Abortion and the Moral Law

One of the most perplexing issues as a pro-life apologist is how my opponents on the pro-choice side can justify their position on abortion.  I’ve never heard one argument that follows any logic or any argument that is supported by any evidence for their cause.  All I ever hear is “I’m for a woman’s right to choose” or “a woman’s body is hers to control” or words to this effect.  Never are these arguments followed by evidence or logic to support the statement made.

Abortion has been an accepted part of our culture since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.  Most of our universities, mass media and Hollywood accept and promote abortion as a right just like the right to drive and own property.  The unborn are always treated as a piece of tissue, akin to your tonsils– never a human life.  Pro-choice politicians of either party will tell you that they believe “in a woman’s right to choose.”  There are many reasons why our culture accepts abortion.  In this piece, however, I will deal with one of them – a denial of the moral law.

The pro-abortion side won a major cultural victory when they brilliantly were able to market their position as “pro-choice.”  Being “pro-choice” is a value-neutral term and is easy for most people to accept.  Who, after all, can be against personal choice?  But what does this choice mean?  John Horvat II explains in an article called “Beyond Pro-Life, Fighting the Culture War.  Horvat states:

And this “choice” means freedom from rules, morals or restraints.  An unlimited choice is what unifies the radicals of the Culture War.  Thus, they display a consistent unity favoring not only abortion but also any other practice – free love, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transgender or any sexual deviation – that favors a raging sensuality.  In short, their unifying principle is this “freedom” which is actually a revolt against moral law ranging from a mild irritation to a rabid fanaticism.

I am not suggesting that this is true for all pro-abortion advocates, but it is true for most.  Most pro-choice advocates, I have found, believe in moral relativism – the belief that they and they alone can be the sole arbiters of what is right or wrong for them.  I have found that with pro-choice Christians, there exists a personal belief in their right to make moral judgments apart from the Church or any moral law.  All you have to do to verify this is to look at a Catholic, for instance, who is pro-choice, even though the Catholic Church condemns abortion in the strongest terms, or a liberal Protestant who goes against what his faith community teaches.

As  one who has been on both sides of this issue, I can testify that this description was eerily correct for me.  As I hearken back to when I was on the “pro-choice” side, one of the reasons was so that I would have the freedom to say, well, I may have been wrong but I felt that I was right at the time.  In other words, I was trying to set myself up so as to have “plausible deniability.”   I was convinced, in other words, by the moral relativism of the culture that whatever one thinks is right for them is right, and accordingly, no punishment would follow.

Much has been written about the “law written in our heart.”  The Bible, in Romans 2:15 states: “since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”  The law written in our hearts refers to the rules of proper conduct that all of us humans share inherently.  In other words, most of us would agree that we automatically know what is right and what is wrong even in the absence of any written law or teaching.  We instinctually know that to steal from our neighbor is wrong; to abuse children is wrong; to lie is wrong and so on.  J. Budziszewski has written two books on this subject.  One of them is titled What We Can’t Not Know.  In this book Budziszewski talks about the foundational moral principles that are the same for all, both as rectitude and to knowledge and that these principles are for everyone.  To say that they are the same means that at some level, everyone knows them:  The murderer knows that murder is wrong, the adulterer, that adultery is wrong, and the mocker that mockery is wrong.[i]

Budziszewski’s argument is as follows:  “However rude it may be these days to say so, there are some moral truths that we all really know – truths which a normal human being is unable not to know.  They are universal possession, an emblem of rational mind, and heirloom of the family of man.[ii] 

When it comes to abortion, I’m afraid that the pro-choice person knows that the unborn is human but refuses to acknowledge it, thinking that if they do not think about it or confront the reality, they can claim “plausible deniability.”  Having been pro-choice myself, I can testify that this was true for me.  In talking to my pro-choice friends – and I have many of them, some belong to my Catholic church, I can assume, with good reason, that this is their reasoning too.  Many, probably, would deny this allegation, but I believe that the denial would be for self-protection.

J. Budziszewski, in another book on this type of subject called Written on the Heart talks about the Natural Law.  He drives his point home strongly when he states: “From this perspective, most modern ethical thinking goes about matters backwards.  It assumes that the problem of human sin is mainly cognitive – that it has to do with the state of our knowledge.  In other words, it holds that we do not know what’s right or wrong and we are trying to find out.  But natural-law theory assumes that the problem is mainly volitional – that it has to do with the state of our will.  It holds that we know what’s right and wrong but wish we didn’t and that we try to keep ourselves in ignorance so that we can do as we please.”[iii]  The defense rests.

[i]  J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know, (Spence Publishing, 2003), p. 3

[ii] J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know, (Spence Publishing, 2003), p.19

[iii] J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart, A Case for Natural Law, (InterVarsity Press, 1997), p.185


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