Annals of "Choice"

True stories.
  • A friend, a bit older than I, has an adult daughter recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Even more recently, the daughter discovered she's pregnant. Her doctors --the country's best specialists in this particular form of cancer-- have given her an ultimatum: abort by the end of the week, or we won't treat you.
  • One of our kids' godparents are expecting a child who may be hydroencephalic. Their insurance company has broadly hinted that if the child survives, they will consider his a "pre-existing condition," exempt from coverage. They will, natch, cover his abortion, no questions asked.
Neither case presents a moral dilemma, since neither set of parents would abort their children under any circumstances. But in listening to friends tut-tutting (as we all are) the effrontery of the medical system, I find myself thinking, this is not "unthinkable callousness." This is infallible logic --the logic of raising a moral evil to the level of a legal "choice," or even a right. We're supposed to believe that this increases our freedom, since each person can do what seems best, and no one will be "forced" to act against his will in accordance with someone else's "values." In point of fact, the very possibility of the evil choice logically drives out the possibility of the moral decision. Since you didn't have to have that imperfect or inconvenient baby, we don't have any obligation to sympathize with you or support you, or even treat you at all. So much for respect for all. So much for "choice."

(Just for the record, pre-natal diagnoses are often flat-out wrong; and of the studies we have of the impact of chemotherapy on fetuses,
None suggest that therapeutic abortion improves the outcome for such women.
Chemotherapy increases the risk of miscarriage, but if the fetus survives, it is likely to be normal --a fact widely known in pro-life circles, but not generally. So the doctors in the first case are not only not respecting the mother's "right" to her "choice," they are medically ignorant --and arrogant --as specialists tend to be.)

In 2005, the case of a German woman denied unemployment benefits because she wouldn't take a job as a sex-worker made headlines for a time. I think it later turned out to be a mistake, but it wasn't far-fetched at all. It was logical. Which brings me back to the perennially-linked-here Revenge of Conscience, explaining the mechanism of all this. Our problem is that conscience cannot be deadened. It can be led astray -- but it will yet exert a certain inexorable logic.
just as a virus cannot reproduce except by commandeering the machinery of a cell, sin cannot reproduce except by taking over the machinery of conscience. Not a gear, not a wheel is destroyed, but they are all set turning in different directions than their wont. Evil must rationalize, and that is its weakness. But it can, and that is its strength.
And the logic of choice is the enemy of the proposition that all men are created equal:
if we tell ourselves that humanity is a matter of degree, we can’t help holding those who are more human more precious than those who are less. The urge to justify abortion drives us inexorably to a system of moral castes more pitiless than anything the East has devised. Of course we can fiddle with the grading criteria: consciousness, self-awareness, and contribution to society have been proposed; racial purity has been tried. No such tinkering avails to change the character of our deeds. If we will a caste system, then we shall have one; if we will that some shall have their way, then in time there shall be a nobility of Those Who Have Their Way. All that our fiddling with the criteria achieves is a rearrangement of the castes.
And now two sets of my friends have discovered simultaneously they are the outcastes. In 21st century America.