Thu, 20 June 2013
LISTENER MAIL: "What Do You Think of Pro-Life Bills that Could Be Ended with "and Then You Can Kill the Baby?"
Here's an outline of my main points in response to this question from Bobby: "Some pro-life people oppose 'incrementalist' pro-life laws because they always end with '... and then you can kill the baby.' What are your thoughts?
Note: Many of my arguments and thinking on these issues comes from conversations I had with Scott Klusendorf and Dr. Francis Beckwith, who both graciously spent time with me while I was working through these issues in 2007. I'm not sure now who said what and how many of these arguments are really my own, nor would I want to source any of these arguments directly to Scott or Frank without their permission. (These were all private conversations.) It's probably a fair assumption that the really smart talking points came from one of them though.
This was supposed to be a video but we had technical difficulties with the recorded video, so I'm posting the audio only.
Common ground: I agree that we don't want to communicate to people that we only care about babies that feel pain, are a certain age, not conceived in rape, etc.
I disagree that most forms of incremental legislation send that message. I think most people know how politics works.
It's one thing to endorse something, it's another thing to say what is allowed under the law. I offer a clear example of this from Gonzales vs. Carhart.
My argument is not that we should do evil that good may come. My argument is that when we pass incremental bills that will have a positive impact for the unborn, we are not actually doing evil. We are doing a good thing.
What's implicit in these bills is that we want to save all, but we know we can't, so we're going to save the most we can, and go from there. That's called graduated absolutism.
Why I'm not utilitarian: I'm not saying 'We'll kill one baby if you let another go.' It's more like if in a Japanese POW camp, the Japanese soldier tells a prisoner, 'We'll let you go, and you can either take two with you and we'll kill the other eight, or you can go alone and we'll kill all ten.' It seems like some pro-life people that support personhood amendments would say that by taking the two I'm implicitly saying you can kill the other eight. 'As long as you give me these two, THEN you can kill the POW's.' No, we value life, and we're trying to save as much as we can.
The Bible doesn't say that if you can't save all, you can't save any. The midwives in Exodus 1 weren't able to save all the babies, but they saved as many as they could, and they are praised for it. When the Pharaoh confronted them, they didn't make a pro-life argument or statement; they lied about it so that they could continue saving some! It could be argued that they were implicitly telling the leader of the land that it's okay to kill infants. They never to his face say 'You shouldn't do that.' They lied, and saved as many as they could.
William Wilberforce helped pass a bill, the Foreign Slave Trade Bill of 1806) that you could have ended with, 'and then you can sell the slave.'
Do you think it's more important to make an impact or to make a statement? I don't believe that passing a bill with a rape exception tacked onto it at the last minute sends a message to pro-choice people that we don't care about the babies conceived in rape that are sometimes killed in abortions.
Are there some pro-life bills that don't directly save many lives after they pass? Yes. (Parental notification with judicial bypass; the partial-birth abortion ban.) Yet both had educational value, especially the PBA ban.