Straight and Worthy Answers on Abortion in A Recent Interview, Well Worth Reading

There is a magnificent interview over at National Review Online of professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Christopher Kaczor. He is the author of the new book The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice (Available at Amazon HERE). The interview is conducted by Kathryn Jean Lopez, of National Review, and though she takes up the voice of a pro-“choice” advocate, she is not.

Professor Kaczor answers the most common questions and objects with great clarity. I would like to present a few excerpts of the lengthy interview here and encourage you to read the rest. I will excerpt it in the form of listing the question and the pertinent point he makes. And few minor remarks by me are in red. The Full article is here Pro-Life Aristotle

1. What right do you, a man, have to make such a case [against abortion]?

KACZOR: Legally speaking, everyone has a right to free speech, including speech about abortion….has the right and obligation to speak out in defense of the defenseless and in favor of a just social order. The question …seems to presuppose that abortion is simply and solely about women, but this is a false supposition. The majority of abortionists are men — more men than women describe themselves as “pro-choice” — and in the United States, men pay for abortions with their tax dollars. Aside from these considerations, every abortion involves the pregnant woman, the expectant father, the one who is aborted, and the society that allows it.

I would only add here that just under 50% of babies killed are male. I remember be “serenaded” at the last Pro-life march here in DC by pro-abortion counter demonstrators who I had witnessed to. They “sang” for me: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, pro-life men have got to go. Hey, hey, ho, ho, if you got pregnant then you’d know!” They also told me, that as a man, I had no right to speak on this issue and since I was a priest, I was even more disqualified. As you might guess, a few of them accused me of being a pedophile. Yes, yes, if you put yourself out there expect to get it with both barrels

2. No book [or law] will eradicate the fact that there are women who will feel the need to abort their unborn children and doctors who will provide the service. It was the case before it was legal and it will be after.

KACZOR: I think you are right that abortions took place prior to legalization and abortions would continue if abortion were made illegal. The same point can be made for theft, child abuse, and assault, which have always happened in human history and which will always happen. Indeed, if people never did the act in question, making a law about it would be superfluous.

Exactly and I would add that i think laws do influence some people not to do certain things. I know that one of the reasons I never tried drugs in High School was that I knew they were illegal and the risk associated with such use helped to deter me. Many say you cannot legislate morality. To certain extent I agree and don’t lots of unnecessary laws, but my own experience is that law both reflects and influences moral decision making.

3. What’s the least compelling argument supporters of legal abortion make?

KACZOR: “It is my body, it is my choice.” [Actually], in abortion, there are two bodies involved, the body of the pregnant woman and the body of the human being in utero. [They] can be of different blood types and different races, and it can happen that one of them dies and the other lives and vice versa. If there were only one body involved, then absurdities follow such as that a pregnant woman has two heads, four arms, and, if she is carrying a boy, also a penis. Further, “choice” is a euphemism disguising the reality. Everyone supports good choices that are just and promote human welfare. The question is whether abortion is such a choice. Great answer, and humorous to boot, showing the thoughtless absurdity of the slogan.

4. What’s different about your Book and your argument?

My argument is not faith-based, but rather based on reason and evidence. There is no appeal to theological authority; there are no Scripture citations to justify conclusions, and no premises that come from ecclesial authority. The case against abortion is made to all persons of good will, regardless of their faith or lack thereof. As a priest I usually have recourse to Scripture. But it is clear that we must also make use of Natural Law arguments based on natural reason.

5. Is it just to tell a [pregnant] teen she’s got to have a kid…?

Of course, no one should ever be forced to become pregnant, but a pregnant woman already “has a kid.” After pregnancy has begun, the question is not, “Do we force her to have a kid?” but rather “Will we support this expectant mother and her child?” People of good will should answer “yes.” A wonderful turning back of the the phrase “have a kid.”

6. What does Aristotle have to do with the poor mom who feels as if she has no alternatives when she realizes she is pregnant? The desperate teenager? The single professional who can’t both do her job and have this child?

KACZOR: I believe that everyone, including the poor mom, the desperate teenager, and the single professional, desires to find true happiness. I also believe that Aristotle, and even more fully Thomas Aquinas, showed that the way to true happiness consists in activity in accordance with virtue. There can be, therefore, no authentic happiness found in activity that is unjust.

I can think of one case in particular: a young student, not yet finished with her education, who found herself pregnant with a man she did not know well. With so many responsibilities, both to her extended family and to her studies, she felt desperate, alone, and trapped. It was truly an act of heroism for that woman to decide to place that child for adoption. I know the woman in the story very well. She is my birth mother. I feel such an enormous debt of gratitude to her….I don’t think there is any woman who in the long term regrets, even in the most difficult of circumstances, making the choice for life. But I know there are many thousands of women who still remember and mourn, even decades later, the date that their baby would have been born.

A moving and wonderful story of how making virtuous choices, even when difficult brings happiness.

7.  Are there myths about abortion you’d like to use this book to shoot down?

[One] myth is that there is a debate about “when life begins.” In fact, informed parties, both those opposed to and those in favor of abortion, acknowledge that the human fetus is a living organism. Notice the phrase, informed parties. I have met more than a few uniformed people who still buy into the “tissue” argument or have been convinced of it by a Planned Parenthood official. Still, I am convinced that, deep down, everyone knows the child is alive and is a human being.

[Another] myth is that the debate is about whether the “fetus is a human being.” Informed participants in this discussion, regardless of their views about abortion, understand that the living organism within the woman is a member of the species homo sapiens…..The real question in the debate is: Should all human beings be respected and protected, or just some?

The debate about “personhood” is really the debate about who will be included in the human community, who will be respected, and who will receive legal protection. This debate goes back over the centuries, throughout which various classes of human beings were excluded from the human family. Those excluded tend to change over time but have been at various points Native Americans, Africans, Catholics in Protestant-dominated countries, Protestants in Catholic-dominated countries, non-Muslims, Jews, the handicapped, and women. Every single time we’ve said, this or that class of human beings does not merit protection and respect, I think we’ve made a terrible mistake. Today, I believe we’re making another terrible mistake in excluding from full protection and respect human beings prior to birth.

Yes, those who deny personhood or full legal recognition to the infant are in some pretty terrible company and heir to so pretty awful chapters in human history. Any quick look at history reveals how ugly it all is.

8. So what if a mother’s life is in danger? What if she has cancer? What if she will likely die if she is not treated? And what if when she is treated, the child might very well die?

KACZOR: Any legitimate medical procedure that is needed to save the woman’s life — whether or not she is pregnant — may be performed, so long as the death of the unborn child is not sought as a means or as an end. Of course, a pregnant woman may choose, if she wishes, to decline such interventions in order to preserve the life developing within her. These cases are governed by what is called the principle of double effect….So long as the death of the unborn child is not sought as a means or as an end, and the procedure is necessary in order to save the life of the mother, it may be done even if it brings about the bad effect of fetal death. In a similar way, the death of the mother may not be sought as an end or as a means, yet she may choose to accept her own death as a side effect of protecting the life of her child. Innocent human life is worthy of respect and protection, but in some tragic situations, life will be lost whatever is chosen.

Again, the key point with double effect, is intent. There can be no direct intent to harm the child in the womb. One may forsee the possible or even likely loss of the the child, but does not wish or intend it. Further, the death of the child cannot be means by which the woman is saved. The death of the child is only the regrettable side effect of a procedure that is critically necessary to save the mother.

The whole interview is wonderful and he even uses a Star Trek analogy at one point. Consider reading the article. I am interested in your comments. I also realize that the “double effect” scenario mentioned at the end is troubling and difficult for some who are not used to hearing it. But it is straight-forward Catholic moral theology. Nevertheless, I welcome questions about that and also that readers might also supply greater insight to that or any of the points made here.

12 Replies to “Straight and Worthy Answers on Abortion in A Recent Interview, Well Worth Reading”

  1. Sounds like Herman Cain could use this pro-life refresher course himself.

    I imagine we’ll soon be hearing the proverbial, “I misspoke” from him. But, to my mind, this displays a real lack of philosophical and moral underpinning in Mr. Cain’s reasoning. Piers Morgan’s junior high debate techniques on the topics of abortion and homosexuality should have been easy batting from a Presidential wannabe, who says he is down the line pro-life, and pro-family values. Instead, he pulls a John Kerry, and states that while he’s personally pro-life, he’s publicly pro-choice.

    So be it Mr. Cain, just don’t expect to get my vote.

  2. Many say you cannot legislate morality.

    Many would be wrong. Morality is the only thing that needs to be legislated, and nearly every piece of legislation has a moral component to it. The only question is whose morality will the legisation support.

  3. There was a wonderful story about a woman who declined cancer treatment to save her unborn child. It’s tragic that the mother died but amazing and refreshing to hear of a woman who did give her life for her baby. It disgusts me how some politicians claim to be pro-life EXCEPT in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. To me, you’re not pro-life. ALL life created through the procreative act is innocent. Tell me how the fetus becomes at fault because the act of procreation was performed violently? Nature took place that’s it! Horrible circumstances, obviously, but come on! It just stinks of a poliitcal ploy to skim off some of the pro-choice vote by trying to look pro-life but reasonable at the same time. Just my opinion, I just don’t get it. Below is the story. And MSGR. what is the opinion of the church concerning politicians with such a view? Can I vote for them despite their “exceptions” or should I steer clear because, in my opinion, they are not pro-life. One abortion is one too many and if you can justify even one, how can say you are truly pro-life?

  4. In terms of the Republican primaries, Everyone should be aware that Santorum, Gingrich, Bachman, Paul and Perrry have all signed the Susan B Anthony pro-life pledge which commits them to some concrete pro-life actions if elected. ( this includes appointing conservative judges, which will allow pro-life initiatives to survive the inevitable court challenges, as well as to appoint to the federal positions only those with pro-life views. This is a very big deal, people are policy and it makes an enormous difference if the attorney general, HHS secretary, and Director of the NIH are pro-life or not.

    Cain has not signed but has agreed to appoint conservative judges ( naming Clarence Thomas as the model) Romney has not signed. Of all these candidates Santorum has probably been the most outspoken and agressive in defending the right to life over all. Most recently he has not even waffled when asked about the usual hard cases. Romney probably is the worst ( in 2002 he answered a questionaire put out by Planned Parenthood that agreed with them on everything. ) He now claims to have re thought the issue, I imagine since he did not sign the SBA pledge this means he has politically repositioned himself , given that it is impossible to be an overtly pro-choice Republican and win nomination to the Presidency ( see Rudy Guiliani) . He is not good on this issue, but would be better for the unborn then the catastrophic Obama administration would be. At the very least he would probably not push things like the elimination of conscience protections for health care workers etc.. He has taken the pro-life side ( perhaps for political reasons) in some cases, as did so in Mass, as Governor when he opposed funding embryonic stem cell research. Again note the political realities, if your a Democrat and want to run for President you can not be pro-life, and if your a Republican you can not be completely pro-choice and expect to win. So it should be pretty clear who is the Party of Death and who is not.

    As for Mr. Cain he was much more strongly pro-life on his recent Meet the press interview than the waffle with Piers Morgan. When he ran for Senate in Georgia, he was endorsed by the Georgia Right to Life. I think what can be loosely inferred from this is that he is somewhere in the standard “opposed with exceptions”, camp. This means he is not terrific from a pro-life perspective, hard to say if he would be more pro-life the Romney. Although my wager is that he would be more sincere in whatever opposition he has. At the very least, one could hope that he would probably recognize we are broke and it would be easier to defund the left under hm. Something that sorely needs doing. The situation would be similar to Chris Christie in NJ, not sure how pro-life he is, but his economic conservatism lead to defunding Planned Parenthood in NJ. A big win…. .

    I think it is highly likely that any of the Republicans who signed the pro-life pledge will be help the pro-life movement. The best would likely be Santorum but issues of electability etc.. must be weighed, like most of the Conservative electorate in general pro-lifers are faced with who is the most credible alternative to Gov Romney. Not sure of the answer to this . At the end of the day any of the Republicans ( even… gulp swallow hard, hold nose…. Romney) would be better than Mr. Obama ( what could possibly be worse?

  5. “Informed parties” We can discuss, debate, and argue the abortion issue until the end of time. The Creator of ALL life is the one and only… God.

    Since God IS the Author of Life, our faith and TRUST must lie in Him. He is well aware of every mother’s situation, every potential problem, all birth defects etc…. Is there not a purpose for EVERY life? I don’t think the Almighty has lowered His standards or likely will, just because humanity can conjure up a host of “reasons.” Thou shall not kill. Pretty easy to understand. Oh, and of course, we certainly have the option of letting God be God………

    How far have we fallen to now have to turn to political parties to uphold Christian values? That is scary…

  6. The ” intent” argument leads to a slippery slope situation. Dropping atomic bomb on Hiroshima may be viewed as morally justified because greater good of ending the war was sought after. The ethical dilemma of a pregnant mother with a breast cancer has no solution unless one is willing to ascribe more value to one life over the other, which then leads to ” intent” argument.

  7. Dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was not justified though, because it was a direct attack on civilians with an intent to kill them, and thus demonstrate to the Japanese the futility of continuing the war. So it employed an immoral means for a laudable purpose. This is always wrong. Not saying Truman knew this, but it was wrong. Not the same thing as blowing up a military supply depot with civilians killed as bystanders ( which is good action destroying the enemy supply depot) is done and the bad action ( civilians killed) is not sought as a means or end), It is not just intent that matters, it is whether the effect is a necessary means to the end. The end ( destroying the supply depot) is not dependent on the death of the civilians, in contrast to Hiroshima in which the mass killing of civilians is in fact the direct pathway to the end. So the “intent” difference is really not all that nebulous. That is the “double effect” and it is consistent with traditional Catholic thought. Breast cancer has nothing to do with choosing one life over the other. A mother with breast cancer can be given the full range of therapies, including chemotherapy. This exposes her child to increased risk, but not a certainty of harm. It is acceptable to expose the child to this risk with the intent to save the mother ( double effect again) In fact there is literally no medical situation I can think of that one must kill the child to save the mother. It is always a balancing of risks situation. One can virtually always in the context of modern medicine select a medical pathway with the intent to try and save both in most cases. ( I can think of no medical condition in which this is not the situation) In some cases it may entail subjecting one person or another to a certain amount of risk, but this is not the same as intentionally killing one for the sake of the other. If the risks are proportionate this all is justified by the double effect.

    As for needing government to uphold Christian values, Well nothing new about this.. We have laws against theft, rape, murder, assault etc. So to some extent that is why we even have governments. Currently we have the aberration that the government has decided to make killing a class of human beings a “right” ( unborn children can be killed at any time in pregnancy for any reason). This is a grave evil and must be corrected. To think this is not the proper role of government is missing the point. The proper role of government is exactly this. Many of the other things government does are not its proper role , like increasing the number of people who can go to college by subsidizing loans… this is not the role of government, it is more the role of private generosity, but not a government role. In Contrast restraining people from grave evil is a basic role of government. In the United States we no longer seem to understand the difference between fine activities we may even have a duty to perform ( like taking care of our children) but that its not the role of government to undertake, versus fundamental rules that are needed to uphold civil society that it is governments very reason to exist ( like making laws that prohibit homicide)

  8. mdepie says: Not the same thing as blowing up a military supply depot with civilians killed as bystanders ( which is good action destroying the enemy supply depot) is done and the bad action ( civilians killed) is not sought as a means or end), It is not just intent that
    I wonder what you would say if your family member was killed in this well intentioned war?
    in Iraq, 100,000 died as bystanders. It must be good because, the greater threat of terrorism was avoided and more people can live happily ever after.

    mdepie says: It is always a balancing of risks situation. Yes it is. But when the choice is made in favour of abortion, one life is favoured over another.

  9. 1) In terms of abortion I would say direct abortion is always immoral, 100% of the time. Treating a condition in the mother like breast cancer with a therapy directed at the mother ( like Chemotherapy) is not direct abortion. It may indirectly subject the unborn child to some degree of risk depending on the regimen chosen, but if the risk is proportionate it is justified by the principle of double effect. Even if the unborn child was to die, the babies death is not chosen as a means or and end so its not direct abortion. I agree that direct abortion is never acceptable.

    2) I would not want a family member killed in a war, this is obviously a tragedy, but this is irrelevant to the moral decision making, if we are dealing with a just war ( like say WW II, most people agree that was just) and if you blew up a German supply depot that was supplying the Nazi war machine, and some civilians died who were working inside, the traditional moral teaching is that this is justified by the principal of double effect. That there may have been some Germans who were not responsible for the actions of their government, and indeed that lost loved ones is tragic, but does not change the morality of the action. The moral principle I was trying to illustrate does not really speak to the wisdom of the Iraq war, which is really a separate and involved topic. It is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make however.

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