Saturday, June 09, 2007

Does Giuliani’s “Pro Choice” Position Make Any Sense?

Liberal Catholic politicians, not wanting to admit that they simply reject inconvenient or culturally out-of-fashion positions of the Church, often claim to be “pro-choice” on abortion.

But does this really make any sense? Via Shack Sounds Off, a recent column in the Washington Post takes issue with that.
There is, however, a question that comes before politics: Does Giuliani’s position on abortion actually make sense?

In early debates and statements, he has set out his views on this topic with all the order and symmetry of a freeway pileup. His argument comes down to this: “I hate abortion,” which is “morally wrong.” But “people ultimately have to make that choice. If a woman chooses that, that’s her choice, not mine. That’s her morality, not mine.”

But the question naturally arises: Why does Giuliani “hate” abortion? No one feels moral outrage about an appendectomy. Clearly he is implying his support for the Catholic belief that an innocent life is being taken. And here the problems begin.

How can the violation of a fundamental human right be viewed as a private matter? Not everything that is viewed as immoral should be illegal; there are no compelling public reasons to restrict adultery, for example, or to outlaw sodomy. But when morality demands respect for the rights of a human being, those protections become a matter of social justice, not just personal or religious preference.

American history has tested these arguments. In debating the Missouri Compromise, Sen. Stephen Douglas said of slavery: “I am now speaking of rights under the Constitution and not of moral or religious rights. I do not discuss the morals of the people of Missouri, but let them settle that matter for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln differed: If faith and conscience tell us that enslaved Americans are men and brothers, then slavery must eventually be ended. Passing the 13th Amendment was not “imposing” our moral views on slaveholders; it was upholding the meaning of law and justice.

Giuliani’s doctrine of individual sovereignty goes much further than did Douglas, logically preventing even states from restricting abortion. And this raises a question about Giuliani’s view of the law itself: Can it be a right to violate the basic rights of others? . . .
Of course, one can be a thoroughgoing libertarian and believe that the “basic rights of others” is a controversial matter, not to be decided by government.

The problem is: even the “right to life” of people who have already been born is often a controversial matter. Historically, plenty of people have rejected the “right to life” of certain kinds of people -- Hitler with the Jews, Stalin with the kulaks, The Ku Klux Klan with any “uppity” black person.

Government should have taken the “controversial” position that all of these group have a right to life.

The difference between a libertarian and an anarchist is that a libertarian wants to define “basic rights” narrowly, and have government enforce as few as possible. An anarchist wants the government to enforce none -- indeed, doesn’t even want a government.

So the question is: is there any principled libertarian position that says that the right to life isn’t a basic right that government should enforce? It’s hard to see what that would be, unless one wants to claim -- against all evidence and common sense -- that a fetus isn’t a human being. But some people do claim that.
A number of pro-choice positions can be held consistently. It is possible to believe that human worth develops gradually and that the early fetus is merely a clump of cells. It is possible to accept professor Peter Singer’s teaching that human worth arrives only with self-conscious rationality, opening up disturbing new possibilities of infanticide.

But Giuliani has chosen an option that is not an option -- a belief that unborn life deserves our sympathy but does not deserve rights or justice. This view is likely to dog him in the primary process, not only because it is pro-choice but because it is incoherent.
The entire “pro-choice” view is incoherent in a larger sense.

The “pro-choice” crowd is chronically anti-choice when it comes to any behavior of which they disapprove. Like smoking. Or owning a gun. Or owning an SUV.

And they not only reject the idea that whites should be free to choose to discriminate against blacks, they want government for force whites to discriminate in favor of blacks.

Indeed, they would force anti-abortion taxpayers to pay for abortions.

When one is “pro-choice” only when one approves of the choice in question, one is not pro-choice at all.

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