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IEET > Rights > Life > Vision > Fellows > Russell Blackford

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Is abortion a greater evil than sex abuse?


Russell Blackford
By Russell Blackford
Ethical Technology

Posted: Nov 25, 2012

Is abortion a greater evil than child abuse? Of course it isn’t! Indeed, I don’t generally regard abortion as an evil at all. We could doubtless get into hypothetical cases of late-term abortions carried out on a mere whim, but are there many, or any, such cases in the real world? In the real world I think you must either suffer from a distorted moral sense or be in the grip of a theory if you regard abortion as the real evil (as opposed, say, to denying an abortion to a desperate woman or teenage girl).

And yet, we see statements made from time to time that abortion is a worse evil than, say, the sexual abuse of children, or that the widespread occurrence of abortions in modern societies constitutes an evil akin to black slavery or the Nazi Holocaust.

Frankly, these sorts of statements appear repugnant. What is especially repugnant, and to many people unintelligible, is how something that has great benefits in reducing or avoiding suffering - the ready availability of abortion to desperate women and girls - is being compared to sources of terrible suffering, such as slavery, sex abuse, and the Holocaust. Surely someone who makes these comparisons must be crazy or evil... right? Wrong.

I don't think that Catholic moralists, for example, are crazy or evil. Nor do I think that they are hypocritically rationalising what is really a hatred of women or a wish to keep women in subjection. Yes, there may be an element of that if we delve back far enough into Catholic (say) sexual morality. The Catholic moral system may fossilise ancient attitudes of misogyny, and particularly fears of women's sexual power and freedom.

But I actually think we should take people like Cardinal George Pell, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, at their word. They really do accept a moral system that, as a matter of fact, rationalises many ancient moral attitudes and ideas on a false basis ... and ends up producing totally different results from a moral system based on amelioration of suffering (or, if you are a moral abolitionist like Richard Garner or Joel Marks, from a settled attitude of simply being opposed to suffering).

People like Cardinal Pell are not crazy or evil. In many circumstances, they will think and feel and act much as I (for example) would. They will show people respect and compassion.

But when it comes to thinking about anything to do with sexuality, they are in the grip of a horrible, miserable, cruel moral theory. They have been indoctrinated into it, and they actually believe it. From inside that theory, it is all consistent and all makes sense, even if you are otherwise a decent person.

If you don't understand that point, you'll find much of the behaviour of your opponents simply incomprehensible, and you'll just be dumbfounded when your own expressions of moral repugnance have no impact on them. Your opponents will appear to be monstrous. From their viewpoint, however, whatever you say is ill-informed and essentially irrelevant. They will dismiss it, but not because they are monsters or even because, as individuals, they are arrogant. Mainly, they are deeply mistaken about reality (which makes them the exact opposite of moral leaders or moral authorities).

Seen from the outside, of course, Catholic (and similar) sexual morality appears ridiculous and repugnant. All the more reason to fight against it.


Russell Blackford Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, an attorney, science fiction author and critic, philosopher, and public intellectual. Dr. Blackford serves as editor-in-chief of the IEET's Journal of Evolution and Technology. He lives in Newcastle, Australia, where he is a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle.
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COMMENTS


It’s better not to get into metaphysical discussions with the religious, as it goes nowhere or at best it is 99 percent jawboning, 1 percent enlightenment.

I tell believers their religion is acceptable, not their politics. From studying the Bible,  for instance,  for many years, Christians are quite knowledgable concerning their Faith yet when it comes to politics their hearts are in the right place but their brains are something to worry about (re Christianity: no reflection on Christ, Jesus was no imbecile for someone living 2,000 years ago).
The Church proscribing—if it still does—birth control in third world nations is literal insanity, even a person in a mental ward wouldn’t necessarily be so foolish as to hold such a doctrine. The religious talk about responsibility!

And btw the Catholic Church is one of the saner houses of worship, Reverend Jones-type Westboro churches exist in every state in the South and Midwest: 200 years of gobbledygook built up during the Westward Expansion, while pioneers were fighting nature, fighting natives.





The outsize, hyperbolic importance placed on the abortion issue makes little sense until you realize that the entire religio-conservative worldview rests upon opposition to abortion. If the zygote is not ensouled upon conception and its willful termination not tantamount to murder, then we really are, fundamentally just matter and thus topples the entire theistic house of cards.

Inextricably linked to these lofty ideas of ontology is the political factor. Allowing a woman to take control of her reproductive destiny is a dangerously potent expression of liberty wholly antithetical to the traditional patriarchal power structure.

Analogously, teaching a slave to read was also met with the swiftest punishment.





These protesters are real pro-life ‘activists’ (disrobe-ivists), they are not only utilising a wedge issue—that is a small part of it, there’s always that factor in politics—they are also protesting for life; while the old-time “pro-life” IMO protest for a dead religious conception of pro-life, a conception which died with the so-called Moral Majority who may have in fact been a majority at one time yet were no more moral than the larger society:

http://news.yahoo.com/naked-protesters-occupy-john-boehners-house-office-200657958—abc-news-politics.html





The link expired, this is the lowdown:

“THREE PEOPLE were arrested after stripping outside the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in a demonstration yesterday.
The activists stripped to reveal messages painted on their backs – including ‘AIDS cuts kill’ – in protest at possible cuts to HIV programmes in the event that no deal is reached to avert the ‘fiscal cliff‘ spending cuts which kick in on January 1.
The demonstrators said they wanted to articulate the “naked truth” about the impact of cuts to AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.
The stunt was timed to coincide with World AIDS Day, which takes place on December 1.”





Late-term abortions occur regularly—typically to save a woman’s
life.  That’s why banning them, as theocratic fanatics try to do, or
shutting the few facilities which perform them by murdering the
doctors (which has also been tried), is very dangerous.

 





No doubt pro- ‘life’ is moral- but not practical (virtually all discussed in houses of worship is moral; not practical, though).
And as for the old moral majority, it was far more majority than it was moral.. and even less practical.





..a recent example of cloying ethics: the following excerpt in an article on empathy in politics from American Spectator, 12/29; the ploy is how at the end of the excerpt the unborn are linked to the post-natal:


“...On September 7, 2011, Republican debate audience members cheered when Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he had ‘never struggled’ with the idea that one of his state’s record 234 executed death row inmates might have been innocent. Five days later, A Republican audience cheered a debate moderator’s question about whether a hypothetical 30-year-old who suddenly needs urgent care should be allowed to die because he lacks insurance. The perception of Republicans as heartless was reinforced when Republican Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Murdock made inept and uncompassionate remarks about rape and abortion. It was further reinforced when a video went viral of Mitt Romney claiming that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as victims and don’t ‘take responsibility and care for their lives.’
More generally, this perception is reinforced whenever conservatives use ‘illegal’ as a noun or use the word ‘alien’ to talk about illegal immigrants, and whenever they advise, as Romney did during the primaries, that illegal immigrants ‘self deport.’
Democrats do not have a monopoly on empathy, of course. Obama often shows an appalling lack of compassion and understanding toward entire groups of people—for example, unborn babies and those who don’t want to be complicit in their demise…
[emphasis added]

For example, unborn babies and those who don’t want to be complicit in their demise?

For “example”?





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