Friday, June 17, 2005


My wife tells me that, for purely anatomical reasons, I'm not entitled to an opinion on abortion. Nevertheless, I have one. I tend to be considerably more pro-life than the church body with which I am roughly affiliated (the ELCA), but I think it would be a terrible mistake to make it strictly illegal. I understand that I can never know what it's like to be a woman about to choose abortion. I cannot not judge them.

As I finally got to the treatment of some concrete issues in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics, I found in his stance on abortion a certain resonance with my own view and some interesting additional depth. Here is what he says:
Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to life which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question of whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed, in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual.
This last insight is simply brilliant. Abortion is an evil. I don't think there can be any real question about that. But who is responsible? Is it the woman backed into a corner, or the society that backed her into that corner?

In God's Politics, Jim Wallis suggests that Democrats should rethink their position on abortion. He suggests a position which would be decidedly anti-abortion without attempting to make it illegal. A position which would attack the causes of abortion rather than the act. To reduce the abortion rate, he says, we should focus on teen pregnancy, adoption reform and real support for low-income women.

Or we could just tell women they're evil to even think about it. :-(


Christopher said...

I still need to read "God's politics" sometimes. It sounds rather common sense to me!

Screwtape's Human said...
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Screwtape's Human said...

"My wife tells me that, for purely anatomical reasons, I'm not entitled to an opinion on abortion."

So I'm assuming since your wife doesn't own a slave, she's not entitled to an opinion on slavery?

Interesting logic.

Andy said...

Her point is more that I can't understand. It's not owning a slave but rather having the possibility of being a slave that would entitle her to an opinion on slavery.

Screwtape's Human said...

Still flawed because we're not ultimately speaking about your wife.

Ask your wife if her body has male genitalia. After she says "no" then ask her if her unborn child could have male genitalia. Clearly the answer is yes. So ultimately, the restriction she places on men having an opinion simply becuase they can't give birth side-steps the realy issue. Namely, her body isn't the one in question either.

Andy said...

I guess it all depends on how much compassion you bring to the issue. There can be no question that the impact of abortion, and particularly abortion laws, is greater on women than it is on men. At a certain point, you have to account for hyperbole in a statement.

In any event, I would suggest that you're overthinking that part of what I said.

Screwtape's Human said...

I do truly apologize if I have pursued this beyond the point of being annoying. I appreciate your willingness to allow the posts here in the first place.

I find that many of my Christian brothers and sisters do not think this issue through to it's logical end, and quite often accept rabbit trails as actual arguments in support of a great moral wrong.

Saying "...the impact of abortion, and particularly abortion laws, is greater on women than it is on men" is another one of those rabbit trails. The impact is equal to both genders when you consider abortion kills just as many males as it does females. By pretending the victim is the woman who chooses to do the killing, we again avoid discussing the real issue - what the act of abortion does.

If we were discussing a woman who wanted to kill her out-of-the-womb 6 month old for the same reasons people kill their in-the-womb 6 month old (both still developing by the way) the "impact" on the woman would not be our first concern (other than how quickly could we have her arrested and brought to justice).

Andy said...

Your posts here are welcome, and I am happy to discuss this with you.

I completely agree that the victims of abortion are both male and female. But abortion isn't the only sin involved here. The victims of Christendom's moralizing of the abortion issue are all women.

What's needed, IMO, is to situate the problem of abortion within real life. The flip-side of the rabbit trail problem that you identify is the problem of treating abortion as though it would an abstract issue that could be evaluate outside of real life situations.

We must be against abortion. I don't think there can be any question about that. But the question is how are we going to be against abortion.

I hope you realize that my wife's comment with which I introduced the topic is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. But it points toward the real-world setting in which abortion occurs.