“A principled stance against abortion makes sense only within a matrix that ties together the economic and social ordering of society”

LifeAll pro-lifers need to read John Medaille’s piece at the Front Porch Republic.  Here is a taste:

The most inflammatory debates about abortion concern pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or those which endanger the life of the mother. But as serious as these cases are, they are a tiny portion of the abortion market (and it is a market, a business), and if it were limited to that, it would be a very limited market indeed. The wider market has other causes. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “75% of abortion patients in 2014 were poor or low-income. Twenty-six percent of patients had incomes of 100–199% of the federal poverty level, and 49% had incomes of less than 100% of the federal poverty level ($15,730 for a family of two.)” That would seem to make it an economic issue, and of course that is a large part of the problem, but not the whole problem. The Institute goes on to say, “The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents.”

Again, this would seem to make it an economic problem. But I am going to make a leap here and assert that behind the economic problem lay a cultural problem, or rather three interrelated cultural problems: individualism, hedonism, and capitalism. Individualism means that we have only such responsibilities as we choose to have. But this works against women; men can easily walk away from their natural responsibilities without penalty, but women cannot. “Saddled” with children, she is no longer an “individual,” but a little community, and one that depends on support from the wider community, support that is frequently not forthcoming. In the same way, hedonism is also not an equal opportunity employer; it favors the male of the species. When men are encouraged to take their pleasures when they want and leave them when they will, contraception and abortion work as defense mechanisms.

And behind these two stands capitalism, their greatest champion and defender. For the logic of mass production flourishes best in a culture of consumerism—that is, hedonism—and it sends us messages 24/7 encouraging and normalizing the idea that we are what we consume. When a sandwich company can get away with screaming at us (literally), “I do what the ____ I like,” you know that they are not selling sandwiches, but a particular lifestyle and frame of mind, one which is destructive of community and family life by being supportive of individualism and hedonism. And capitalists feel no obligation to support the family through wages, but only to pay the lowest possible rate for labor, even if they have to go to Bangladesh to do it.

Hence the “pro-life” movement, by tying itself to the Republican Party, ties itself to the aggressive support of capitalism and to the party least likely to impose any controls or obligations on the system. Like the Fox channels, they have bracketed off the moral and cultural issues, so that they support with one hand what they oppose with the other. They oppose the culture of abortion while supporting the culture that practically demands it. This cultural/political schizophrenia lends credence to the caricature of the “pro-life” movement as supportive of pregnancy and birth but not of motherhood. After giving birth, she should get a job like everybody else and not be a drag on the body politic. The movement can help elect the slimiest president possible under the naïve belief that he will lift us from the slime. Understood this way, it is really no surprise that the most radical expression of the anti-abortion movement occurs in states like Alabama, a state with the lowest levels of support for mothers and the highest level of support for big business, a state that is ranked near the bottom in public support for healthcare, education, infrastructure, and many other things.

A principled stance against abortion makes sense only within a matrix that ties together the economic and social ordering of society. Apart from a social order that welcomes children and an economic order that supports families, the prohibition of abortion appears to be just an arbitrary denominational stricture, like fasting on Fridays or wearing a yarmulke. This lends credence to the charge that we are merely trying to enforce our religion on others. By treating it as a “single-issue” that overrides all other issues, the pro-life movement divorced the issue from the moral matrix which harmonizes it, thus making it appear self-contradictory. We have bracketed the issue from the very things that make it part of an intelligible whole. What Fox does in the name of profits, we do in the name of power.

Read the entire piece here.

HT: John Haas

3 thoughts on ““A principled stance against abortion makes sense only within a matrix that ties together the economic and social ordering of society”

  1. “The other networks and the DEMs are just as supportive of the concept of a robust business sector and free enterprise.”

    But with reasonable regulatory restrictions on unfair practices and/or practices that would endanger the public/civil order. That would probably be the biggest distinction.


  2. Jim,

    You have some insightful points. The individualism within our society is a two-edged sword and can’t be easily erased. Maybe it shouldn’t be totally eliminated anyway. The country had an individualist streak prior to our current abortion epidemic.

    While you did not mention it, Jim, Medialle’s piece had a cheap partisan flavor. He writes as if Fox News and the Republican Party are the only voices in America promoting energetic capitalism. The other networks and the DEMs are just as supportive of the concept of a robust business sector and free enterprise. They simply favor a range of different business interests.


  3. ”…cultural problems: individualism,…”

    Good luck trying to stamp this one out. It is the cornerstone of the American ethos, ethics and law.

    Given the protected status of at least two of our unalienable and Creator-given rights, the right of individual conscience and the right of individual expression, one would need to completely upend our political and legal institutions, traditions and norms (and a rewrite of the DOI and Constitution and all of our documented history).

    It would take a near totalitarian/authoritarian nationalist movement led by a power-mad, morally and ethically devoid and historically ignorant individual a system that is based on false historical narrative and unquestioned loyalty, a vast congregation of obedient fools*, and a second American revolution deploying or threatening to deploy massive second amendment rights against their political “enemies”…..that would be near impossib…..who would accept such a thing?…I’ll get back to you after 2020-21.

    * lifted from HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries referring to a political system totally dependent on bending everything to a rigid, homogeneous, one-party ideology that is slavishly loyal to a single leader and a downward cascading system of inferior magistrates….or, comrades, if you will. A system devoid of individual agency or initiative. A system where reporting an exploded nuclear reactor, empirical fact, is subordinate to party ideology and policy and can get you officially shot or disappeared. A system where science and fact-based decision making is relegated to naive, anti-state wishful thinking if it doesn’t comport with official ideology.


Comments are closed.