Advocating Theocracy in America

(How Anti-abortion Religion Activists are Anti-democracy Activists )

Copyright 2011, John Manimas Medeiros

One is forced to be impolite when discussing the public policy ideas of current day "conservatives," who talk as though they stopped reading in the third grade, or when they had finished plowing through Dick and Jane Have a Picnic. It is so difficult to communicate with people who oversimplify complex issues, especially when they insist a public debate embodies a moral issue and the government must either uphold their moral principles or be under the control of atheists and murderers. The simple minds of the right apparently do not understand that by constantly bringing up and gnawing on the abortion issue, like a dumb dog worrying an old, discarded stuffed doll -- their psycho-fetus -- they are building a case for the government to sustain a "legitimate interest" in who is born and who is not born. While they present themselves to the world and to themselves as the champions of "life," the anti-abortion activists make a case that is clearly against freedom.

The question of whether or not a woman should bring her unwanted fetus to term is a personal dilemma. This personal decision fits perfectly into the definition of a moral dilemma, the kind of question that can make a course in philosophy both relevant and exciting. But, it is not really suitable for making a public policy that prohibits one of the practical, or moral, options. Some women do not want to give birth for a variety of personal and moral reasons. The facts that pertain to such a decision include both practical and moral considerations that are beyond the control of government in a democratic society. Some are listed here:

1) The father is not well known to the mother, and has no interest in a marital relationship or in the challenge and costs of raising the unborn child;

2) The father may be hostile and openly declare he does not want the child to be born and to become his responsibility;

3) The woman may feel inadequate to be a parent financially, physically and emotionally;

4) The woman feels, due to her own life experience and outlook, that she does not want to have children, does not want to bring any child into this world which she deems to be unfair, potentially cruel, and dangerous;

5) The woman feels that her educational aspirations and life plan will be profoundly altered, most likely diminishing her opportunities to be the person she wishes to be, and she can carefully plan to bear children later in life;

6) The woman may feel that having an unplanned child is morally wrong and inconsiderate of both the unborn child and the community.

There is much sensitivity to the human condition that is missing from the anti abortion position. The percentage of unwanted pregnancies that result from a man and a woman engaging in sexual intercourse is most likely about 1% of all such occurrences of sexual intercourse. That is a very low rate of "errors" for an activity that is common today and has been common throughout human history, and which no reasonable person believes can be effectively discouraged by any argument. Sexuality is normal, biological, good, the cause of life, the source of human bonding and deep feelings of attachment between a man and a woman. It cannot be stopped; we do not give credit to anyone who suggests that it should be stopped. If we all agreed that abortion of a fetus is not a good thing, we could then discuss rationally the most practical and effective ways to prevent the creation of a fetus in the first place. This has been done, but the anti-abortionists insist that the conception must be an irreversible act. The true position of the anti-abortionist is that every child conceived must be born. The problem with this position is not that it is in some way morally reprehensible, or necessarily wrong. The problem with the position of the anti-abortionists is that they strive stridently and aggressively, even obnoxiously, to make it government policy, public policy, that every child conceived must be born. This proposition is a blatant assertion that the federal government has a legitimate interest in this personal event: the government should control by force of law the birth of a fetus, should require by law that the fetus, having been conceived, must be born. The anti-abortionists continually sound and appear oblivious to what their position entails: establishing legal control over the personal exercise of human sexuality. This position is inescapably a "population policy." It is a policy that defines how the government has a right and a duty to regulate births. This may in fact be a public policy in America in the future. It has been in China. What the fuddle-headed anti-abortionists fail to see is that if you build a case for a public law that every fetus conceived must be born, you establish an equally sound basis for a policy to prevent births by law in order to protect the nation from the pervasive ravages of over-population. The losses arising from over- population are embodied in the diminished standards of living when there are too many people depending upon a limited environment for the necessities of life. This does not mean one car instead of two; it means no clean water, disease, and both children and adults dying like dumb animals confined to a pen that is never cleaned.

The legal concept of the "legitimate interest of the state" to pass a law and implement a public policy is well established, is not even slightly fuzzy, and is accepted as the sound basis for any state or federal law that regulates human activity or human decisions. A clear explanation of what the "legitimate interest of the state" is, or may be, can be found in textbooks on political science or in law books. In our information age, reasonably accurate definitions are found on the Internet. If you search using this phrase, you will find such passages as the following:

"When a law affects a constitutionally protected interest, the law must meet the 'Rational Basis Test.' This test requires that the law be rationally related to a legitimate state interest. … " And, laws that are challenged are usually upheld, because "…there is usually some type of reasonable relation between the state interest and the way the law seeks to advance that interest." --

"The strict scrutiny standard of judicial review is based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Federal courts use strict scrutiny to determine whether certain types of government policies are constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has applied this standard to laws or policies that impinge on a right explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, …" --

"The difference between the 'rational basis' test and the 'rational basis with bite' test is whether the court tries to come up with its own ideas for legitimate government interests, or whether the court insists that the government have already stated that interest prior to the ruling." -- Wikipedia/rational basis review

The concept is really simple here. If we empower the government to require that every fetus conceived be delivered as a born child, then we have given that government a generic power over childbirth. They can use that same power to pass a law requiring that a woman over the age of thirty be forbidden to bear children, or that women who do not meet a test for income and financial resources shall not be allowed to bear a child, or that a woman may have only one child during her lifetime no matter how healthy or rich she is. We cannot give the government a power to enforce only one birth policy or only one population policy; either the government has the power -- a legitimate interest in -- regulation of the population by regulation of births, or it does not have that power. The anti-abortionists, whose true motivation is opposition to personal freedom for women, pursue with wildly aggressive passion, the goal of giving the federal government power over the sexual behavior of women. This is inescapably a policy that is in opposition to individual freedom, and a policy that places the government in control of family relationships. The views and policies advocated by anti-abortionists are in opposition to any reasonable construction of the meaning of "family values." In the Roman Catholic world of the middle ages, and to the present day, a Roman Catholic priest will assert that the marriage between a man and a woman is in reality a relationship involving three persons, because the Roman Catholic God is included in "sanctifying" the marriage. The public policies advocated by the anti-abortionists replace God with the State, making the government the "third party" to the marriage between a man and a woman. The state is there to tell them if and when they can bear a child.

In addition to the folly of claiming that state involvement in childbirth is a "family value," the anti-abortionists are blindly ignorant of the logical "black hole" in the reasoning of their defensive arguments. They claim that God does not want us to kill a fetus. That is a legitimate personal opinion, but it is a religious opinion, a religious idea, or religious doctrine. Therefore, it makes the entire subject matter of both planned and unplanned pregnancies a religious issue. And, if it is a religious issue, it is governed in part by the First Amendment, which requires that the government avoid imposing a religious requirement on individual citizens. Further, a widely respected expert on medical ethics, Joseph Campbell, pointed out that if one evokes a divine law as the basis for a policy, there can be no rational debate on that issue, because we cannot debate with God. Essentially, what Campbell is saying is the same as what I have just said before: if an individual feels compelled to obey a law of God, then the basis of their thoughts and behavior with regard to that area of decision-making is clearly religious. And, when the motivation of an individual citizen is religious, the government has to make every reasonable effort to respond in a manner that is neutral to religion, and that does not impose a religious doctrine on a person who is making a personal decision. One could summarize this entire argument in the phrase: Personal freedom exists only where there are personal decisions being made by a person without requiring authorization or approval from the government.

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