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.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Velasco on legalized abortion and the Holocaust

Earlier today I posted a collection of responses to my post objecting to the use of the term "Holocaust" to describe legalized abortion.  Another MoJ-er suggested that the conversation might be furthered by breaking the responses out into separate posts, and so I've done that here and below.  To begin, here is Notre Dame law prof Julian Velasco's response (he is at a conference and so apologizes for any choppiness in his comments):

Your comments improperly minimize the horror of abortion.  If the fetus is a person, as the Church teaches, then abortion is objectively, instrinsically, and gravely evil. I was particularly disturbed by your assessment that killing a 12-year-old is worse than killing an unborn child.  By that logic, one could argue that killing someone in a coma is not as bad as killing a healthy person.  By extension of the argument, one might argue that killing a person with many loved ones is worse than killing a loner because of the additional pain and loss that the others will feel (i.e., "even more reasons to protect [him]").

Unfortunately, hiding behind "hard choices" can complicate even straightforward moral issues.  If abortion is murder, it doesn't matter whether it was a "hard choice."  Mercy killings and many other homicides -- even honor killings, I imagine -- may involve "hard choices," but are still horribly wrong.  The circumstances may (or may not) affect the moral culpability of the actor, but not the evil of the act itself.  And besides, there's a difference between "hard choices" and "no other choice."  In the United States, at least, abortion rarely, if ever, involves "no other choice."

That the general population would be more upset about the killing of a 12-year-old than of an unborn child is virtually meaningless.  In the first place, they've already been conditioned that abortion is a matter of personal choice, so it's not surprising.  More importantly, they're also likely to be more upset about the killing of attractive teenage girls than of homeless men.  But emotion is a poor guide to morality.

I also find it extremely unfair to suggest that anyone who really believed abortion is murder "would be blocking the clinic entrances, physically rescuing the children, [and/or] overthrowing the government."  Many people struggle with the issue of what they should be doing, and the right course of action is by no means clear.  I suppose one could say that if anyone really believed that the economic imbalances in the world that allow children to starve to death every day is an injustice, they would be doing much more to end it.  One can always do more; that may impugn the actor, but not the merits of their cause.

Finally, given the absolute numbers involved, I am not willing to say that "gas chambers are worse."  However, I am not necessarily opposed to saying something like that, either.  I just don't think that's a meaningful statement if both are horribly evil.  What I will not accept is any suggestion that abortion isn't really all that bad.  And despite your comments to the contrary, that's what I took away from your post. Perhaps what you meant to say is that people who procure abortions, or support abortion rights, aren't necessarily evil.  Of course, that may well be true; it's certainly not my place to judge.  It may also be true that not all of the Nazis who killed Jews in the Holocaust were entirely evil -- perhaps they felt that they had "no other choice."  And perhaps we might allow that not all the salveholders throughout history were evil people.  But that doesn't mean that slavery, the holocaust, and abortion aren't themselves evil.  And because they are, the law ought to prevent them.


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