October 29, 2012
Friedman on being "pro-life"
Thomas Friedman took a break from extolling the virtues of Chinese-style authoritarianism to explain what it really means to be "pro-life," and why -- given what it really means -- he is. He goes beyond the (in my view, not persuasive) arguments of Charles Reid and others that a vote for Obama is, in fact, a "pro-life" vote because -- despite his opposition to providing legal protection or meaningful moral status to unborn children -- his policies are likely to result, on balance, in fewer abortions. (I think this prediction is quite flawed, but that's another matter.)
For Friedman, it turns out that being "pro-life" has not much to do with one's views on abortion, and instead means (my words) "supporting policies that will result, all things considered, in more total life-days -- that is, in more people living longer than they otherwise would." So, "being pro-life" involves, for example, supporting regulations of unhealthy sugar-rich sodas and dramatic policies aimed at reducing the predicted impacts of climate change.
Now, it is true, I think, that the reasons one has for opposing abortion are reasons that also should affect one's views on other issues. Abortion is wrong when and because it is the unjustified killing of an innocent, vulnerable human person; other unjustified killings of innocent, vulnerable human persons are also wrong. But (as Friedman is smart enough that he should know), the abortion "issue" is not one of mere vitalism; to say that reducing the speed limit and regulating abortion are "pro-life" in the same way because both result in fewer deaths is, well, obtuse. Kind of like celebrating Chinese-style authoritarianism.
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