On Wednesday, October 5, 2022, I participated in the Ohio Right to Life rally and march at the Ohio Statehouse. What did that amount to? I came alone; not as a member of any group such as Knights of Columbus. During the rally, I stood around listening to speakers, other people and read signs. I did not feel like an outsider. Nonetheless, I did not feel as someone committed to a cause. I walked six blocks through some downtown streets doing more listening and looking. I estimated that about 4,000 people participated in this peaceful event. There was no specific legislative program promoted. What was it about? Why was I there?
The signs were generic anti-abortion and prolife. After the June 24 overturn of Roe v. Wade, the prolife movement cannot focus on the overturn of a supreme court decision. What is the focus or, rather, what should my focus be?
I admit that I never cared about Roe v. Wade being overturned. I have never been concerned with any anti-abortion legislation. I have joined Catholic groups praying outside abortion clinics. I have run marathons wearing a “Democrats for Life” tee shirt. I was surprised at how many women runners would shout out “That’s what I am.” That’s not exactly what I am. I am too libertarian to be any kind of Democrat. I have contributed generously to pregnancy care centers. Why?
Abortion is the direct intentional stopping a human life innocent of any wrong. The act of aborting is morally wrong. Abortionists commit a serious moral wrong. Nonetheless, I have not cared greatly about the millions of morally wrong acts of abortion. There are so many immoral acts. I cannot honestly say that I care very much about the deaths of the millions of aborted babies. Death is simply part of life and sometimes death is a blessing. A baby whose mother wants to kill him or her might be a situation where death is a blessing. However, it is obvious that many, especially women, in the prolife movement grieve over aborted babies
I should care about the aborted and to be aborted babies. This lack of concern for the lives of the unborn may be a moral blind spot afflicting me and billions of others. We tend not to see the unborn as really human until we see it kicking and screaming after birth. In terms of John Henry Newman, we let ourselves have only a notional (theoretical) knowledge of the unborn baby as human. The birth forces us to have real knowledge of the baby’s humanity. This blind spot is a significant causal factor in the toleration of abortion.
There is a positive factor, though, in my moral insensitivity about the death of so many. The positive factor is that I do not try to give utilitarian arguments against abortion. It is far from clear that a compelling utilitarian case can be made against abortion. I am confident that a cost/benefit weighing non-moral goods justifies some abortions.
One sign read: Make Abortion Unthinkable. That sign led to a line of thought bringing into focus why I care about preventing choice of abortion. Yes, my philosophy projects are always in the back of my mind. . During the parade up Front St., the thought struck me that my notion of moral harm is what I need to develop to articulate what I care about on the abortion issue. What’s the connection?
Not being able to think of abortion means that we cannot think of it as morally permissible regardless of how we feel about it or regardless of the consequences of not having it. In short, the hope expressed with “Make abortion unthinkable” is transform the culture so that the dominant thought in public opinion is that abortion is genuinely morally wrong.
Why, though, care about people thinking abortion is morally wrong? Moral laws, as I am maintaining, are commands from God. Sooner or later, all except the most foolish, hear those commands. I care that billions of women are vulnerable to suffering the dread that some awful harm ought to happen to them. Once they realize too late that they have chosen that annihilation – never being at all- ought to be. Ought it be any better for them if they have chosen for their unborn child that it is best never to be born?
I care about abortion because I care about the moral harm, the harm that ought to be , inflicting women who make the foolish choice of abortion.
This calls for subsequent posts reconsidering my notion of moral harm to connect it with caring without reducing it to a natural emotional state.