State of New York gleefully approves of abortions up to birth.
The State of New York recently shocked the nation by signing into bill a significant increase in abortion rights, now allowing the practice up until the time of birth. This reflective post takes a fresh look at the situation and explains why such advances are likely to keep happening, even though so many Americans are appalled by it. If you’re looking for a quick three-points-and-a-conclusion piece, this article is not for you, but if you’re interested in really giving this issue the reflection it deserves, I think you’re in the right place! So let’s dive in. I’ll first explore why abortion (normally) happens, and then I’ll get into the hard-fitting facts about why it’s likely to keep happening.
On the one hand, we should not be surprised. Having already established a legal entitlement to have an abortion earlier in pregnancy, should we really be surprised when anyone succeeds in passing a law to allow it later in pregnancy, too? After all, what’s the difference, really? To say that it’s legal to terminate a life up until one day, but not the next, is a pretty good example of arbitrariness, is it not?
I could be an alarmist here and argue against this most recent advance in permissions by use of the always-popular “slippery slope” theme. I could say, for example, “What’s next? Killing them after birth?” I could argue, “Why not extend the right until the ‘terrible twos’ have passed?” Or I could argue to absurdity, “The parents should have the right to kill any child who is still legally a dependent—which is generally up until the age of 18 years.” Indeed, why not? If it is right to kill them in the first trimester of pregnancy, why not at any other time? Conceivably, we could kick that can of responsibility down the road to the fullest extent possible, declaring that a parent has a right to kill his or her own offspring at any time in the offspring’s life, based on the same supposed right not to be inconvenienced by their existence. And we could argue that such right extends also to adoptive parents, could we not? Indeed, let’s forget the “My body; my right” argument altogether and let it slip down that slope until we get to the argument “My inconvenience; my right.”!
But there’s little sense in making yet another slippery slope argument having long-since passed earlier phases of slippery-slope argumentation against abortion. As with the parent who has taught his children that “No!” doesn’t really mean “No!” until it has been said multiple times and a state of high parental aggravation has been signaled by aggressive, wooden-spoon-fetching gestures, it would do little good to argue “Slippery slope!” to those who ignored the argument the first time. But that’s okay, because slippery slope is always weak by its very nature, and if that’s the best argument that’s to be made against abortion, we’re in a mess.
There is, however, the argument of murder. And that’s quite different from the slippery slope argument, which basically says, “You shouldn’t do this because you’ll likely do something worse later.” The murder argument says instead, “It was murder in the first trimester, and its murder in the last, and it will be murder if you ever do it after birth, too.”
Now, let’s slow down for a minute and take a good look at the big picture of humanity. It’s very tragic, of course, the sins we humans commit. We do great harm to ourselves and to others—sometimes by accident, and sometimes on purpose—-and sometimes on purpose to try to erase the consequences of an accident. We do all manner of bad things to one another and to ourselves, sometimes right up to and including murder. It’s very tragic to watch it—the pain we cause to our own world. But having done the deed of murdering the inconvenient baby, we have put what was formerly nothing more than a thought experiment finally into play in the real world, where we can then find out over time just how wise a strategy it really was. We don’t get to see, of course, what would have become of the life that we terminated, so we can probably put that out of mind well enough, given how out of sight, out of mind works. And we can easily remind ourselves what a terrible inconvenience (or embarrassment, possibly) it would have been to have let the baby live. But we also get to see just how often we are plagued with guilt—with that emotional awareness that we have done something that we ought not to have done. We set that clock ticking at the abortion, and it will tick for the rest of our lives, measuring how many times we regret it. And if we do regret it, it proves we are identifying our own wrongdoing. Or if we don’t regret it, it goes to show just how well we have succeeded in hardening our hearts against that globally-acknowledged axiom, the Golden Rule.
Yes, we murdered someone for being an inconvenience in one way or another—perhaps financially, or socially, or even as a threat to our own routines of self-entertainment— while we ourselves would never want to be murdered for the same cause. Clearly, then, we have violated that Golden Rule, and now in the aftermath, we must fight either the battle of admitting our fault, or of continuing to pretend we have done no wrong at all. If that fault had been admitted ahead of time—-if we had said to ourselves, “Wait, this plan is an evil one, and I dare not go ahead with it,” then we could have altered our course. But having successfully fended off such responsibility at first (because we are often skilled at such fending), we succeed in the murder and stopping it is no longer a possibility.
It’s a dark irony that the tragedy of unwanted pregnancies so often (but not always) comes about as the result of irresponsible behavior. Think about it—a person who does not want to be responsible for taking care of a child is not responsible for seeing to it that the child isn’t created in the first place. They can’t have it both ways, of course, for they created the child and are by rights responsible for it, whether they step up to the occasion to do what is right or not. So, by being irresponsible in the first place, they have got themselves in a bind in which it become impossible to ignore the consequences. Where they got into the mess (in most cases) by simply seeking pleasure, they will find no pleasant way out of it—even if they change their attitude and decide to take care of the life they have irresponsibly created. Perhaps they’ll grow to find pleasure in parenting in the long run, but it’s very likely they’re in for loads of strife in the short term as an unplanned pregnancy can be very challenging. To turn off that pregnancy, however, can have consequences at least as difficult as seeing it through. Again, there is no easy way out—and there’s the irony again, as ease and pleasure were the goal in the beginning of this ugly story.
Lady Macbeth sleepwalks through the castle, rubbing her hands as if trying to wash away the bloodstains of murder, tormented by her own guilt, and gradually being driven insane by it. “Out, damned spot! out, I say!“ She knows her guilt. She admits it to herself as it is to her quite obvious. But not everybody is like that. Some manage to hide their bloodguilt from their own awareness adequately enough that they can at least pretend to carry on a normal life thereafter in the pursuit of happiness, just like those who have committing no transgression so heinous as this. It’s a high-burn mental process, requiring constant cognitive effort never to relax and to let the truth of the matter be acknowledged for what it is. It is exhausting, and as a result, life-robbing to the one trying to carry on with it, for who can carry on with the normal pleasures of life while also carrying such a demanding cognitive load?
Pontius Pilate, governor over Judea in the time of Jesus, found himself the victim of a great political inconvenience as Jesus’ message was stirring up the Jews and presenting an ostensible threat to the security of the Roman Empire, under which Pilate served. To murder Jesus would be a pragmatic solution, of course, but Pilate’s wife warned her husband before the murder, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” How torturous for Pilate this must have been, to have been made aware ahead of time that his most expedient solution to the problem was itself problematic! But if you know the story, you’ll know that he manages to disregard the warning and to have Jesus murdered anyway. And perhaps it is no coincidence that we get one further glimpse into the goings-on of his mind when in a conversation with Jesus, Pilate goes far beyond the mundane defending his own position, and attacks truth itself, as if truth were nothing but an chimerical notion that lacks definition in the real world where the really smart people live. Jesus had said to him, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.“ But Pilate, not wanting to listen to Jesus—not wanting to acknowledge who Jesus was or the truth that he represented—dismissed him by attacking the very idea of truth itself: “What is truth?” he retorted, as if in saying it, he had unleashed some unanswerable “gotcha!” of a point. But he had not.
Pilate’s message—his challenge to truth and reality—is what I’m bringing into question here. He stated it in the form, “What is truth?”, but he could just as well have made a similar challenge to reality by asking things like these: What is justice? What is right? What is wrong? What is fair? What is unfair? We can pretend that such things are so widely and famously debated as to practically proveto our own satisfactionthat they are all just foolish notions with no stake in reality. Even so, we prove by our own actions that we do not really believe that claim. That is, even the thief hates to be stolen from, and even the liar hates to be lied to, and even the murderer would hate to be murdered. Think about that. Thus we judge ourselves by the implications of our own words, even if we also declare ourselves innocent when we commit such transgressions ourselves.
So we can pass a law as the people of New York just did, declaring, as Pilate might have put it, “What is murder?!” and in so doing, pretending that murder is not really a thing—-at least, not when it comes to killing mere babies, right? But what do we do in the real world when someone murders a pregnant woman, resulting in the death of her unborn child? Do we not prosecute them for a double murder, and we sue them for two wrongful deaths as well? And this shows that at least sometimes, we are clear-minded enough to call it like it is.
Some, however, are deeply committed to guarding themselves against the reality-based awareness of what they have done, and they continue to prop up defenses against the truth of the matter. This new law in New York is just another example of this sort of thing. The smiles on their faces in the photo at the top of this post are just another example of the photographic “spin” of political marketers. These were not the smiles of people who had just allowed an advancement in the right of hard-hearted people to murder the inconvenient—which is what they were really doing. No, they were the smiles we should expect from emancipators who had just freed people from unjust tyranny. They are role-playing politicians. Here’s how Governor Cuomo sized up the new law:
“Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion,” Cuomo said. “With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.”
If this article were about irrationality and bad argumentation and twist and spin and manipulation and such, I could go on and on in citing examples of such things in all the rhetoric surrounding this latest episode. But this article is about murder-for-inconvenience, and this latest story is nothing more than the latest scene in an ugly and ongoing drama that pretends that people have a “right” to kill for the cause of inconvenience.
And so it continues, with many conspiring to shut down those who acknowledge no such right to murder. It simply will not do, they believe, to have people lifting the rug and exposing all that has been swept under it, so as to be hidden from sight. They want to shut down the public discourse, limiting the scope of their personal war only to the skirmishes in their own minds, and betting that they can manage to keep at bay in that most private place the awareness that they have violated a sacred principle.
So they parade about, smiles and all, like the Emperor in his New Clothes, effectively daring anybody to say it isn’t so. And we are supposed to comply. We are supposed to let them conquer this new ground unopposed. We are supposed to afford them the “right” to take it and to keep it. We are supposed to consider such acquiescence on our parts—such surrender—to be the “moral” thing to do, mutter as we may about it under our breaths. Never mind that it’s murder. Never mind that it’s a violation of the most universally-acknowledge ethical axiom ever, the Golden Rule. Never mind that it violates the Non-Aggression Principle. Never mind that the practice causes the psychological and ethical ruin of many an abortive mother—and father—and doctor—and nurse. Never mind. Never mind. Shut it down. Stop those thoughts. We are supposed to step back and let them have their party on that slippery slope, because we are told that we have no right to oppose them.
And isn’t that interesting? The baby, they say, has no right to exist as long as the mother wishes it dead and pays the money to make it so. And this, they have now codified into Law. But where is the law that says no one else has a right to disagree with the practice, or to say so? Well, that law is merely presumed, is it not? They think it a matter of natural law that we ought not disagree with them, and they dare us to transgress the notion—else, they will tell us how bad and immoral we are, how disgusting to them we are. And perhaps we should fear that one day they should put two and two together and figure out that all they have to do is to argue that we have transgressed against them to that ultimate degree of human sin—to that point of no return—to that damnable point at which we clearly have no remaining value to the greater society, and should best be murdered ourselves for it. I’m speaking, of course, of that point at which we should rightly deserve that most dreaded brand of “Inconvenience”. Yes, once they figure that out, can’t they rightly abort us, too, by the same twisted reasoning by which they have arrived at this latest level-up in the murder game?
Yes, they have already deprived us of our right to a constitutional government when they used Roe v. Wade to subvert the constitutional structure. And it’s pretty clear that they begrudge our right to free speech on the matter, even while claiming such right themselves. What they are doing, then, is to assert that the pursuit of their own desires, no matter how selfish and unfair to anyone else, is the ultimate goal and the ultimate right. (Isn’t this pretty much what starts most unwanted pregnancies in the first place?) Anyway, such people should not be expected to behave fairly, nor to yield up their own behavior to the mores commended to us by the wisdom of the ages. No, they don’t think that way—at least, not when it suits them to think otherwise. And in their race to do away with the truth of this matter—in their rush to pretend it away—it suits them just fine to shut us up by immoral means.
They will, no doubt, consider us immoral for pressing the matter. That’s cheating, of course, but that’s what cheaters do. It’s about preserving their own high self-view in spite of the facts that they have committed egregious transgressions that are not to be rightly lauded, but shamed. It’s about refusing shame, rather than embracing it as a rightful consequence of wrongdoing, and rather than correcting oneself to stop behaving shamefully. It’s not about being treated with graceful forgiveness for the terrible transgressions they have committed and promoted, but about pretending that no transgression exists in the first place. It is a denial of reality.
And to this, we are supposed to defer, as if we don’t notice what all is wrong with it.
These are more or less the same people who believe in the notion of “hate crimes”. (That is that things that are already wrong and illegal to do to others should be made extry illegal on account of them being done with hatred (Excuse me, “hate”.). So they want to take away my right to hate the things that I hate, while they hate that I hate their actions. They want to take away my right to judge, while they judge me guilty of being one who judges. These are rules that break themselves with use, of course, but what is that fact to an unruly person? (See my article about the “Judge-Not Fallacies” here.)
They deliberately confuse all these matters to their own gain—obfuscating truth and sound reason and justice and fairness and authenticity, all so that they can pretend (with the help of all such people as they can convince of such things) that they have not themselves done wrong in killing their babies. It is, then, for this special class of people that we are all being expected to change our way of thinking. They choose to “identify” this way and that, against reality, deliberately pretending another reality altogether, as if the rules of this present reality are not good enough for them, and as if another reality were actually available.
It is a pernicious trick of the mind. And we’ve all done it from time to time. But for these, it is a way of life in which they are quite heavily invested. And to criticize it is not just to disagree, but in their minds, to threaten the precious investment of many years of their lives (in the strategy of denial). Push them hard enough, and they will unleash upon you some measure of the prickly strife that they have been fomenting in their own minds as the result of the relentless battle against reality. They will hate you as they hate the truth itself. They will do it in the hopes that will find the ordeal unpleasant enough—inconvenient enough—that you will abort the confrontation altogether. They are experienced fuss-makers, often trained from childhood that (in an unprincipled house, at least) if you make enough fuss, you eventually get your own way. Thus do they hate the fact that not every house is as unprincipled as their own. They hate to be reminded of this fact.
Lamech, a guy in the Bible that you might have never heard of, boasted about his own over-the-top violence, “I have killed a man for wounding me.” I can only wonder how he would have viewed this modern competition to his boast, for now the state-of-the-art boast might as well be, “I have killed a baby for inconveniencing me.” Surely, that makes Lamech’s atrociousness look amateurish by comparison. Perhaps it would prompt Lamech even to kill such a competitor out of the embarrassment that someone had topped his audacity.
But surely, someone will criticize me for bringing such a wantonly violent person as Lamech into the conversation, comparing him with this comparitively-routine matter of aborting babies in safe and modern clinics with caring medical staff. But it seems to me that they have either not seen, or are not willing to acknowledge, the recent and chilling accounts of just how abortions are done—even to the point of tearing the living babies apart to remove them from the mothers piece by piece. This, we are not supposed to believe is violent, I gather—perhaps because it is being done, they say, “for a good cause”. And what is that good cause? It is, of course, the pursuit of convenience—these supposed escape from personal responsibility.
But what kind of people are we when we have let our society stoop so low as to codify and to protect and to promote such wanton decadence and selfish disregard for righteousness? Even among those of us who do not kill our defenseless babies, are not most of us guilty of sitting idly by while the others continue doing it?
Thus are we now faced, once again, with an inconvenient dilemma, for if we do nothing, they will surely continue, and if we push back, they will surely unleash on us the fury of their own internal vehemence against the truth. This is nothing new to us, for we have sat back generation after generation as Americans, watching the Rule of Law be subverted in one way after another—along with some of the liberties and principles that were once germane to it. We have done this in quite the same way that we sometimes mundanely let the unruly behavior of our own kids fester because of the various inconveniences we would suffer if we were to try to curb it.
J.K. Rowling put it so excellently when she had Dumbledore say, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” But for us, those dark times are not only ahead, for we are already living in them. “Easy” is our default setting; it’s the way we live. We do not habitually exert ourselves to right the wrongs and errors of our culture—nor even our own, if the full truth of the matter must be told. Rather, we tend to persist in error and wrongdoing for as long as we find them sufferable, as Thomas Jefferson observed. And that brings us again to the question of what kind of people we are, as may be judged by what we are willing to suffer before we put at foot down and declare, “Enough!”
Surely, a more righteous people than we would have put down this rebellion against reality long ago. Yet it persists—likely while many of us non-murderers are saying, “Well, at least I’m not murdering babies myself.” The vanity of this claim won’t be obvious to many, however. Perhaps its emptiness would be better understood if it were delivered while standing over the mangled body of an aborted baby: “Hey, little guy—just wanted you to know that while I certainly would not lift a finger to have stopped your murder, I am proud to say that I took no part in it myself.” Yes, this way, it seems as empty a defense as it really is. It’s just words.
We love to recite this quote to ourselves:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men
to do nothing.” (Dubiously attributed to Edmund Burke.)
But we don’t love it because we are true reformers, regularly countering evil by our actions. No, we love it instead for a reason that few of us have ever figured out because we know ourselves so poorly and because we are so unaccustomed to thinking through the deep things in life. We do it because it allows us to continue to live under the delusion that we can be “good men” while doing nothing about evil. Doing nothing while evil triumphs is our default habit; it’s our way of life. Pretty much gone are the days of gallantry for which we might romantically pine from time to time. No, the cold fact of the matter these days is that battling against evil is undesirable, primarily because it is….wait for it….inconvenient. And so we can judge—if we are interested in judging fairly—that we are caught in the same compromise of moral miserliness that entraps those who murder the babies. They refuse to judge themselves for murder, and we refuse to judge ourselves for the negligence that allows these murders to continue by the millions. If we boast, then let us do so accurately: “I am morally compromised by the desire for convenience in the same way that you are, even if not as much.”
What kind of people are we? And what kind could we be if we were to think it worth the effort? Call me crazy, but I think we could afford to care more about such things.
The fact of the matter is that abortion—that’s the euphemism for “murdering unborn babies”—will continue as long as those who oppose the practice remain passive in that opposition. We can observe that simply “letting our little lights shine” is not enough to curb the violence against babies. Indeed, the murders are people who have already violated conscience and reason in their own minds; they will not hesitate to violate such things when they come from your mind. So, what good does it do when one of us proclaims, “I choose life!“.
If this were nothing more than a victimless philosophical difference, stating your own position might be all you could do. But this is murder, and you live in a culture that has already taken the moral initiative to make murder a crime, punishable by law. Why, then, are you content to let this particular kind of murder go undeterred? Those who want a legal right to murder their babies are being assertive and are initiating with lawmakers about it, just as they are being assertive in stopping their own unwanted babies by murder. Meanwhile, certain medical professionals are so invested in the practice as to make careers of it. They are certainly not going to stop, either—not on their own. Letting your little light shine is simply not working.
And so we are at a crossroads between the imaginary road on which things get better without us having to exert ourselves to that end, and the real road in which abortion will continue until we put a stop to it by prosecuting all those involved in it. We could, if we wanted—if we cared enough—press our legislators until they stop it. Many, however, will find that too inconvenient. In so doing, they are choosing to fail. But few will say, “I’m against abortion, but I’m unwilling to lift a finger to stop it.” No, the way people generally handle things like this is not to tell themselves the unvarnished truth about it. Rather, they find a way to be comfortable sitting on the fence, normally by pretending to be taking a stand, yet not doing anything that is likely to succeed. And that’s a moral compromise that’s very easy for any of us to slip into. It’s a slippery slope of its own, and at the end of the story, we end up believing we are true reformers and heroic champions of a cause for which we are actually doing so near to nothing that we cannot rightly take any credit for anything.
We may dress out for the game, but we don’t take the field. We may put on the military uniform, but we don’t enter the battle. We may accept the new job, but we don’t actually show up for work. We’d really, really like to think of ourselves highly when it comes to our stance on abortion, but the fact of the matter is that almost none of us have done anything that is likely to have any effect whatsoever on the situation. So my question for the reader is this: Is that good? Is it good to consider ourselves to be on the side of the what is right, even though we will not step in to put a stop to the wrong?
Well, I must admit my own fault here, for while I have worked hard for several years to learn how to make a difference in various ways, I have yet to get into the practical fight against abortion. I’ve been working on helping people to understand and to adopt Reality-Based Thinking, and this is one of many practical battles I have not entered in the mean time. But I can’t very well write this article while doing nothing practical to solve the problem—else I would be a hypocrite just as I’ve described above. I would be just another one of millions of people saying, “There oughtta be a law!”, yet doing nothing in this constitutional republic to see to it that such a law comes about. Therefore, in February, I will draft a bill of my own to be submitted to my own state’s legislature here in Montana, and I’ll begin the process of trying to convince those legislators to pass it.
Yes, I’m quite aware that the Supreme Court pretended to have the authority to make law when they decided in 1972 (Roe v. Wade) that having abortions is a right. And I’m well aware that most of the states surrendered their sovereignty (yet again) in response to that ruling. But that was then, and this is now. That was not my watch; this is. I will publish the bill on this same website when it is ready.
Jack Pelham is the author of the novel, The Extraordinary Visit of Benjamin True: The State of the Union as no one else would tell it.
See his video podcast pilot, “Reality-Based Thinking: Rethinking the World“