Liberal Christians try to Nuance Abortion
By Rachel Lu
It’s understandable that some would want to bury these stark realities in comfortable layers of nuance.
Planned Parenthood has been exposed to the American public as a monstrous organization that egregiously trespasses on human rights. Videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating prices for fetal organs, and discussing the means by which they cover up their illegal activities. We actually see small body parts “prepared for procurement,” and CMP investigator David Daleiden claims that further footage (whose release has been blocked by a temporary court injunction) reveals that StemExpress, Planned Parenthood’s organ-purchasing partner, sometimes receives intact, already-born infants to be used for research.
It’s an ugly picture. In the wake of all this horror, we’ve heard some of the usual waffling from Christians with liberal political instincts. They wish to regard themselves as conscientious and humane, but they aren’t eager to be identified with the pro-life movement. Writing at Patheos, Ellen Painter Dollar ruminated for awhile on the mixed motivations of Planned Parenthood workers. (She’s upset that pro-life condemnations of Planned Parenthood are “dehumanizing” to personal friends who work there.) On social media, Rachel Held Evans agonized in characteristic fashion over her “classic stuck-in-the-middle” dilemma: she values the unborn, but aren’t pro-lifers awfully obtuse about contraceptives, social programs, abstinence education and so forth?
The refrain is a familiar one. Liberal Catholics played it ad nauseum in the lead-up to the 2008 election. Instead of banning abortion, shouldn’t we do the things that “really help” to reduce the need? Like sterilizing people (temporarily or permanently), so that they can have empty sex to their hearts’ content? Or rescuing them from poverty, so that they feel equal to childrearing?
It’s a beguiling line of argument because so often, this kind of reasoning is absolutely correct. In a conversation about taxes, health care, poverty relief, guns, immigration, crime control or a spectacular array of foreign policy concerns, I would happily agree that prudential reasoning is invaluable. Moral concerns are certainly relevant, but we should not allow cogent reasoning to be swamped by torrents of untrained moral outrage. Our policies should reflect a sober appreciation of real-world circumstances.
Abortion is different. It is not first and foremost a policy issue. Here, the moral problem stands in the foreground, and the prudential calculations properly recede. That is partly, of course, because the immediate and direct ramifications are so grave. Literally thousands of lives hang in the balance. This has been America’s most polarizing moral issue for four decades because it puts flesh (literally) on one of our society’s deepest moral problems.
We find ourselves presented with The Unexpected Child. He is a precious human being, made in God’s own image, designed to reason and to love. He is also a tremendous burden. All children are a tremendous burden. The great good of his life can thus be realized only if someone shoulders that momentous weight.
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