Thursday, July 20, 2006

Do the ends justify the means?

Forget for a moment everything that I've written on abortion (including this and this). Pretend that I'm not some crazy heretic who thinks that abortion is a complicated moral issue which can't be reduced to a simply pro or con, for or against, right or wrong. Wipe from your mind the knowledge that I think that having an abortion is, under certain limited circumstances, morally permissible.

In this backwards (and far less nuanced world) I am a pro-life evangelical Christian who is concerned about the morality of a society that permits the deplorable practice of abortion. How, do you think, would I feel about this?

Radical anti-abortion advocates have long used a strange utilitarian calculus to justify any means to prevent abortion, even killing doctors who have performed abortions. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that some people would be willing to lie to pregnant teenagers to scare them into not having an abortion. But I still have to wonder how someone can take the moral high ground when their strategy for ending what they see as a social evil involves deceiving scared and vulnerable people to manipulate them into doing what you think is best.

And I have to wonder about a government which funds medical misinformation.

But, I'm out of indignation, and that is the real shame. When I read this study, I wasn't surprised, angry, or even disappointed. I think that I have outrage fatigue.


Anonymous said...

I'm suprised, I'm angry and I'm disappointed because I didn't realize that women who are in a tough enough position as it is get incorrect and often times harmful information from places that they trust to help them make an important decision. If I place myself in the position of someone who may be calling to get this information then I would be scared out of my mind and would probably not make the best decision that I could have made about the rest of my life had I received truthful and loving advice. I don't want to say that having an abortion is the best way to handle teenage or any other unwanted pregnancy, but I do feel as though any woman seeking information about abortions is in a vulnerable state and should be able to trust those who are guiding her in her decision.


Sandalstraps said...

Wow! It must take something pretty special to get my wife to leave a comment. I may be suffering from outrage fatigue, but it seems that my household is still capable of getting fired up.

I think what my dear wife, with her unfailing moral compass (I wish I had one of those!) is trying to say is, if you think that your position is the right one, you shouldn't have to lie to vulnerable people to ensure that it comes out on top.

That you're willing to lie may indicate that you aren't as strong in your convictions as you thought you were, or that you don't really trust the well informed moral intuitions of most people.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go. As you can see, my wife is finally home from work, and I just dropped the boy off with my mother. Date night here I come!

Brian Cubbage said...

I guarantee that secretly, much of the pro-life movement does believe that the ends justify the means. Lie to women in crisis; mislead politicians, policy-makers, and the rest of the public; do whatever it takes, as long as it results in women not getting abortions. Their attitude can be described in a far less mercenary way than this, but in essence, that's what it boils down to. The movement is interested in women behaving a certain way, never mind what motivates them to behave the way that they do. (Of course, many of them refuse to view women as rational moral agents in the first place. So, hanging out the carrot of truth is useless; on their view, all that will work on women is the stick.)

I mean, we shouldn't be surprised that a movement that will on occasion stoop to putting out hits on abortion providers will stoop to lying.

Troy said...

All I can add is that as a kid who was actually in high school in the late seventies I saw the culture develop: suddenly planned parenthood abortions were available to girls of any age; all one had to do was walk down the street.

I knew/know several girls who had abortions when they were underage without consulting any adult. All of them carry emotional content (I have no other word) as a result. Is that a decision someone who is fifteen or sixteen should be making alone?

It seemed to me, then and now, that teenagers were being told what to do. It really did feel like a top-down culture. First we were told to have all the sex we wanted (though I remained chicken in high school), then we were told what to do when that sex resulted in pregnancy. My highschool girlfriend's best friend (just a regular girl) had two or three abortions and was told she couldn't have another or she'd never have a baby.

I don't have a position on the abortion issue. There are so many factors involved (and I'm a man to boot). But I remember the seventies and eighties and what it was like to be young.