Mormons the most pro-life

February 7, 2008 | 45 comments
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Matt Evans has linked to a Life News report on exit polls showing that of all the Super Tuesday voters, Utah GOP voters were the most pro-life.

Note that these voters weren’t asked if they were pro-life or not. They were asked when abortion should be illegal; voters who responded that it should be mostly or always illegal were classified as pro-life and Utah had the highest percentage, 85%.

Curiously Life News didn’t mention that Utah had the highest percentage of pro-life voters. That may be due to another curious fact. Utah actually had the lowest percentage of voters who thought abortion should be always illegal, 10%, beating out Massachussetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New York. But Utah by far had the highest percentage who thought abortion should be mostly illegal. 75%.

As everyone knows, its universally acknowledged that statistics about Utahns are really statistics about Mormons everywhere. But the extremely high percentages who thought abortion should be mostly illegal and the low percentages who thought it should be always illegal make me think in this case the universal truth might really be true. Not to mention that 90% of the GOP voters voted for Romney.

I’ve seen surveys on pro-life attitudes before that broke out the results by religion, but I can’t find them just now (nor could I find Utah exit poll data with cross tabs). The actual proportion of Mormon pro-life voters would obviously vary depending on the number of pro-choice gentile Republicans in Utah and the number of pro-choice Mormon Democrats and any systematic differences between Mormons in Utah and elsewhere. But obviously a pretty high percentage of my fellow Saints are pro-life and I’m proud of them. They give us a shine.

Pro-lifers should take also take note that apparently you get a higher over-all percentage of pro-life voters when you are willing to allow some exceptions.

P.S. For a collection of T&S discussions on abortion, see here:

http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4362

If you’re wanting to bloviate on abortion in general, see here:

http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4001

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45 Responses to Mormons the most pro-life

  1. Deep Sea on February 7, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Declaring one-self “pro-life” (or its rhetorical opposite) isn’t about unborn babies, it’s not about the well-being of the mother, it’s not about religious beliefs or affiliation. It’s politics, pure and simple.

  2. sister blah 2 on February 7, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I wonder if the survey results would be different if they could separate out legality and morality. So, for example, I would bet that a very high (even 70-high 80s) percentage of voters in the bluest states would say that it is amoral in most cases. But the “choice” word refers to the idea that it can be impractical to have somebody from the government, short of Solomon himself, deciding which cases are which.

    The only thing that separates the vast, vast majority of pro-choice and pro-life people is the view on legality, not morality (note to non-experts in basic logic: trotting out single examples of extreme pro-choice views does not constitute a counterargument to this).

    I also suspect that if more pro-lifers became more consciously cognizant of the possibility of such a legal/moral separation, more would change their minds on it. (who among us would outlaw divorce?)

  3. Adam Greenwood on February 7, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    The voters weren’t asked whether or not they were pro-life. They were asked if they thought abortion should be always illegal, mostly illegal, mostly legal, or always legal.

  4. sister blah 2 on February 7, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Right. I’m just curious how the numbers would come out if in addition to those 4 categories, they were asked 4 more categories: always amoral, mostly amoral, etc.

  5. Jeremiah J. on February 7, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I was actually surprised to see how many pro-choice Republicans there were in Florida and even South Carolina from the cross tabs. I seem to remember some signfiicant minority, like 20-30 percent.

    I’d be interested to see how *salient* abortion is to Mormon pro-life voters. How much do they base their vote on the issue? It’s very hypothetical, but had Romney stayed pro-choice and run we could have had some answers to the question.

    “pro-choice Mormon Democrats”

    When I worked in the Utah state legislature I saw votes on the abortion issue, From what I remember about half of the Democrats voted pro-life. My knowledge and memory of who was Mormon or not is shaky.

  6. MAC on February 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Deep Sea, #1

    It’s politics, pure and simple.

    That makes no sense at all. A political issue with no underlying concerns or motivations? An issue orchestrated to appeal to ones inner political compass and force them into partisanship?

  7. Loyd on February 8, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Have most Mormons not read the Church’s official stance on abortion?

    The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

    • Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or

    • A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or

    • A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

    The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

    How can they claim that abortions should be illegal when the Church explicitly states that certain abortions are morally permissible? Roe v. Wade made it possible for women in many states to get an abortion for a pregnancy resulting from rape. Without RvW, a Texan Mormon would go to prison for aborting her rape-conceived fetus.

    The Church’s official position says that abortion should be a careful “decision” by the parties involved. Isn’t a decision a choice?

  8. sister blah 2 on February 8, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Loyd I think your observations are in line with the data–Utahns overwhelmingly prefer *few* exceptions, and even more overwhelmingly reject *no* exceptions. So they are simultaneously more conservative and more liberal than in other states.

  9. Adam Greenwood on February 8, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Loyd, sb2 is right, but you should also note that the Church doesn’t state that certain abortions are morally permissible. It prohibits most abortions and is neutral on certain exceptions.

  10. Loyd on February 8, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Adam, neutrality is moral permissibility. You shouldn’t confuse moral permissibility with moral uprightness, obligation, or propitiousness.

    While sb2 may be right, the ‘with exceptions’ clause in the legality of abortion debate among Mormons typically signifies ignorance concerning the philosophical and legal issues concerning abortion. The real problem with RvW deals with the federal/state governance issue. Few Mormons recognize that RvW protects the rights of Mormon (and other) women to have an abortion when their prayers and reason say that it is the morally permissible, or even morally obligatory, thing to do.

  11. Adam Greenwood on February 9, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Adam, neutrality is moral permissibility.

    “X is permissible,” is not the same as “I don’t know if X is permissible, *you* figure it out.”

    Few Mormons recognize that RvW protects the rights of Mormon (and other) women to have an abortion when their prayers and reason say that it is the morally permissible, or even morally obligatory, thing to do

    Many Mormons recognize that Roe v. Wade prevents Mormons and others from protecting the unborn in circumstances where they feel it is morally obligatory to do so.

  12. Loyd on February 9, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    “X is permissible,” is not the same as “I don’t know if X is permissible, *you* figure it out.”

    Does the Church say “I don’t know” about certain cases of abortion? No. Read the position: “The Church allows for possible exceptions…” These exceptions are such when “the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.” Read it again. “the Church ALLOWS“.

    al·low /əˈlaʊ/
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to give permission to or for; permit:

    Many Mormons recognize that Roe v. Wade prevents Mormons and others from protecting the unborn in circumstances where they feel it is morally obligatory to do so.

    Does it prevent Mormons from education the pregnant woman? Does it prevent Mormons from offering alternatives (none of which are easy)? There are many ways in which Mormons can try to protect the unborn without trying to force their religious opinions on others.

    Furthermore, the legalization of ‘the exceptions’ is an impossibility. Rape is at times difficult enough to prove when a pregnancy does not result (think of the Duke case). The exceptional legalization of abortion due to rape would be chaotic. Unwanted pregnancies would create false claims of rape when rape did not occur. By the time a rape could be proven, a woman might already have come to full-term or have carried it to a point past the point of viability where many states have outlawed abortions. Furthermore, the legalization of abortion for moral ‘exceptions’ counters the very argument which is used to ban other abortions. If the clump of cells is a human life (or potential human life) requiring protection, then that life should be protected regardless of how that child was conceived (ex. rape, incest).

    States that have recently attempted to fight against RvW have realized this as they have passed laws banning ALL abortions except in cases where the life (and extreme health) of the mother is at risk.

  13. Adam Greenwood on February 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    As far as I’m concerned, sir, “possible exceptions” to be determined by the individual is the equivalent of “I don’t know.” If you want to call this permission, you may. But as we have discussed at length elsewhere, you’re assuming what I think is an invalid chain of logic
    ‘the church does not penalize this activity’ => ‘this activity is morally permissible’. If you want to continue the argument, please go read those discussions first (follow the links at the end of this post) and leave your comment there. Send me an email at adam at times and seasons dot org with a link to your comment and I’ll respond. Same goes with your other claims.

  14. Loyd on February 9, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    No, sir, I’m not making any invalid logical jumps. Here is my argument:

    “The Church allows for possible exceptions”

  15. Matt Evans on February 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Loyd, the church policy states only that there are abortions for which it’s members will not be subject to church discipline. That is not the equivalent of moral neutrality. The inclusion of the qualifier “possible” shows that while necessary for a permissible abortion, the listed exceptions may not be sufficient. That is also the point of their noting that “even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically” — the circumstances are necessary but not sufficient.

  16. Loyd on February 9, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Loyd, the church policy states only that there are abortions for which it’s members will not be subject to church discipline.

    I seemed to miss that line. Where does it say that?

    The inclusion of the qualifier “possible” shows that while necessary for a permissible abortion, the listed exceptions may not be sufficient.

    Or they may be sufficient if that’s what God tells them

    should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

    But then again, why would God tell them to get an abortion?

    Would God give them the okay to something that is not morally permissible?

    Why not just take the Church’s position at face value? Why must you interject your hard pro-life position into it?

  17. queuno on February 9, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Loyd, while I am sympathetic to your sentiments, let me ask you what you think the Church would do if abortion were about to be banned? Would they lead an effort to maintain those exceptions?

    Methinks that the exceptions are only in place because abortions are legal, not that the Church is trying to be progressive on the issue.

  18. Loyd on February 9, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    queuno, as the Church tends to be far behind in issues in social progression, I’m guessing the Church would just sit back and hope someone else does the hard work.Because of it’s PR-drivenness, the Church avoids getting in politically divisive issues – even when they perhaps ought to.

  19. Matt Evans on February 10, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Loyd, I no longer have a copy of the CHI, but the first paragraph of my 1998 edition ended by saying that members who encouraged, performed or submitted to abortion could be subject to church discipline. The next paragraph introduced the exceptions.

    Or [the exceptions] may be sufficient if that’s what God tells them

    That’s the key — the exception isn’t sufficient, it’s counseling with church leaders and God’s telling them that’s sufficient. The exceptions themselves are necessary but not sufficient (or “automatic,” as the policy puts it).

  20. t-bone on February 10, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Given the “of course Romney was the best candidate–no doubt about it” tone of much of the discussion here lately, and also given the “of course Mormons should be pro-life–no doubt about it” tone of some recent discussion, here, too, I have a question. I’d like to know how those who have the attitudes/beliefs behind those tones react(ed) to the clip that was on youtube where Romney insisted that the Church is not pro-life, that “some leaders of the Church” are pro-choice, and that it is absolutely crucial to distinguish questions of morality from questions of legality/policy. (I can’t find the clip just now–perhaps it has been taken down. I believe it was from Jackie Mason’s show.)

  21. Johnna on February 10, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Pro-lifers should take also take note that apparently you get a higher over-all percentage of pro-life voters when you are willing to allow some exceptions.
    Thanks for saying it.
    I really think the cause of reducing abortion in our country has been hurt by the never-abortion-ever lobby.

  22. Loyd on February 10, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Matt, I never said they were automatic conditions. I don’t think any ethical issues can be resolved with automatic exceptions. Such an ethical calculus denies the complexity that exists in ethical dilemmas, especially those of abortion. This is one of the reasons why i deplore attempts at ‘exception’-based abortion laws. They try to define and draw non-existent moral boundaries. Similarly, as my view of a clump of cells is not philosophically, theologically, or scientifically a person – a hate the idea of someone with theological differences wanting to legally demand their theology upon me or others. Even if those clumps of cells were persons or ‘potential persons’ to draw a simple line expecting rape and incest ignores the complex dilemmas resulting from unwanted accidental pregnancies being carried to full-term.

  23. Matt Evans on February 10, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    #20 – most Mormons support laws prohibiting abortion, but the church teaches only that abortion is wrong. The closest I’ve ever seen to the church trying to connect the immoral-illegal dots was Dallin H. Oaks’ Weightier Matters talk he gave at BYU.

  24. Matt Evans on February 10, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    #22 – many ethical issues are decided automatically by exceptions (i.e. acts prohibited generally that are morally acceptable if there’s consent). And there’s no escaping our need to define “person” morally or legally. The abolitionists and slavery apologists never saw that issue eye-to-eye, either. As for complex dilemmas, I think most of them can be sorted out once we recognize that a child exists from fertilization, and parental obligations, too.

  25. leann on February 10, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    As interesting and well thought out as these comments are, I feel as if we are arguing over whether or not the grass is tall enough to cut. This isn’t an argument to be made without feeling- it cannot be. The women who go through this, go through agony and torment in most cases. Although, I must point out that I do think abortion is absolutely morally wrong in cases where accidental pregnancies end in abortion- I cannot say if I were put in a life or death situation I wouldn’t consider abortion.

    Here’s a thought to throw in the mix- what if a mother would most likely die if she were to deliver the child? Should she be punished for wanting to live and care for her previous or future children. How selfish to say it is never morally acceptable if a woman has prayed and received answer that this was the right choice. Is it morally right to give up your life and leave your husband and family just because you \’might\’ be subject to discipline by the church. And does morality even come into play in such instances?

    I truly believe abortion should be legal, although I don\’t condone it in frivolous instances. It would be absolutely chaotic to determine when it is morally acceptable and when it is not. And I don\’t believe we are in a position to impose our beliefs on anyone, unless it causes direct harm to ourselves or our families.

  26. Adam Greenwood on February 10, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    And I don\’t believe we are in a position to impose our beliefs on anyone, unless it causes direct harm to ourselves or our families.

    I see no problem with white abolitionists opposing black slavery.

  27. Loyd on February 10, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Matt…

    the church teaches only that abortion is wrong

    No it doesn’t. There Church teaches that “elective abortion for personal or social convenience” are wrong. Stop saying things that aren’t true.

    once we recognize that a child exists from fertilization

    Why should we recognize something that isn’t true?

  28. leann on February 10, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    What does that have to do with anything we are talking about? You are not going to make your point very well if you walk around it. Really that was the only rebuttal you could come up with? Is this a discussion or the fourth grade? You really like to play semantics, don’t you?

    Obviously, what I meant by being in a position to impose our beliefs clearly has nothing to do with human rights. My issue is with what is morally right… the mother aborting her child to save her life, or having the child and losing her own.

    I appreciate other opinions on this matter, and respect others views and beliefs, but if we can’t even stay in the discussion what is the point?

  29. leann on February 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    and my previous comment was directed to adam who replied to my comments. :)

  30. leann on February 10, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Oh and I should probably make one adjustment to what I had said, My comment does in fact deal with human rights, and that is the right of the mother to choose to keep her own life, and the well being of that life…. I hope you understood what I meant.

    I swear I’ll get it straight sooner or later.

  31. Jiim Cobabe on February 10, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    #25

    I don\’t believe we are in a position to impose our beliefs on anyone, unless it causes direct harm to ourselves or our families.

    Not sure what “position” we need to impose beliefs, but actually we seem to do it often enough, and generally without giving it much thought.

    In fact my understanding is that imposition of beliefs is the basis for civil law, e.g., “We believe [some act] is bad and wrong, therefore, we prohibit this act under our law, and make provision to punish any who violate this law.”

  32. leann on February 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Jiim-

    That is true in a lot of instances, but I am specifically referring to the situation I stated in my post.

    Obviously law in important and necessary from endless reasons. I am no anarchist. I think you are reading into that particular statement to the degree that you have missed my point.

    Let me sum it up for you-

    If your wife was in the position where she would die if she delivered your child, could you honestly ask her to give up her life just in case its not morally acceptable? And furthermore, in those instances, there’s a chance the child may not even survive the birth.

    Are you avoiding my entire point of writing the statement because you are afraid of what it might mean if you agreed that the situation is in fact an acceptable circumstance?

    Please don’t avoid the discussion by talking about abolition of slavery and civil law…. come on…. you really think that is what I was trying to say.

    I would really love to hear some opinions about the topic at hand.

  33. Adam Greenwood on February 11, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Leann, if I understand it you’re arguing that there should not be laws outlawing abortion if the life of the mother is threatened. If you’re not getting a lot of argument, its probably because we agree with you.

  34. leann on February 11, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Earlier in the thread there was a discussion over whether it is morally acceptable and my point is that is ALWAYS is in these exteme circumstances.

    Arguing over the definition of allow does not prove whether the church thinks it is morally acceptable. I was just putting one of the church’s points into an example so it is more clearly seen that it is in fact morally acceptable, and the church would think so otherwise it wouldn’t make these statements.

    But I’m glad to hear you do think it is morally acceptable in those types of instances.

  35. leann on February 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    And to further state what I am saying- I don’t think there should be laws outlawing abortion in any circumstance. Like I had said before, it would be too chaotic and could possibly hurt the one’s who need it.

    I think the frivolous abortions are wrong, but I think that is something that is between them and God.

  36. Adam Greenwood on February 11, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Leann, I don’t have an opinion on whether its morally acceptable.

  37. leann on February 11, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    “Loyd, sb2 is right, but you should also note that the Church doesn’t state that certain abortions are morally permissible. It prohibits most abortions and is neutral on certain exceptions.”

    This is the statement you made that I am referring to. Maybe you don’t have an opinion, but the church does- I don’t believe the church would guide us in the wrong direction. If they didn’t think the aforementioned statements were morally acceptable they wouldn’t say so.

    If you want to argue that their stance is one of “i don’t know” maybe you would be better suited for another church.

    And to add to that I think taking a stance of neutrality on this matter is a slap in the face to the women who are forced to go through this. Telling them that what they are doing may or may not be morally permissible when they have no choice in the matter makes no sense at all, and is devoid of all compassion.

  38. Adam Greenwood on February 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I don’t believe the church would guide us in the wrong direction.

    I think that’s pretty unlikely too. But telling couples to seek guidance from God is hardly guiding them in the wrong direction.

  39. leann on February 11, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Oh I don’t disagree. I think asking for guidance from God should always be something you should do first and foremost in any situation that their may be a question of morality. I wasn’t saying asking for guidance is bad in anyway, because their is always the possibility that God can give you insight the doctors may not.

    I never suggested that asking God for guidance was the wrong thing to do. I was merely responding to your suggestion that it may not be morally permissible. I’m saying it is morally permissible and already gave the reasons why I believe so.

    Praying for guidance doesn’t always have to do with something that is morally permissible or not- its to know the direction you should take in your particular circumstance.

  40. Adam Greenwood on February 11, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I never suggested it would be morally impermissible to ask God’s guidance.

  41. leann on February 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Neither did I. I was agreeing with you. I see how you misunderstood the statement I made….

    “I never suggested that asking God for guidance was the wrong thing to do. I was merely responding to your suggestion that it may not be morally permissible (insert to have an abortion under the circumstances mentioned).”

  42. Rhonda Godwin on February 13, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I\’m amazed that the Mormon Church\’s official stance is that an abortion is permissble if the pregnancy results from rape or incest. Ethel Merman was the product of incest. Thank a Higher Power than the Mormons for not killing her inutero. Consider the following article by Charles Moore in the London Telegraph recently & wake up:

    \”This week, I received an invitation to the opening of a new gallery in the Museum in Docklands, an offshoot of the Museum of London.
    The gallery, which is in an old sugar warehouse, will be called \”London, Sugar and Slavery\”. \”Discover,\” says the invitation, \”how the English sweet tooth, consumer boycotts and the Notting Hill Carnival are linked by one of the great crimes against humanity\”.
    The opening of the gallery marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. The publicity material speaks of \”obscene profits, horrific brutality\” and how \”the seeds of racism\” were sown. It would be an understatement to say that the museum organisers regard slavery as a wholly evil thing.
    On the same day as I opened my invitation, Dawn Primarolo, whose name sounds like a brand of margarine, but is actually the health minister, was telling the Commons Science and Technology Committee that there was no justification for lowering the limit for abortion below the current 24 weeks.
    In doing so, she was going against those who argue that medical advances now make it easier for children born before 24 weeks to survive.
    As if timing it to undermine Miss Primarolo\’s position, Millie McDonagh, who was born in Manchester aged 22 weeks, celebrated her first birthday the following day, photographed with her mother in the newspapers.
    I found myself wondering how abortion will be viewed by museum curators, teachers, historians and moralists 200 years from now.
    As the slavery exhibition shows, something that one generation accepts readily enough is often seen as abhorrent by its descendants – so abhorrent, in fact, that people find it almost impossible to understand how it could have been countenanced in a supposedly civilised society.
    How could people not see that Africans should not be bought and sold for the convenience of our trade or our domestic life? We reserve particular scorn for those who sought to justify slavery on moral grounds. We look at the moral blindness of the past, and tut-tut, rather complacently.
    It is not hard to imagine how a future Museum of London exhibition about abortion could go. It could buy up a 20th-century hospital building as its space, and take visitors round, showing them how, in one ward, staff were trying to save the lives of premature babies while, in the next, they were killing them.
    It could compare the procedure by which the corpse of a baby who had died after or during premature birth was presented by the hospital to the mother to assist with grieving, with the way a similar corpse, if aborted, was thrown away.
    It could display the various instruments that were used to remove and kill the foetus, rather as the manacles and collars of slaves can be seen today.
    It could make a telling show of the propaganda that was used to promote abortion – the language of choice, control of a woman over her own body – and compare it with less happy information about the infertility caused by abortion, or depression or about the link between breast cancer and having an abortion before the birth of the first child.
    It could show how women, vulnerable and often alone, came under pressure from the medical authorities to have an abortion without being offered help with the alternative.
    The museum could make a pretty devastating contrast between the huge growth of rights for the disabled, which began in the late-20th century, and the fact that the disability (or even mild deformity) of a child was always grounds for abortion.
    Just as, today, we are invited to glare at the Georgian portraits of fat, bewigged English sugar planters or pro-slavery politicians, there could be a rogues\’ gallery of pro-abortionists.
    Here Marie Stopes, the great advocate of abortion and pioneer of \”sexual health\”, who was also in favour of sterilising \”half-castes\”; there Lord Steel of Aikenwood, the leader of the Liberal Party, whose 1967 Abortion Act produced more than seven million abortions in 40 years.
    How about a picture of Dawn Primarolo, accompanied by her words this week, and juxtaposed with photographs of children born before 24 weeks, who grew up and led full lives?
    In many ways, I accept, such a museum of the future would be extremely unfair. We anti-abortionists should not paint all those who disagree with us as callous.
    Many of those who support abortion have a deep concern about the horrors of an unwanted child, not realising that the culture of abortion is one that promotes unwantedness.
    Others worry about world population growth. For reasons too long to explain here, I think they are mistaken, but I would certainly not want to argue that this automatically makes them haters of the human race.
    We should be conscious of how genuinely difficult some of the situations of a pregnant woman can be. We should think more of help and less of condemnation.
    Much better, as the late Cardinal Thomas Winning did, to give practical assistance to hard-pressed mothers who do not abort their children than to attack the clinics attended by those who do.
    And although I cannot think of any good arguments for slavery, I think there is something priggish and unhistorical about the approach of the Museum in Docklands, which seems to be jumping into a pulpit rather than spreading information.
    An anti-abortion museum in 200 years would be less educational than one that simply told the whole extraordinary story.
    But the reason I throw this argument into the future is that, with the passage of time, abortion, especially late abortion, is slowly coming to be seen as a \”solution\” dating from an era that is passing. It will therefore be discredited.
    Partly it is the effect of technology. My wife and I still have the video of the scan of our twins at about 18 weeks. You can see heads and limbs. That was in 1989. It bears the same relation to the technology today as do silent, black and white films to modern Hollywood hyper-realism.
    Nowadays, it is even more visible and undeniable, as it was not to the first generation of people who had legal abortions, that what you are removing is human – human, though usually not in independent form, like you and I.
    It is also visible that this human entity is alive, and therefore that, by removing it, you are taking life.
    You may say that this physical image should not make a difference to the moral case, but in practice it does. The famous anti-slavery image was of a black man in chains, on his knees, saying, \”Am I not a man and a brother?\”
    It was powerful because it used the physical to make a direct moral appeal: this person is essentially like you in body and soul, so why do you deny him the rights which you demand for yourself? To see a foetus in the womb is to experience the same appeal.
    If you want to do people wrong, you must first undermine the idea that they are people. The Nazis called Jews rats. The Hutu in Rwanda called the Tutsis cockroaches. Pseudo-Darwinian views promoted ideas about racial purity or mental or physical health which allowed those who lacked these qualities to be seen as \”inferior stock\”.
    One of the good moral trends of our time has been to reject this way of looking at things. Instead, we insist, in the great debate about what it means to be human, that weakness is not a disqualification, but, by a famous Christian paradox, a strength.
    Abortion runs against this trend, and so civilisation will eventually reject it, as once it rejected slavery.

    This week, I received an invitation to the opening of a new gallery in the Museum in Docklands, an offshoot of the Museum of London.
    The gallery, which is in an old sugar warehouse, will be called \”London, Sugar and Slavery\”. \”Discover,\” says the invitation, \”how the English sweet tooth, consumer boycotts and the Notting Hill Carnival are linked by one of the great crimes against humanity\”.
    The opening of the gallery marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. The publicity material speaks of \”obscene profits, horrific brutality\” and how \”the seeds of racism\” were sown. It would be an understatement to say that the museum organisers regard slavery as a wholly evil thing.
    On the same day as I opened my invitation, Dawn Primarolo, whose name sounds like a brand of margarine, but is actually the health minister, was telling the Commons Science and Technology Committee that there was no justification for lowering the limit for abortion below the current 24 weeks.
    In doing so, she was going against those who argue that medical advances now make it easier for children born before 24 weeks to survive.
    As if timing it to undermine Miss Primarolo\’s position, Millie McDonagh, who was born in Manchester aged 22 weeks, celebrated her first birthday the following day, photographed with her mother in the newspapers.
    I found myself wondering how abortion will be viewed by museum curators, teachers, historians and moralists 200 years from now.
    As the slavery exhibition shows, something that one generation accepts readily enough is often seen as abhorrent by its descendants – so abhorrent, in fact, that people find it almost impossible to understand how it could have been countenanced in a supposedly civilised society.
    How could people not see that Africans should not be bought and sold for the convenience of our trade or our domestic life? We reserve particular scorn for those who sought to justify slavery on moral grounds. We look at the moral blindness of the past, and tut-tut, rather complacently.
    It is not hard to imagine how a future Museum of London exhibition about abortion could go. It could buy up a 20th-century hospital building as its space, and take visitors round, showing them how, in one ward, staff were trying to save the lives of premature babies while, in the next, they were killing them.
    It could compare the procedure by which the corpse of a baby who had died after or during premature birth was presented by the hospital to the mother to assist with grieving, with the way a similar corpse, if aborted, was thrown away.
    It could display the various instruments that were used to remove and kill the foetus, rather as the manacles and collars of slaves can be seen today.
    It could make a telling show of the propaganda that was used to promote abortion – the language of choice, control of a woman over her own body – and compare it with less happy information about the infertility caused by abortion, or depression or about the link between breast cancer and having an abortion before the birth of the first child.
    It could show how women, vulnerable and often alone, came under pressure from the medical authorities to have an abortion without being offered help with the alternative.
    The museum could make a pretty devastating contrast between the huge growth of rights for the disabled, which began in the late-20th century, and the fact that the disability (or even mild deformity) of a child was always grounds for abortion.
    Just as, today, we are invited to glare at the Georgian portraits of fat, bewigged English sugar planters or pro-slavery politicians, there could be a rogues\’ gallery of pro-abortionists.
    Here Marie Stopes, the great advocate of abortion and pioneer of \”sexual health\”, who was also in favour of sterilising \”half-castes\”; there Lord Steel of Aikenwood, the leader of the Liberal Party, whose 1967 Abortion Act produced more than seven million abortions in 40 years.
    How about a picture of Dawn Primarolo, accompanied by her words this week, and juxtaposed with photographs of children born before 24 weeks, who grew up and led full lives?
    In many ways, I accept, such a museum of the future would be extremely unfair. We anti-abortionists should not paint all those who disagree with us as callous.
    Many of those who support abortion have a deep concern about the horrors of an unwanted child, not realising that the culture of abortion is one that promotes unwantedness.
    Others worry about world population growth. For reasons too long to explain here, I think they are mistaken, but I would certainly not want to argue that this automatically makes them haters of the human race.
    We should be conscious of how genuinely difficult some of the situations of a pregnant woman can be. We should think more of help and less of condemnation.
    Much better, as the late Cardinal Thomas Winning did, to give practical assistance to hard-pressed mothers who do not abort their children than to attack the clinics attended by those who do.
    And although I cannot think of any good arguments for slavery, I think there is something priggish and unhistorical about the approach of the Museum in Docklands, which seems to be jumping into a pulpit rather than spreading information.
    An anti-abortion museum in 200 years would be less educational than one that simply told the whole extraordinary story.
    But the reason I throw this argument into the future is that, with the passage of time, abortion, especially late abortion, is slowly coming to be seen as a \”solution\” dating from an era that is passing. It will therefore be discredited.
    Partly it is the effect of technology. My wife and I still have the video of the scan of our twins at about 18 weeks. You can see heads and limbs. That was in 1989. It bears the same relation to the technology today as do silent, black and white films to modern Hollywood hyper-realism.
    Nowadays, it is even more visible and undeniable, as it was not to the first generation of people who had legal abortions, that what you are removing is human – human, though usually not in independent form, like you and I.
    It is also visible that this human entity is alive, and therefore that, by removing it, you are taking life.
    You may say that this physical image should not make a difference to the moral case, but in practice it does. The famous anti-slavery image was of a black man in chains, on his knees, saying, \”Am I not a man and a brother?\”
    It was powerful because it used the physical to make a direct moral appeal: this person is essentially like you in body and soul, so why do you deny him the rights which you demand for yourself? To see a foetus in the womb is to experience the same appeal.
    If you want to do people wrong, you must first undermine the idea that they are people. The Nazis called Jews rats. The Hutu in Rwanda called the Tutsis cockroaches. Pseudo-Darwinian views promoted ideas about racial purity or mental or physical health which allowed those who lacked these qualities to be seen as \”inferior stock\”.
    One of the good moral trends of our time has been to reject this way of looking at things. Instead, we insist, in the great debate about what it means to be human, that weakness is not a disqualification, but, by a famous Christian paradox, a strength.
    Abortion runs against this trend, and so civilisation will eventually reject it, as once it rejected slavery.

  43. Adam Greenwood on February 13, 2008 at 12:32 am

    Pro-life absolutism makes the pro-life cause less successful. You seem to be convinced that the cause will prevail in the long run, but in the short run millions of unborn are being aborted and you’re putting off the day when a majority of them will be protected in law.

  44. Rhonda Godwin on February 15, 2008 at 4:14 am

    When man takes in into his mind the doctrine or practice of unlimited authority & control (depotism; predestination) this is absolutism, or playing God, deciding who will live & who will die – the same positiveness the slavers had that what they were doing was right & indeed, their eventual failure was guaranteed. I am absolutely convinced that right is might & as enslaving other human beings went the way of the dinosaur, so abortion will. You logic escapes me as to how my position is “putting of the day when a majority of them will be protected in law.” Do you refer to the unborn or the abortionists? Lincoln was absolutely convinced of the falseness, the wrongness of slavery. In no way did his absolutism put off the day of freedom for the enslaved any more than will mine or Charles Moore’s or millions of others on the planet will with regard to the awful, terrible, wrongful murder of zillions of tiny little babies. And we will be seen as the enlightened ones in a sad period of un-civilization.

  45. Adam Greenwood on April 24, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Lincoln was in no way an absolutist. He was willing to allow slavery to continue where it already was and was even willing to strengthen the laws returning fugitive slaves. Most historians agree that if he and the Republican party as a whole had been more absolutist on the subject, they wouldn’t have won the election in 1860 and the day of freedom for the enslaved would have been put off. Garrison’s ‘covenant of death’ extremism, Seward’s ‘higher law’ extremism, and John Brown’s murderous extremism were electoral liabilities for the free labor cause.

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