Category Archives: Abortion

Collective Contrition

Collective Contrition

To build an authentic moral barrier to abortion we should cultivate a condition of collective perfect contrition for abortion.

I wondered why we, and I in particular, should care about almost unlimited access to abortion. We, and I in particular, are not threatened with any great harm. The extreme damage to unborn babies might well be outweighed by the social problems solved by their destruction. Some, but not many, might fear the wrath of God.

Yet, there is a deep sorrow that elective abortions are legally permitted and that millions of women have and will use that permission. Explicitly, or implicitly, those of us opposing abortion want having this sorrow about abortion become dominant in society. The goal is to have the dominant thinking be that abortion is immoral with the appropriate thoughts and sentiments that being immoral itself is what makes it horrible.

The effort to understand thoughts and sentiments connected with violating a moral law led to the concept of perfect contrition . Perfect contrition is primarily a religious notion of sorrow over offending God by violating moral laws which are His commands. This religious concept is readily generalized to be a candidate for the thoughts and sentiment, if any, about violation of a moral law over and above sorrow and fear of any consequences of the moral violation.

I write, “if any” to indicate the prospect that psychological analysis of any particular sorrow about violation of a moral law might indicate that it is in fact some fear or grief about the consequences of the violation to society or oneself.

The concept of perfect contrition is not meaningless even if no one came ever be certain that they really have it. The concept is meaningful even if we can never be absolutely certain that it has anything in its extension. The concept is necessary for moral thinking, but it is not necessary that it be exemplified in any individual.

For those who might still be interested in twentieth century concerns over cognitive meaningfulness, note that claims of perfect contrition are empirically falsifiable.

Indeed, there is no authentic moral thought without the thought of immorality being a reason for sorrow regardless of any physical or social harm. Perfect contrition is necessary for morality. Dogmatic claims of psychological egotism that people have only selfish concerns and can make only selfish choices are dogmatic denials of morality. Case by case analyses to raise suspicion about unselfish concerns, as alluded to above, are efforts to show that there is no morality.

As important as it is to be honest about motives etc., unceasing efforts to uncover selfishness are uninteresting. They seem to be based on the dogmatic assumption of psychological egotism that there is always some selfishness to be uncovered. Of course, we are selfish and hypocritical. What is interesting is to show what it is like for a person to be sincere and unselfish.

In any event, we can set aside the whole topic of tortuous psychological analyses of individual motives. Morality is primarily collective thinking. So, if morality requires perfect contrition, then perfect contrition is an element in collective thinking. I admit that contrition seems preeminently a condition of an individual. However, we learn to think from others. So, if we can have perfect contrition, we have acquired it from others.

Upcoming topics are exploration of what collective perfect contrition might be like and the possibility of vicarious contrition.

Ontology, theories about what is real, are inseparable from my pursuit of truth in moral theory. I close with an argument for the truth of one of my major ontological assumptions.

There is no doubt that I assume that there is collective thinking in what I have written. But of more significance for the reality of collective thinking my act of writing and the act of anyone writing in reaction to what I write assumes and presents the reality of collective thinking. More generally any discussion, written or verbal, of the reality of collective thinking exhibits the reality of collective thinking.

Why Do I Care About Abortion?

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.

Non-Sexist Morality is Misogynistic

I am not digressing from trying to articulate what a morally grave matter might be. I intend to resume with specifying what it might mean to say that male masturbation is a grave matter. Focusing on male masturbation involves using a sexist moral theory. A sexist moral theory presupposes that some sexual obligations and privileges are prefaced with “because you are a woman” and “because you are a man.” I defend using a sexist morality in my book* although I did not there point out the misogyny of a non-sexist morality.

This observation of this post is also a critique of the moral theories used to justify abortion on demand. See Banning Abortions Might Undercut Prolife Goals It also supports a much earlier post that it is the prochoice camp and not the prolife groups that are waging a war on women. See HHS Mandate as a War on Women .

A rational person valuing autonomy could not consistently will that nature should be designed so that half the people seeking to satisfy a extremely strong inclination risk losing their autonomy. I will not digress to any discussion of Kantian moral theory. I want only to note that I need to set aside much of Kantian moral theory which has influenced me greatly. Kantian morality is non-sexist. The brief allusion to Kantian reasoning brings out a “hatred” of a non-sexist morality for the reality that nature has created men and women; more exactly a hatred for human sexual reproduction.

I won’t cite many implicitly misogynistic pleas, many by women, that we cannot have full sexual equality until women have the possibility of the same sexual freedom men allegedly have. I sketch an argument without details of daily between the sexes. The argument expresses opposition to women as they are naturally. With “women as they are naturally,” I refer to the way women were before birth control pills enabled millions, if not billions, of women to be infertile through most of their reproductive years. Implicitly, I think, Paul VI’s 1968 Humanae Vitae condemned use of The Pill because it would be a major step toward suppressing femininity.

(1)If morality is non-sexist, then sexual activity should not place obligations on women which are not placed on men.
(2) If women should stay as they are naturally, then sexual activity places obligations on women which are not placed on men.
Hence,(3) if morality is non-sexist, then women should not stay as they are naturally.

* Confronting Sexual Nihilism Oklahoma City, 2014 A free copy of my book is available by emailing me at

Banning All Abortions May Undercut the Pro-Life Cause

Recently, around Labor Day 2022, I received a letter from the Population Research Institute (PRI) asking me to sign a petition to Governor Mike DeWine to illegalize all abortions in Ohio. There are many reasons why I did not sign the petition; not the least of which is the fact that a generous donation was requested to accompany the signed petition. I have up to $100 for pro-life causes. I donate only to pregnancy care centers.

Here, though, my objection to the petition is that trying to ban all abortions, will misdirect the abortion debate from the rights of the unborn to an abstract moral theory debate about the rights of women in an ideally just society. The pro-life moral vision will not prevail in the debate.

In my opinion, the dominant, although incorrect, moral vision sees a just society as one in which the only features and conditions traditionally linked with biological sex are those an individual chooses to have.

From this perspective, consider a women’s right to choose abortion versus her fetuses’ right to life. For this moral vision, individual autonomy is a supreme value. A life without autonomy is not worth living! Any rational being, or potentially rational being, would not choose to being compelled to provide life support for another. So, a fetus would choose to be born into a society where pregnant women would have unrestricted right to abortion. So, a fetus would choose to be aborted if its mother so chose. For considering how life might go from behind a ” veil of ignorance” on what kind of person one would be, the rational fetus would choose to live in a pro-choice society if born a woman.

Currently, in Ohio, abortions are banned after the detection of cardiac activity. Debate can focus on the rights of fetuses at this stage versus the health needs of the mother. The rights of the fetus are not considered in the realm of purely rational beings making choices about rights. See Abortion as a Save, Legal but Rare Grave Evil for defending lives by continually working to make legal abortions rare. This approach maintains the nastiness of specific types of abortion before the public mind instead of on the rights of women.

I claim that the pro-life moral vision will not prevail because social contract methodology lies deep in contemporary moral thought. What is just is determined by imagining what rational beings would choose if they did not know how their life would go. If autonomy is presupposed as a supreme value, we get the moral vision on abortion I sketched above.

Given that social contract thinking is dominant, and autonomy now is a supreme value, a general moral debate about abortion will leave the pro-choice perspective victorious.

My efforts in these blog posts is to recover from out traditions an alternative moral theory. But if I have anything to add, it will be generations before the social contract methodology and autonomy pass away.

Perhaps, it is not so much the social contract methodology as the emphasis on autonomy which is so corrupting.

Abortion As a Safe, Legal but Rare Grave Evil

Note added 10-29-2022: Instead of “legal” I should have used “legally regulated.” I am opposed to abortion being made legal in the sense of legally permitted as a right beyond further legal control. I want abortion to be legally regulated as are many dangerous and harmful practices which might in some cases provide what many consider benefits.

In so far as I am able to influence public opinion, I hope to avoid a time when a large minority think abortion is totally permissible and most other people think that it is morally wrong but not gravely wrong. It’s naughty but nice as long as safe and legal.

Reflection on the notion of moral gravity have helped me to articulate my support for President Clinton’s 1992 campaign proposal that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. The widespread and unabashed endorsement of abortion in reaction to the US Supreme Court’s decision, Dobbs, June 24, 2022, that abortion is not a US constitutional right has vindicated opponents of abortion who nonetheless expressed tolerance of legal abortion with the formula “safe, legal and rare.” We dreaded the moral corruption of our fellow citizens that develops when there is widespread enthusiastic support for unlimited access to abortion.

The formula refers to elective abortions. These are abortions simply on the basis of the pregnant woman’s choice. The formula can be used to express toleration of the legality of some elective abortions. The formula does not specify which are to be legally tolerated. Certainly, not all are to be legal. The rarity requirement emphasizes that many elective abortions are to be illegal. Legislative action is needed to fulfill the rarity requirement.

Why did I support the formula”

Abortions should be safe. We should not wish ill health or death for anyone. There are at least two reasons why abortions should be legal. Legal abortions can controlled by legal statutes. Furthermore, a complete ban on abortions at this state of human culture perverts human attention to the temporary goods attainable by abortions. This is attested to by the current unabashed endorsement of abortion because of fears of abolition of abortion. Abortion should be rare because it is from the moment of conception always morally wrong. It is always the intentional stopping of a human life. We should promote the good of human life and oppose the evil of immoral choices to stop the good of human life. Abortion is intrinsically wrong even in cases of pregnancies due to forcible rape and incest.

In 2022 and several years after, there is no basis for believing that legal abolition of abortions would lessen the evils of abortion and promote the good of human life. In the US abolition of abortion might lead to glorification of abortions as prohibition led to romanticizing excess drinking. At this time, mere fear of the highly unlikely abolition of abortion has corrupted the public to turn away from the ugly evil of abortion to focus on the temporary good of solving “hard cases” where abortion seems to be the best solution.

Apparently, many, many people do not think abortion is a grave matter even if they think it is not quite right.
The political means for educating ourselves and others about the moral gravity of abortion is to use laws to marginalize and stigmatize abortion in public perception along with reducing abortions. As the saying goes promote laws which have “a chilling effect” on abortions. Keep abortions difficult to attain and perceived as morally dubious, if not outright wrong. But do not go far enough to raise fear of abolition. Keep the extreme pro-choice people focused on combatting specific anti-abortion legislation. We want them defending some type of dubious abortion; but not cheer leaders for all abortions.

But in the US and EU the situation has deteriorated to the point where there may be abolition of any legal restrictions on abortions. Abortions will be safe and legal. Rarity will be sought only in the sense that in general people prefer avoiding medical procedures.

With abortion the public perception of its moral gravity has degenerated from a grave evil to a trivial matter.

The struggle to re-establish a culture in which abortion is dark and dirty, i.e., gravely wrong, is to lead popular imagination* to contain images of particular abortions as gravely wrong. Debating the merits of kinds of abortions is more effective for this end than debates in political theory about rights of women and their unborn children.

* Philosophic tasks keep multipling, and not without necessity. Now I owe an account of collective imagination as well as collective thoughts.

Authentic Male Opposition to Abortion

Coitus Without Commitment is Essentially Abortive

Coitus is for creation of new life in two ways*. One: It is for conception. Two: It is for the creation of the unity striving to emerge which is the male/female monogamous lifelong bond – the nuptial pair. In coitus without commitment such as in prostitution and casual sex, there is mutual dismissal of both of the goods. In intention any conceptus is aborted and in fact the joint new life is aborted.

It is not surprising, as Christine Emba reports that casual sex is disappointing. As the couple go their separate ways, one or both, are vulnerable to a sense of having pleasure at the expense of destroying new life. Implicitly we have a sense of coitus as immensely important. (Social-biological speculation could easily invent evolutionary hypotheses about why the life-giving activity would not be taken lightly.) If there was pleasure, it was for nothing. In a coitus fully open to conception and nuptial bonding, the pleasure is carried forward as having been an aid in forming the nuptial bond.

Here, though, my focus is on male sexual morality. My goal is not a therapeutic goal of advising men on how to avoid regret about unsatisfying sex. I do not rely upon men feeling inchoate regret about pointless sex as do the women in Ms. Emba’s stories. On the whole, men may not be seriously dissatisfied with promiscuity. We ought to be. By reflecting on the double abortive element in promiscuous sex, I propose a standard for men to morally judge their actions – themselves and one another. It is directed to men who profess to be opposed to abortion.

Never lie with a woman if you are not willing to be her exclusive sexual partner and to care for her and any child which might result from your coitus with her.

A male who does not accept the above standard is not authentically opposed to abortion.
Also a nasty A-word describes his character.

*See Susanna Spencer’s
July 25, 2022 National Catholic Register article for a clear account of Catholicism’s development of the Church’s doctrine on this bifold good of sexuality

Philosophical Analaysis as Ignoring the Voice of God

I concluded my previous post with a promise to examine my personal recognition that it is a mistake to characterize abortion as anything that overrides thinking of it as stopping a human life. I made the promise because I conjectured that making a moral mistake is thinking of a situation in some way which obscures what it truly is. Fulfilling the promise is part of developing a divine command moral theory. For I am assuming that making a moral mistake is not hearing the command of God and that hearing the command of God is recognizing a situation for what it truly is. So, I will be commited to holding that, on some occasions at least, recognizing the truth, even the truth of empirical claims, is more than an empirical fact. It is a command from God.

I can recall clearly the occasion on which I came to recognize that abortion is fundamentally the intentional stopping of a human life. About forty years ago, I was teaching an introductory course in moral philosophy at Ohio State. I remember the classroom: 143 University Hall. The course focused on moral problems. In the two weeks, six classes, on abortion, we worked through the pros and cons of abortion. We speculated about various theories on what made someone a person, when life began and, of course,brooded over Judith J. Thompson’s famous essay comparing pregnancy with being involuntarily hooked up to a world class violinist for nine months.

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, a professor, at a secular university, could be neutral about the morality of abortion. I sensed, though, that it would be considered inappropriate to profess that abortion was intrinsically immoral.

Furthermore, the resources of philosophy are inadequate for constructing a proof of abortion immorality. The way is always open to shifting to consequentialist moral reasoning. The shift to consequentialist moral reasoning is strongly supported by the numerous “trolley examples” whose main thrust is to show the moral irrelevance of an intention to directly take a human life. For trolley problems see Trolley Problems. Abortion needs to be understood as directly intending to stop a human life in order to condemn it.

After the first week, I realized that the purpose of any abortion is to stop a human life in the womb before it is delivered and becomes a bigger problem than it imposes in the womb. When I realized that all of the discussion was to justify direct killing, I became ashamed of what I was doing. I dropped the discussion of abortion and dealt with other moral issues. Going forward, I did not request teaching moral philosophy classes and took on a greater burden of teaching boring introductory logic classes.

What was it like to come to this realization? I want to call it hearing the command of God. But there was nothing spectacular: no intense sensations or feelings. Cetainly, no sense of a booming voice of God. I simply realized that I morally ought to accept the second premise for the following moral syllogism.

Directly taking a human life is wrong under all circumstances and for whatever purpose.
Abortion is directly taking a human life.
Hence, abortion is wrong under all circumstances and for whatever purpose.

My realization was that I ought no longer allow essentially unending philosophical pros and cons stop me from taking the above syllogism as a having the strength of a mathematical proof. All sorts of fascinating, but unresolvable, philosophic issues can be raised about the syllogisms. Some of the issues concern notions of the role of intentions, whether utilitarianism is the correct moral theory, issues about personhood, rights of woman, beginning of life, personal identity. For me, there was the realization that the moral permissibilty of abortion was not a philosophical question. I commanded myself to stop philosophizing and look at the facts. The fact I confronted is that abortion is directly stopping a human life.

Yes, the command was autonomous. I gave it to myself. But the presentation of the fact in response to which I commanded myself was given to me by the moral commander as the fundamental fact beneath all of the other ways of characterizing the pregnancy.

For me, a way of making a moral mistake is not to respond to the facts about which I am raising all sorts of philosophical problems. Philosophical analysis of a fact is not observing it and. most importantly, not believing it as the truth.