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.

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Banning All Abortions May Undercut the Pro-Life Cause

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