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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Rhetoric of Murder

Michael S. asks:

Is abortion the taking of a life? Is the form of the taking an act of intentional killing of a life? Is the life taken innocent of any wrongdoing? Is the life taken human? Is the method of taking the innocent human life brutal? If the answers to these questions are “yes,” then Cardinal George’s “blood-drenched language” is a form of truth telling, not merely rhetoric, political or otherwise. And, it seems to that it is beyond dispute that the answers to these questions are “yes.” Don’t misunderstand. By saying that it is beyond dispute, I am not attempting to shut down the conversation. Quite the opposite, I am inviting the conversation. I would like someone who is opposed to this truth telling rhetoric to explain to me how abortion is not the brutal and intentional taking of innocent human life.  In other words, what is untrue about the rhetoric?

I think this substantially oversimplifies the problem in a way that is nicely brought out by Steve S.'s post below.  Take the most extreme example:  Is an eight-cell embryo a human being?  Yes, in some sense.  Is taking a chemical compound designed to prevent it from implanting its intentional destruction?  Yes.  Is it brutal?  I'm not sure.  Is it blood-drenched?  Certainly not, since the embryo has no blood cells.  Is the language of murder helpful in illuminating the moral reality of the situation in which a woman takes the morning after pill because she's been raped or suffers from a condition that, were she to carry a child to term, could endanger her life or health?  I doubt it.

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