I have always been amazed that folks which are rabidly against abortion cannot understand, at least in principle, why 80% of Americans since 19761 are in favor of abortion being allowed in some or all circumstances. The radical anti-abortion folks quickly label these 80% of Americans as “baby killers”. First, let’s take a step back and clarify terms.
I do not call anti-abortion folks “pro-life” simply because they are not in any sense pro-life for the following reasons:
In a purely logical sense, pro-life is not compatible with the belief in the death penalty.
Similarly, pro-life does not justify war, the mass and indiscriminate extermination of human life. The pro-lifers that voted for G.W. Bush do not think of themselves as murdering hundreds of thousands of children, women and men in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to their vote, we also murdered more of our own children than 911accomplished. Even their infamous president admitted at least one of those wars was a ‘mistake’. I have never heard a rabid pro-lifer refer to themselves as murderers for their vote for G.W. Bush but they do refer to those who vote for choice as murders. Can anyone say ‘double-standard’.
If pro-life includes all life, anyone that is not a vegan can also be called a murderer.
Some have gone so far as to claim plants have life and those that eat plants are murderers. How far psychological neurosis can go in this direction is unclear but I guess that really is the definition of neurosis and ultimately self-destruction.
The basic problem that the anti-abortion folks have is that for most reasonable folks one cell subdividing does not constitute a human life. Every animal on the planet starts out as one cell subdividing as far as I know. A fetus goes through almost all the evolutionary stages in early development that many other animals go through. So, from a secular, scientific point of view the distinction of human life and animal life at conception or the early stages of fetal development can hardly be justified. To call someone a ‘murderer’ for believing in the validity of this rationale does not incriminate the hard, cold logic and reasonableness of this point of view. It really tells us something about the psychology and religious beliefs of the accuser.
If the anti-abortion folks would overtly make their claim against abortion based on religious and metaphysical beliefs, I would have no argument against that since belief and faith are not qualified by logic and reason. Certainly, history has shown us and still demonstrates the possible downside of belief and faith when logic and rationality are thrown out the window. Certainly, there have also been atrocities when the appearance logic and rationality have also been at the fore. The difference between religious belief and secular understanding is that, as Popper stated, secular, scientific logic and reasoning is contingent, it is falsifiable. Religious belief cannot be falsified without violating the basic tenant of faith. Falsifiability depends on a community of rigorous experimentation and consensus based on the scientific method not on tenants of dogma or intimidation. By the way, I am not suggesting faith and religious belief is altogether bad. I do recognize its upside potential.
The anti-abortion folks have learned that their fanaticism gets easily dismissed when they appeal solely to religious dogma. Therefore, they have made feeble attempts to justify their extremism with insults and pseudo-science. Reminiscent of the appeals many of them also make to creationism and against human caused climate change, they attract marginal and apparent ‘facts’ to justify what is fundamentally a religious belief not a proven scientific fact. They change and shade the meaning of the word ‘fact’ and commonly accepted meanings of words to seemingly substantiate their religious belief. They used to proclaim that “all life is sacred”. It seems now that this has been superseded by insults, indignant and even violent assaults on anyone that thinks one cell subdividing is not yet a ‘baby’. Simply put, ask any rabid anti-abortion person if one cell subdividing could in any way not be called human. None will tell you yes, or even, “I can understand the legitimacy of that claim”. Instead, those of us for choice are met with a barrage of intense hatred and character insults. The apparent idiosyncrasy of their hatred and their implicit religious metaphysic especially in the example of Jesus are amazingly at odds. The adamant claim that human life occurs with conception, the penetration of the sperm into the egg, is a purely definitional and arbitrary assignment. To claim that they are ‘pro-life’ and the rest of us are murderers for not accepting this definition as gospel fact is absolutely ludicrous.
There is an interesting philosophical consideration that Aristotle was famous for thinking through when the claim is made for potential. At conception, there is potential for human life. This does not mean that there is absolute, human life at conception as those born with a vegetative brain can reasonably bring into question whether this kind of life is human as it does not in any apparent, functional or observable way rise above or even equal a common animal life. Sure we can believe that this vegetative state has the potential to be different just as pigs could fly and stones could talk but we need to understand the difference between hope and desire and brute fact. Potential is not absolute but relative. Potential is relative to actuality. Actuality never has a some kind of hermetically sealed (or definitionally sealed) ‘life of its own’. It is always contingent on temporality; its unfolding expression through time. To make potentiality an absolute, as ‘human life’ from conception, apart from existence is to shift the meaning of the word into metaphysics. I might add that this is why later Latin theologians largely misinterpreting Aristotle, applied the title Physics and Metaphysics to two famous collections of Aristotle. I have discussed this aspect more thoroughly in other posts on this site.
In any case, the intensity and zealotry of the anti-abortion folks goes way past the claim for a philosophical, religious or even rational claim and can only properly be thought in terms of a pathological and deviate psychology. Watching Carly Fiorina the other night on the Republican debate talk about abortion is a clear example of how these folks process abortion. Chopping up babies in some sort a sadistic ritual of capitalistic pleasure is quite a long way from the position that one cell subdividing is not a human life. However, for these folks, you are either a sadistic baby killer or one of them. While this kind of sentiment is more akin to ISIL than to Jesus or common sense, it is commonly and unquestionable accepted on the far right. What this should tell the rest of us is not any kind of legitimacy to their point of view but contrarily to the depth of their personal psychological delusions and maladies. Would we really want a person with these kinds of issues as president? Many of the current Republican presidential contenders have sided and defended these abnormalities which should inform us about their viability as well.
I am and have always been more than willing to politically compromise with rational folks on restrictions to abortion but it is increasingly hard to find folks on the other side of choice that can compromise on abortion. They are committed as much as any fighter for ISIL on making abortion illegal in any and all circumstances. They would impose harsh criminal penalties on doctors, women that get abortions and folks that are pro-choice. It is not unimaginable that their psychological traumas would impose violent and undemocratic ends on the profane as George Tiller and other killings have amply demonstrated. If you give them a inch they demand a mile because they would rather undermine our system of democracy, throw away the judicial branch of government in some unthought ‘constitutional’ fashion than consider that most folks, 80% since 1976, are not like them and vote against them. Nothing else matters to a zealot except their own physiological fascination and pathology. The only thing I can add is that if folks vote these lunatics in we will all get what we deserve. It will not be democratic and reasonable but will only result in violent, dictatorial consequences on women and those that believe women should have the right to choose.