Refusing to Cede the Moral High Ground on Abortion

When I return from the ASM2011 meeting, I hope to discuss this excellent post by Michael Bérubé about the political centrality of the culture wars. Until then, I'll leave you with the post from the archives, "Abortion Is a Blessing":

Abortion isn't the lesser of two evils--it is a just and good thing. So says Reverend Katherine Ragsdale:

Let's be very clear about this: when a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion -- often a late-term abortion -- to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can't afford one because she hasn't the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion -- there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God's good gift of sexuality without compromising one's education, life's work, or ability to put to use God's gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember -- abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

What really impresses me about Ragsdale is this bit:

The idea that abortion kills a child, she contends, reflects parental hopes and dreams for the child-to-be, not the reality of what the zygote or fetus actually is. (It is, in her words, "proleptic," a theological term for anticipated realities that come to be treated as extant in the here and now.)

When pro-choice forces signal their partial acceptance of the abortion-as-child-murder idea, says Ragsdale -- which they do when they speak of the "tragedy" of abortion -- they may be motivated by political concerns, or by a desire to be respectful and conciliatory. But in the process, they're ceding precious intellectual ground to abortion opponents, and backing themselves into a tactical corner: how, after all, can you effectively defend something for which you're simultaneously apologizing?

What's more, they're also increasing the likelihood that women who do choose to have abortions will spend their lives tormented by needless guilt. "I suppose it's possible for an intelligent, faithful person to still believe that there's no moral difference between a zygote and a baby," Ragsdale allows. "But there's no reason for most of us to believe that. And I don't."

..."If you want a baby," says Ragsdale, "and you've decorated the nursery, and bought the toys, and named the baby -- and then they discover the baby's organs are growing outside the body, and not only will the baby not survive, but the woman will be torn up trying to deliver it -- there's a tragedy. But the tragedy isn't the abortion -- the tragedy is that you needed one.

I know this won't convince the hardcore anti-abortionists, but it refreshing to see someone refusing to cede the moral high ground.

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I like this article so, so much.

(heads up, though: One of your links goes to the third page in the article. Not sure if that was intentional, but now you know.)

An extended exercise in begging the question.