Are Abortion Clinic Bombings Justified?

September 11, 2009

I thought that title might grab you.  I got to thinking about it because of a recent NCIS television episode wherein one character references Islamic terrorist bombing and another character responds that it’s no different than an abortion clinic bombing.  But isn’t it?

I certainly have no plans to bomb any buildings, but anyone who skims this blog will quickly figure out that I am decidedly pro-life.  That means I believe that an abortion is a murder of a full-fledged, innocent human being.  Whether or not you are pro-life, indulge if you will for just a moment the presupposition that an unborn person is every bit a human person entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that you and I are.  Imagine that there are buildings where innocent living children, or even adults, are taken against their will and murdered, sometimes even having their limbs yanked off without anesthesia.  Once you indulge the pro-life position on unborn human beings (i.e. step in my shoes), you must admit that an abortion clinic is the moral equivalent of a gas chamber within the confines of Auschwitz. 

Would it have been moral to sneak into Auschwitz and blow up a gas chamber?  Empty, or even with the guilty Nazis in it?  Those questions, considered in isolation from any reference to abortion, would surely give the Hollywood script writers a bit more to think about.  Indeed, when a black man murders a white redneck who might get away with raping the black man’s daughter, he is heralded as a hero in the fictional movie A Time to Kill.  It is not as though the Hollywood writers are unfamiliar with or opposed to the concept of justifiable homicide.  This fact underscores that the Hollywood writers assume the pro-choice position to be correct (also implying that the pro-life position is nothing more than “crazy”) when writing their stories; the snide abortion-clinic bomber remarks prove nothing but to evidence the writers’ unsupported presuppositions. 

But the question of whether it is morally permissible to blow up the Nazi gas chambers (the instruments of death), or even the entire death camps, with or without the killing of Nazis (perhaps the bombings could take place at midnight while empty, or perhaps with Nazi guards in them), requires much examination, and I do not intend to answer that question here. 

I need not answer that moral question to address whether abortion clinic bombings are justified.  Whether or not the bombings would be morally permissible if they prevented abortions and saved lives, the fact is that such bombings do not prevent abortions and do not ultimately save lives.  Even if the abortion clinic bombers blew up all the clinics and killed all the abortion doctors at exactly the same time (thereby preventing some abortions and causing more live births), more doctors and clinics would immediately replace them, and public support would swiftly turn to the abortionists’ favor.  The abortion war in the United States is at the present time a public relations one, not one of force like in Nazi Germany.  Bombing abortion clinics only gives pro-choice media forces more ammunition, and we see those messages sent out in televisions shows (like the NCIS episode referenced above) and even in the news.  The media and the pro-choice movement have been capitalizing on these incidents since at least 1994.  If one wants to prevent abortions, one must work on changing public opinions and changing laws.  This war cannot be won by force.  Therefore, the use of force against abortionists, even if it could be justified in other circumstances, is unjustified in the U.S. on a macro-scale because the purported justification is illusory.

(Note: my argument above does not support the common argument that abortion should not be made illegal because “they will happen anyway.”  Making abortion illegal will without question reduce the number of abortions and save a great number of innocent lives.  The fact that some women will ignore the law and commit crimes is not a reason to curtail the law to accommodate criminals’ behavior.)

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6 Responses to “Are Abortion Clinic Bombings Justified?”

  1. padraic2112 Says:

    > Whether or not you are pro-life,
    > indulge if you will for just a
    > moment the presupposition that
    > an unborn person is every bit a
    > human person entitled to life,
    > liberty, and the pursuit of
    > happiness that you and I are.

    That’s a fair request, but it doesn’t generalize to the question you’re implicitly asking as a result.

    Technologically (at least at the present time), an unborn person cannot be “as” entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as you or I are, because the two states are incommensurable.

    I’m not currently strapped to a life support system that impedes my movement and limits my perception of the universe to the system itself, nor is that life support system contained inside a recognized human person, with itself a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Now, this doesn’t make one state of existence better than the other or more valuable, just different to the extent that there is no equivalency measure. If it were possible for me to return to the conditions of being in a womb, with my current level of cognition, and the person providing the womb could be inconvenienced only as much as someone undergoing a pregnancy, then we could compare the two states directly.

    Of course, an adult human mind trapped in such an environment for 9 months is very likely to go insane, so perhaps we can’t compare the two states directly in any event.

    This causes the gas chamber comparison to fall apart, since (even if one agrees that life begins at the moment of conception) the Nazis were intentionally removing an independent human entity’s capability to survive in an independent environment, but the abortionist is removing a dependent human entity from a dependent environment in an independent human entity. Even if I agreed that they were similar, they certainly cannot be regarded as the same.

    If I shoot you, that’s murder. On the other hand, if Siamese twins are joined at the hip and they are separated and one dies, that’s a consequence of a medical procedure. The death is not intended, it is a consequence but not a goal. One can argue that in some cases of abortion, the death is itself the intended goal (the cases of incest and murder spring to immediate mind, but certainly anyone getting an abortion may be deliberately out to kill the fetus itself, rather than restore their own liberty and pursuit of happiness… although I suspect that’s rare).

    Personally, I’m pro-life in the sense that I do believe that an abortion is a morally dubious choice at best regardless of your theology (with the exception of the regrettable instance of potential loss of both the mother and child).

    However, I’m *not* pro-life in the sense that I don’t believe that the law is actually the correct venue in which to tackle this moral dilemma, for the simple reason that I have no basis (other than my own theology) to regard a woman’s pregnancy or lack thereof as any of my business. At the present time, I cannot take the pregnancy off her hands. I cannot accept the responsibility for the fetus, it’s technologically impossible. I cannot counter her claims to freedom/privacy/happiness without relying upon a belief rooted in a theological stance, which (IMO) would clearly be an establishment violation if it was encoded in law.

    The interesting question to me is… what is the context of the abortion rights debate when it becomes possible to remove a fetus from someone and gestate it using artificial means? At that point, it is actually possible for me to accept responsibility for the fetus. The freedom/happiness counterclaim becomes invalid, and the privacy claim becomes critically weakened.

    Will those currently adopting a pro-choice stance on any of those grounds admit to a fundamental change in the grounds of the debate? I’ll be wildly, crazily off the wall and guess “no”…

  2. padraic2112 Says:

    drat, change “incest and murder” TO “incest and rape”, of course.


  3. Technologically (at least at the present time), an unborn person cannot be “as” entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as you or I are, because the two states are incommensurable.

    To be clear, I said that if (a) unborn persons are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then (b) abortion clinic = gas chamber. You, like the NCIS television episode I mentioned in my post, take issue with whether (a) is true, but don’t deny that (b) logically follows from (a). So lets discuss (a)…

    I’m not currently strapped to a life support system that impedes my movement and limits my perception of the universe to the system itself, nor is that life support system contained inside a recognized human person, with itself a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Now, this doesn’t make one state of existence better than the other or more valuable, just different to the extent that there is no equivalency measure. If it were possible for me to return to the conditions of being in a womb, with my current level of cognition, and the person providing the womb could be inconvenienced only as much as someone undergoing a pregnancy, then we could compare the two states directly.

    The problem with this is that it assumes that one’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is contingent upon cognition and/or the convenience of another person. More on that later…

    This causes the gas chamber comparison to fall apart, since (even if one agrees that life begins at the moment of conception) the Nazis were intentionally removing an independent human entity’s capability to survive in an independent environment, but the abortionist is removing a dependent human entity from a dependent environment in an independent human entity. Even if I agreed that they were similar, they certainly cannot be regarded as the same.

    Your argument does not speak to the gas chamber conclusion, but only to the premise that unborn persons are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Here, you claim that such a right is contingent upon whether a human being is “independent.” Note that a baby’s DNA is at all times independent of the mother’s. The unborn baby is dependent on its mother for life in the same way that a newborn is–both are separate organisms dependent upon someone to feed them. We put mothers in jail for failing to do so, regardless of whether another person could have done so. (We don’t allow the mother to claim in her defense, “but no one else would feed my baby!” We punish her anyway.)

    If I shoot you, that’s murder. On the other hand, if Siamese twins are joined at the hip and they are separated and one dies, that’s a consequence of a medical procedure. The death is not intended, it is a consequence but not a goal.

    This is a very important point, and one addressed in detail by many pro-life thinkers. First, in 99% of abortion cases, the death is intended. But your illustration of the conjoined twins, which is not altogether different than the extraordinarily rare “save the life of the mother” abortion, raises the principle of double-effect.

    One can bomb a military factory during war knowing that the bomb may well kill innocent civilians nearby. However, one can also take steps to minimize those innocent deaths, and act in the hope that (miraculously) all innocent civilians nearby survive. Likewise, one can remove the organs of one conjoined twin to save the other of them (when one must be chosen), but nevertheless also do everything in one’s power to save the other, and hope for a miraculous recovery for the second even if one knows that it’s beyond the scope of reasonable medical possibility. If the less fortunate conjoined twin were to be found with a separate set of vital organs that were previously undetected, we would rejoice for the life saved; we would not feel frustrated that our goals had been blocked. If one of the parents secretly hoped to kill one of them so as to avoid having to support two children, that would of course be reprehensible. Intentional killing for convenience is inexcusable.

    Likewise with abortion in the case of the mother’s jeopardized health: if the mother is hoping that her child dies, that is immoral. If she hopes her child lives, even knowing that her
    child has little chance of survival when removed to save her own life, then the act may be justifiable (depending on the particular circumstances).

    One can argue that in some cases of abortion, the death is itself the intended goal (the cases of incest and [rape] spring to immediate mind, but certainly anyone getting an abortion may be deliberately out to kill the fetus itself, rather than restore their own liberty and pursuit of happiness… although I suspect that’s rare).

    Of course death is certainly the intended goal of nearly all abortions. There is no other conclusion. The motive for committing the abortion (to “restore their own liberty”) is irrelevant to whether the death is intended. One can kill one’s two-year old child to restore one’s liberty; that doesn’t make it any less an intentional killing, i.e. murder. The two-year old child might even be the child of rape or incest; can the mother kill the child so she can avoid thinking of the traumatic event? If not, why would this reason alone excuse her for killing her child before birth? There has to be another reason because intent to restore one’s own liberty won’t suffice to excuse anything.

    Personally, I’m pro-life in the sense that I do believe that an abortion is a morally dubious choice at best regardless of your theology (with the exception of the regrettable instance of potential loss of both the mother and child).

    However, I’m *not* pro-life in the sense that I don’t believe that the law is actually the correct venue in which to tackle this moral dilemma, for the simple reason that I have no basis (other than my own theology) to regard a woman’s pregnancy or lack thereof as any of my business. At the present time, I cannot take the pregnancy off her hands. I cannot accept the responsibility for the fetus, it’s technologically impossible. I cannot counter her claims to freedom/privacy/happiness without relying upon a belief rooted in a theological stance, which (IMO) would clearly be an establishment violation if it was encoded in law.

    This is the more typical pro-choice argument, that the law should remain morally neutral. Such a position is indefensible.

    Going back to our desert island scenario in our other thread on the existence of human rights, think about what warrants you to tell me to do anything? If I steal your food (or beat you up), on what basis can you tell me I should stop? Perhaps we should get a majority of people together and make something called a “law” and enforce such rules on people on the island, but what right does a majority have to tell a minority what to do? Why does it occur to us that murder, theft, and battery must be punished? Why would the made-up “law” concerning murder have any more validity than a law prohibiting the wearing of purple shirts on Tuesdays?

    The reason it occurs to us that certain behavior must be punished is that we have a moral sense; the Natural Law resides in each of us, and it tells us that certain behavior is inherently worthy of punishment. To the extent you want to get rid of laws based on morality, you must do away with laws against slavery and murder as well, because morality is the only grounding for such laws. No amoral approach to law can ever obligate anyone to follow it; the rules will devolve into rules of sport, where you can violate the rules when it is in your advantage to do so.

    At any rate, I can give you a perfectly valid, non-religious principle on which the law should be based: the intentional killing of innocent human life must never be permitted by secular human law. With that proposition there can be no dispute, whether legally, philosophically, or morally. It does not matter where the innocent human is located, what the innocent human can do, or whether it is self-aware, smart, sleeping, awake, independent, or inconvenient to another person. Killing innocent humans must be punished every time.

    Moreover, the fact that you can’t take the mother’s child from her is irrelevant to whether it should be legal for her to kill her child. What if we are in a famine and no one has any extra food for the baby? Does that make it legal for her to kill her infant, as though the mother has some sort of positive right to be alleviated of all responsibility that she does not want? Such a conception of “rights” is grossly askew. There is no inherent right to avoid responsibility. If you don’t want to work, it is incumbent upon no one to feed you. No one other than a parent has any responsibility to give anything to a child, and the parent’s moral obligations are unaffected by any third party’s actions or ability to provide for a child. If I’m on a desert island with a community of people, including a family, I have no problem with legally prohibiting the parents’ killing of the child while simultaneously refusing to provide the parents with any help whatsoever in parenting. The refusal of the community to help with parenting doesn’t mean the parents can go ahead and put the knife to the child.

    As to your understanding of the establishment clause, it is cursory at best. The establishment clause was not intended to create an amoral government. The government was built on the idea that all humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” which does not comport with an amoral understanding of law. The Declaration of Independence itself is an argument that the British government had acted immorally and disqualified itself as a legal authority, which obviously necessitates a relationship between morality and government. But all that is beside the point, because abortion can be outlawed regardless of your religion.
    http://www.godlessprolifers.org/home.html

    The interesting question to me is… what is the context of the abortion rights debate when it becomes possible to remove a fetus from someone and gestate it using artificial means? At that point, it is actually possible for me to accept responsibility for the fetus. The freedom/happiness counterclaim becomes invalid, and the privacy claim becomes critically weakened.

    Will those currently adopting a pro-choice stance on any of those grounds admit to a fundamental change in the grounds of the debate? I’ll be wildly, crazily off the wall and guess “no”…

    Your guess is accurate. The pro-choice crowd, including our President, already largely supports a right to partial-birth abortion (which means post-viability). The argument based on the unborn baby’s dependence on the mother is not a rational argument in favor of abortion, it’s a rationalization of someone who has already decided that abortion should be permissible.

  4. padraic2112 Says:

    You’ve raised some fair points here, but I have one issue and one question. First, the issue.

    > This is the more typical pro-choice argument,
    > that the law should remain morally neutral.
    > Such a position is indefensible.

    You’re conflating, perhaps, my position with those that make this pro-choice argument. I am not claiming that the law should remain morally neutral. I am claiming that, on this particular moral question, I cannot provide a judgment without relying solely upon dogma (I’ve tried, I can’t make one stand up and hold water). There are many religions that do not equate abortion with murder, because they do not recognize that life begins at conception. There are certainly entirely reasonable positions that can be made regarding the beginning of life, that are self consistent with various criteria that match those conditions that everyone agrees are “obviously” cases of living people. So one can certainly say that the law should not be morally neutral, but that in this particular case the morality of the action cannot be judged properly, inside the context of our particular social construct.

    Now, the question.

    Keep in mind that my last point (which you agree with) also generalizes to a number of seriously potent questions for people who support the pro-life stance. Let us suppose that in fact we do have the capability to remove a fertilized egg from a woman after the moment of conception. Let us further suppose that we accept your working premise: that, after the moment of conception, the being created has precisely and exactly those rights which we grant to anyone we recognize as a sapient being.

    It’s established as likely that the vast majority of conceptions do not result even in the fertilized egg reaching an implantation stage; it appears (from study) that actual pregnancies that reach even the first trimester represent a statistically small portion of overall births. I’ve heard many numbers bandied about, but I have no idea which if any of them is accurate; however, it seems a solid proposition.

    This implies that it is likely that *many more lives are lost* even than are aborted.

    It follows, then, that the act of sex comes with the inherent staggering risk that a life is being created which will not survive, due to mischance or genetic flaw.

    And yet, we have accepted the premise that this life is to be granted the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as anyone else.

    This represents a serious difficulty for the pro-life person, who usually does not consider this case. We now have the capability to capture those lives, using technology. In fact, if we can show that the technology improves the survival rate of conceived persons, then it follows that we have an obligation to *forbid* normal childbirth, as it is statistically staggeringly more likely to result in the death of a life than the technological option. The woman’s desire to give birth must be considered a cosmetic concern in the light of the risk to the child, much like the woman’s desire *not* to be pregnant must be considered a cosmetic concern in the light of the pro-life argument we are now assuming is axiomatic.

    Since the vast number of those pregnancies which self-terminate are due to genetic flaw, if we use technology to extend those lives to birth, it follows that it is also likely that we will be bringing into the world a great number of infants who possess incredible genetic flaws, resulting in physical, mental, or developmental defects.

    Now, you can perhaps receive some comfort from a belief that these cases aren’t likely, but you must still address the possibility that your stance will generalize into such a scenario.

    Do you then agree, that given the technology, we would have to forbid natural birth as being an unnecessary risk to the child? Do you then agree, that given the technology, we would have to force anyone engaging in a sex act to undergo screening to test for, and rescue, any conceived life that may have resulted from the act? Do you then agree, that given the technology, we must carry these lives to term, regardless of the physical or mental deformities and attendant health and developmental problems?

    If not, I then must level a charge of inconsistency, as you clearly do not maintain that the conceived life is of equivalent value to the established pregnancy, or of the infant child.


  5. […] 4, 2009 In the comments to another post, the question arose whether the pro-life position is inconsistent with a failure to prevent as many […]


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