Do Pro-Lifers Really Believe that Abortion Is Murder?
Kevin Drum thinks not:
I’ve never really believed that much of anyone really, truly thinks that abortion is murder. If you look at actions, rather than words, it just doesn’t add up. Lots of people oppose abortion, but with very few exceptions, they very plainly don’t react to it the same way they react to a genuine murder. Their emotional response gives the game away, even if they’ve convinced themselves otherwise intellectually.
Drum sees evidence for this assessment in the continued support by conservative Christians for “pro-life” Rep. Steve DesJarlais (R-TN), a medical professional alleged to have encouraged women, including his wife, to have an abortion. If voters in his district really believed that abortion is murder, they wouldn’t support DesJarlais:
DesJarlais is a good example. If he had encouraged the murder of two children—real murder, of kids who were a year or two old—he wouldn’t merely be having a tough primary. Regardless of whether he had managed to avoid conviction for his acts, he wouldn’t even be able to run for office, let alone be even odds to win. He’d be a pariah.
Yes, he would. Drum is right about that. So does that mean that supporters of DesJarlais don’t really believe that abortion is murder, even if they think they do? No. That conclusion doesn’t follow.
The pro-life perspective is more sophisticated than Drum presents it, and one I happen to share. I can’t speak for every pro-lifer, but in my view, the intentional killing of human beings, born or unborn, is never morally justified. Consequently, I oppose abortion, the death penalty, and war. I consider these forms of killing, when done knowingly and deliberately, to be morally evil. This, I take it, is what Drum means by murder; obviously abortion isn’t classified as murder under the law.
I also recognize that not everyone shares my perspective or extends it as far as I do. I know that people disagree with me, not because they have no respect for human life, but because they don’t share my assumptions and conclusions about what constitutes human life or when human life can justly be taken.
In some cases, I can respect our differences. In others, I cannot. I wouldn’t want anything to do with someone who murdered two children maliciously or indifferently and who hasn’t repented. I’d fear for my life and the lives of those I love. I wouldn’t support such a person for public office. I wouldn’t trust their moral judgment in anything. However, I might consider voting for a political candidate whose policies would involve deliberate killing if I thought the candidate’s moral reasoning for it made some rational sense and if the candidate otherwise seemed to be of sound judgment.
I see no sense in cold-blooded murder or soundness of mind in anyone who would try to justify it, but I understand and can appreciate the reasoning behind war, the death penalty, and abortion. Cold-blooded murder is evil, plain and simple. Abortion, war, and the death penalty are more complex and involve moral questions besides what constitutes human life. To determine sound abortion policy, for example, it’s not enough to ascertain the moral status of the unborn: you also have to address the proper role of the state vis-a-vis bodily autonomy and individual freedom. Arguably, you should also consider the historical place of women in society as any abortion policy will affect women much more than men.
Good, rational people have thought through these issues and arrived at different conclusions. For this reason, I should react differently to abortion than I do to what Drum calls “genuine murder.” And, admittedly, I do. This isn’t an implied judgment of mine on the morality of abortion; it’s the result of my recognizing the complexity of the issue and the reasonableness of people on both sides of it.
For the record, I wouldn’t vote for Rep. Steve DesJarlais.