Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Banning late-term abortions

A very good analysis here by Josh Brahm on why it makes sense to support incremental abortion legislation.

Brahm begins with this:
"A lot of people have asked me about Georgia Right to Life’s response to the 20-week abortion ban. In case you didn’t know, they made national news by asking the pro-life legislators of Georgia to vote against the pro-life bill when a rape and incest exception was added, a necessary condition of getting it passed in the House according to members of Congress, congressional staffers, and members of the pro-life lobby."

His article is an educational piece that provides some very important political reasons why an incremental strategy has a better chance at working:
"I have some common ground with absolutists that only support perfect pro-life bills that would ban 100% of abortions. I agree that we do not want to communicate to pro-choice people that we only care about babies that feel pain, are a certain age, and are not conceived in rape. However I disagree that most forms of incremental legislation actually send that message. I think most people know how politics works."

I’m aware that The West Wing and House of Cards are not documentaries, but I know that there is some truth in the way they portray what goes on behind the scenes of getting a piece of legislation passed, because they line up with the testimonies of real people that have spent years doing exactly that. It’s not all Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where you have your principled ideas and you draft your perfect piece of legislation and then fight to keep it perfect and then the president signs it. Sadly, in the real world of politics, as Erick Erickson wrote at RedState on this topic, an “all or nothing approach will continue to lead to nothing.”

As long as the majority of our country continues to be morally confused about abortion, pro-life legislation will need to be incremental as we continue to educate our society about the humanity of the unborn, and we will attempt to save as many as we can every step of the way until every baby is safe in her mother’s womb.

I don’t think pro-choice people are at all confused by incremental legislation, because what’s implicit in these bills is that we want to save all, but we know we can’t right now, so we’re going to save the most we can, and go from there. We’re not going to give up after banning abortions after 20-weeks just like the abolitionists didn’t give up after passing the Foreign Slave Trade Bill of 1806. (More on that later.)

This is the point where people accuse me of being a utilitarian. Let me clarify my argument. I’m not saying that we should do evil that good may come. My argument is that when we pass incremental bills that will have a positive impact for the unborn, we are not actually doing evil. We are doing a good thing.

I’m not saying “We’ll kill one baby if you let another 99 go.” It’s more like if in a World War II Japanese POW camp, the Japanese soldier tells a prisoner, “We’ll let you go, and you can either take two with you and we’ll kill the other eight, or you can go alone and we’ll kill all ten.” It seems like some pro-life absolutists would say that by taking the two you’re implicitly saying it’s okay to kill the other eight. “As long as you give me these two, THEN you can kill the POW’s.” Not at all! We value life, and we’re trying to save as much as we can, every step of the way. As my brother Timothy Brahm explains, “It isn’t utilitarian to seek a good result. Good results aren’t evil. Seeking good results with evil means is evil.”

A real world example of this comes from William Wilberforce. It continues to amaze me that absolutists try to claim Wilberforce as a non-compromiser. The worst example is when a pro-life leader actually told me that Wilberforce may have compromised during his work in the abolition movement, but then regretted that later. As far as I know, there is just as much evidence for that as there is evidence of Darwin recanting on his death bed. (Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen either.)

For a full explanation of how Wilberforce used prudence in his abolitionist work, read Clarke Forsythe’s Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square. He has a whole chapter on Wilberforce. But even if you’ve only seen the movie Amazing Grace, you know that Wilberforce was not an absolutist. (I’m aware that Amazing Grace is not a documentary and that the director probably took certain liberties with this scene. But the fact that Wilberforce purposefully kept his team silent during the debate of Foreign Slave Trade Bill of 1806 and that some pro-slavery people  did not fight the bill because of that is historically accurate.) Yes, Wilberforce attempted to pass full abolition bills often, but he also would spend years at a time not trying to pass any because of a war going on. He also supported incremental anti-slavery bills and was wise enough to keep silent during the debate of the Foreign Slave Trade Bill of 1806, shrewdly tricking the pro-slavery members of parliament into thinking that this wasn’t a significant win for abolition. Any non-compromising absolutist is forced to tack onto the end of that bill, “if you don’t sell slaves to certain nations, THEN you can sell the slave.” Nonsense. It was a huge win that helped lead to ultimate abolition.

Here’s the question: do you think it’s more important to make an impact or to make a statement? I’d rather make an impact, and I reject the notion that passing a bill with a rape exception tacked onto it at the last minute sends a message to pro-choice people that we don’t care about the babies conceived in rape that are sometimes killed in abortions. They know we want to make all abortions illegal, and that makes them furious. But passing a bill that bans abortions after 20-weeks because CLEARLY those babies can feel pain would be the most significant legal pro-life victory since the Supreme Court passed the Gonzales vs. Carhart decision, upholding a ban on partial-birth abortions."

Otto Von Bismarck said in 1867 that "Politics is the art of the possible."

Canada should ban late-term abortions. That is possible. We know for a fact that there are Canadians who would support such a ban--people who would not call themselves pro-life. What exactly then, are we waiting for?

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