Abortion and the Universality of Virtue (October 2006)

In the decades old debate over abortion there are two main issues to contemplate – one legal, the other moral.  With respect to the moral considerations there are two distinct schools of thought: those who believe in universal moral principles authored by God and those who posit that morality is a wholly human construct.  With respect to the legal question there are those who support the integrity of the Constitution and the intent of its framers, and those who do not.

Both of our nation’s founding documents spell out certain human rights they consider universal.  Neither these documents nor their author’s ever claimed to have created these rights, rather that our government was formed to secure and protect them.  Natural Law or human rights are granted to man by God, not by governments, international treaties, or even by consensus – let alone gestalt.  Take, for example the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: suppose a particular country is not a signatory to this treaty; does it follow that people in that country have no claim to human rights?  If they do in fact still have rights, then on who’s authority?  To argue that natural rights were developed by man is a non sequitur: the word “natural” (according to Merriam-Webster) means to be based on an inherent sense of right and wrong; it is, by definition, then, not a man-made construct.  To argue otherwise is base relativism, which I reject root and branch.

In the relativists’ worldview there is no such thing as “universal values”, but as C.S. Lewis argued in his great debunking of relativism “The Abolition of Man”, virtually every civilization in history has shared certain immutable core values which serve as the foundation of each disparate society.  This is true even when there was little or no prior contact between these civilizations.  In other words these same values developed separately, if not concurrently in each civilization without influence from the others. In this light the proposition that morality is a “contract” of sorts between men seems dubious at best.

Lewis cites as an example the striking similarities between the teachings of Moses, Plato, Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, and other great moral philosophers.  (Conspicuously absent from his essay is any mention of Mohammad; however he does cite laws and customs of pre-Islamic Arabia and Persia.  The reason for this omission is that many of the Prophet’s teachings stand in diametric opposition to those of history’s great moral teachers.)

Lewis argues that to question the validity of fundamental and universal value judgments, such as the sanctity of life, is self-contradictory, and thus self-invalidating.  Do relativists not value multiculturalism or women’s rights?  If so, they acknowledge values do exist, do they not?  And if so, an objective value of life itself must precede all others.  How can the relativist embrace a subjective approach to values until a conflict arises with a particular value to which they subscribe?  At that point the relativist becomes, conveniently and temporarily, a believer in objective value and seeks to impose that value on others (usually through a court decree rather than through the legislative process.)

The great Moral Philosopher Sir Thomas Browne wrote: “Think not that morality is ambulatory; that vices in one age are not vices in another; or that virtues, which are under the everlasting seal of right reason, may be stamped by opinion.”  This defense of traditional morality as understood in every civilization in history was written more than one hundred years before the philosophers of the French Enlightenment (as opposed to the contemporaneous American and English movements) first elevated man above God in their misguided belief in the perfectibility of man and the related search for a utopian system which guaranteed equality.  The inevitable and catastrophic result of this fundamental misunderstanding of human nature was the French revolution, the reign of terror, the Napoleonic wars, and all the subsequent and ultimately barbaric “humanist” political movements of the 20th century: communism, socialism, and fascism.

These relativist movements are common in human history.  During the time of Socrates, one of the father’s of Western civilization, there were the Sophist’s who, much like modern litigators, elevated the art of persuasion over the search for truth.  And in our own time the baby-boomer’s, hippies, and pseudo-intellectuals who, in their arrogance and vanity, have undertaken man’s latest attempt at redefining morality as subjective, amorphous, and relative – a human construct, they suggest, differing based on the various mores in each generation or society. Their descent into self-indulgence and relativism have had a lasting and deleterious effect on the world ever since.  A few examples are crime, drug abuse, aids, divorce, abortion, etc.

As the great Moral Philosopher and the Christian apologist suggest, when Nature’s God created the universe with physical laws that govern, for example, the movements of celestial bodies as described by histories greatest science teachers: Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and others, he created also laws of moral certainty that are immutable and absolute.  Histories greatest moral teachers (Jesus, Confucius, Buddha, and others) described these laws.  And just as God’s natural laws are often bent (do not birds fly in defiance of gravity, or man through the principles of propulsion and lift?) so too through the abuse of God’s gift of free will are these moral laws often defied in man’s proclivity for sin.

The relativist of every age refuses to distinguish between good and evil, or to recognize right from wrong.  What they might call rationality, I often see as intellectual laziness, moral vacuity, or open hostility to faith and reason.  When they proclaim the virtue of their open-mindedness, I would caution (to quote Flannery O’Connor) “sometimes people can be so open-minded that their brains fall out.”

With respect to abortion, in particular, the moral relativist, humanist, or “enlightened”, values-neutral, post-modern intellectual is either incapable or unwilling to pass moral judgments upon the brutal practice.  Taken to its logical conclusion, their pro-abortion argument may be compared to that of a sociopath: characterized by a lack of empathy for others, remorselessness, and a tendency to rationalize deviant behavior.  They neither see nor acknowledge any intrinsic value to human life. And having no legitimate ethical or scientific arguments in their favor simply eliminate the condemned child from the equation, coldly sanitizing their position.

One might ask such a person “when is a fetus a baby?” or “At what point is abortion infanticide?” or “If a third trimester abortion is acceptable, what about a fourth trimester (postpartum) abortion?” Any answer they give, were they so inclined would be arbitrary.  Their only method of justification is to de-humanize the child and reduce the procedure to something akin to having a boil lanced, and then take the high moral ground by self-righteously demanding “control of their own bodies,” or claiming privacy or women’s rights.

In fact the barbaric procedure is almost too sadistic to describe, let alone behold. In many abortion procedures the child’s limbs are torn from her body, her skull crushed, and brain sucked out, all without anesthesia.  The various remaining body parts are then scrupulously removed from the uterus, (lest the woman become infected by her child’s decomposing remains) and the child is discarded without ceremony or dignified burial.  The brutal nature of this terrible act should leave no room for fence sitting or equivocation, yet the pro-abortion relativist does precisely that.

In addition to the relativist there is also a category of people who are personally opposed to abortion but support a general “right to choose.”  This is the “see no evil crowd” who would never choose abortion themselves nor allow one by their child and may even be repulsed by the practice, but for fear of ostracism or perhaps a polite refusal to talk about the issue, simply disengage from the debate and feel their conscience clear so long as no blood stains their hands.  These folks can be charitably described as enablers whose refusal to stand and be counted drains what little moral fortitude exists in our elected representatives and hence retains and perpetuates the tragic status-quo.

Turning now to the legal perspective, in a casual reading of our nations founding document’s one will note two references to life: the Declaration of Independence states that his Creator endows man with the unalienable right to life; and in the 5th amendment to the Constitution, the deprivation of life is proscribed absent due process.  These documents were based, in large part, on English common law, the English Bill of Rights, and the various State Constitutions.  Nowhere in any of these sources can be found a preference for or an endorsement of a “woman’s right to choose.”

Furthermore, by virtue of the 10th amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Those powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people” the abortion question is one legally within the jurisdiction of the State legislatures, not the federal Courts.  The federal right to abortion is wholly a creation of an overzealous, activist Judiciary acting well outside its Constitutional authority, creating a brand-new right out of thin air.  Fortunately the Framers, in their brilliance, both anticipated and feared this very sort of usurpation of legislative authority by a “Judicial Oligarchy” and checked it with the Constitutional amendment process.

For the sake of restoring constitutional balance and ensuring its long-term viability the U.S. Congress and/or the several States must re-assert their constitutional prerogatives and strike down Roe v. Wade through the amendment process (If the Robert’s Court doesn’t strike first.)  And for the sake of countless precious future lives, the fence sitters in the abortion debate must choose life openly to give their elected officials the political courage to act.  The moral relativist’s, for their part must be made to explain why their position which manifestly runs counter to universal moral values, basic human nature, (A parents instinct to protect their young) the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and Constitution, is the just one.

About michaelstjoseph

Michael St. Joseph is the pen-name of a Catholic conservative citizen of the greatest country in the history of civilization. He has a law enforcement background and lives with his family in the New York area. He can be reached at michaelst.joseph@yahoo.com.
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