AN OPEN LETTER TO PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS.

I resent pro-life advocates putting words in my mouth: when I say pro-choice, that is exactly what I mean, and not pro-abortion. I am against abortion, but I believe it should be opposed without enforcement of criminal law, and instead with inspiration and offering of positive options to the mother. It would be equally unjust of me to insist when you say pro-life, you mean pro-tyranny.

Reduced to simplistic form, the logic of the pro-life argument is clean and compelling: abortion is murder, and should be prohibited by enforcable law. This taken as morally fundamental, the only satisfactory resolution is total prohibition of abortion of pregnancy...for any reason whatsoever. Though protection of the unborn is the declared moral mandate of the pro-life movement, I believe very few would agree with total prohibition. More believe that certain exceptions should be made -- that some pre-natal homicide is justified by their moral evaluations.

These exceptions include pregnancy by rape or incest, and risk to the life of the mother. The moralist logic supporting these exclusions reveals the existence of a "hidden agenda" in the pro-life movement: not so much to protect the lives of the unborn, but to promulgate the position that sexual indulgence not intended for procreation is immoral and culpable. Abbey Lawrence of Libertarians For Life reveals the underlying moral theme: "....abortion [is] a vile act of aggression and an abdication of responsibility for the consequences of a freely chosen act...." This obligation being a matter of moral opinion, it is unjust to impose it by force of law upon others.

WHAT ABOUT THE RAPE EXCLUSION?

Because a woman raped did not willingly permit the sexual act which caused the pregnancy, she is not morally bound to bear the burden of parental obligation, says the rationale. Surely the circumstances of the conception do not change the fact that any abortion is homicide. The significant factor is thus revealed to be not the life of the unborn, but the motherís moral posture at conception. Under the rape exception, the unborn must be saved if she submitted to sex for erotic pleasure, but may be aborted if she resisted sex on moral grounds. Why so, if not for her convenience, or the moralist posturing of her society?

WHAT ABOUT THE INCEST EXCLUSION?

As there is no actual harm in it, incest (inter-familial breeding, not filial rape) is an offense only by taboo, but it is a strong and deeply felt taboo. What besides such revulsion to the moral circumstances of the conception could be suggested to justify murdering the innocent unborn of such union? "What about how incest creates genetic defects?" some might propose. If you would justify abortion of the unborn of an incestuous union because it might have genetic defects, then would you also admit abortion of an unborn shown to actually have a defect? If not, you reveal the issue is not the defects, but again the moral posture of the parents. If you would admit abortion of genetic defects, then why not terminate the defective upon identification at birth, instead of creating special care programs for them? If you would make distinction on the basis of parturition, then you defeat your own case against pre-natal vs. post-natal rights.

Further, if incest is an exclusion, would you grant legal abortion to any woman willing to testify that her father is also the childís? Would you grant reedom of choice in the death of the unborn to the willfully incestuous, where you would deny it to others? Or might you insist that the unborn may be aborted only so long as the parents are punished for sex crime? The issue is again revealed to be not foetal rights, but the moral posture of sexually indulgent parents.

WHAT ABOUT ABORTION TO SAVE THE MOTHERíS LIFE?

On what grounds do you place the motherís life above that of the unborn? The unborn is innocent, and it is not her fault the mother suffers. If the unwanted pregnancy is imposed upon the woman by law as a moral obligation to accept the consequences of her voluntary sexual act, then what makes her unwanted death a different obligated consequence? If you concede death of the morally culpable mother is punishment too severe, so as to justify killing the innocent unborn instead, then you presume the right to judge even unto how much suffering it is just for her to bear.

If you may create exceptions to your own rule to justify homicide by your moral evaluations, then why should not others have the right to create their own exceptions, in accordance with their moral evaluations? What makes you so special?

You say the mother has a moral obligation because of her complicity in the conception.
You say any unborn has a right to your protection by armed law enforcement from its motherís intention.
You say your willful assumption of power over the motherís life is not only justified, it identifies you as the motherís moral superior.

These contentions are all matters of opinion, no matter how serious you feel about them, or upon whose authority you choose to take them.

If any exclusions are permitted, based on moral evaluation of the circumstances of conception or inconvenience to the mother, we are no longer discussing the issue of whether or not to permit legal abortion. We are only arguing over the grounds on which it may be justified. That is to say, if you are to base your cause upon a moral mandate to protect the lives of the unborn, then you must support total prohibition or concede you have no right at all to impose your personal judgement upon the moral decisions of others.

If you would presume your moral convictions give you the right to take forcible control of the lives of others to protect their children, would you also admit the right of others to take control of your life by force of law to protect your children from your choice of work, medicine, school, religion, or family structure just because they were in their own opinion morally justified? If not, your willingness to assume power over others for their childrenís sake is self-righteous hypocrisy.

WHAT ABOUT TOTAL PROHIBITION?

If you would support total prohibition, then the issue becomes no longer one of abstract moral or ethical questions, but of mundane practicality.

To what quality of motherhood do you consign the children you would save? If you use power to take away a womanís right to control her life and body because you judge her morally unfit (as a would-be murderer), and thus force an unwanted child upon her, should not that act then obligate you to fulfill the debt of responsibility you have presumed to delegate? How can you justify leaving that child in the hands of a parent you have already judged to be morally unfit to make her own decisions? Short of raising the child yourself, the only way you could be sure you have fulfilled your duty is to insure the motherís care is continually monitored by official observation, regulation, and enforcement of legislated standards of parenthood. Who will set those standards? You? And how will you enforce them? Will you impose money fines upon women for being poor, ignorant, and unemployable school-dropout mothers? Will you put them in prison for trading in street crime -- drugs, fencing, whoring -- to feed the babies you saved? Who will care for the children then? You?

Why do we not hear pro-lifers offering to take away the burdens of the unwilling mother, to bear her expenses, to feed and clothe the child, and see to its upbringing? Apart from ensuring its unwelcome birth, it seems to me pro-lifeís actions do nothing for the child, but are all directed against the mother.

If you insist that abortion is murder in the legal sense, how would you enforce it? If the punishment is a money fine, then you are only quibbling about the price of abortion, and to whom that price is paid. If you would promote imprisonment, then how long do we incarcerate a woman for seeking, attempting, or having an abortion? Would her sentence begin before or after the birth of the surviving unborn? Might a long prison sentence be grounds for granting an abortion by the staff physician? If not, do we turn our prisons into State OB wards and nurseries? Would you make the successful murder of the unborn a capital crime? And whom else would you indict as accomplices -- her doctor, parents, husband....the manufacturer of the surgical equipment used?

If abortion were a crime, would not having a miscarriage immediately place a woman under suspicion of murder? If a woman miscarried as the result of an accident suffered through her voluntary exposure to risk -- skiing, for example -- could she not be tried for manslaughter?

An underground network would quickly be established among social workers and physicians to help make medically-competent secret abortion available to those who seek it in spite of the law. A second underground would also be created among the truly criminal to prey upon the same. So pervasive are the requirements for monitoring and controlling such activity that only a Federal agency could have the necessary oversight and authority; of that necessity would be born the APU, the Agency for the Protection of the Unborn.

To begin with, physicians would be obligated to report all positive pregnancy tests to the APU. Each positive test would be assigned a Social Security number, and a caseworker would monitor its progress until it was awarded a birth certificate or a ligitimate obituary. Failure of any woman to obtain a test before missing three menstrual periods would constitute a fine-bearing misdemeanor. Since pregnancy once detected must be carried to term, employers could stand to lose valuable woman-hours as a result of their employeesí moral shortcomings. If a woman wished to have a child, she might be required to submit notice to her employer in advance; pregnancy without notice could be grounds for dismissal. Companies failing to demand periodic (literally) pregnancy tests of women employees could be held accountable for criminal negligence to the unborn if one of them was discovered to have had an abortion. If a woman were injured or killed in an abortion attempt, her accident and life insurance would be invalid because she was in the process of committing a felony.

"Make abortion illegal and there will be no more dead babies. Women will become chaste and fathers responsible. Everything will be peachy." It is a nice dream, but an escapist fantasy. To use the law to save the lives of the unborn is a beautiful idea, but the real-life result would not be beautiful at all. Your laws would create a turbulent, crime-ridden hell in which women, their unwelcome children, and many others would be the victims.

Your hope to spare the lives of the unborn is laudable; your desire to use the power of law to enforce your hope is self-delusion by pride in your moral superiority. We are exhorted somewhere in Scripture to accomplish Godís work not by power and might, but by the Spirit. You would call upon the power of the legislature to use the might of law enforcement to save the babies so as to make yourselves appear spiritually superior. I call upon you to abandon the shortsighted expedient of force by law and instead to find positive ways to persuade those women you encounter to accept your reasoning and be moved in spirit to voluntarily forswear abortion and to lovingly raise their children. When you have changed their hearts, then you have done the work of God; if you are only forcing goats to behave as sheep in order to make yourself appear a better shepherd, you may be disillusioned to discover God is neither deceived nor impressed, and you shall have nothing but discord in the fold you would thus create.

James Nathan Post