Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Personhood and the Ontology of Personalism, Part XIV

In the previous posting in this series we noted that individual or individualistic approaches to fundamental social change are, absent some miracle, usually ineffectual. That is because individual methods are generally useless in addressing a social situation. We are, however, left with a serious problem. It is contrary to the principles of natural law on which this country is explicitly based to force anyone to participate in an act that person regards as evil. Forcing citizens to participate in a morally repugnant act is, in moral philosophy, legitimate grounds for changing rulers, even (in extreme cases) the form of government. (Aquinas, De Regimine Principum,; Bellarmine, De Rom. Pont. Eccl. Monarchia, Lib. I, Cap. VI. Nota quarta. De Laicis, Cap. VI; also Recognitio, Libri Tertii De Laicis.)

Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge that, in the present state of society, unilaterally abolishing legalized abortion is not practicable, even if it could be done tomorrow. Such a move would, in all likelihood, cause even more immediate harm to the social order than that inflicted at present by abortion and other activities that the Pro-Life movement considers related. As Rev. William Ferree points out in Introduction to Social Justice, the primary law of social justice is that the common good must be kept inviolate. (35) As "America's greatest social philosopher" explains,
To attack or to endanger the Common Good in order attain some private end, no matter how good or how necessary this latter may be in its own order, is social injustice and is wrong. The Common Good is not a means for any particular interests; it is not a bargaining point in any private quarrel whatsoever; it is not a pressure that one may legitimately exercise to obtain any private ends. It is a good so great that very frequently private rights — even inviolable private rights — cannot be exercised until it is safeguarded. (Ibid.)
This is not to say that continued legalized abortion will not inflict even greater harm on the common good in the long term. It is a case of dealing with the lesser — that is, the most immediate — of two evils (maintaining order in society in the face of obvious, even horrifying injustice), not an admission that abortion is somehow a good. Direct participation in abortion is always evil, but at present the anticipated evil of the serious disruption or destruction of the social order should abortion be outlawed is of more immediate concern.

There is, however, a possible "common ground" that can exist in the debate, and gives us a basis for achieving the only possible compromise between the Pro-Life and the Pro-Choice positions: the Pro-Life economic agenda. If abortion supporters are truly "Pro-Choice," then they should be the strongest supporters of a Pro-Life economic agenda designed to remove entirely any economic incentive to procure an abortion, thereby bringing an end to the undue influence on free choice exerted by economic institutions.

Consistent with that, Pro-Choice advocates should also be in the forefront in the effort to remove all government financial support for abortions, direct or indirect, thereby taking away the implied political and social endorsement for abortion, the effects of which can obviate "free" choice even more effectively than economic forces. A fully consistent Pro-Choice position would be to deny any and all deductions for taxpayers who give money to support or procure abortions. This is because tax deductibility involves a substantial degree of government support, as well as providing what amounts to a subsidy that must be made up by increasing taxes paid by all taxpayers.

In view of the political realities of the situation, the Pro-Life movement may be able to give a reassurance to the Pro-Choice movement that, consistent with the democratic process, abortion will not be criminalized until such time as an overwhelming consensus is reached that this should, indeed, be the case. This is, to all intents and purposes, a meaningless concession. Such a law would be ineffective anyway until and unless an overwhelming consensus is reached, something of which the Pro-Choice movement should be fully aware.

Still, should the Pro-Choice movement balk at eliminating all forms of government support (financial and otherwise) for abortion, the Pro-Life movement must seek legal redress. As we have seen, it is both inconsistent and unconstitutional for the Pro-Choice movement to demand the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, or support or promote abortion, and yet at the same time deny others the right to choose whether or not to pay for that abortion through the use of their tax monies. A challenge to federal, state and local government support in any form for abortions should, on legal grounds, have a good chance of becoming law — to say nothing of saving massive amounts of money that, in these times of economic turmoil, could certainly be put to better use.

Failing that, an option that might be considered is a "tax revolt," although such action cannot be recommended except as a last resort against a State that has, in effect, become a tyranny. Although the position was equivocal (being based on private judgment about the morality of the action), during the Vietnam War, a number of people either refused to pay taxes at all, or withheld a portion of their taxes. Many of them ended up in prison, but if the 51% of the population that, according to a recent Gallup Poll describe themselves as "Pro-Life" refused to pay unjust taxes, the government would be forced to capitulate. Such a move, of course, would be feasible only after all legal means were exhausted, including bringing the case to the Supreme Court, which, if it wishes to retain its credibility, could not rationally allow free choice to obtain an abortion while denying free choice to pay for it.

Removal of all forms of government support at all levels for abortion in any way shape or form is only a part of the solution, although it would constitute in and of itself a major victory. Such an effort should, in the interests of equal rights for all, be led by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU would otherwise have to admit publicly that the rights they demand for their preferred groups and causes do not, in fact, apply equally to all.

Further, removing all forms of government support at all levels would convince a great many people, trained to look to the State as the arbiter of right and wrong, that abortion might not be quite as fundamental a right as Pro-Choice adherents insist, and go a long way toward persuading people that all human beings, including fetuses (Latin for "unborn human being") are persons within the natural law context of the United States Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence which (while not itself law) gives context to the Constitution.

Two more things are necessary, both of which we will cover in the next and final posting in this series.