The excellent social commentator Damon Linker at The Week has struck again. He honestly evaluates the recent revelations of Planned Parenthood videos and how some liberals are, ridiculously, instead focusing their outrage on the death of a lion. His August 4 column is worth reading:
I give credit to Mr. Linker. He is absolutely one of the sharpest cultural commentators out there and miles ahead of most of the mainstream media. But, have a cookie while you read this, because his moral reasoning is about to crumble.
He begins with a more fair reading of the reality of abortion than most liberals will admit:
"That's because I'm convinced that abortion indisputably kills a human being, that human beings possess greater intrinsic worth than any other form of life (even when that form of life is an impressive and endangered animal), and that treating the body of a human victim of lethal violence as material to be harvested for its parts is a form of barbarism."
Then he goes on to say he is not pro-life himself because he believes that women should be sovereign over their own bodies at least until a fetus is viable outside the womb. He is trying to thread the needle here but this logic is conditioned by attempting to find a cultural compromise in modern America and ultimately falls to pieces when viewed objectively.
According to this line of thinking, the child has unique DNA and is alive and growing and has no rights whatsoever and then magically gets the inalienable right to be alive at the point when a team of nurses with medical technology could keep him or her alive? A point which keeps changing as technology advances, so that a person born a hundred years ago would have gained the right to live later than a person born last year? So a person's inherent right to be alive and not murdered depends upon the state of technology? And upon their age, as well as their physical robustness at that age?
Let's try this reasoning with the elderly. A person is alive and growing older and has full rights to be alive, like Damon Linker for example...and then at their 70th birthday they lose all rights to be alive and can be executed at will because they turned 70? Does this seem like a reasonable and logical line of thinking?
A person's right to life cannot just appear or disappear out of thin air during their lifetime. That is philosophically untenable because it is arbitrary. The Catholic Church holds that the dignity of life cannot be violated from conception to natural death. This is actually a logical position, whether one likes it or not. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2273:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."
In the end, Mr. Linker declares that it is hypocrisy to support banning abortion (which would clearly reduce abortions) while not simultaneously supporting the expansion of access to artificial birth control (which he also believes would reduce the number of abortions). If these two initiatives have the same end result, why support one and not the other?
First of all, he is a hypocrite by his own definition because he supports one (birth control expansion) without supporting the other (banning all abortions). So much for that charge.
Those birth control programs might, as he argues, reduce the total number of abortions. He equates this with "enormous good."
In essence, he is claiming that a pro-life person, to be consistent, must support fewer abortions BY ANY MEANS AT ALL. This is just a laughable argument. The "ends justify the means" is a utilitarian point of view, not a Christian one. The Christian view is that artificial contraception itself is immoral and against God's plan for humanity. Using one immoral action to stop another is not the way that Christians imagine going about renewing the culture! Matthew 5:48 has no exceptions; we are called to perfection.
The real debate he is asking for is over the morality of artificial birth control, which has always been condemned by Christians with the exception of certain recent Protestants (what departure from Christian tradition does not exist with certain recent Protestants?). See my previous article on how Christians have always opposed artificial means of contraception:
Damon Linker is working hard and makes some great observations but he still has some work to do in order to arrive at a consistent, non-arbitrary, and logical moral philosophy. Here's a hint, Mr. Linker: Our rights come from God, not from our age or the current state of technology. And being pro-life does not mean abandoning all other moral beliefs and being willing to use any means necessary in order to reduce the total number of abortions.