THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Personhood and the Ontology of Personalism, Part XII

As we have seen in the previous postings in this series, the Pro-Choice position seems to have the Pro-Life position completely boxed in. In substantiation, we have the clear teaching in moral philosophy that if a bad law, even a very bad law, does not force us personally to do evil, we must permit the law to continue, if our taking action would reasonably be expected to disrupt significantly or destroy the social order. Social order — the network of institutions known as the common good — is such a great good that we must allow even incredible evil to continue if stopping the evil would destroy or materially harm the social order. To put an end to the matter, we are constantly told that abortion on demand is the law of the land. It must be permitted and supported without question with all the resources of the State and the people.

Regardless of the shoddy legal and social reasoning behind such assertions, the Pro-Life movement, and (evidently) the Personhood Movement to some degree appear to have accepted this understanding of the situation. Consequently (so the reasoning seems to go), if the law can be changed, then the coercive power of the State and all the resources of the nation can be used to stop abortion rather than protect and promote it. This understanding ignores both political and social reality, and the act of social justice.

As we previously noted in this series, simply passing a law — whether in the form of an Amendment to the Constitution or a Supreme Court decision — does nothing to change a situation if people don't want it to be changed. Prohibition, for example, while intended to eliminate the presumed scourge of drunkenness and all the crime and sin associated with the consumption of alcohol, caused massive upheaval in the social order. Public opinion was opposed to Prohibition to such an extent that conventional government and rule of law virtually disappeared in some areas of the country.

The Supreme Court's decision in Scott v. Sandford (60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857)) that upheld the right to own slaves everywhere in the United States and overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was itself effectively overturned within five years by the bloodiest war in American history. The Supreme Court's role in exacerbating the conflict between Pro-Slavery adherents and Abolitionists in the Dred Scott decision, combined with the presumed economic necessity of chattel slavery argued in David Christy's 1855 Cotton is King, has not been adequately studied or appreciated as a direct cause of the Civil War.

The situation seems hopeless — which is precisely what it is . . . at least from the standpoint of individual and individualistic efforts to solve the problem. To illustrate this, let's paraphrase a passage from Rev. William Ferree's, Introduction to Social Justice (44-45), substituting "abortion" for "honesty."
The question is: What can Jane Jones do as an individual? She might, for instance, decide to give the community "a good example" of a Pro-Life approach to the problem. That is, she could refuse to obtain an abortion, regardless of the circumstances surrounding her situation (e.g., rape, incest, lack of adequate or secure income, social embarrassment, etc.), and allow herself to be showcased as an exemplar of adherence to Pro-Life principles. This sounds good; but, remembering that what is wrong with that community is that everyone considers it normal to have an abortion under these and similar circumstances, we might readily calculate the chances that Jane Jones' heroic adherence to Pro-Life principles would have of reforming the community. When she refuses to go along with the dictates of public opinion, she will be idolized briefly by a relatively small segment of the population, vilified and ridiculed in the media, and shunned by family and friends for making the wrong choice. As soon as the next cause célèbre comes along, she will be forgotten, having lost in the interim her job, her reputation, and virtually all hope of a normal life in society. It is unlikely that her example will attract many followers among women seeking abortions or men promoting them. Her mistake was to attack a social evil with only individual means.
The question becomes what to do about this situation. We will start to look at that in the next posting in this series.