One argument that is often used to defend certain acts which are argued to be immoral is the notion that these acts are “legal.” For example, one might say they are personally opposed to abortion, but it is legal and so they do not seek to end abortions. A more specific example has been the defense of Planned Parenthood in regards to donating fetal tissue. It is argued that the donation is legal, and so no wrongdoing has occurred. Evidence from the recent videos released seems to suggest that those fetal tissues might be sold, rather than donated, but that is not the issue at hand. The question to address here is: “Does the legality of an act make it moral?”
Thus, in the case of Planned Parenthood’s donations/sales, if legal, does it follow that it is moral?
To be blunt, the legality of an act is not enough to make it moral. One clear example of this would be antebellum slavery, which was legal for quite some time in the United States. Would those who want to assert that legality is enough to make an act morally permissible agree that slavery, at that time, was moral? If so, that is a tough pill to swallow. But we can go beyond that example and see how Nazi Germany was treated. After World War II, several of the perpetrators of the Holocaust and other atrocities committed by the Nazis were put on trial. The first of these became known as the Nuremberg Trials. The argument they made, however, was that they were obeying the law of their land. The argument was thus made that there was no law to which they could be held accountable.
The argument was rejected, and the legacy of these trials led to the creation of various international law organizations and more specific definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the question that must be pressed is whether these trials were just. The laws that they were condemned by were largely created after or during the trials themselves. What were the Nazis guilty of? The answer has already been provided, in part, as crimes against humanity. By willingly participating in and carrying out genocide and other atrocities, despite having orders to do so and acting within the laws of their land, the Nazis had still violated a higher law, which held them to a moral standard. There remains much debate over the legal basis for the convictions and executions of those who carried out the atrocities, but it seems that if one ultimately wants to argue that the law is all it requires to make something moral, they must side with the Nazis and agree that they should not have been held accountable for their acts.
We can therefore see that the mere appeal to a law to argue something is moral is not enough. Anyone who disagrees must assert that slavery, as it was being conducted in the United States, was at least morally ambiguous if not a moral good, because it was legal. Similarly, they must assert that the genocide the Nazis carried out was itself at least morally ambiguous if not a moral good, because it was legal and they did it under orders. The absurdity of these two conclusions should lead any reasonable person to agree that the legality of an act is not enough to establish its morality.
Thus, the simple legality of an act does not make it moral. An appeal to an acts legality does not mean it should be dismissed from moral scrutiny. Planned Parenthood should justly remain under intense scrutiny.
I think it is an appropriate time to present a series of posts on Planned Parenthood and the wrongs that are being perpetuated within our midst. Thus, I have accumulated some resources from all over for your to browse and become more informed on regarding Planned Parenthood, abortion, and related issues. Please read and share these posts. We can no longer be silent: we must speak up for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.
Meet the Filmmaker Exposing Planned Parenthood– An interview with David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Process, the group that has released a number of videos exposing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the use of fetal body parts. A quote from the article: “All we had to do was say two things. Number one, that we supported their work. And number two, that we wanted to buy their fetal body parts. Those were the magic words. And they were willing to bend over backwards to accommodate that.”
Considering the “Planned Parenthood’s Abortion is only 3% of what it does” Defense– It has been parroted time and again: abortion is only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does! Therefore… what? When you look at the numbers, that 3% is pretty significant. Not only that, but the argument itself is quite faulty as an excuse.
Planned Parenthood Videos: Is this a Wilberforce Moment for the Church?– William Wilberforce was a defender of human rights who helped to get slavery outlawed across the British Empire. One of his strategies was to show people slave ships so that they couldn’t pretend not to know what was happening. The Planned Parenthood videos have shown only some of the horrors of abortion. We need to stand up, not look away, and refuse to allow it to continue.
The Faqs: What You Should Know about the Planned Parenthood Defunding Vote– This post discusses the vote to defund Planned Parenthood in light of various questions that arose around it, including why the Republican majority leader would vote against it (hint: it’s not because he’s in favor of abortion).
The ‘Ick Factor’ And The Planned Parenthood Videos– Is the response to the Planned Parenthood videos really just a gut “ick factor” reaction? Is it instead based on something more concrete?
“Keep Your Eye on the Ball”– A refutation of one of Planned Parenthood’s responses to the videos that are being released. It points to some of the absurdities being circulated in defense of Planned Parenthood.
Should You Be Outraged with Planned Parenthood Today? (Flowchart)– A flowchart that asks whether we should still be upset with Planned Parenthood over their abortion practices.
Now We Know Her– A personal story about a family prepared to abort their child should any defects have been spotted. This post demonstrates some of the inconsistency in the pro-choice reasoning, but does so in a winsome and personal fashion.
Silence in the Face of Evil (Comic) – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who was martyred by the Nazis for his resistance, argued that silence in the face of evil was itself an act: not to act is to act. Here’s a little quote from him alongside a comic.
My Own Posts
Whose Body Parts Are They?– I ask a simple question in light of the Planned Parenthood videos: whose body parts are they?
Abortion, the Violinist Analogy, and Body Parts– A common argument for the moral permissiveness of abortion is the violinist analogy. Here, I analyze that in light of the Planned Parenthood videos.
Planned Parenthood Does Much Good– I analyze the argument that Planned Parenthood does much good and whether that should matter.
Well, yes, they do.
It kind of reminds me of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. One of my favorite scenes is the one in which they’re planning a revolt against Rome and one persons asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?” The responses begin to pour in: they’ve built roads, aqueducts, improved education and public health, and more. It’s quite a funny scene.
The humor fades if you examine historical accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (as described by Josephus), for just one example. Families starved to death–whole households. The Temple–the center of the Jewish cosmos–was torn apart and defiled. Before that destruction, of course, there were other “minor” skirmishes and slaughters. The Romans imposed a governor over the area and a military garrison in Jerusalem.
What have the Romans done for us, indeed?
We can envision a host of ravenous pro-life faceless hordes crying out in their foolish ignorance: “What has Planned Parenthood ever done for us?”
A host of responses could–and have–been offered. Who has not seen the people sharing images of themselves as someone who benefited directly or indirectly from the healthcare Planned Parenthood provides? They provide health support during pregnancy, sexual education, birth control, and more. The stories can and do pour in. We can imagine a Monty Python spoof happening that parallels the scenario: the dithering pro-life horde is silenced by the constant stream of stories from those who have benefited from Planned Parenthood.
Then, the facts start to confront us. We see videos that show the broken apart body of the unborn being picked apart. Then, we realize that hundreds of thousands of these procedures happen each year in the United States. Skulls are crushed, but those performing the operation are doing it in such a way that the organs will–hopefully–be intact. These unborn body parts, themselves part of a clearly separate individual from the mother, are then donated for a price to research.
Suddenly, the humor fades. Our smiles are washed away. What price did Jerusalem pay for those aqueducts, education, and public order? Infants starved to death; slaughter until the soldiers “tired of killing.” What price do we pay Planned Parenthood for that birth control, those health screenings, and the other care they provide? You can watch the videos yourself and see the tiny hands and feet cut apart and distributed.
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