Jeb! Taken Another Way

I watched an extensive interview with Jeb Bush the other night, and tracked with quite a bit of what I was hearing. On my list of candidates in the Republican primary, he has not yet been crossed off my list of potentials I could possibly vote for — for various reasons I will no doubt be called upon to explain later. But that is for another time.

That said, I want to take him to task for a basic blunder that usually goes unremarked when pro-life candidates commit it, as he certainly did. It was only not a gaffe because no one ever treats it like one. I am talking about the “rape, incest, and life of the mother” question. The pro-aborts always kick every abortion question over to the woman and her doctor. Educated pro-lifers notice the discrepancy, but want to leave well enough alone because the candidate in question at least promises to stop the “at-will” slaughter.

The problem is not this exception treated as part of a pro-life incrementalism. The carnage is still atrocious, but the strategy is fine. We don’t start by trying to outlaw abortions in cases of rape and incest; we start with partial-birth abortions, or with “pain-capable” laws. The problem is that the “rape, incest, and life of the mother” response has a catechetical and numbing effect, such that people stop thinking about what they are actually saying.

So here is the problem. When a child is conceived in a rape, there are three parties involved in the consequences — the rapist father, the victim mother, and the victim child. This standard political response blurs over this reality completely, but this blurred reality sums up all the issues in the entire abortion debate. If pro-lifers are correct, the unborn child is a person created in the image of God. As a consequence, it is a monstrous iniquity to execute him for the crime of his father. We are saying, in effect, that the guilty party will not be executed, but that one of the victims will be. What kind of thoughtful compassion is that?

Sorry, kid. Your dad is a criminal, and so we have given you the sentence instead.
Sorry, kid. Your dad is a criminal, and so we have given you the sentence instead.

If the child of rape is a person, then his life must be protected. If that child is not a person, then we need not protect him. But if he is not a person, then why are all the other children we are fighting for considered persons? Surely we do not want to define personhood by the circumstances under which the egg and sperm met? The issue is what results from that meeting, not how the meeting came to be.

This is not a hard-hearted position. I believe that we ought to have a criminal justice system that severely punishes the guilty party in all such situations, and which is extremely tender toward the victims. But you are not being tender toward a woman who was a victim of rape by telling her lies that will involve her complicity in the murder of her fellow victim.

With incest, there are two ways to go. If the incest was non-consensual, then it was rape, and see above. If the incest was consensual, then the issue is possible birth defects. But why would pro-lifers want to open the door to that? Do we really want to say that we must protect the unborn unless the child has birth defects? Why would a woman be allowed to abort her child if the defects were the result of incest, but not allowed to do it if the defects came from another source? This exception also exhibits unusual levels of confusion.

The only item in this list of exceptions that makes legal sense is the “life of the mother.” There are abortions that arguably are medically necessary, although even that is much rarer than is usually assumed. I am referring to ectopic pregnancies, cases where the child is growing outside the mother’s womb. Even here the death of the child is not a foregone conclusion.

In such cases, I believe the law ought to allow physicians the professional discretion to determine when it is not possible to save the lives of both mother and child. When it is not possible, and when the law is not being used as a thin cover for a pro-death agenda, I believe that a physician has the responsibility to do what is best for everyone. This kind of situation would be like separating Siamese twins, where one of the children has much less of a chance of making it. But even here, the goal should be to save every life possible.

Obviously more needs to be said about this last exception, but the takeaway point here is that exceptions here are possible in a way that does not surrender the entire debate, as it does with the rape and incest exceptions.

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doug sayers
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doug sayers

“Sorry, kid. Your dad is a criminal, and so we have given you the sentence instead.”

Sounds like what Westminster Calvinism does with Esau and those who would be born reprobate… only for eternity.

Otherwise a very important post. Thanks.

Matt Massingill
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Matt Massingill

Except that Calvinism is a description for a doctrine concerning God’s decrees, and there is a grand difference between God making decisions about his creation, and humans making decisions about God’s creation.

David
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David

Doug Sayers,

It is quite a disanalogy, on many levels, to place on a par an unborn person who is innocent at the bar of biblical sociopoloitical justice, and the mass of humanity who stand rightly condemned at the bar of God’s final judgment.

Additionally, there are things that are right for God to do which are not right for humans to do. He has prerogatives which you and I do not.

AeroBob
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AeroBob

Consider Romans 5:18…”So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”

Keith LaMothe
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Keith LaMothe

> “he has not yet been crossed off my list of potentials I could possibly vote for — for various reasons I will no doubt be called upon to explain later. But that is for another time.”

I humbly request that these explanations include:

https://dougwils.com/books/the-national-guard-option.html

Blessings,
Keith

Sara F.
Guest

I recently saw proposed legislation to outlaw some abortions. I had PRO-LIFE people/organizations in my newsfeed alternately telling me to write to my representatives and ask them to support the bill and to ask them to vote it down because it contained exceptions. Consequently, I did nothing because I see both sides of the issue. Is it better to save the life of some babies or to wait until legislation recognizes the personhood of every last one?

Tom
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Tom

Are you seriously asking that question? The answer is, “Choose the former, so that at least some of them get out alive.”

Sara F.
Guest

Well, that’s the way I’m leaning, but some pro-lifers that I really respect (Steve Deace for one) make a good case for not accepting anything that doesn’t recognize the full personhood of all babies. Sort of a “lose a few battles to more quickly win the war” approach.

stanmccullars
Member
stanmccullars

A hopefully helpful response to the all or nothing tactic you referenced:
Let’s suppose you see three children struggling to stay afloat in a lake. Without your help, they will all drown. However, you are alone and would only be able to save one of the children. What do you do? Do you save one of them? Or do you let them all die?
That should be sufficient to show the folly of Steve Deace’s position.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think that the vital question is the rescuer’s intention. Although he knows he is likely to save only one, he dives in with the intention of rescuing all. He doesn’t stand on the shore and say “I’m going to try for the one with the golden ringlets.” The doctor may realize that a proposed course of action may save the mother but not the child, and as long as there is no intent to outright kill the child, I think that might be morally permissible. The problem with “save the life of the mother” exceptions is that they always… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
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Jane Dunsworth

I agree, but the analogy that seems more apt here is: There are three children struggling to stay afloat, and there’s you, and there’s a guy who’s in reach of all of them. Only the guy within reach steadfastly refuses to save all three, but he’s willing to save one of them. Still, he needs your help to accomplish even that. Do you fold your arms and turn away and say, “Nope, sorry, not helping unless you pass me all three!”? Or do you say, “Well, then PASS me the one with the ringlets, for Heaven’s sake!” I can see… Read more »

Webster
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Webster

As I understand it, it’s a “health of the mother” exception that does the morphing, not so much a “life of the mother” exception.

Jacob Schroeder
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Jacob Schroeder

Thanks Doug, you make some excellent points. I would really like to hear more about why you favor a pro-life incrementalism though, as opposed to the all-out abolitionism promoted by folks like abolishhumanabortion.com. I appreciate the ground we’ve gained, but why not call the nation to repent of abortion in its entirety?

Laura
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Laura

Thanks for link. Looked over the FAQs. Can you point out how these folks differ from Doug’s points? I’m not seeing anything right away.

Jacob Schroeder
Member
Jacob Schroeder

First, let me say I recognize that Doug believes all abortion (including, rape, incest, etc.) is heinous. So there is clearly agreement between Doug and AHA there. The difference is this: Doug seems to be fine with the pro-life movement not pressing for an end to aborting children resulting from rape right now, so long as we’re making progress on the partial-birth abortions, for example. On the other hand, AHA rejects incrementalism and is extremely critical of the pro-life movement for such tactics. AHA sees asking for anything less than the abolition of ALL abortions RIGHT NOW as unfaithfulness and… Read more »

Tom
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Tom

What, do they think we can blitzkrieg them in the public square? Sorry, this is trench warfare. Take the gains you can get, because if you try for the decisive stroke to end it all, you’ll fail.
Bite and hold, don’t go for the big push.

Laura
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Laura

Thanks. This is a disagreement about strategy, then, not a fundamental disagreement as to when abortion is morally OK. If you look at stats from the Guttmacher Institute, abortion for rape, incest, mother’s health are a small fraction of abortions. So if those exceptions are allowed, that still disallows the overwhelming majority. And if we can’t get abolition without those exceptions, it might be better right now to allow them. I see the tide turning anyway, if I look at polls and at the abortion rate. Gratified to see it and hope this trend continues. It would be better for… Read more »

Matt Massingill
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Matt Massingill

Yes. And since disagreements over strategies ultimately manifest themselves in specific circumstances – specific proposals, I think it then becomes important to couple our negotiated concessions with clarifications of the ideal. So, if Christian candidate “x” is asked what his position is regarding a particular abortion bill which puts restrictions in place, but also contains the above-stated exceptions, then he could in good conscience, according to Doug (and I agree), give his support to the bill as a sort of negotiated settlement. I think it’s important to still offer these rebuttals we’re talking about regarding these three exceptions, so that… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
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Jane Dunsworth

Right — there’s a huge distinction between the guy who’s willing to tolerate the exceptions while working toward a no-exceptions position, and the one who actually believes in them.

ArwenB
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ArwenB

We’ve tried the “abolish it all now!” strategy in the past. IIRC the result of that was 600K dead in war and irreparable resentments between halves of the country. This in contrast to the British incremental strategy which, yes, took 70 years, but didn’t cause a civil war. By all means, call the entire nation to repent of abortion in its entirety, but work to make it a reality in increments (and remember, just because they are increments doesn’t mean they have to be small increments – the “abortionists must have hospital admitting privileges” thing was a huge increment). Don’t… Read more »

BooneCtyBeek
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BooneCtyBeek

Richard Mourdock got his head handed to him defending the child conceived by rape. He did it with tears. Yet the liberals salivated and hounded him to defeat. Now we are served by the lap dog Joe Donnelly.

What is the politic answer?

Andrew Lohr
Member

“Who do we feed to a vacuum cleaner, the rapist or the baby?” strike anyone as maybe sometimes a useful line?

bethyada
Member

On incrementalism versus abolition, or, if you prefer, reformation versus revolution; It is important to be wise. A major consideration is which trajectory you are on. If abortion is illegal then an exemption for rape, say, then this should be rejected as a form of incrementalism in the wrong direction. But if it is legal and and laws restrict, this is incrementalism in the right direction. Subsequent laws can then be made to strengthen the position. Good law should not have thousands of exemptions, for one, it makes it hard for honest men to obey. But bad law is better… Read more »

Sara F.
Guest

This is excellent. Very helpful to me in thinking through this issue. Thank you.

Kavveh-El
Guest
Kavveh-El

Plus in this monumental of a task, one must establish a beachhead before the forces can storm the embankments.

Rev. R. W. Shazbot
Guest
Rev. R. W. Shazbot

The term “rapist” is now considered offensive. The preferred nomenclature is “temporary organ donor.”

valerieab
Member

I wonder if we might possibly have made progress in learning how to reimplant ectopic pregnancies in the womb if abortion weren’t so expedient.

Christopher
Member
Christopher

“If the child of rape is a person, then his life must be protected. If that child is not a person, then we need not protect him.”
Everyone will agree that the child of rape is human, therefore if human rights are a thing the right to life should be extended to the child. Also it is obviously dangerous to decide a group of humans are not people and therefore devoid of rights.

Jane Dunsworth
Guest
Jane Dunsworth

Well, the problem is, that some people will not agree to that.

Because, you know, the left loves “science” so much.

Jason Pearson
Guest
Jason Pearson

Well, if they freed me from this prison
If that railroad train was mine
Bet I’d move it just a little
Farther down the line

Thanks, Johnny (and maybe even Doug) for the reality check.

Heather Torosyan
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Heather Torosyan

There is nothing different from the old days when the baby was labelled ‘bastard’ as if he did something wrong; the sins of the father were being put on the kid. We are still doing that.

Bigrich104
Guest
Bigrich104

While I too oppose all abortions, a legal exception can be argued for the rape exception. You have the competing rights of two persons and to tell the woman who has had her personhood denied by the rapist that she must again be ‘dehumanized’ and force her to deliver the child is problematic. At some point you have to choose between the two and the circumstances of the forced pregnancy can in reasonable people lead to allowing abortion in that circumstance.

Kavveh-El
Guest
Kavveh-El

Huh, she’s no longer a person, but is carrying one?

Bigrich104
Guest
Bigrich104

As I said, you have the competing rights of two persons. To compel the rape victim to deliver the child against her will is in a sense telling her that she doesn’t count now just like she didn’t count when she was raped that the life she had stolen from her by the rapist, doesn’t mean as much as the child’s. How do you not see that? Would I counsel her with every argument I could muster to not abort if asked for counsel but for the state to compel her to give birth could be considered by reasonable people… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
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Jane Dunsworth

That would be fine reasoning, if the alternative wasn’t killing the other person. But it’s not an equal choice between a very difficult situation on the one hand, and execution, on the other. Having to bear the child of your rapist is surely a horrendous imposition, but it’s not an imposition that justifies the execution of another person, who is not the one who committed the crime, to prevent. Nor does it “deny her personhood” — she loses no rights of personhood or human rights by bearing a child. The violation of her rights occurred at the time of the… Read more »

Bigrich104
Guest
Bigrich104

On a purely moral basis, I agree with you. But to say the mother has a “right not to be raped, and a right not to be forced to conceive a child unwillingly,” and then say she has no right to not be forced to bear the child of rape is arguable at best. Doug says if the baby is a person then it must be protected, but it is not that simple. You say “killing the child” does not reverse the denial of her rights to not be raped/conceive, but forcing delivery does seem to say she has no… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Guest
Jane Dunsworth

She has all the rights any other human has — which do not include the right to kill another person at will.

Delivery is not something that is forced; it is a completely natural, involuntary process that always happens if the baby does not die. No one has to make her do it, they just have to not kill the baby. Saying she is forced to deliver is like saying she is forced to breathe.