Abortion, the Economy, and the 2012 Election

"I've got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old.  I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.  But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." -Barack Hussein Obama, March 29, 2008

Conventional wisdom holds that the defining issue of the 2012 U.S. presidential election will be the disastrous state of the economy.  Obama's camp knows this and seeks to distract from it -- for instance, by outraged digressions about the purported cruelty with which Obama's opponent treated his dog years ago.  Romney's camp knows this, too, and so Romney and his people seek to exploit it.  But both sides seem to agree that "it's the economy, stupid."

Or is it?  Is the economy the only significant issue facing voters in the coming election?  Post-2004 election (Bush vs. Kerry) polls of voters showed that the single most important issue determining the majority of votes was "moral values."  In 2004, when the economy hummed along in considerably more comfortable fashion than it does today, voters centered far more attention on right and wrong than on interest rates, taxes, and unemployment.  But the following analysis will attempt to show that even in 2012, the economy should not be the only concern for an informed voter.  In particular, this piece will discuss abortion as a perennially significant issue in any election, posing and answering three questions:

1. Why is abortion wrong?

2. What does abortion have to do with the economy? 

3. What do abortion and the economy have to do with the election and the health (not only economic) and future of America?

Abortion: why it's wrong

Great philosophers like Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote at some length about what has been termed the "natural law."  The natural law, in very summary version, states that the nature of a being entails a relation to certain ends or purposes, the fulfillment of which is objectively good for that being, and the frustration of which is objectively bad.  Human beings have a rational nature with intelligence (whose purpose is to know truth) and free will (whose purpose is to pursue the good).  Unlike irrational animals, who are incapable of reasoning about abstract universals like truth, justice, and compassion and therefore lack personal culpability or responsibility for their actions, human beings possess reason and the ability to distinguish good from evil.  These abilities endow human actions with a moral character, enabling humans to know which sort of actions fall outside the range of acts befitting human nature, and, knowing this, to realize that such actions must be avoided.  Jesuit philosopher Fr. G.H. Joyce explains this well: 

Since man is possessed of intelligence, he recognizes that certain actions are conformable to his rational nature and that others are at variance with it. He sees, for instance, that gluttony, cruelty, lust, and the infringement of the rights of others are contrary to the order of reason: that in so far as a man allows the lower part of his nature, his passions, to dominate him...he is doing violence to that element in him which makes him a man. In other words, these actions are evil, and, contrariwise, temperance, kindness, continence, and justice, are good.i

At least two primary ideas, therefore, underlie natural law philosophy.  Firstly, human reason is capable of knowing whether certain actions are objectively good or evil.  Secondly, the goodness or malice of those actions stems not from the actions' consequences, popular opinion, custom, culture, or other subjective measures, but rather from the essential nature of the action itself, a nature discoverable by reasoned analysis.

With all of this in mind, we turn to abortion.  Reason informs us that life is a man's greatest natural good; men cling to this good more earnestly than to all other bodily possessions.  Secondly, reason informs us that it is immoral to unjustly deprive someone of his goods; therefore, to unjustly deprive another human being of the good of life is immoral.  To show that abortion is immoral, then, two things must be shown:

1. Abortion deprives a specifically human being of life (since it is not unjust to deprive certain non-humans of life, such as the deer you might be hunting).

2. Abortion unjustly deprives him of said life. 

The first claim stands no credible chance of denial on biological or philosophical grounds.  The newly conceived being (generally) possesses 46 chromosomes, setting him or her off biologically as a genetically unique member of the human species rather than of any otherii.  None of the arguments used by abortion-supporting biologists about fetal pain or stages of development is relevant; while unborn humans do indeed feel pain at a very early stage of development, even if they did not, the absence of fetal pain reception would be completely irrelevant to the moral status of abortion.  If you shoot someone to death, then you commit a grave evil, even if you carry out your murderous deed while your sleeping victim cannot feel the pain of the bullet entering his brain.  Philosophically, too, the newly conceived human fits Boethius's classic definition of a person as "an individual substance of a rational nature."  The newly conceived being is certainly an individual distinct from his mother (otherwise, he couldn't be aborted at all); he is also of a rational (i.e., human) nature, since the child is clearly a human rather than a dog, elephant, giraffe, or some other creature.  Abortion, then, deprives a human being of life.

As for the second premise, not only does abortion deprive a human being of life, but it also does so unjustly.  "Women have the right to choose!" cry the members of the abortion lobby.  But this is a slogan and not an argument.  Indeed, defenders of this grisly slaughter must dress up their replies with this sort of euphemistic whitewashing, appealing to benign-sounding notions like "choice," "rights," and "freedom" in order to cloak the true malice of the cause which they champion, what with decent people's instinctive horror at the idea of ripping the arms and legs off an unborn child's body and throwing his bloodied corpse in a dumpster behind the abortuary. 

As for rights, a right represents "an inviolable moral power" which imposes a corresponding duty on the part of one's fellow meniii.  For instance, a man has the right to private property because that property represents the fruit of his personal efforts and labor, and his right to that property creates a duty for others not to steal it from himiv.  What of the so-called "right to choose"?  Cutting through the fog of deceptive euphemism, the "choice" being exercised here involves slicing babies apart in the womb (D&C abortion), feeding them saline poison which burns them to death (saline amniocentesis abortion), extracting them in pieces by tearing off body parts and reassembling them outside the womb (D&X abortion), performing a C-section and either leaving them aside to die from neglect or else suffocating them (hysterectomy abortion), using a device which vacuums them out of the womb in pieces (suction aspiration abortion), or partially delivering them, ripping their heads open with a sharp object, then vacuuming their brains out of the skull (D&E, or "partial birth" abortion).  These represent a few of the "choices" which "pro-choice" persons advance as a "woman's right."  Obama has gone farther by voting against a measure designed to protect infants who somehow manage to survive one of these Texas Chainsaw Massacre-like attempts on their lives.  If these facts outrage and horrify you, that's good.  They should.

But returning to the definition of right, no human being of sound mind and decent character could possibly hope to defend the claim that committing the abominable and blood-curdling atrocities detailed above represents a "right" which imposes a duty on others.  The most fundamental of all natural rights is the right to life, man's greatest natural good, which imposes a strict duty on others not to take away that life without just cause (e.g., taking an enemy soldier's life in a just war).  But the unborn child has given his mother no just cause for taking away his life, and therefore she has no right to do so.  Merely having been conceived is not a just cause which confers on another a "right" to commit violent murder.

Abortion: What does it have to do with the economy?

Seeing that child-massacre cannot be defended on moral grounds, what does all of this have to do with the economy?  Let us reword the question so that it answers itself: why would violently destroying the lives of over 50 million unborn American citizens negatively impact the American economy (and the death toll is much greater if one includes chemical abortions)? 

In addition to the potential for massive numbers of abortions to disrupt the nationwide balance between supply and demand by eliminating large number of prospective consumers (the Eisenhower years -- years of comparative economic prosperity -- were also years of the "Baby Boom"v), it must not be forgotten that an economy also flourishes when large percentages of the citizenry can work.  But when a populace kills off large numbers of its young people, the populace will disproportionately age, with more and more retiring members of the workforce and an insufficient supply of youth to replace them. 

It has been pointed out that a population also requires around 2.1 children for every 2 parents just to replace itself, and that at rates lower than that, we will instead see an unnatural and inverted family tree, with one child to care for two parents to care for four grandparents.  This will result in a growing percentage of elderly and sick people with too few young people to care for them, since many of their fellow citizens have killed off the children who, had they been permitted to live, would have staffed assisted living homes, acted as nurses and doctors in hospitals, and perhaps even have discovered cures for some of the diseases which will kill their parents and grandparents.  And, too, some of those same retirees have killed off some of their own children, who would have sustained them in their declining years both financially and (more importantly) emotionally and spiritually, lightening the burdens of age with the warmth native to the parent-child relationship.

Space forbids developing all other direct or indirect economic effects of abortion.  To mention just two, one could firstly consider the proliferation of the "welfare state" as a direct consequence of the fact that with 50 million+ dead siblings, people today can no longer rely on (aborted) brothers and sisters for financial assistance, help finding work, or even the love and support which would inspire them to tough out living in a cruel world rather than retreat to federal dependence.  A second effect includes the fact that children who grow up with many brothers and sisters must learn virtues such as cooperation, selflessness, sacrifice, the ability to relate with and care for others, and like qualities which children in a two- or one-child household will at best struggle to acquire in the same degree.  Such virtues extend their benefits far beyond the walls of the family home, since family members go on to exist and operate in society, bringing these good qualities with them.

To forestall an objection, the preceding does not intend to argue that the sole or primary reason why abortion is wrong involves its detrimental economic effects.  To illustrate, suppose that an economist calculated that murdering all sick people over the age of 70 would save the country massive amounts of money in unspent health care costs -- so much so that it would suffice to begin paying back the national debt and to solve the economic crisis.  Even if such a calculation were correct, the policy which it suggested would have to be vigorously and entirely rejected.  The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates taught that "it's never right to do wrong."  And it's still not right to do wrong even if doing wrong will yield a thriving economy.

No nation should sell its soul to foster its economy.  The point of the preceding analysis, then, is to show that although abortion's moral loathsomeness alone must far outweigh other considerations, still, far from being irrelevant to the economy, abortion thoroughly devastates an economy.

Abortion and the economy: whither the 2012 election?

Having seen how abortion relates to the economy, it remains to consider what that connection portends for the election and for our nation's future. 

A Platonic view of a nation might be said to hold that the state of a nation is simply the state of its citizens' individual souls writ large.  If a nation lays claim to a virtuous, courageous, honest, industrious, and morally excellent populace, then the nation itself will flourish in a similar state of excellence.  This proposition agrees with common sense; although the whole can sometimes be greater than the parts, it's generally impossible that the whole be something completely different from its parts.  If you reside in a city overrun with a large percentage of drunkards, thieves, and murderers, for instance, then the city itself will not be a safe and appealing place to live.  The moral state of a nation's citizenry reflects on the nation's overall state of health.

But that is the keystone of this argument: if large portions of a nation's citizenry view it as legitimate or at least tolerable to mutilate and dismember children by the tens of millions; to rip them apart; to tear them limb from limb; to poison, stab, slice, and otherwise put them to a grisly death; to legalize such murder and even to fund it with taxpayer money; to elect politicians who will defend it; and to elect a president who will view its expansion as a positive duty...if a nation's citizenry largely tolerates or even promotes such practices, and our American citizenry does, then the nation which houses such citizens cannot expect to live for much longer.  The seeds of any nation's destruction will be found in such people.

The economy, if it can still be fixed, will ultimately be fixed not by deploying just the right stimulus plan or tax cuts.  Such measures attempt to staunch a massive hemorrhage with a Band-Aid.  Fixing the economy will involve reforming the moral condition of the citizens whose practices gave rise to the problem in the first place.  The bad economy is a symptom and not a cause.  When massive numbers of American citizens cannot make up their minds to decisively reject the massacre of their own children, when they watch indifferently as millions of their fellow countrymen are barbarously torn limb from limb, when they become selfish materialists who reject the value of human life in favor of acquiring material wealth, when they prefer political platforms based on promises of that material wealth and overlook the same platforms' support for infant-slaughter, and when they vote for a politician who doesn't want his daughters "punished" with a baby because this infanticidal wretch promises to protect their finances with delusional promises of "hope and change," then all of this discloses a moral corruption among the populace whose own destructive behavior will decimate the country far sooner and more thoroughly than any inadequate stimulus plan. 

The above-outlined problems will not go away if people try to brush them aside: "Just replace the incumbent with his opponent, then worry about the rest later."  This is like putting out a forest fire by hunting down and then jailing the arsonist, meanwhile ignoring the disastrous blaze now ravaging hundreds of acres of forest.  The moral problems noted above will only reappear next election, and the next, and the next.  As society becomes more bold in its bloodthirsty refusal to cease dismembering infants, it will continue to elect vicious and corrupt people, and the "right-wing" party will have to shift farther and farther left to satisfy that populace's depraved appetites.  Perhaps this is why the present "conservative" alternative to the incumbent is a man who won the governorship of the most liberal state in the country.  Those who want to apply the Band-Aid therefore defer the issue to the next four years, when it will reappear with greater vengeance. 

Political opportunists who would try to shout down social conservatives wishing not to make this election solely about the economy are therefore gravely misguided.  Such opportunists actually offer one of the greatest possible insults to their fellow Americans.  They claim, at least implicitly, that America has become a country of such moral indifference that it can be bothered to look after its moral state only provided that its bank accounts stand in comfortable shape.  The 2004 electorate with its 2004 economy had "moral values" as its dominating issue; the 2012 electorate, as some of the "economy only" opportunists appear to implicitly hold, can be counted on to disregard sacred obligations of morality and behave like money-grubbing animals.  Some might defend that evaluation as pragmatic realism, but if so, they should cease to speak of America as the greatest nation on Earth.  No nation with such citizens could make such a claim.  This article therefore intends to awaken a just sense of outrage precisely in the hope that this nation still houses a sufficient percentage of morally uncompromising people who recognize monstrous evil for what it is.  May it be so, and indeed it must be, or else the country will not long survive.

The author has also written the book Rational Faith: Proof of the Existence of God, the Falsity of Atheism, and the Truth of Catholicism.

iFr. George Hayward Joyce, S.J., Principles of Natural Theology (1923; repr., New York: AMS Press, 1972), 153.

iiIf I recall correctly, I encountered this argument years ago in a book by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke entitled Why Can't We Love Them Both?

iiiFr. Charles Coppens, S.J., A Brief Text-Book of Moral Philosophy (New York: Schwartz, Kirwin & Fauss, 1920), 69-70. http://www.archive.org/details/brieftextbookofm00coppuoft.

ivPope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, nn. 5, 7, 9-10. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html.

vI credit a talk by Fr. Justin Nolan, FSSP for this point about abortion's effect on the economy and some of the following observations suggested by it.