Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Murder and Selective Births

First, I feel I need to make my own position clear with regard to this issue.

I'm not pro-abortion. I'm anti-abortion. I am pro-life. I can’t think of, nor have I heard of, any circumstance or any set of circumstances which could possibly converge to make the deliberate abortion of a pre-term pregnancy licit in my opinion.

Notice I use the term abortion with regard to pregnancy. A pregnancy, like any process, can be aborted. I believe that pregnancy is one particular process that ought not to be deliberately aborted for any reason at all. People aren’t aborted. People are killed. Sometimes, people are murdered. And murder is the deliberate killing of one person by another person in contradistinction to moral and natural law.

It is absolutely true that one person may kill another person—may take another person’s life—in such circumstances that such killing isn’t murder. Legitimate self-defense is one such circumstance. Defending the life of another from a clear and present danger is another. There are more possible circumstances but the purpose of this blog isn’t really to get into too much of that. I just wanted it to be clear that I believe that THERE IS a distinction between killing and murder and that the former may not necessarily be the latter in each and every case.

However, I believe that the deliberate killing of an innocent non-aggressor is always murder in each and every circumstance. Examples would be non-combatants in war-time as well as the unborn in the womb.

If I may quickly touch on the recent murder of infamous abortion doctor George Tiller…

The killing of George Tiller was a murder in the same way as the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald was a murder. Assuming absolutely certain the fact that Oswald murdered Kennedy and, for the sake of argument, that abortion is murder, the guilt or, if you’d rather, the non-innocence of both parties may be firmly established.

So if Scott Roeder and Jack Ruby were merely exercising justice against two guilty men, why call it murder? First of all, because at the time of their murder they weren’t aggressors—they weren’t posing a clear or present danger to anyone. Secondly, neither Roeder nor Jack Ruby had any authority to exercise justice against Tiller or Oswald regardless of their guilt. Neither one had any more authority to execute someone than to lock them up. The one, absent the proper authority, is murder while the other, absent the proper authority, is kidnapping.

Finally, just to be clear about this distinction, I believe a strong argument could be made in Roeder’s or Ruby’s defense if the circumstance had been different. For example, if Ruby had happened to come across Oswald by accident in the book depository a second or two before Oswald shot Kennedy and if the only way that Ruby could stop Oswald from pulling the trigger was to deal him a lethal blow, than that would have been within Ruby’s limited authority as a private citizen to save the life of another human being. Though such an act in defense of the President himself adds a certain additional emotional weight to the argument, I think the personage of the one being defended from attack is irrelevant. For these purposes, we could substitute George Tiller for Kennedy and the argument remains the same. Ruby, acting in the defense of a person in immediate mortal danger, would not be guilty of murder if he had to use lethal force to effect that defense. The relative guilt or innocence of the one being defended is as irrelevant as that person’s social status or position within society.

That having been said, I believe that unborn children are people with, at the minimum, the right to life. They are innocent. And regardless of any danger they may pose to their mother by virtue of their mere existence within her they are non-aggressors since any danger they may pose cannot possibly be deliberate. (Of course it were possibly deliberate that would be an argument against abortion rights since only people are capable of deliberate action.)

Now the reason I began writing this post is because I read something on by William Saletan. He’s adamantly pro-choice but he tends to write intelligently on the abortion and stem cell debates. His article today, “Sex Selection: Nobody's Business?” had this nugget:

[L]et's turn the tables on those of us who oppose abortion regulation. How far should we go? Would you oppose regulation even of abortions aimed at preventing the births of girls? Because there's increasing evidence that such abortions, which take place by the millions in Asia, are now being done by the thousands in the United States as well.

Saletan concludes his article with the questions, “If you're pro-life, how far are you willing to go in regulating abortion? If you're pro-choice, how far are you willing to go in leaving it unregulated?”

It’s possible that many or even most pro-lifers accept the “merciful exceptions” argument to abortion regulation—that abortion should or could be permitted in cases of incest or rape or to save the life of the mother.

Whether or not that’s the case, I imagine that pro-lifers generally distinguish what those limits, if any, should be.

I’m not so sure that’s the case with most pro-abortion people, however. Any limit and any distinction can be made to seem arbitrary. Either a woman can licitly terminate her pregnancy at any stage and for any reason she chooses or she cannot. If she cannot terminate her pregnancy at any stage or for any reason than there are presumably some stages but not others that she may licitly terminate her pregnancy and presumably there are some reasons but not others which can be accepted for terminating her pregnancy.

What reasons and stages those are (or aren’t) is the matter of intense debate.

Leaving aside the question of stages and focusing only on reasons, could gender selection ever be an acceptable reason. If not, what logically compelling reason could be given for limiting a woman’s freedom of choice in that regard but not others?

Good article anyway. Check it out.

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