Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Hillary's Wrong: Why Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Are Mutually Exclusive

Andrew Sullivan has written approvingly in The New Republic (subscription required, read it on his website instead) and online concerning Hillary Clinton's recent speech about the politics and morality of abortion. However, in my opinion Sullivan completely misses the point; is abortion equivalent to infanticide or liposuction? The answer to this question is something I believe we can determine to a level of certainty that precludes revisiting the argument.

As the reader may know, Senator Clinton is a well-recognized defender of the right to an abortion. However, as part of an attempt to broaden her national appeal to cultural conservatives (in preparation for a 2008 presidential campaign, in my opinion), she has been repositioning herself to appeal to the traditional-values base of the Democratic Party that, more and more, votes Republican.

Here's some excerpts from her speech, thanks to the New York Times:

"There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate - we should be able to agree that we want every child born in this country to be wanted, cherished and loved."

"We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," Mrs. Clinton told the annual conference of the Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place."

Was she sincere in her statements? Far be it from me to judge, ahem... but the article goes on to give the views of those who support and oppose Hillary and her pro-abortion record:
Mrs. Clinton's remarks were generally well received, though the audience was
silent during most of her overtures to anti-abortion groups. Afterward, leaders
of those groups were skeptical, given Mrs. Clinton's outspoken support for
abortion rights over the years.

Let's look at the issue of abortion. Pro-abortion advocates believe abortion is merely a surgical procedure involving only one human being, the woman, and any restrictions on abortion infringe upon a woman's right to control what happens to her body. Anti-abortion advocates believe there are two humans involved, the mother and the child, and that killing the unborn child is murder.

What does Hillary believe? Andrew states:
Hers [Clinton's] is, in that respect, a broadly pro-life position. Not in an absolutist,
logically impeccable fashion. That would require abolishing all forms of legal
abortion immediately. But in a pragmatic, moral sense in a free society, where
the ability of a woman to control what happens to her own body will always and
should always be weighed in the balance against the right of an unborn child to
life itself.
How can this be? How can it ever be moral to allow one person to decide whether another lives for arbitrary reasons? Let's call a spade a spade. Hillary's position on abortion is a straddle, an attempt to have it both ways. Hillary wants to appeal to the pro-abortion crowd by defending the right to an abortion, while simultaneously appealing to the pro-life crowd by declaring abortion to be a moral tragedy. Her speech was a restatement of her husband's claim that abortion should be "safe, rare, and legal." Am I the only one to be jarred by the striking absurdity of this position?

If you believe, as Hillary says she does, that abortion is a woman's right, then unless you are the sort to condone murder you must also believe that the fetus is not human and therefore is not entitled to the protection of any human rights including the right to life. It follows, then, that abortion is not a moral tragedy but instead a surgical procedure that is no more immoral than having a wart removed. Why then, if abortion does not involve the murder of a child, should abortion be rare? Why, then, shouldn't we encourage women to have abortions as often as they see fit? And why is a wart removal by another name a moral tragedy?

Correspondingly, if you believe, as Hillary says she does, that abortion is a moral tragedy, then aren't you implicitly agreeing that abortion is murder? Why, then, if abortion is murder, should abortion be legal?

Andrew concludes with his own thoughts on the subject:
In some ways, this does not mean a change of principle. Democrats can still be
and almost certainly should be for the right to legal abortion. But instead of
beginning their conversation with that right, they might want to start it with
acknowledgment of a wrong. Abortion is always wrong. How can we keep it legal
while doing all we can to reduce its scope and damage? Call it a pro-life
pro-choice position. And argue for it with moral passion. If you want to win a
"values" debate, it helps to advance what Democrats value. And one of those
obvious values: the fewer abortions the better. Beyond the polarizing rhetoric,
a simple message: saving one precious life at a time.
Andrew, if "abortion is always wrong" then how can it be right to support it? Do you not see the glaring inconsistency, indeed the hypocrisy in this position? If reducing abortions is about "saving one precious life at a time" then the only possible logical conclusion is that eliminating abortion is the only moral answer.

This is why the Democrats are losing the argument on moral values (and losing elections); they fail to understand or agree that moral values are absolute. This nuanced, Kerry-esque (Clinton-esque?) tactic doesn't address the reason that pro-life folks will not vote Democratic. If one believes that abortion is murder, just as gassing Jews at Auschwitz was murder, then you won't appeal to them by agreeing to discourage abortion while keeping it legal just as reducing the number of Jews sent to Auschwitz while keeping the gas chambers and crematoria operating (at a reduced rate) wouldn't have made the Final Solution acceptable. Murder is wrong, whether it's one murder or one million murders.

Abortion is either murder, or it isn't. If it is then it is wrong and must be ended. If it isn't, then there is no moral tragedy. You can't have it both ways, and the Democrats just anger both sides by trying. My view: having been mindlessly pro-abortion when I was younger, I have since then expended considerable energy and though on the subject and am now decidedly pro-life.

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