This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Abortion and the Christian Left (Geocities Rescue)

There are three factions in the abortion question. They are the pro-lifers, who believe that abortion is wrong and must be banned, the pro-choicers, who believe that society has no business regulating a women’s right to an abortion, and the Mushy Middle, who do not like abortion nor the criminalization of it. The mushy middle is where you find the Christian Left. It is also the likely plurality position, meaning there are more of us than either of the other two positions. Any solution to the abortion question comes from this perspective. Finding such a solution is desirable, if only to make the other two points of view shut up. The political parties and associated interest groups on both sides of this question gain a lot of mileage and raise a lot of money behind this issue. It is possible that neither really wants it resolved. This is all the more reason to seek a solution from the Christian Left.

There are two ways to come at this issue. The first is to balance the interests of the mother against the interest of the child, both of which have a right to life, although only the mother has a right to liberty. The pro-life movement’s disregard of the mother’s rights to both life and liberty poisons the debate. It is as important to protect the life of the mother as it is to protect the life of a child. The shared heart example illustrates this.

The Shared Heart Example
Imagine waking up in a hospital after a period of unconsciousness and finding a total stranger sharing your heart. Are you within your rights to have the stranger immediately removed in a way that preserves your life, even if the other were to immediately die? Of course you are. It is even more permissible to have the other removed it if the attachment procedure was accomplished against your resistance.

In both cases doctors are allowed to assist you, as doing it yourself certainly causes your death. In the second example it is just for the state to pay for it. It is even just for the state to pay for it if the only alternative was to do the procedure your self.

However, what if you were deliberately frequenting the place where shared heart donors gathered, and avoided using various devices that prevent the procedure from taking place? The right to have the other removed is not as strong. It is even weaker if you have filled out a donor card, consenting to have the procedure done if it is required for the life of the other. Substitute fetus for heart sharer and you can see where the argument is going. Of course, this approach only goes so far, since the analogy is not really the same. Eventually, it leads back to the question of the use of criminal force to stop abortion, if only to prevent those abortions where the woman is not likely to resort to a self-induced or “back-alley” abortion. As Libertarians, we do not trust the government, or even ourselves, to make this distinction. Luckily, there is a second option.

Removing the Incentives to Abortion
As Libertarians, criminalizing abortion is forever off the table. However, this does not mean that governmental means are not to be used to discourage abortions. There are many reasons why women chose to have abortions. Young women, especially teens, are often pushed into abortion by parents who see having a child as a bad career move. In today’s society, they are right. The job of the Christian Left is to make them wrong by establishing a society that emancipates young people when they become pregnant and provides an education to anyone and everyone to their fullest ability, regardless of their family situation, through both public and private means. In a real pro-life society, women on the Mommy Track lose no ground just because they keep their babies, regardless of marital status. Any parent who is caring for a child under one year of age has their position and seniority guaranteed while they do so. In fact, their career advancement does not stop while they do so. Time parenting is of equal value to time working in terms of seniority. To do otherwise is anti-family.

Families sometimes have abortions because they cannot afford additional children. In today’s economy, many cannot. It is up to the Christian Left to change this. Alter the tax code so that every family is assured an adequate income for the number of children in the family. This is either done by increasing and broadening the Earned Income Tax Credit for personal income tax filers, or by doing so as part of a comprehensive tax reform. Under the latter reform personal income taxes on all but the richest individuals are eliminated, the responsibility to pay taxes on this income is transferred to the employer and a tax credit, payable to the employee as part of his or her wages, is given to the employer for each dependent child and stay-at-home parent of each of their employees. To take away the fear of paying for college, establish a system of public and employer funded higher education, including the payment of wages and living expenses for going to school. These solutions will be explored in more depth in other essays, although the topic demanded that they be mentioned here.

Society can also discourage abortion through education and through the requirement that any fetus to be aborted must be anesthetized once there is a heartbeat. This is both out of respect for the child’s humanity and to drive home the point to all concerned that it is a human being, even if it does not have rights. Free access to birth control for any who need it also lessens abortion.

The Church (both Catholic and Evangelical) must change its line of argument on this issue. It must stop resisting birth control, since the science on the subject shows that Church is ignoring rather obvious scientific fact. A sensible stand on birth control and stem cell research increases it’s credibility on abortion. The hierarchy must listen to the wisdom of the faithful in this regard, since the faithful are also the Church. Abandon efforts to use the power of the state against women and doctors. Such power is persecution and not fitting for a Church that was once persecuted. Instead, the Church needs to become the vanguard seeking economic incentives for life – especially those fiscal measures I have mentioned here. Provide any young woman who has a child the means to support the child, encouragement to marry the father and opportunity through a funded education for both parents to succeed at their full potential. Celebrate each child, regardless of its parentage, since many abortions occur to hide the stigma of teenage pregnancy. The Church needs to get into the business of providing education to these young families, rather than merely encouraging adoption, and fight for the dignity of mothers who work, and for the dignity of mothers who take a break from work and seek to re-enter the work force after their children are in school with no loss of career advancement. Unlike civil society, it should not simply push for the equal rights of women, it must push for the superior rights of women. Finally, a truly pro-life church excommunicates members who own businesses (either as operators or stock holders) who do not pay a just wage to growing families, i.e. giving a raise for every new child (and practicing this principle with its own employees). If it takes these steps, it is serious about advocating for Life.


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