Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Abortion as a Moral Tragedy: A Response to Robert George’s Reply

First, thank you, Robby, for this deeply engaging and thought-provoking conversation.


I agree that understanding and defining abortion as a moral tragedy is not a distinctive of a “pro-life” position.  I also agree with your richer articulation of the first point of agreement between pro-life republicans and pro-life democrats.  I’m continuing to digest your description, and so will come back to this in a later post.


In this post I’d like to continue with the abortion as a moral tragedy point.  I wonder if I might classify that as a preface to the discussion of more complex points of agreement.  The reason that I keep coming back to this is because I think this preface might have important consequences for the tenor and the analysis of our search for points of agreement.


Regarding the tenor of the discussion: I wonder what would happen if everyone were to keep in mind that many people—both pro-choice and pro-life—agree that abortion is a moral tragedy, that it is not a good thing (and even a morally bad one), and that they wish that women contemplating abortion would choose a different option.  I think it might have important consequences for how we talk with each other, and especially how we characterize each others’ arguments.


Thinking about the broader political debate (not this particular conversation, which I find very respectful and cordial), I think recognizing this point of agreement might help us to move away from a certain reductionism (e.g., democrats don’t care about unborn babies, and republicans don’t care about poor people).  In and of itself, this could be a very helpful contribution that could help us to focus on the substantive points of disagreement.

OK, so say we agree on the point that abortion is a moral tragedy.  This brings to mind a further substantive question: what happens, then, to the discussion about abortion as an intrinsic evil?


I’m not sure I can make this leap.  But it seems that if the real heart of disagreement is not on the morality of abortion, and not on the question of whether the problem is extremely weighty, but on what we do about it, how we think about the social and legal tools for dealing with this evil—all essentially prudential political questions--then the “intrinsic evil” categorization becomes something of a non-sequetur in the conversation.  The fact that abortion is an intrinsic evil does not resolve the fact that we still need to deal with prudential questions surrounding what to do about it, and on those there will be legitimate political debate.


Robby, I want to emphasize that I am genuinely struggling with these questions.  I find the level of political polarization in the Church on this issue, and on other topics, deeply troubling and extremely painful, as I have written about here.  As I blogged during the 2004 election here and here, I found the question of the connection between intrinsic evil and voting deeply problematic.


As many of you know, I am not shy about identifying myself as pro-life.  But I am also deeply concerned about finding creative ways to heal international conflicts and solutions for international and domestic poverty—and based on deep reflection on Catholic Social Thought principles, I find myself drawn to approaches that might be closer to a democratic party line.  So for me the viability of a pro-life democratic position is personally important.  This is why I am very grateful for this kind of exchange.  Amy


Uelmen, Amy | Permalink

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