October 10, 2009
Why we are all worse than Roman Polanski
Speaking of considerations related to crime and punishment, I sometimes wonder whether (in some minds, at least) abortion is becoming a sort of moral reductionist trump card that can be used to trivialize concerns about nearly anything else.
It's a version of the slippery slope argument, and I first heard it a few years ago on a talk radio show discussion of a girl who had killed her newborn baby. Anti-abortion callers were insisting not only that infanticide was the logical culmination of abortion, and of course that there was no moral difference between abortion and infanticide.
Today the argument is often made that because abortion is murder, there is no moral difference between the killing of a fetus and the killing of an adult. Actually, some argue that abortion is morally worse than the killing of an adult, because the unborn are truly innocent, while living humans are by definition sinners, and therefore less worthy to God.
Anyway, when I first heard the argument it would be hypocritical to punish the girl who killed her baby because "we" routinely allow doctors to "murder millions of innocent babies," I was horrified. But it's now so routine that I just consider it standard fare in the abortion debate.
Not long ago, I read a comment to a post about the Christian-Newsom murder trial which applied the same moral equivalency argument (yes, that's what it is) to the torture and murder of two young people. The snarky commenter questioned why anyone should be fussing over the torture murder of only two people when millions of babies are tortured to death each year.
If you see things that way, then no one has a right to raise a fuss over anything.
In a more famous recent example, the abortion-as-a-moral-leveler argument was raised by Ann Coulter in a discussion of the murder of an abortion doctor on Bill O'Reilly's show:
Never one to shy away from controversy, Coulter offered the following ethical assessment of the crime:They have the video clip over there for people who find this sort of thing entertaining. I guess she was being funny; isn't that what entertainment is all about?"I don't really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester."When pressed by O'Reilly on this statement, Coulter replied,"I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don't want to impose my moral values on others."
What's sometimes forgotten is that in the old days when abortion used to be a crime, it wasn't considered murder because the baby wasn't born, but never mind that. It is not my purpose here to debate the relative degrees of immorality of various types of conduct so much as it is to examine the logical consequences of abortion as a trump card that dwarfs almost all illegal and immoral conduct. Because if in fact abortion is murder (and torture murder at that), then it is worse than anything that goes on except maybe other torture murders, like the Christian-Newsom case.
What this means is that not only are murders no worse than abortion, but other illegal or immoral conduct -- no matter how awful, disgusting, or egregious -- must pale by comparison.
And if any outrage less than torture murder pales in comparison to abortion, then certainly that would include sexual outrages, like the Roman Polanski case. That's because the rape of a child is not as evil as the torture murder of a child, and therefore because Polanski did not murder his victim, he is less culpable than any abortionist. Moreover, he and all other child molesters are by definition less culpable than those who use and dispense today's moral equivalent of Zyklon B, the abortificient drug RU-486. Because we tolerate this Himmler behavior, we have no right to condemn Polanski.
Please bear in mind that while this is not what I think, it is apparently what many other people think.
But is it conservatism? I don't know, but I don't think it will ever play well in middle America.
MORE:Commenter Mike Foster takes issue with me below, and says this:
Forgive me for saying so, but... aren't you being a bit obtuse? It is a simple reductio ad absurdum argument. And very effective, I might add. Morally, what is the difference between a mother killing an unborn child (because of its "inconvenience") and a newborn child (because of its "inconvenience") or any other child in a state of ("inconvenient") dependence upon that mother? Also, perhaps I am being obtuse, but I don't see how the Polanski Incident relates to this issue?As I explained below, if abortion is in fact torture/murder (and I am not saying it is), then it is in fact worse than what Polanski did. The Polanski example is intended to illustrate where the logic of the "not as bad as abortion" argument leads, and why I get tired of hearing it used over and over again.
But don't take my word for it. My reductio ad Polanski argument is in fact the official position of at least one major religion. According to a Vatican ruling in March, the rape of a nine-year old girl (that's four years younger than Polanski's victim) was specifically held to be not as heinous as abortion:
A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.(Emphasis supplied.)
So, if abortion is worse than the rape of a nine year old girl (which many seem to believe), then it is of course worse than Roman Polanski's crime.
Again, I don't agree with this thinking, nor do I believe in collective guilt. But if a major religion does, I think my point is well taken.
Nor do I see this issue as likely to go away.
One last thing. I hate to be argumentative, but why did I have to do extra work and come up with a specific religious rulings to illustrate what I thought was a relatively simple point?
posted by Eric on 10.10.09 at 11:23 AM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood