23 June 2009

Abortion is Just War for Obama

Barack Obama has spoken about abortion on various occasions. One of the last times he spoke about abortion specifically was at Notre Dame when he received an honorary doctorate of laws degree. The other two times of note were during his “100 Days Press Conference” and during the campaign after he spoke at Pastor Rick Warren’s Church during a presidential debate with Senator McCain. The relevant parts of Obama’s words are reproduced below.

Interview with Mr. Stephanopoulos on ABC
...As a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into (Stephanopoulos interrupts: As respect to Augustine) It does. It's a pretty tough question and so all I meant to communicate was that I don't presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions. What I do know is that abortion is a moral issue. That's it's one that families struggle with all the time. And that in wrestling with those issues I don't think that the government criminalizing the choices that families make is the best answer for reducing abortions. I think the better answer, and this was reflected in the Democratic platform, is to figure out how do make sure that young mothers or women who have a pregnancy that's unexpected or difficult have the kind of support they need to make a whole range of choices including adoption....

100 Days Press Conference
You know, the -- my view on -- on abortion, I think, has been very consistent. I think abortion is a moral issue and an ethical issue.

I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they -- if they suggest -- and I don't want to create straw men here, but I think there are some who suggest that this is simply an issue about women's freedom and that there's no other considerations. I think, look, this is an issue that people have to wrestle with and families and individual women have to wrestle with.

The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that -- that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their doctors, with their clergy.

So -- so that has been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted presidencies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.

Obama's Notre Dame speech
That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let's make adoption more available. (Applause.) Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. (Applause.) Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do. (Applause.)

Now, understand -- understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction.

I noticed that in all three monologues above, he said that abortion is a moral, ethical, or spiritual issue. Further, he said that women, mothers, or families must make this choice without government interference.

After some reflection on these common principles, it seemed that Obama was applying just war theory to abortion. Mothers (et al.) take the role of defending entity (defender), while the baby takes the role of the aggressing entity (aggressor). The defender decides, through parallel applications of just war theory to abortion, whether going to war is just or unjust.

In 1991, Francis Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice, wrote, "If War is Just, So is Abortion." [] In addition, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, wrote two articles and one speech that picked up on Ms. Kissling’s ideas.

In essence, Ms. Kissling said that women, who were once not considered moral agents, are in reality the primary moral agent to decide if pregnancy termination is necessary. Ms. Thistlethwaite agrees, writing, “Obama Acknowledges Women as Moral Agents.”

In comparing the need for war and abortion, Ms. Kissling writes, “Both constructs would recognize that the taking of life in war and in abortion (though not equivalent acts) are never in themselves moral goods. But these values are not absolute. They can be overridden in serious circumstances and after reflection on the moral guidelines established by the church.” These circumstances, according to her, include self-defense and “[the protection of] a nation's integrity”, or “a woman's physical and emotional health”.

Ms. Thistlethwaite goes further in saying that it is not possible to know if a preborn person has a soul in her speech (to Planned Parenthood), “How Is It With Your Soul?” Ms. Kissling mentions this conundrum briefly, but does not expand the thought. It would seem, for the moment, that the preborn human is a person in the same way that an enemy soldier is a person. The topic of personhood of the perborn human is beyond the scope of this essay.

If it were accepted that abortion could be analyzed with just war theory, the four-prong test of just war theory must be applied. In order to pass the test of a just war or abortion, all four prongs must be true at the same time. The test includes the following (

1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor [preborn person] on the nation or community of nations [pregnant woman] must be lasting, grave, and certain;
2. all other means of putting an end to it [the pregnancy] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
3. there must be serious prospects of success [in terminating pregnancy];
4. the use of arms [abortion] must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated [death of mother or “a woman's physical and emotional health”]. The power of modern means of destruction [chemical and surgical abortion] weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

Right away, prongs two and three are almost guaranteed. Only a few preborn persons have survived abortion. The real questions are one and four.

How is damage inflicted by the preborn person on the pregnant woman lasting, grave, and certain? For one, the clear and present danger of the woman (immanent death) would suffice. Since pregnancy lasts nine months and not the lifetime of the woman (assuming adoption used), pregnancy itself would not be lasting. Since miscarriage is very probable, pregnancy is not certain.

Does abortion produce evils and disorders graver than the death of the mother or “a woman's physical and emotional health”? Assuming that the preborn human is a person, killing the preborn human and letting a mother die are equivalent evils. Killing the preborn human produces a greater evil than a detriment to a woman's physical and emotional health.

It seems that the only reason an abortion can be just is for the life of the mother if death from the baby's presence is a clear and present danger. However, just as in the application of war, the objective of defense is not to kill people, it is to stop the means of destruction. In order to stop bombings, bomber planes may be shot down; it just happens that there are people flying them. The "enemy" person must be protected as humanely as possible. In abortion, the preborn person must be protected whenever possible. If the fallopian tube or uterus is removed, or drugs must be administered to protect a clear and present danger to a mother, the secondary effect of killing the preborn person is not unjust.

The caveat is that a woman cannot choose abortion if the framework of just war theory is applied. Since the only just war against the preborn person is for the clear and present danger of a mother’s life, only a doctor (or team of doctors) can justly "wage war" on the preborn person. Only a doctor can determine the gravity of a life-threatening situation.

In conclusion, if Barack Obama is using the ideas of Ms. Kissling in terms of applying just war theory to abortion, he is incorrect in his evaluation. No woman or family can justly determine if a preborn person should die for his or her desires (inconvenience, pride, need for adoption, &c), only an objective doctor can conclude that a pregnant mother is in clear and present danger due to the mere internal presence of the preborn person. If the just war theory is applied to abortion, the moral, ethical, and spiritual decision must conclude that abortion is not the just action to take. Government must make sure that unjust wars against preborn people are not undertaken at the whim of any other person’s will.

Despite the fact that the preborn person in the mother’s body may present clear and present danger to the life of the mother, how can the preborn be considered aggressors? Ms. Kissling addresses this in one sentence in "If War is Just, So is Abortion.” “As we have seen, even in high-tech modern warfare, innocents will be killed.” Does this make sense? If abortion is the equivalent to just war, who is the person that is threatening the mother’s life? Is the preborn person “innocent” according to Ms. Kissling? The preborn person is not an innocent bystander; she is an innocent participant in an intrinsically evil act.

If Barack Obama does not think that preborn humans are people (until the soul enters at some undetermined time by him), why does he call abortion a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue? If he thinks that preborn humans are not people, abortion should not be an issue at all to him; if it is so, he should be honest and say so now.
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion?
-Mother Theresa

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment in a civil manner, i.e., no foul language, name calling, threats, etc.