Monday, August 15, 2011

Inconsistency and the needs of children

While reading up a bit on civil unions recently, I came across an article from a website called New Democracy. The article is by John Spritzler, and is entitled, "Legalizing Sam-Sex Marriage: What is at Stake?" (from February 27, 2008).

I don't expect that most of my tens of readers will agree with very much of the politics or social values of New Democracy. Still, I have to give Mr. Spritzler credit for his efforts toward fair and balanced writing here, even though the piece is an editorial. (And I will hasten to add, New Democracy is not your typical liberal/left wing website.) What's interesting to me, though— and may be of interest to you also, if you have a high view of the sanctity of life— is what comes out in the aforementioned article.

Spritzler asks, about half-way through the article, "Does society have a legitimate interest in defining who may marry?" Here's his answer:

The answer to this question, as almost everybody agrees, is that, in contrast to a friendship or business relationship, a marriage relationship can (which is not to say "should") produce children, and society has a legitimate concern with the interests and welfare of children. The point is simply that there is only one fact about a marriage relationship that both distinguishes it from other kinds of relationships and gives society a legitimate reason for legislating who may enter into this relationship (i.e. marry each other), and that is its potential for producing children with society's formal approval.

He goes on to conclude (in describing why, for example, "society" is right to restrict the marriage between siblings):

The reason nobody objected when the British government recently ordered the dissolution of the marriage of a man and woman, who found out only after they married that they were siblings separated at birth, is that virtually everybody believes that the welfare of children trumps the desires of adults.

Wait, what? Did he just assert that the welfare of children being more important than the desires of adults is nearly-universally agreed upon?

If that is the case, here's a HUGE inconsistency— because I think he might be the only one who really believes this is true. In fact, I would argue that a huge percentage of U.S. citizens— certainly better than half— would concede this point as wholeheartedly as Mr. Spritzler.

Why do I say that? Because this is actually the very premise on which most Pro-Life arguments are based. When positively formed, they go like this:
The welfare of children trumps the desires of adults.
Unborn children are children.
The welfare of unborn children trumps the desires of adults.

Or formulated another (more complex) way:
The welfare of children trumps the desires of adults.
Unborn children are children.
Abortion threatens the welfare of children.
Regardless of how much an adult may desire an abortion, the welfare of children trumps that desire.

It used to be the case that a counter-argument was offered for the premise "Unborn children are children"— but not so much anymore. The idea of viability aside, medical science has demonstrated pretty clearly what Pro-Life folks have said all along: that life and personhood begins far earlier than abortion legalization proponents are comfortable limiting abortion to. This is not their real argument.

The real argument for the typical abortion legalization proponent is actually the exact opposite of Mr. Spitzler's assertion: the desires of adults trumps the welfare of children.

This is what makes the debate so problematic: the fundamental values and core assumptions of the two sides are so entirely different. On the one hand, Pro-Life folks will argue that the life of the child is of extremely high importance. (There may be some variation there on this, as when the life of the mother is at stake: some would still choose to move ahead and leave the result up to God, while others would condone "terminating the pregnancy" in such a case.) The circumstances that begat the unborn child are not insignificant to the care for the mother, but are irrelevant to the value of the life of the child.

On the other hand, the dominant core value for those who support legalized abortion on demand is that the desire, preference, whim, or happiness of the mother is paramount. Why else would there be such adamant insistence on even late-term abortions being readily available, and outcry when they are opposed? Why else would it be medically acceptable for a woman carrying twins to simply decide two is too much to handle? As I mentioned previously, abortion is simply a matter of convenience for many.

There are many, many difficult aspects of this debate, and inconsistency is sort of the dark underbelly of it all.

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