“A Few More Words about Abortion,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
In a previous book, entitled “Essays on the Christian Worldview,” and in a subsequent blog and YouTube video, I had an essay entitled “Why I am Against Abortion.” In that blog and essay and video, I made the argument that it was and is an inescapable fact that an abortion either cut off life or ends it in some sense. I concluded by saying that abortion on demand, to end a life in some sense, is to denigrate all persons and conclude they are nothing. To the person who says, “unlimited abortion is OK,” I say and retort, “What if it were you? Where would you be? What value do you put on your own life?”
In October 28, 2012 New York Times, I encountered an op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman entitled, “Why I am Pro-life.” Mr. Friedman perhaps rightly or wrongly criticizes certain Republican candidates’ hard line positions opposing abortion, even in the event of rape, and even when the female may be in danger of her life. Mr. Friedman thus criticizes the Republican candidate of Indiana Richard Murdock, Republican Rep. Mr. Joe Walsh of Illinois, and Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri. Mr. Friedman states that these particular candidates seek to overturn the mainstream consensus in America on this issue. Mr. Friedman states the consensus to be that those who choose not to have an abortion in their own lives by reason of their faith and philosophical beliefs should be respected but that those women should be respected who want to make a different personal choice of what happens in their bodies and that they should have the legal protection to do so.
Mr. Friedman goes on to argue that the Republicans are incorrectly naming themselves as pro-choice. He concludes that this is a distortion. Mr. Friedman states that to be against gun control is not to be pro-life; to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency is not to be Pro Life; and to oppose social programs such as Headstart, which provides basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children, is not to be pro-life. Mr. Friedman concludes that pro-life includes those other categories and concerns. Mr. Friedman says that ‘pro-life’ is not the proper label to apply to people for whom the sanctity of life begins with conception and ends at birth.
I choose not to repeat the entire argument that Mr. Friedman makes but, essentially, he concludes that respect for life should include the things I just mentioned and should have a broader brush. He concludes that the most pro-life politician in America is Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his ban on smoking in bars to reduce cancer; in his ban on the sale of sugary sodas to combat obesity and diabetes; in his requirement to post calories counts in menus in chain restaurants; and in his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and in his support for childhood education.
In my view, Mr. Friedman does not understand the issue of abortion. It may that there is irony and hypocrisy in the pro-life group that opposes abortion and does not support the particular policies that Mr. Friedman mentions. In fact, Mr. Friedman does not exactly know who opposes abortion and also supports the policies he mentions. Whether Mr. Friedman sees a consensus on this issue really misses the point, which is the morality of ending a human life in its beginning stages. The issue is a moral issue of stupendous and cataclysmic proportions. Mr. Friedman criticizes the issue being raised. He assumes a particular consensus at any given time is morally and philosophically acceptable. The fact remains that Mr. Friedman really cannot escape the fact that if he had been aborted, he would not be writing his column on this issue and criticizing the hypocrisy of the political group he may not favor or oppose in this respect.
The error in his thinking is that a woman’s personal choice about what happens with her body and insistence that she have legal protection is a kind of argument but is philosophically incorrect and fallacious. He is mistaken and does not see the moral issue. The issue is not what a person wants to do with their body, but that a person has been eliminated, if not murdered.
It is not an issue about “choice,” but an inescapable moral issue, something that Mr. Friedman either does not see or refuses to acknowledge. A human being who has had no choice in the matter has had his life choices removed. If Mr. Friedman wishes to interpret what he finds in those who oppose him as backward and hypocritical, I find his arguments morally shallow. If he has children, I ask Mr. Friedman if he would consent to them being murdered.
Perhaps Mr. Friedman has to ask himself what would have happened if his children, whom he now loves and enjoys, had been aborted? The ultimate question that I ask Mr. Friedman is what he makes of himself at the present time and what value he sets on his own life and the lives of his children. Mr. Friedman easily argues that women should have a choice. I do not necessarily disagree with him. I do point out to him, however, the disastrous moral consequences of that view.
I would also like to speak again about an op-ed piece from The New York Times on Nov. 4, 2012. In that issue is a column by Mr. Nicholas Kristof where Mr. Kristof criticizes Mr. Mitt Romney He states that Mr. Romney has taken the position that life begins at conception and notes that Mr. Romney states that his policy is to oppose abortion with three exceptions: rape, incest, and cases when and where the life of the mother is at stake. He notes that Mr. Romney has endorsed a personhood initiative that treats a fertilized egg as a legal person. He notes that Mr. Romney seems to have jumped on the Republican policy bandwagon to tighten abortions.
Mr. Kristof also criticizes Mr. Romney’s opposition to contraceptives. Mr. Kristof, in all fairness, says that not just women should be offended by these views but all of us. What Mr. Kristof regards as backward is in the eye of the beholder. Mr. Kristof says that there was an issue in the last political campaign that there was some sort of war on women. The fallacy in Mr. Kristof’s reasoning and argument is that he evades the essential moral issue. He calls those who opposed abortion “backward.” I ask Mr. Kristof again that if he had been aborted and his parents and children had been aborted, where would they be? The essential moral issue is what moral value should and may be placed on a person. If Mr. Kristof says that my valuation system is backward then I find his evasion of this issue extremely backward.
Mr. Kristof rightly concludes that the Republican position on this issue is a political issue. I respond that this is not a feminist issue or a woman’s issue but a human issue. Mr. Kristof concludes and argues that pro-life people are anti-woman and anti-women’s rights. That position has little connection with the actual moral issue. Mr. Kristof easily concludes that there is some sort of prejudiced war against women on the part of those who oppose abortion. I counter that he is clouding the issue and the actual issue is what we are to make about any human life including his own, his children, his parents and his grandparents. The only war that I see here is a war on this issue: the life and integrity of any human person at any stage of life.
This essay is taken from my book, Essays on Faith, Culture, Politics, and Philosophy, chapter 16 pp. 39-41, published by the University Press of America, 2016.