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.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!
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...
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.