How Not to Argue Against Abortion Rights

On June 8, the West Coast Straussian Ken Masugi made a strong plea against legalized abortion in an ideologically friendly website American Greatness. Masugi quoted Justice Clarence Thomas’s arguments against abortion rights, which feature an extended comparison between abortion and eugenics. According to Masugi, Thomas was offering a spirited “reply to the leading threat to the Declaration of Independence” when he compared eugenics and abortion. Presumably both practices have been defended as necessary to produce a healthy future generation, and Masugi finds a suitable quotation from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute that talks about fitness in relation to abortion. Supposedly abortion represents a new form of eugenics that flies in the teeth of the Declaration of Independence, a document that assures us that “all men are created equal” and enjoy equal rights “to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This new eugenics, we are told, has been imposed on us by an “aristocracy,” which rejects the sacred doctrine of equality embedded in our founding document. It reflects the mentality of the Progressive Era and specifically the views of that West Coast Straussian villain Woodrow Wilson, who abandoned natural right teachings for historical, evolutionary theories.

 But Wilson had nothing to do with legitimating abortion as a modern judicial and cultural issue. As far as I know, he also said nothing about woman’s right to rule their own bodies, including the right to abort a fetus for whatever whim enters the mother’s mind. There are also loads of non-aristocrats who favor abortion rights, including inner city black teenagers who avail themselves of the opportunity to destroy unwanted future babies. Much of the support for abortion comes from minority voters, who overwhelmingly support politicians who favor extending abortion rights. In any case who are the “aristocrats” against whom we should be asserting our right to equality? Our elites talk incessantly about equality, although they and Masugi may differ about how they would apply that principle.

It is also unclear how abortion is a modern extension of eugenics, a claim that one hears repeatedly from pro-life groups, when they’re not comparing abortion, just as erroneously or hyperbolically, to slavery. Please note that neither slaves nor the subjects of eugenic measures chose the fate that befell them. If one is born into slavery or is forced to undergo sterilization, lest one produce a Mongoloid child, this person has not chosen the condition into which he or she is placed. The woman who elects to have an abortion, however, has freely chosen that option. The state has not inflicted this outcome; rather political authorities have bestowed on her the right to take an action based on “choice.”

 Also contrary to an argument that comes from Pro-Life groups, abortion is not the modern counterpart of slavery. Those who were slaves had to deal with a very low social status, but unlike the unborn child were not singled out, at least not in Western societies, for death. Abortion is either a less degrading fate than slavery or a far worse one for its victim, depending on how we view the aborted fetus. And that depends on whether or not we view abortion as homicide. Accepting or rejecting this practice depends not on our acceptance of John Locke’s or Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of natural right as filtered through the West Coast Straussians and their teacher Harry Jaffa. Our judgment should come down in the end to how we understand the ontological status of the fetus. Can we agree that at some point, perhaps from the time of quickening, we are dealing with a human being? If that is the case (which science leads me to believe), then abortion should be outlawed as homicide.

Moreover, the arguments that are typically advanced in favor of abortion are far more contemptible than the justifications once advanced in favor of eugenics. However wrong-headed eugenicists were, they appealed to a defensible ideal, the need to maintain a healthy population. Significantly, eugenicists typically opposed abortions, for traditional moral reasons, even if some of them favored forced sterilization. None of this deserves our admiration but the right conferred on woman to attend to “health issues” (if I may use this obscene euphemism) has brought us to a new moral low. We are being urged to glorify what may be nothing more than an act of gross self-indulgence combined with at least the conceivable taking of human life. Like the state legislature of New York we are supposed to be cheering a woman’s right to dispose of a living being, even when that baby is coming down the birth canal, if it doesn’t quite suit the mother’s pleasure. In Virginia, according to Governor Ralph Northam, a mother should have the right to practice infanticide if she suffers buyer’s remorse. One does not have to be a West Coast Straussian to recognize the dehumanizing aspect of such measures. One may feel revulsion even as a non-believer in Ken Masugi’s doctrines.  

On June 8, the West Coast Straussian Ken Masugi made a strong plea against legalized abortion in an ideologically friendly website American Greatness. Masugi quoted Justice Clarence Thomas’s arguments against abortion rights, which feature an extended comparison between abortion and eugenics. According to Masugi, Thomas was offering a spirited “reply to the leading threat to the Declaration of Independence” when he compared eugenics and abortion. Presumably both practices have been defended as necessary to produce a healthy future generation, and Masugi finds a suitable quotation from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute that talks about fitness in relation to abortion. Supposedly abortion represents a new form of eugenics that flies in the teeth of the Declaration of Independence, a document that assures us that “all men are created equal” and enjoy equal rights “to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This new eugenics, we are told, has been imposed on us by an “aristocracy,” which rejects the sacred doctrine of equality embedded in our founding document. It reflects the mentality of the Progressive Era and specifically the views of that West Coast Straussian villain Woodrow Wilson, who abandoned natural right teachings for historical, evolutionary theories.

 But Wilson had nothing to do with legitimating abortion as a modern judicial and cultural issue. As far as I know, he also said nothing about woman’s right to rule their own bodies, including the right to abort a fetus for whatever whim enters the mother’s mind. There are also loads of non-aristocrats who favor abortion rights, including inner city black teenagers who avail themselves of the opportunity to destroy unwanted future babies. Much of the support for abortion comes from minority voters, who overwhelmingly support politicians who favor extending abortion rights. In any case who are the “aristocrats” against whom we should be asserting our right to equality? Our elites talk incessantly about equality, although they and Masugi may differ about how they would apply that principle.

It is also unclear how abortion is a modern extension of eugenics, a claim that one hears repeatedly from pro-life groups, when they’re not comparing abortion, just as erroneously or hyperbolically, to slavery. Please note that neither slaves nor the subjects of eugenic measures chose the fate that befell them. If one is born into slavery or is forced to undergo sterilization, lest one produce a Mongoloid child, this person has not chosen the condition into which he or she is placed. The woman who elects to have an abortion, however, has freely chosen that option. The state has not inflicted this outcome; rather political authorities have bestowed on her the right to take an action based on “choice.”

 Also contrary to an argument that comes from Pro-Life groups, abortion is not the modern counterpart of slavery. Those who were slaves had to deal with a very low social status, but unlike the unborn child were not singled out, at least not in Western societies, for death. Abortion is either a less degrading fate than slavery or a far worse one for its victim, depending on how we view the aborted fetus. And that depends on whether or not we view abortion as homicide. Accepting or rejecting this practice depends not on our acceptance of John Locke’s or Thomas Jefferson’s understanding of natural right as filtered through the West Coast Straussians and their teacher Harry Jaffa. Our judgment should come down in the end to how we understand the ontological status of the fetus. Can we agree that at some point, perhaps from the time of quickening, we are dealing with a human being? If that is the case (which science leads me to believe), then abortion should be outlawed as homicide.

Moreover, the arguments that are typically advanced in favor of abortion are far more contemptible than the justifications once advanced in favor of eugenics. However wrong-headed eugenicists were, they appealed to a defensible ideal, the need to maintain a healthy population. Significantly, eugenicists typically opposed abortions, for traditional moral reasons, even if some of them favored forced sterilization. None of this deserves our admiration but the right conferred on woman to attend to “health issues” (if I may use this obscene euphemism) has brought us to a new moral low. We are being urged to glorify what may be nothing more than an act of gross self-indulgence combined with at least the conceivable taking of human life. Like the state legislature of New York we are supposed to be cheering a woman’s right to dispose of a living being, even when that baby is coming down the birth canal, if it doesn’t quite suit the mother’s pleasure. In Virginia, according to Governor Ralph Northam, a mother should have the right to practice infanticide if she suffers buyer’s remorse. One does not have to be a West Coast Straussian to recognize the dehumanizing aspect of such measures. One may feel revulsion even as a non-believer in Ken Masugi’s doctrines.