Thursday, November 01, 2012

Thoughts on Abortion

As a Christian, I count myself a supporter of two moral propositions:

  • Abortion, like murder, is a great evil; and
  • Sex should be reserved for marriage.

I am not unsympathetic to the burdens that complying with these propositions might pose in extermis; for instance, the burden on a family faced with the prospect of caring for a severely disabled child, or the burden on that child as he grows up faced with the improbability of ever finding someone to marry.  But that sympathy does not extend to elevating human frailty above God’s instructions.

That said, I couldn’t help noticing the Oscar buzz generated by the film The Sessions, the apparently true story of a severely disabled man who hires a prostitute “sexual surrogate” to whom he loses his virginity.  Now, it may not necessarily be a contradiction, strictly speaking, for liberals to argue, as they apparently do, that someone with disabilities doesn’t have a right to life but does have a right to fornicate.  But it does seem just a little . . . incongruous.

Speaking of abortion, I read, via Ace, another media frenzy over a Republican straying off-script:

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Tuesday that pregnancy that results from rape can be “something that God intended to happen.”

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said at a debate. “And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Now, on the one hand, as a Calvinist who subscribes to the English Reformers’ view of the sovereignty of God, that Mourdock isn’t that far off.

The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He doth foreordain whatsoever comes to pass.

But that said . . . I’m rethinking this whole “gift of life” business.  It is true that in the Bible, as throughout history until relatively recently, children were always considered a blessing.  But I’m not sure that the phrase “gift of life” appears in the Bible in the context of children, nor am I convinced that there is a moral obligation to procreate irrespective of any other consideration.  I haven’t thought this through all the way, but these thoughts did cross my mind as I read Mourdock’s statements above, and I can’t help think that the phrase “gift of life” seems a little jarring in the case of rape-induced pregnancy.


Dexter said...

"Be fruitful and multiply" doesn't have any qualifications on it (e.g., "unless it's a retard" or "unless paying for kids would impinge on your standard of living").

Jehu said...

Taking the Bible and Christianity seriously basically means following the guide of Scripture and Tradition when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient to do so. Yes, it's hard. Yes, often you'll fail. Jesus never said otherwise.

Bodichi said...

Be fruitful and multiply was used twice in the bible. Just twice. Not more than twice.

Situation 1: to Adam and Eve, total population,2

Situation 2: to Noah, his wife and their three sons and wives. Total population, 8.

Give me a break.

Sheila Tone said...

Nah. If you think it's murder, it's murder regardless of how the conception happens. If you don't think it's murder, then so what.

If you're a Christian, *everything* is the will of God, isn't it? At least that's what we were taught in Catholic School. It's an unfair twisting of words to imply that this belief means God intended punishment to the victim.

I don't think it's murder. I'm tired of people on both sides of the spectrum using this rare occurrence for political purposes. Truly religious people are selling out their beliefs for political gain. Unreligious people are using the argument as a red herring. Since when does someone get to murder another person to save himself?

Sheila Tone said...

I'm really tired of conservative religious beliefs against abortion undermining the conservative economic positions we both hold. However, I doubt most unwed welfare mothers are foregoing abortions for religious reasons. They and their procreating partners do many other things at odds with Christian beliefs.

Your opposition to abortion, unfortunately, gives cover to the socially irresponsible. They are multiplying rapidly. And when they do vote, they tend to vote Democrat. How ironic for you.

Dr. Φ said...

Dexter/Jehu: I think Bodichi has a good point. Procreation ceases to be especially "fruitful" if it outpaces one's resources. At the extreme, procreation ceases to be even multiplicative if the offspring are starving to death.


Welcome back.

There is a lot to unpack here. There are a great many factors and currents that brought us to where we are today. I think most fair-minded observers would agree that, on the policy end, a lot of our government interventions reflect the priorities of certain segments of the upper-middle class rather than what actually helps the working class lead happy and productive lives.

The social stigma against bastardy and, by extension, unchastity were backed up by very real and painful social and economic hardships, and the perverse incentives of the welfare state were that, by ameliorating those hardships, the practical support for the stigma became weakened. Legal abortion allowed supporters of the welfare state to argue, not always in good faith, "hey, if you want to reduce abortion, you should support giving lots of money to mothers on welfare."

Very few social conservatives actually took the bait, and evidence in support of its efficacy is hard to come by. But I will concede this: legal abortion did eventually lead most evangelical churches to quietly dismantle (or perhaps merely allow to lapse) the remaining social stigma against unwed mothers. The rules against sex outside of marriage remain, but once the baby comes, there may be a call to repentence for the immorality, but it is quickly followed by lots of support for the motherhood.

Mostly, I agree with you that this only reinforces the perverse incentives.

Dr. Φ said...

Sheila: Also, you have the theology of God's sovereignty about right, but I would add there are many Christians who would dispute it, e.g., VoxDay.