Two moral traditions at play


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WHY are many pro-choice advocates convinced that abortions cause no harm?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/06/2022 (279 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WHY are many pro-choice advocates convinced that abortions cause no harm?

A dozen years ago the American sociologist Robert Putnam wrote in American Grace that young Americans were already moving to a more conservative position on abortion — “something like their grandparents’ view” — because expectant mothers could now see what they were carrying in their wombs.

My wife and I are among many who believe that a pro-life position does more for women than support for abortion. She has volunteered with a Crisis Pregnancy Centre that supports women facing troubled pregnancies.

So strong has opposition been against the pro-life movement that centres such as this face the loss of their charitable status. Campaigning for election in 2021, the Liberals said they would remove their charitable status and, to underline the point, recently added $3.5 million to funding abortion services.

Pro-lifers are generally not naive enough to believe the arguments in this debate are all on one side. But those who put all the weight on a woman’s “choice” don’t see what the pro-life side sees.

One might be a woman coming to a place such as Winnipeg’s Crisis Pregnancy Centre who is being pressured to abort her pregnancy. Is it a choice if she’s a teen and her parents are pushing her to terminate the pregnancy? Or what if the pressure comes from a boyfriend who doesn’t want a father role? We seldom hear about pressures such as these.

Or what about the woman who regrets her abortion? One of the roles Crisis Pregnancy Centres here and elsewhere have assumed is helping bring healing to women who carry deep grief after aborting.

Or what about the women who simply need mentoring in child care, or material aid with items such as diapers, baby clothes or infant formula? This, in fact, represents most of the work done by the Crisis Pregnancy Centre here. Last year the centre had 1,594 client visits, of which only 12 involved women who were undecided about whether or not to have an abortion.

The centre’s website declares, “If a client of our centre obtains an abortion, we love her. If she carries to term, we love her. If she releases the child in an adoption, we love her. If she grieves after her abortion, with zero judgment we will mourn with her. If she is in need during parenting, we will care for her. If she struggles after the adoption, we will support her.” Nonetheless, the centre feels its future is threatened.

Recently, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that what is playing out now is a contest between two “legitimate moral traditions… not a struggle between the enlightened few and the ignorant and bigoted masses.” His commentary bears consideration.

On the one side, are those who view themselves as part of the “progressive moral tradition,” which views “the individual conscience as the ultimate authority and holds that in a diverse society, each person should have the right to lead her own authentic life and make up her own mind about moral matters. If a woman decides to get an abortion, we should respect her freedom of choice.

“The conservative moral tradition has a very different conception of human nature, the world and how the good society is formed. People who subscribe to this worldview believe the individuals are embedded in a larger and pre-existing moral order.”

As Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor summarizes it: “In this ethos, ultimate authority is outside of the self. For many people who share this worldview, the ultimate source of authority is God’s truth, as revealed in Scripture.”

Both these traditions have deep intellectual and historical roots. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Both, Brooks argues, should have a place in any pluralistic society. “But conservatism, especially Christian conservatism, is coming apart,” he suggests. Its people feel under “massive assault, from progressive cultural elites.” One senses it every time our prime minister gets up to demonstrate how virtuous he is to protect a woman’s right to abort.

Brooks’s argument is that we need “institutions built on the ‘you are not your own’ ethos to create social bonds that are more permanent than individual choice. It needs that ethos to counter the me-centric, narcissistic tendencies in our culture.”

It needs settings that “preserve… the idea that there are truths so transcendentally right that they are absolutely true in all circumstances… that people and nations have to pay for the wages of sin… (though) that firmness in keeping with the right always has to be accompanied by humility about how much we can ever see of the right.”

A pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Centre is such an institution. Its loss will become a loss to us all.

Harold Jantz is a longtime writer and editor, doing much of his work for Christian periodicals. He is at:

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