Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Incrementalism Incrementally Fails Unborn Children

Jill Stanek's article in WorldNetDaily made me mad, so I wrote a not-so-well written, rambling reply which I hope still makes sense:

Incrementalists try to maintain some moral ground even as they undermine it, and partly they do this by unfairly denegrating the intelligence or sensibilities of their opponents, who they mischaracterize as unrealistic purists.

You've mischaracterized the "purist" (we call it "uncompromised") position. We do not oppose all incrementalism -- if a law prevents some abortions without compromising with abortionists and lending some credence to their legal standing or public support, then we support those laws.

A law which says "abortion clinics must abide by these regulations before they're allowed to perform abortions" is evil because it says "abortion is okay if...". But a law which says "all clinics where medical procedures are performed must abide by these regulations" then that's okay!

If you have a law which accedes, in part, to the arguments of the abortionists, then we oppose it, and so should you. Parental notification is fine if carefully crafted -- basically, "you must inform the parent that an abortion is scheduled". But if you include the parent in the "approval" process (i.e. a parental CONSENT law), then you've just added one or two parents to the pro-abortion camp, because they feel guilty and will in the future defend their decision to support their daughter's abortion. That's a loss for pro-life causes.

Any law which makes some abortions illegal, but which say "it is okay to kill the baby if..." is evil. It's not pro-life at all. Not only do the people who vote for it support those abortions (rape, incest, etc.) in a legal sense, but by arguing in favor of these laws they lend credence to the arguments of the other side that SOME abortions are okay.

Yes, Michael New (I think it is, from Heritage) published a study "proving" (through the use of debatable evidence and predictive assumptions with that scattered data) a 10-15% decrease in abortions "as a result of" incremental legislation. This is the basis of incrementalists' claim that "incrementalism is working." But we cannot logically use his study to establish that incrementalism will eventually result in 40% or 80% reductions in abortion. There's no logical basis to make that assumption, though we may WANT to make that leap in logic.

In fact, I believe incremental legislation is guaranteed to have diminishing returns, because advocates of that legislation split the difference -- they compromise with abortionists to arrive at a poorly defined "point at which abortion is permissible." In fact, I believe it's natural to assume that incremental laws will have a 10% to 20% effect. Maybe as high as 30%.

But that lack of moral clarity is bound to have a push-back effect, where as we approach a 20% "success" rate with incremental legislation, a 40% or 80% reduction becomes all the more impossible. At that rate, with that strategy, a 100% end to abortion becomes totally impossible.

Arriving at "personhood" -- the Human Life Amendment -- becomes harder every time one of these compromised incremental laws is passed, because in the minds of the public you're splitting the difference. You're saying some abortions are worse than others, so most people subconsciously see a corrolary to that -- that some abortions are better than others! Some abortions are permissible -- so much so, that even the pro-lifers aren't arguing that they're as serious as the others.

Splitting differences on abortion denies the moral power of the personhood argument. If a baby at any stage of development is a person, then it's always wrong to kill them. Always!

But if we go out there and say "abortion is bad, but partial birth abortion is the worst!" then it's not very far, morally, from saying, "it's wrong to kill even a handicapped child, but these people even want to kill healthy children!" -- it's establishing a value difference between handicapped and "healthy" children. It's wrong -- it's arguing on the basis of secular, amoral logic, rather than on the basis of absolute, non-relative truth.

The public WILL accept non-relative truth if it's properly framed! People are hard-wired to acknowledge moral standards. Your average high school student will say abortion is okay most of the time, but not at full term -- they see a value difference between a 1st and 3rd trimester baby, because secular society tells them there is one (and many pro-lifers tell them so, too, by arguing that ending some abortions is more important than others!). But if you ask that same student when slavery is okay, they'll say "slavery is NEVER okay -- that's a human being, you can't enslave them!" That's the power of moral clarity which we must enlist for the abortion fight.

Only the establishment of the concept of universal freedom for all persons did slavery disappear in this country. Only with the establishment of personhood in the mind of the American public will abortion 100% disappear.

Incrementalists think they'll compromise and split the difference for now, and then later -- "when we're near our goal" -- they'll switch to a no-compromise personhood strategy that will achieve the full victory. But when (if!) that day comes, abortionists and even the general public will say "but wait, didn't you say 10 years ago that it was okay to abort rape babies, so long as we didn't abort other babies?"

Until we change strategies, pro-life resources are working at cross purposes, with some resources directed toward a policy -- incrementalism -- that does not have the power to totally end abortion at any time.

The time to make that change is now, not 10 or 20 years from now, because no matter when we make the choice to switch to a new strategy, we're going to have to start from the very beginning, convincing the American public we were wrong back when we said some abortions were worse than others.



Lauren said...

Good defense of your views.

I definitely understand where you are coming from. I agree that this stage of incrementalism has reached its peak.

However, I do not believe that condeming the PBA ban furthers the pro-life goal.

Pro-Life Dave said...

Wow! You hit it right on the head!

I wrote a history of the Human Life Amendment that talks about 'their' failed incremental strategies and because of their change of focus have introduced a cancerous idea into the Pro-Life Movement.

Quinn said...

I thought your response was masterfully written Ed!

Its funny, I found this blog post through the jumpinjehosophat blog that Stanek linked to.

God has never promoted or approved of "incrementalism". The so-called pro-life groups who use an incrementalist strategy are not wiser than God.

Ed Hanks said...

Response to feedback...

Lauren, thank you! The way I see it, condemning the PBA ruling (not the ban -- the court's opinion -- though the ban was flawed too) and exposing the forlorn strategy most pro-life organizations are committed to is the ONLY way to further the pro-life goal.

I want to expand on this soon in another column, but basically we're going nowhere -- this ruling is proof of that. The incremental strategy isn't going anywhere fast, and is guaranteed to hit a brick wall down the road. Our only hope is to adopt the Personhood strategy, and whether we adopt that goal now, or in 10 years, that's the day we START to win this fight. If we don't criticize, and open the debate now, then we won't start to win for another 10 years.

Pro-life Dave! Thank you. I checked your various websites, and I wish you the very best! I'll be in touch sometime soon once I'm not so horribly busy. We're doing a personhood ballot initiative here in Colorado too. We can share notes!

Quinn, glad to hear from you! Yes, I've written the only response I'm aware of to Jill twice now. Her arguing with us just gives us a platform.

Thanks for your commitment, each of you!