I just listened to all 2 hours of the recorded oral arguments of “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization” that happened today. The case is a major one in which the state of Mississippi is explicitly asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. I found it deeply interesting and I would recommend those who are interested in the topic give the whole thing a listen rather than merely searching for soundbites or summaries.
I am not at all a legal scholar. Looking in on this from the outside, it’s clear that there are many different factors going into the arguments here. I want to make my own comments, and leave them here simply as someone with an interest in the case and who’s seeking to learn more.
I have become increasingly convinced that the topic of abortion frequently leads to so much heat in discussion that it becomes nearly impossible to have a reasoned conversation about it. Listening to these oral arguments help to put this in perspective, because some of it showed how such a reasoned discussion could take place.
Mississippi’s argument largely seems to be based upon the notion that because the issues is contentious, it ought to be left to the states or “the people” to decide. This very reasoning was used at multiple points in answers to questions. I find this deeply disturbing, because it suggests that any issue that is not explicitly outlined in the Constitution is beyond the purview of the Courts so long as it is politically contentious enough. On the flip side, I have some sympathy for the question of whether contentious issues ought to be decided through legislation rather than through courts.
The questions posed to Elizabeth Prelogar, U.S. Solicitor General who was answering questions in behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, focused on two lines of reasoning. One, the question of “viability” as a “principled line” to be drawn for when abortions could be considered constitutionally defended or not. I found the question-and-answers centered around this to be especially important. Essentially, Prelogar noted that the Court has to establish a line and has done so with Roe v. Wade and Casey. Because that line is established, the argument goes, the precedent is there and it allows for a fairly clear way to delineate when it is or is not Constitutionally protected.
Some questions pressed on this definition of viability, because the question then becomes whether that line of viability could move. Justice Sotomayor noted that the scientific opinions related to fetal pain were controversial enough to be largely discounted in moving the line earlier. Prelogar argued for viability as a line because earlier lines would disproportionately impact classes of women based upon various reasons (eg. wealth, access to health care, age, and the like).
The second line of questioning posed to Prelogar was centered on the history/precedent of the cases and why and when something like Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Justice Sotomayor noted that the notion that the court could overturn something based upon political shifting winds would deeply impact the credibility of the court going forward. Other questions posed to Prelogar pursued various reasons a case might be overturned, and whether a case could be overturned simply because it was seen as egregiously mistaken in its reasoning to begin with.
I thought here it was interesting to see that Prelogar shifted to arguing that the Court has to act upon the lengthy precedent on Roe v. Wade and Casey. To overturn them, there has to be some overriding reason to do so, and because the arguments from Mississippi appear to be the same as or similar enough to those arguments heard in prior cases that they don’t actually bring a compelling reason to overturn prior cases.
My own personal takeaways were that I thought each side made several compelling points. For one, viability as a standard seems somewhat shifty. As medical science progresses, viability can continue to be pushed further in time such that 15 weeks or earlier could be medically viable. That would seem to make this whole challenge a moot point. As I understand it from some of the arguments presented here, though, viability as defined in Roe v. Wade was based upon trimesters, while Casey made it into a more tenuous “viability” standard unbound to trimesters. That means that, theoretically at least, medical technology could push this line back. If I were on the Supreme Court–and there are very good reasons why I’m not–my concern with this specific case would be centered around the question of how we can have a Constitutional right that is in principle able to shift around with medical technology.
Second, it does make me very nervous that, at least according to one of the people (I’m sorry, I forget which) discussing this case in oral arguments today, Mississippi’s legislature both in the House and Senate explicitly had someone saying they’re bringing this case now because of the changed dynamics in the Supreme Court. I believe it was Justice Sotomayor who pointed this out, and it does deeply concern me that lawmakers would see apparently changed political dynamics on the Supreme Court as an in to change certain policies. It seems obvious to some extent that that might make a difference, but to make it explicit essentially says that the Supreme Court of the United States is a partisan organization which will submit to the changing whims of the political times so long as a President can get their favored partisans in the Court. That ought to be deeply alarming for any American. If it is true that the reason to challenge things in the Supreme Court is due to its partisan nature, that effectively turns the Court into a tool of political manipulation and removes any semblance of legal objectivity from the Court’s decision making processes. That in itself would be disastrous.
If you’ve read this far, I appreciate you taking the time to do so. Please let me know your own thoughts in the comments. I have many other ruminations, but articulating them right now feels beyond me.
I’m going to lay it all out right here at the beginning, and yes this will be a big SPOILER for this novel: this book’s premise is that a man and woman get pregnant, she decides to have an abortion, and he kidnaps her and keeps her sedated for the duration of the pregnancy so that she will have the baby rather than an abortion. Your reaction to that description probably tells you what you need to know about this book. Frankly, if your reaction is anything than abject horror, I think there’s some serious issues going on. There will be more, serious SPOILERS in the rest of this review.
Viable@140 is Gmitro’s attempt to portray a story in which what it means to be pro-life is radically questioned and challenged. To my astonishment as I continued reading, it became clear that Gmitro is at the least, not definitively rejecting this as being completely unacceptable morally. Once again, the premise is that Lance kidnaps his fiancee, Sandi, who is pregnant because she’s going to have an abortion. Then, he uses sedatives to keep her knocked out for the duration of her pregnancy so that she won’t have the abortion. Meanwhile, the world is looking for Lance. Eventually, they find him but a huge group of pro-life people turns out to defend lance and his child. Eventually, millions of people, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush walk their laps around the residence Lance is keeping his fiancee comatose within. Would-be assassins attempt to kill him so that the news story doesn’t break and get the public talking about abortion. News stations gag the news, and only the brave Fox News station will take the story and report the truth. These are things that happen in the book.
What happens to Sandi after the baby has been safely delivered into Lance’s hands? After all, million(s) of people have now seen or heard how horrible she is and admire Lance for his bravery in kidnapping her and keeping her sedated for six months! Well, fear not, for, as a Doctor tells us in the book, “Since she was not awake through most of this ordeal, leading mental health experts believe that any immediate negative psychological effects will be minimal and by not having the abortion, may have prevented psychological injury in the long term…” (Kindle location 5139ff). I am genuinely flabbergasted by this statement. The woman will spend the rest of her life as the villain who wanted an abortion, who lay comatose as million(s) marched around the house in which she was interred, who had the baby and was whisked off the scene to privacy, etc. But fear not, because her fiance kept her knocked out for the event! Indeed, whatever psychological scarring Lance may have caused her, it would have been vastly outweighed by the psychological damage of having an abortion, according to these fictional leading mental health experts.
I in no way think that consequentialism is a valid moral theory, but that moral theory is actually what this comes down to. The idea is that it is less harmful to kidnap and sedate someone for 6 months than it is to kill the unborn. Whatever pro-and-con scale one chooses here, I believe that the idea itself is irrelevant. Why? Because I do not believe that the consequences brought about by action are what makes the action right or wrong to begin with. After all, it seems obvious that simply killing someone who is 100% certain they would get an abortion before they get pregnant would prevent the abortion. However, that is also obviously wrong, despite the consequence that it prevents an abortion. In a more true-to-life example, bombing an abortion clinic or killing its employees may prevent some abortion(s), but in no way is it justified morally. Indeed, if one were to take the example here in Viable@140 to its logical extreme and apply consequentialism as a moral theory, it is morally justifiable to simply incarcerate all pregnant women to prevent them from having abortions. But such a suggestion is clearly monstrous to begin with.
I’m a firm believer in always trying to say something positive about something, especially when it must be so negative overall. I could say that this book may at least get people talking about the debate over abortion. But I’m afraid it would cause people to create a straw man of the pro-life position rather than allowing us to give the full force of our position. So even that tentative remark must be qualified.
I am pro-life, and I have written multiple times on this topic, including on the reasons, both scientifically and philosophically, I think abortion is wrong. However, in no way can I endorse the conclusions or heavy implications of this book. From its implied morality to the use of questionable moral foundations, I find it wanting. Moreover, its use of the “Fox News is the only true news source” meme throughout is as tired as it is untrue. Pro-life advocates, we cannot justify wrongdoing in the name of this movement. If and when we do, whatever alleged moral high ground we may hold is gone. The very foundations for our position will erode. Consequentialism is not the answer, it is actually the exact problem.
I received this book from the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
Hello, dear readers! I hope you live somewhere warmer than I do. Anyway, I’ve collected some reading for you to peruse as you warm up inside, preferably with a cup of hot cocoa or some eggnog. The topics this week include the movie “Anthropoid,” Kevin Giles lecturing on the divinity of God the Son, Governor John Kasich taking action against abortion, and a dinosaur tail.
Governor John Kasich Signs Landmark Bill to Challenge Roe– I have seen too many friends criticizing John Kasich for his vetoing of a “heartbeat” bill to end abortions once heartbeats begin, but the courts have continually overturned such bills, meaning that they save no lives. By contrast, Kasich signed a 20 weeks bill that has a much better chance of standing up in court, according to legal experts. Thus, he’s making a move that saves lives now. This is the kind of thing pro-life people ought to be celebrating, not denigrating.
Lessons about Evil: Reflections on the movie “Anthropoid”– The “Anthropoid” operation was an attempt to assassinate “The Man with the Iron Heart,” Reinhard Heydrich. Here is an analysis of that film from a Christian worldview perspective.
How Have Young Earth Creationists Responded to Feathered Dinosaurs?– One of the most startling discoveries in paleontology that I’ve ever read about has been reported recently: the discovery of a dinosaur tail with feathers on it in a piece of amber. How have Young Earth Creationists responded to this and similar discoveries?
Kevin Giles: The ETS Response to Grudem and Ware– Kevin Giles, an expert on historical theology and the Trinity in particular, gave this stirring presentation at the Evangelical Theological Society conference, in which he takes down theology that eternally subordinates the Son. He argues that such doctrines ultimately undermine the unity of the Trinity, and that we ought to work against such teachings.
The What-He-Did: The Poetic Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith– Cordwainer Smith was a Christian who also happened to be an expert in psychological warfare, among other things. He wrote science fiction that is strange and alluring and poetic all at once, and imbued with his worldview.
Spoilers– Too often, we assume that because we’ve read it before, or know the “spoilers” of the story, we know exactly what the Bible is teaching. Is that really the case?
The Most Undervalued Argument in the Pro-Life Movement– A defense of a rather simple argument for the pro-life position.
Let’s All Be Nicene– The continuing debate over eternal subordination of the Son is, frankly, disturbing to me. I think the call to be Nicene is an appropriate one. This is a post highlighting some of the issues with those who are for eternal subordination of the Son and its problems.
6 Myths About Advocating for Women in Ministry– Don’t be deceived by false arguments that advocating for women in the ministry is somehow detrimental to the church.
“Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”– A brief account and reflection on Luther’s famous words.
A recent comment by Donald Trump caused something of a stir. What a surprise. This time, it was about abortion, and he said that there has to be “some kind of punishment” for the woman who chooses an abortion, should abortion be made illegal. The internet exploded, as people of both pro-choice and pro-life persuasions came out to discuss the topic, largely coming out against Trumps comments. Here, I want to discuss one post from a pro-life individual that offers a critique of the pro-life movement for not arguing for a harsher punishment of women who choose abortions, in the case of them being illegal. That post is entitled, “Problem in the Pro-Life Camp.” At the outset, it is worth revealing my bias in this. I am pro-life myself and I think that this is a complex topic that many pro-life persons have not thought deeply about. I am essentially editing and re-posting my comments here with some context.
The post in question begins by stating the “problem” with the pro-life camp:
The problem that I have with the “pro-life” movement in general is that much of it appeals to the woman as being the victim/or merely the accomplice to the crime. Rather, the mother is the transgressor who in the majority of cases, knowingly tested positive in her pregnancy test and nevertheless, storms into the abortion mill with premeditated murder. Whether the sin is done in ignorance or not, she is still morally culpable before God. She is not a victim.
Men and women are indeed victims when abortion is presented as the only logical choice or the only option. They are victims when people of specific races are targeted for abortion advertising. But whether one agrees on this or not, it is largely irrelevant to the primary point you’re making in this post. It seems that there are two issues raised in the post, but they are interlinked: the notion that the woman is a victim in abortion is false, and that is intrinsically linked to the notion that woman is morally culpable.
The original post asked, “Can an abortive mother who has malice of forethought be considered a victim and be morally responsible the same time? Morally responsible for what? when they are already deemed a victim.”
It seems to me that there are clear cases where someone who is a victim could still be morally culpable. A child soldier who has been forced into fighting for a cause they don’t believe in is a victim, yet the killing he or she may do is not without moral culpability. We may give a lighter sentence or charge than murder, but that doesn’t mean that this victim is without moral culpability whatsoever. Indeed, I think this is a far better analogy than the one with the bully utilized in the original post. (A bully beats up someone to take their money, and then sends others to do so; are they a victim?) After all, the analogy with the bully begins with the bully directly beating up someone else! The analogy, then, falls apart at the beginning, because I don’t know of any case (I suppose there could be such a case–but I would be surprised if it were even possible) where a woman performed an abortion on herself.
Now my analogy is to show that the notion of being a victim is not incompatible with the notion of being morally culpable. It does not demonstrate that the woman who seeks an abortion is a victim. Instead, my purpose was to show that the complaint of incompatibility is mistaken.
Thus, it seems to me that the pro-life person who maintains that a woman is, in some sense, morally culpable for the abortion, while also arguing or believing that the woman is, in some sense, a victim in such a situation is not being inconsistent.
The original post appealed to a question asked in a group of women who had abortions. They were asked whether they believed they were victims. I agree that self-definition is vastly important, but I also think it is easy to be mistaken about such things. For example, someone who is working as a prostitute may say that they are not a victim and they did it by choice, but even if they choose such a profession, the fact remains that the act of purchasing another’s body for sexual gratification does, indeed, victimize them whether they acknowledge it or not. I’m not saying that women who have abortions are prostitutes, obviously. My point is that self-defining oneself as “not a victim” does not make it the case.
To sum up: my response has sought to demonstrate two primary points. (1) The notion of someone being a victim does not necessarily undermine the notion of that person being morally culpable; (2) Self definition does not necessarily show us with certainty that someone is not a victim.
I would like to emphasize that these points don’t necessarily reflect my own views. I have, instead, written simply to show that the argument here is not sound.
Responses and Replies
The author of the original post kindly responded to my comments above. The comment can be viewed at the original post. I offer below my reply.
A woman cannot be both a victim or morally responsible at the same time. Either she is a victim or morally responsible (i.e. murderer)… I am using ‘victim’ in a more specific and literal fashion concerning a crime against the unborn.
As a result, it would be a logical fallacy (violates the law of non-contradiction and Scripture) to call a murderer a victim.
I think the conclusions here are hardly surprising, then. By what is written above, victim is being specifically defined as “a crime against the unborn” and then concluding, in accord with this definition, that anyone who disagrees is violating the law non-contradiction. Yet this is does not defeat the argument put forth above. I could just as easily say: “A woman can be both a victim and morally responsible at the same time. I am using ‘victim’ in the sense that makes this true. Therefore, disagreeing with me is fallacious.” Yet that is exactly what the response here has argued. I did assert that a woman can be a victim and morally responsible at the same time, but I defended that assertion with arguments.
Substantively we agree that it is a morally culpable act to seek an abortion. The area of disagreement remains as I outlined it in my original comment, and so far the response is simply to define out of existence any evidence to the contrary.
The author of the post followed with another response, arguing that the pro-life movement has consistently held that women are victims in abortions, but that they cannot be. He wrote,
abortive mothers are not victims, when they commit abortions… Either they are a victim or the transgressor when the abortion is committed.
In other words, what we have is simply a re-affirmation of the original point without argument. My purpose in commenting was to establish that being morally culpable is not incompatible with being a victim. I have been arguing all along this is a false dichotomy, and at no point has there been any attempt to refute the argument I’ve put forward. Each response has merely reasserted the initial premise without argument.
Because the purpose of my responses have been limited to the above point, I haven’t made an extended argument for how one might view the woman involved in abortion also as victim. Given the mere reassertion without argument, I believe that on some level my point has carried.
As a final question, I’d ask whether the author of this post, EvangelZ, believes that women are in no way harmed by abortion. That is, does he believe that abortion does not, in fact, lead to increased risk for breast cancer, that it leads to a higher risk of suicide, that it leads to increased risk for depression, that potential for future miscarriages is increased post-abortion, or that other risks (such as the possibility of the death or physical harm to the mother) are not, in fact damaging? The position of this post and the comments following it entail that no harm comes to the mother in any sense. After all, the mother is not–and according to the author–cannot be a victim (repeated claims of logical impossibility entail this). Hence, the woman cannot possibly be harmed by abortion, because that would entail that she is, in some sense, also a victim. Thus, EvangelZ or any who share this position are forced to conclude that abortion in no way causes harm to the mother. I think that is a pill too tough to swallow, because it seems obviously false.
Problem in the Pro-Life Camp– The original post I am responding to here.
Be sure to check out my other posts in which I argue for the pro-life position. Particularly relevant to the present discussion are “From conception, a human” and “The issue at the heart of the abortion debate.”
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I have more reading for you, dear readers, gathered from around the internet. This week’s topics are the doctrine of annihilationism (conditional immortality), Christian parenting, creationism, complementarian women, and the question of rape and abortion. Let me know what you think of the posts, and be sure to let the authors know as well. This is a snowy owl edition because it snowed here yesterday.
Death After Death– The concept of annihilationism, or, as its proponents prefer to call it: conditional immortality, is gaining more traction. It ought not be dismissed simply because it feels new or different. Here is a thoughtful post engaging with conditional immortality from a perspective of disagreement. What do you think about this issue?
Can We Tolerate Creationists?– Is it permissible to give a creationist a job anywhere? This might sound hyperbolic, but this post investigates a controversy that has surrounded the hiring of a young earth creationist for a BBC television spot. It ends with an insightful comment from the National Secular Society.
10 Ways to Get Your Kids More Interested in Their Faith– Developing faith is an important aspect of Christian parenting. Here’s a post that discusses how we might get kids interested in their faith.
Remember the Complementarian Woman– A call to egalitarians to not portray complementarian women in a way that isn’t true to their experiences and beliefs.
Responding to the Question of Rape with Wisdom and Compassion– “we should clearly express the genuine compassion we have for survivors of rape” [emphasis in the article]. These are words that pro-life people need to read and understand. Turning to an argument immediately is not always the best choice. If we don’t genuinely show compassion and care for those involved in making these horrific choices, then how can we truly call ourselves “pro-life”?
Here we have another round of posts for your reading, friends. Topics range from parenting gamers to Augustine, from women in church history to talking about abortion. As always, let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors of the individual posts know as well!
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine– We need to be aware of thinkers from the past for a number of reasons: so we don’t repeat mistakes made in the past, so that we don’t have to re-learn what was learned before, so we can have our biases challenged across time, and many more. Here’s a post that helps us do just that by introducing, concisely, the thought of Augustine, one of the greatest luminaries of all time.
A Parent’s Guide to Living with Gamers– Some parents may express concern about their kids playing video games. Here are some helpful thoughts from a Christian perspective for parents of gamers.
Women in Church History: Footnoted and Forgotten?– Too often, women’s voices are ignored. Here is a post highlighting some women throughout church history. Be sure to also check out a series of women in church history at a different blog that starts with early church history and the Desert Mothers.
Apologia Raido and the Defamation of Tony Lauinger: A Call for an Apology– There are different schools of thought regarding the pro-life movement, and this post is revealing as to how these schools of thought differ radically on method of engagement in law and in person.
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump– More Christian leaders need to follow the example of Max Lucado and point out the absurdity of his election cycle and the claims of Donald Trump. One quote from Lucado regarding Trump saying he hasn’t asked for forgiveness: “I can’t imagine that. I’m just shaking my head going ‘How does that work?’ Does a swimmer say ‘I’ve never gotten wet?’ …How does a person claim to be a Christian and never need to ask for forgiveness?”
Women, War, and Evangelicals– A post noting the fact that despite the appeals to “natural law” and the like by complementarians, most Americans–and even plenty of evangelicals–favor allowing women into combat roles. See also my post on the topic.
Debased Coynage– Thomistic philosopher Edward Feser points out the total misunderstanding atheist Jerry Coyne demonstrated regarding some theistic arguments.
Armadillos and Ken Ham’s Hyperevolution Model– Young earth creationist groups like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis ironically put forward the most optimistic appraisals of evolutionary theory to be found. They just don’t like calling it that. Here’s another evaluation of Ken Ham’s model.
Planned Parenthood and Personhood Parables– A post featuring interesting thought experiments having to do with the rights (or lack thereof) of the unborn as well as discussion of some current events.
I hope I never bore you with my broad selections of posts! I think we have a super lineup here [groaner, I know] with posts on chivalry, the Jesus myth movement, old and young earth creationism, and a Super Bowl ad that is making waves.
Is Jesus a Myth? A Reply to Chris Sosa– A detailed, devastating response to Chris Sosa’s Jesus Mythicism. Historically, the Jesus myth movement is just absurd.
Chivalry, Agency, and Selfless Service– Does egalitarianism kill chivalry? What does chivalry say about agency? These and other questions are addressed in this fantastic post.
Ken Ham’s Biblical Evolution? I Have a book that says otherwise– An incisive critique of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis on post-Flood animal diversification. Quote from the article- “I have a book before me that provides compelling evidence that Ken Ham’s view of Biblical evolution is wrong. That book is the Bible.”
What a Super Bowl Ad Reveals about our Abortion Culture– Russell Moore comments on the Super Bowl ad everyone is talking about–the one that “humanizes” the fetus.
7 Common Myths About Old Earth Creationism– Old Earth Creationism is often misunderstood and mischaracterized by its opponents on either side. Here are some clarifications on 7 common misunderstandings.
Another week, another round of posts for you to browse, dear readers. This week, we have Dean Koontz’s latest novel and literary apologetics, a scathing review of militant atheist Jerry Coyne’s book, male-female relations, the Jesus myth, and an analysis of an argument against the pro-life position.
Disciplining Healthy Male-Female Relations in the Church Part 1– Some have been arguing that we in the church ought to maintain a kind of separation between the sexes such that men and women do not form close friendships. Sometimes this is accompanied by what has become known as the “Billy Graham Rule”- the notion that a man ought not to be alone with a woman who is not his wife. Here is an analysis of that argument and a way forward from it. Also read part 2 and part 3.
Handling an Objection: “Jesus is Just One of Several Messianic Figures in the First Century”– Those who argue that Jesus is a myth often appeal to historical arguments, however fallacious, to support their position. Here is a critical review of one of these arguments- that Jesus was just one of the many messianic figures.
Dean Koontz’s “Ashley Bell”: The World is a Battleground– Dean Koontz continually puts worldview-level discussions into his novels. Here is an excellent analysis of his latest bestselling novel, Ashley Bell.
Omnibus of Fallacies– Edward Feser wrote a scathing review of Jerry Coyne’s book attacking theism. He notes a great number of errors throughout the book. I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with this review and the book so that if you encounter it in apologetic situations you can engage adequately.
Artificial Distinctions within the Imago Dei– As someone who is pro-life, it is important to be consistently pro-life. This post answers an argument against the pro-life position: that pro-life arguments are dealing harm to others.