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toward tinier homicides

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 22, 2006

Moral gibberish from William Saletan, writing in today's New York Times:

Roe is 33 years old today. It freed us from ham-fisted criminal laws that pretended to solve the abortion problem.

"... ham-fisted criminal laws that pretended to solve the abortion problem." Note the gratuitous sneer. Would anyone contend that criminal laws against larceny pretend to solve the theft problem, or that a court decision "freeing us" from property laws would be a more enlightened resolution of competing interests than the "ham-fisted" statutes now in place? Back to Saletan:

But Roe didn't solve the problem, and it never will. It gave us the opportunity -- and the challenge -- to help women exercise choice before, not after, fetal development. In the moral arc of history, abortion was a step forward from infanticide. Abortion pills that act early in pregnancy are the next step, followed by morning-after pills, which prevent implantation. The ultimate destination is contraception or abstinence.

The moral arc of history? Saletan mistakes his own rather precious sentimentalism for an index of ethical progress. How is abortion a "step forward" from infanticide? Is the person slain by abortion less human, less innocent, less defenseless than the person slain by infanticide? No, the yuck factor is marginally reduced because the writhings of the victim are less vividly present to our imaginations. In the same way, RU-486 has a smaller yuck factor than abortion, and anti-implantation pills a smaller yuck factor than RU-486. There's no "moral arc" whatsoever -- simply progressive refinements in the instrumentation of murder. For Saletan to place abstinence -- a choice available to all free human beings at every moment of history -- on a continuum with RU-486 and infanticide is moral nihilism, however much brow-furrowing and hand-wringing attends it.

Update: Russell Moore has a good take on Saletan here.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Eleazar - Jan. 23, 2006 8:36 AM ET USA

    And what would Mr. Saletan think if his mother aborted him? Oops, sorry, he wouldn't be able to think, (or write) at all.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2006 1:37 AM ET USA

    These devastating critiques are why I am addicted to the commentaries of Diogenes. Onward to victory, Uncle Di.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Jan. 22, 2006 11:18 AM ET USA

    In the moral arc of history, if I were a fetus weighing my chances of being born alive I would rather be the bastard child of Landulf and Inés in 12th century Fonseca Italy than the love child of Sean and Leslie in 21st century Boston.

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