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Abortion: A case of absent moral authority

Jay Atkins
Jay Atkins |

The idea that all men are created equal is absurd. It is patently and demonstrably false. We see the inherent inequality of people all around us, every day. Some folks are simply more capable, more accomplished and more valuable than others. You may quaintly argue we are all equal in that everyone possesses equal human dignity, but that’s just platitudinal drivel. It’s not actually true. In fact, based on observable data, it is objectively false.

(Of course, I don’t believe any of this. But, follow the pro-abortion logic with me for a moment.)

Once upon a time it was generally accepted that people are “equal” in that we are created in God’s image and thus posses inherent worth, but that time has passed. Enlightenment, postmodern and post-truth thinkers cured us of that simple-minded notion. No modern, intellectually honest person believes in the God of the Bible anymore. Ancient Western creation mythologies have, thankfully, been replaced by science, evidence and reason. We are also no longer bound by oppressive and outmoded biblical ethics. We don’t need a first-century Jewish man to impose his morality on us. We are our own sovereigns. We are free to pursue our own truth, live our best life and let our decisions be guided by reason rather than dogma. Which brings me back to my point. As a matter of science, evidence and reason, human equality is a myth. It cannot be empirically proven. In fact, it can be disproven. We need to accept it and move on.

What does any of this have to do with the abortion debate? It allows us to reframe it more honestly. It lets us approach it with reason as our guide, not emotion. It frees us to stop pretending abortion is a moral question. It is not. The moral arguments advanced by so-called “pro-lifers” are grounded solely in their interpretation of an imperfectly translated, bronze-age book of fairytales. That’s not reasonable, that’s insane. The idea that their dogma somehow puts moral constraints on twenty-first century people is hogwash. It’s time to stop indulging their delusion and take a new approach.

Let’s begin by dispensing with the most basic question in the debate: is a fetus a life? That’s easy, of course it is. I’m often amazed at the rhetorical gymnastics pro-choicers go through trying to deny this basic fact. Why fight biology? Arguing that a fetus is not life is fighting on the pro-life camp’s battlefield, and it’s futile. On that fundamental question they are objectively correct. Pregnancy is life, period. Let’s stop arguing about it and just own it. Why fall for the other side’s morality play? It’s argumentum ad passiones, and it’s lame.

We need to stop equivocating and simply have the courage of our convictions. Pregnancy is life and abortion, at any stage, terminates that life. So what. That’s not the relevant question. The real question is, when is terminating a life ok? And the answer is, it depends. Because human life is not objectively valuable, nor are human beings objectively equal, the decision to end a life is not a moral question, but a pragmatic one. Terminating a pregnancy is an exercise in cost/benefit analysis, nothing more.

From this understanding it is easy to correctly conclude that abortion should be universally legal. That said, our current architecture for contemplating abortion rights is woefully deficient. Proper cost/benefit analysis, grounded in science and reason, demands we rethink our current legislative and judicial framework. The chief problem with the current abortion schema is how impractical it is. Stated simply, we don’t know who we’re killing, and that is inherently wasteful. If we are interested in proper cost/benefit analysis, wastefulness is bad.

True, the vast majority of abortions kill off economically disadvantaged kids who, if left unaborted, would probably end up as criminals, drug dealers and burn outs anyway, but that’s not always the case. Some of them, and it’s hard to say what percentage, will grow up to be productive citizens. A couple of them may even turn out to be great. The problem with our current abortion protocols is we have no way of knowing who we’re killing on the front side. That’s crazy inefficient. The far better policy would be to wait and see.

We need to enact laws that promote the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of people. It is axiomatic that the accrual of social benefit should be the highest ethic of the modern, enlightened society. Our abortion laws ought to support and advance that ethic. To that end, abortion policy must account for the inefficiency of killing potentially good social actors. They must promote a more efficient system of identifying which fetuses will add to society’s value, and which will detract from it. They must allow time for relevant data to be collected.

A better legal framework would compel pregnant women to give birth, and then wait. Give the fetus ten, fifteen, maybe seventeen years to prove its worth. If it turns out to be a degenerate criminal, or a slothful drain on society, then kill it before it turns eighteen. (I concede that eighteen is an arbitrary number, but it is the current age of majority in most jurisdictions and terminating a life once it has reached the age of majority is a somewhat prickly legal undertaking. It is best to leave decisions on abortion to the mother up to the point at which the child can legally assert its own emancipation free of parental contestation) Conversely, if it turns out to be smart, driven, athletic, hard working, beautiful and talented, let it live so we can all reap the benefit. This is a much more sensible approach. It is an empirical analysis that allows us to make scientifically and logically sound decisions. It makes sense and is far less wasteful. We still, for the most part, get to kill all the unwanted or inconvenient babies, but we don’t risk inadvertently killing one that might turn out to be a good, productive citizen. It’s a win-win.

Again, I don’t believe any of this. It is a grotesque and horrific treatment of the issue, and it disgusts me to write it. But, absent an understanding of transcendent moral authority, it is a perfectly rational argument that follows current pro-choice reasoning to its natural conclusion. It is grounded in science, reason and materialism: all values lauded by today’s progressive left. That should send a cold chill down the spine of every right-thinking human being in America. The truth is, outside the existence of a transcendent moral order, the argument that it is beneficial to kill unproductive children is logically unassailable.

This is, of course, an argument for eugenics, which is ghastly. But before you balk and say “that won’t happen here,” remember why the eugenics movement failed in the first place. It didn’t fail because it was irrational or bad science, it failed because it was morally repugnant. But what happens when we, in the name of progressive liberation, systematically destroy our traditional understanding of objective morality? When we unthinkingly buy into the notion that we are our own ultimate authority without stopping to consider all that implies? We lose our backstop against evil, that’s what happens. The further away we get from recognizing God’s moral authority, the easier it is to rationalize a robust eugenics cleansing program and the wholesale slaughter of children. I’m looking at you Planned Parenthood.

So what is the morally correct conclusion? Easy, abortion should be outlawed, at all times and in all cases, period. Yes, even in cases of rape and incest (unbearably tragic as they may be), even in cases of severe birth defects when the baby has long odds on survival, and even when the mother comes from such dire circumstances that no rational person would concede that the baby has a shot at a “good life.” Always, and in every case, it should be illegal. Because every life is sacred, morality is real and human potential is a gift from God.

Jay Atkins is a Christian, husband and father of four. By day he is a Government Affairs attorney with a long history of helping clients successfully navigate complex public policy waters and engage with elected officials and administrative agencies. In his free time, Jay is a lay Christian apologist who thinks and writes about the intersection of faith and public policy. Jay lives in Missouri and is a veteran of the United States Navy.

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