A Strange Definition of Hypocrisy

An author named Damon Linker has an article in which he claims that pro-life advocates are hypocrites. It starts reasonably:
I'm never more dumbfounded by my fellow liberals than when they profess not to be in the least bit morally troubled by abortion. Which means that I've been dumbfounded a lot over the past few weeks.

Come on, admit it — you've heard variations on it, too:

Those videos of Planned Parenthood employees nonchalantly discussing killing unborn human babies, dismembering them, and selling the parts for medical research — how could anyone object to that? What should really make us angry is that these pro-life activists filmed the videos in the first place. And if you want to see something truly despicable — a genuine moral outrage — there's this dentist who hunted down and shot a lion in Africa...
I have indeed heard exactly these variations lately. Somehow the real moral problem exposed by the videos is... that someone made the videos. That should be punished!

So, OK, I'm open to his argument. He comes down to a moderate pro-choice position at least to viability, which is not my position but one I'm prepared to see as reasonable. He's got thoughtful arguments. So what's this about hypocrisy?
[T]he pro-life movement, which consists largely of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants, doesn't just want to lower the abortion rate. It also wants to win a culture war in the name of "traditional values" — and encouraging the widespread use of birth control doesn't fit with its conception of tradition, which holds that women are first and foremost meant to be mothers, children are a gift from God, pre-marital sex should be strongly discouraged, both husband and wife should be "open to life" during sexual intercourse, abortion should never be considered an acceptable choice, and the government should enforce all of this by outlawing the procedure.
There's two things to say about that.

1) It's not true that pro-lifers in general oppose birth control, or strive to keep it from being available. In fact, the last I heard there was a faction on the Republican pro-life side that was advocating making birth control over the counter. So not only would you not have to ask your priest if you could use it, you wouldn't have to ask a doctor or a pharmacist either. You could just go grab a bottle of the stuff like you would Tylenol. So there's a pro-life position in accord with his stated views.

By the same token, there are people who hold firmly to all the traditional values but don't necessarily want the government to be the enforcer. For a long time that was my position: pro-choice only in the limited sense of not being willing to actually outlaw and prosecute people over abortion, but pro-life in the strong sense of believing that abortion was obviously immoral. A good person ought not to do it except in a very limited set of cases involving the death of the mother. Other solutions ought to be chosen. That doesn't mean that prison is the answer for those who make what I think is the immoral choice, any more than I would want to see people imprisoned for divorcing or even adultery. So there's a vigorous pro-life option available without force.

2) For the subset that remains, it's hardly hypocrisy to hold to a set of non-conflicting religious doctrines. For Catholics, yes, abortion is a grave sin in addition to a moral crime. Birth control is also forbidden, but not by a conflicting argument, by the same argument about God's purpose for human sexuality. It's the same argument that leads to both conclusions. How can this be hypocrisy?

As I've mentioned here a number of times, to the eternal boredom of everyone, Kant comes to the same position from an argument he believed based on pure practical reason. Whatever Kant was, he wasn't a hypocrite!

On sexual matters especially, there's a danger of hypocrisy in the usual sense of the term: we often really believe in the truth of doctrine, but fall away from practicing it due to temptation. It may well be that the doctrine is so strict that few are able to fully practice it perfectly all the time. Human weakness is not a good argument for abandoning a doctrine soundly based on reason, though, and it's an even worse argument for those who believe the position is derived from divine purpose.

For those who actually live the doctrine, the charge of hypocrisy is wholly unwarranted. They're being honest about what they think is best, and trying to pursue a society in which it is the norm. That's just what they ought to do.


Ymar Sakar said...

What's the point of talking to your Democrat and Leftist friends about this again.

Is that supposed to change something.

Grim said...

Not every mind is closed.

Texan99 said...

It's pretty easy to write off pro-lifers as radical Catholics or evangelical Protestants, if you don't know many and most of your friends have never met one, either. It's a popular approach, because it lets people think "I'm not sure about all that over-wrought religious stuff" instead of thinking about whether the butchery of a fetus is something they can live with right up to the point of viability minus 5 minutes.

To be fair, there are people who can totally live with terminating the life of a fetus up to and past viability, on the ground that if a baby isn't wanted it's best that it not be born at all. They believe a life that hasn't really begun is not the same as a conscious member of society, and that what we're talking about is a kind of euthanasia that makes complete sense for a merciful person. I don't agree, but I don't think the position is insane.

I think workers in PP clinics must get to the point where they have no more feelings about the baby parts than they would about cadavers used in anatomy classes in medical school. You and I might throw up if we walked in on an autopsy, but a seasoned worker does not. Nor does an experienced transplant surgeon allow himself to be put off by the messy process of removal of organs from a "donor."

And yet I think most progressives would be very suspicious of medical personnel who were caught on tape altering decisions about whether to continue treatment to a gravely ill patient on the ground of that day's publicly quoted market in fresh kidneys and corneas. They certainly get upset enough over the idea that an insurance company can decide on a cancer treatment by considering a cost-benefit analysis. It's just so darn hard for us to balance the value of human life against the value of parting out the body. The "products of conception" are valuable precisely because they're human, but they're not "human" human, so to speak. They're human in their physical usefulness, but not in the sense of embodying a person whom we should consider as a fellow soul like ourselves. People don't do well when they start to think of other people primarily as the harborers of valuable things like gold teeth that can be harvested as soon as we interrupt those inconvenient life processes.

Ymar Sakar said...

I'm sure Grim will tell me to get out after talking about the blacks being mind controlled zombies with no will of their own in the inner cities, again.

After all, that's basically what the Left did using Planned Profit in the abortion clinics. Fabricated excuses, denied parental permission, and harvested human tissue, fetuses, babies, whatever, in order to make a profit. And the "pro choice" crowd had what? A choice? They had nothing, the methods were experimentally changed without notice, and the women were probably conditioned using psychological trauma anyways by the Left.

I'm sure the Leftist zombies will once again have Grim tell me that I'm the person rationalizing my views, rather than you.

jaed said...

So people who disagree with him about abortion also (arguendo) disagree with him about something else. And therefore...

...Did I miss something? Where is the hypocrisy he posits?

Ymar Sakar said...


Not even I can withstand the Left's evil without skipping through sections.

I made a prophecy about something like this as well, 2 years ago here. Although since it's already here, there's no reason to repeat it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Odd how mind-reading figures so prominently in the moral reasoning of not only the center-left, but the center.

I wish I had a motive-o-meter that worked half so well as theirs does. It would solve so many political issues.