Friday, February 08, 2019

Pro life strategy

Here's something I've been thinking about for a while. There are two questions when it comes to the subject of abortion. There's the moral question of whether or not it's okay to have an abortion. Then there's the legal question of whether or not we should make it illegal. I've met some people who are pro-life when it comes to the moral question but pro-choice when it comes to the legal question. Never mind whether that's a consistent position or not. I want to go in a different direction.

The goal, it seems to me, if you're pro-life, is to reduce the number of people killed in abortions, whether it's the mothers or their unborn. With that being the goal, it seems to me that our primary focus ought to be on the moral question rather than the legal question. I don't mean to say the legal question isn't important, but I think our focus ought to primarily be on the moral question. Here are a few reasons.

First, if you convince somebody that it's wrong to have an abortion, you can prevent them from having an abortion without having to make it illegal. While there are people who think abortion is wrong but ought to be legal, I don't think I've ever heard of anybody who thought there was nothing wrong with abortion but that it ought to be prohibited by law anyway. It's probably harder to convince people to make abortion illegal than it is to convince them that it's wrong, and convincing them that it's wrong is usually enough to discourage them from having an abortion.

Second, if you could convince enough people that abortion is wrong, the legal question would probably take care of itself. People who think abortion is wrong are more likely to vote for pro-life political candidates.

Third, if you were to make abortion illegal without having persuaded a significant number of people of the immorality of abortion, then you're going to create the hoary back ally abortion scenarios we hear about all the time. If people are motivated more by morality than by legality to avoid abortions, that won't happen nearly as much.

Fourth, the moral argument against abortion is pretty solid, and one can't really make a legal case against abortion without the moral case. So logically, the moral case comes first anyway.

Fifth, If we tone down the rhetoric about making abortion illegal, people are more likely to listen to us. A big reason for why we get so much push back from the pro-choice crowd is because they're afraid we're trying to "control women's bodies," or deny them their rights or force them into unsafe back ally abortions. Pro-choice people fear pro-lifers for these reasons, so they're not very interested in what we have to say. I think that if we gave them less reasons to fear us, they'd be more likely to listen to our moral case because in that case, we're not using coercion; we're using persuasion. Instead of threatening to force them to carry their unborn to term and give birth, we're pleading with them to choose life.

Sixth, to make abortion illegal, you have to convince a significant number of people. Convincing a handful of people won't make any difference to the legality of abortion. However, with each individual you persuade of the immorality of abortion, you will have made the world a slightly safer place for the unborn. It may never be possible to make abortion illegal in this country, but it is possible to persuade people not to do it for moral reasons. And every time you convince somebody of the moral question, that's one more pro-lifer who can then go on to persuade others. And that's how the moral movement can get underway.

One argument I've heard (I think from Frank Beckwith) for focusing on the legal question is that the law has an effect on the morals that people hold. If you make something legal, people start thinking it's morally okay. If you make it illegal, people start thinking it's not morally okay. I grant that's true. My response is that I agree the legal question is important. We should want to make abortion illegal. What I am saying, rather, is that making it illegal shouldn't be our primary focus. I think our primary focus in abortion persuasion is the moral question. I think the pro-life movement, as a whole, would have more success in saving more lives if that were the primary focus.

1 comment:

Staircaseghost said...

"they're afraid we're trying to 'control women's bodies,' or deny them their rights or force them into unsafe back ally abortions. Pro-choice people fear pro-lifers for these reasons, so they're not very interested in what we have to say. I think that if we gave them less reasons to fear us, they'd be more likely to listen to our moral case..."

I'm sorry, but this door was forever slammed shut when the anti-abortion movement overwhelmingly voted for a man who describes his own daughter as a piece of sexual meat and was caught on tape confessing to rape.

Forever. Slammed. Shut.

He then went on to endorse a Constitution-hating serial child molester for a senate seat, alongside the process of nominating a date-rapist to the supreme court. And his approval rating among white evangelicals is, what? 80%? 90%?

Yes, as a matter of pure abstract philosophy, there are cogent arguments for the moral value of a developing fetus. But since you seem to be genuinely concerned about purely tactical matters in this post, I'm here to tell you: the door to persuading anyone capable of reading a newspaper that the anti-abortion movement's animating principle is not control over women's bodies and maintenance of sexual dominance hierarchies is slammed shut at this point and is never going to be opening again.

In the congressional district next to me here in blood red Tennessee, Republican representative Scott DeJarlais was caught on tape trying to talk the mistress he was cheating on his wife with to have an abortion.

Last November, he was re-elected by a thirty point margin.

This is a perfect test case: the voters in his district (supposedly) believe he was literally attempting to plot the murder of his own son. The results of the experiment speak for themselves.

You will never again persuade morally persuadable people that this isn't a movement about feeding white male sexual privilege. Never again.