Friday, February 9, 2007

Pragmatism is Bankrupt

A post I made on the Life Training Institute blog (, where I am trying to convince a set of pro-lifers who are dedicated to "compromised incrementalism" that we need to change our pro-life strategy -- aiming for success, rather than compromise:

If there existed a law (or proposed legislation) that made 95% of abortions illegal without affirming a "right" to abortion 5% of the time, I would be for it -- that is an uncompromising win for us.

But those examples are hard to find.

What we do see -- compromised incrementalism -- is a bill that makes 95% of abortions illegal while also explicitly defending 5% of abortions. In these cases, I think pro-lifers do ourselves no favors by supporting it. Why?

Because any bill that favors or otherwise upholds a "right" to 5% of abortions is arguing against the principle of a right to life.

Principle doesn't use percentages. Any departure from 0% or 100% is compromise, and it reduces our arguments to 100% pragmatism, 0% principle.

Arguing on the terms of our opponents -- as if there is some line to be drawn, some abstract judgment of when it's okay to kill a baby and when it's not -- is detrimental to our overall cause of getting rid of all abortions, because we're admitting there ARE lines to be drawn. Pragmatism wholly rejects the principle -- they are fundamentally inconsistent strategies. In order to regain the principle, we actually have to convince the voters and citizens we've been talking to that we were wrong when we supported a bill that favored 5% of abortions. We would be rightly accused of hypocrisy.

Would you support a law which said slavery should be legal in New Jersey, but in no other state of the union? If you're a pragmatist, you'll ask "that depends -- is this 1800 or 2000? -- does this increase or reduce slavery?" The response would dictate your answer.

But if you are relying upon moral authority -- principle -- then you would consider the law absurd. Slavery should be legal nowhere under any circumstances, no matter where it is or is not already legal.

I strongly believe that the more we rely on pragmatism to "curtail" abortions when and where we can, we postpone the day when we can achieve our goal and implement the principle of no abortions anytime anywhere, because we then have to undo the damage we did when we talked someone into voting for the 95% solution by saying "it's okay, because it allows for an exception in 5% of the cases."


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