and have thus promoted such “morning-after pills,” include Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio, as I recently discovered reading Calvin Freiburger’s 01 October 2015 Live Action News article “Reminder to Rubio and GOP candidates: Touting morning-after pill won’t change pro-aborts’ narrative” (accessed 05 February 2016). (The article also seems to indicate that Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee have not succumbed to the delusion, or had not as of 05 February 2015. Santorum’s recent endorsement of Rubio over Cruz might call this into question. It at least calls into question Santorum’s priorities.)

This delusion is perhaps understandable, since medicine and pharmacology are complex, and since deceptive marketers have intentionally given people the impression that such drugs prevent new human life from being created at all rather than, as the drugs often do, destroying human life already created. (The succumbing of medical doctors like Ben Carson and Rand Paul is difficult to explain. But, then, medicine and pharmacology are very specialized.) Less understandable is the widespread delusion that, were such ever really to occur, an abortion performed to prevent a pregnant woman’s otherwise unavoidable or highly likely death, an abortion justified by the proposed “life of the mother” exception to any ban, would be morally equivalent to abortions performed to destroy children created through acts of rape or incest, abortions “justified” by proposed “rape and incest” exceptions. Some professedly pro-life persons (and persons holding to at least some positions generally considered conservative) who appear to have succumbed to this delusion include (but are certainly not limited to) Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Donald Trump, as one learns from the above-cited article and finds further discussed or alluded to in Carole Novielli’s 05 February 2016 “Pro-lifers respond to attacks on pro-life stance of Rubio, Cruz” (Live Action News, accessed 05 February 2016), the 04 February 2016 Susan B. Anthony List open letter referenced in Novielli’s article, Calvin Freiburger’s 12 November 2015 “Bush disavows ‘Rubio is too pro-life’ attack ads” (Live Action News, accessed 05 February 2016), and Joseph Pelletier’s 05 February 2016 “Catholic Chris Christie: Marco Rubio ‘Too Pro-Life’” (Church Militant, accessed 05 February 2016).

One of the preceding articles, by the way, links to a blog post titled “Donald Trump says he is ‘pro-life’ but what does he mean?” (accessed 05 February 2016).There isn’t much to the post in terms analysis or new content, but it does rehearse various past Trump statements on abortion that don’t hang together well and don’t paint a clear picture of someone with pro-life convictions. It also, however, seems to fall into an error pro-lifers commonly fall into. The author writes, “Trump admitted in a 2011 interview on NBC that he thought there was a ‘right to privacy’ in the Constitution. This was the basis for the Roe v. Wade court case that led to legalized abortion on demand, which apparently Donald did not know” (emphasis and paragraph break removed). That Trump was ignorant of this aspect of history may be noteworthy, but when pro-lifers make their case against Roe v. Wade by emphasizing how “there is no ‘right to privacy’ in the Constitution” or “the Supreme Court invented the ‘right to privacy,’” I think they go badly astray. (It isn’t certain that the creator of the post endorses the “there is no ‘right to privacy’ in the Constitution” argument, but the post’s highlighting of the issue suggests that creator might.)

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights, constitutionists should emphasize at every opportunity, neither bestows rights nor provides an exhaustive list of rights. (On this last point, note the Ninth Amendment.)* Were the Supreme Court to propose an innate, God-given right not even implied in the Bill of Rights, the absence of the right from the Constitution would not be an argument against it (just the lack of an in-the-Constitution argument for it); other arguments would have to be adduced, based on the natural rights doctrine embraced by those who gave us the Constitution. (This doctrine would soundly and easily refute claims to rights that impose positive legal obligations and costs on others, such as “the right to affordable housing,” but might be hard pressed to refute a “right to privacy,” which strikes many as well in accord with the God-granted individual sovereignty of natural rights.) Even if the “right to privacy” is implied, though not explicitly stated, in the Constitution, the right is irrelevant to the abortion issue. Surely the Court would not find that one adult may freely have another adult killed simply because he manages to have the murder done in private. “That’s a profoundly personal matter to be decided between the murderer and his chosen killer-for-hire. It’s nobody else’s business” is not an argument likely to win in court. Even the most libertarian among us, if he is to be consistent with his own principles, can only claim “right to privacy” protection for the not-harmful-to-any-third-parties actions of “consenting adults.” (As well, because God-given, individuals’ sovereignty is the sovereignty of stewardship, not ownership, so such ostensibly consensual activities as assisted suicide cannot be defended on “right to privacy” grounds.) Arguments against the “right to privacy” miss the point.

Anyway, back to the “rape, incest, and life of the mother exceptions” delusion. Since incest without consent would be rape, I can only guess that the separate listing of incest means either (1) to allow abortion of children conceived incestuously even when both parents voluntarily engage in the activity that creates the child; or (2) to appeal to emotions by listing a particularly repulsive form of rape separately. Each of these exceptions proposes killing unborn children who have done nothing wrong because other people have done something for which they should be punished. Except to those who obsessively list these “three” reasons to allow abortion together, it is obvious that a “life of the mother” exception is fundamentally different, an expression of the fundamental right to self-defense.

My own tendency has been to want to keep the sole “life of the mother” exception in place, just in case there ever is a circumstance where abortion is actually required to preserve a mother’s life. As someone lacking medical expertise, this has seemed to me suitably cautious: Who am I to say there can’t possibly be a situation where abortion is the only mother’s-life-saving option? Persons who say they oppose this exception generally do so because they don’t believe such circumstances are possible. (Scott Walker, my original third choice for president in the current race, after Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry, said as much in a Fox News interview after the August 2015 debate.) Their argument, and it is not without merit, is that, in order to save an at-risk mother’s life, one might well need to perform a medical procedure that risks (or even guarantees) death of the unborn child. As medical science advances, such procedures can be completed with less and less risk to the unborn; as well, earlier and earlier deliveries become less and less unlikely to succeed. Eventually, no doubt, artificial wombs will permit delivery shortly after conception, allowing virtually every child conceived (who is free of fatal defects) to mature safely to infancy with no significant risk to any mother. Calling unintended loss of unborn lives due to the current limits of medical science “abortions” sends the wrong message, suggesting that the active killing of the youngest humans sometimes saves lives. (This is my own take on the no-life-of-the-mother-exception position rather than a summary of anything I’ve yet heard directly from someone holding the position. Stated this way, I’m incline to endorse it. Walker, sadly, did not set forth any form of this argument in the interview I mentioned, only expressed his belief that abortion is never necessary to save a mother’s life. For the position as stated by a committed advocate, in the context of defending Walker, see Bryan Fischer’s 07 August 2015 AFA The Stand article “Megyn Kelly Dead Wrong….” The closing “Megyn Kelly should have known better” seems to me to demand of the non-medical-professional and non-verbal-hairsplitting public a level of knowledge and precision of thought that is patently unrealistic and probably unfair, but the article soundly sets forth this not-unpersuasive viewpoint.)

Still, there is a profound difference between exceptions that urge legally sanctioned murder as a remedy for “rape and incest” and an exception that makes the verbal error of calling non-abortions “abortions.” The tendency of people to lump all these proposed exceptions together, as though they were a single rape-incest-life-of-mother exception, is a delusion people on all sides of the debate should strive to escape, which I hope they can do without recourse to antipsychotic medications, these being known to have unpleasant side effects.

* Since the purpose of the Constitution is to place restrictions on government, not to grant rights or privileges to citizens, one should not expect an exhaustive listing of all individual rights in its Bill of Rights. The point of the Bill of Rights was to make doubly sure that, even should government step beyond the bounds of its enumerated powers (as it certainly has), it should find itself explicitly blocked from infringing on certain rights that those framing the Bill of Rights judged, based on their own experience and knowledge of history, most in danger of being infringed upon. Individual rights can be proved by their presence in the Bill of Rights, but they cannot be disproved by their absence.

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