Thursday, June 24, 2010


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It is a mistake to dismiss someone's passions or feelings because they are religious. It was Christians who ended infanticide and Christians who ended slavery. It was also Christians who did the Inquisition and Christians who went on the Crusades. Christians would kill people in order to convert them. Religion has its positive aspects and its negative ones. Religious people, convinced they are right, can start wars.

It hardly follows from this that it's pro-lifers who are self-righteous and certain. Many pro-lifers are filled with doubt and think abortion should be avoided precisely because you don't know for sure if it's a homicide or not, or how bad this thing is. It seems to me a doubtful, uncertain person would try to avoid abortion, not say how right it is.

If anything, it's the pro-choice side who has to be certain. You don't have an abortion unless you're certain it's not a homicide, right? Or do you? Maybe all your moral doubts are in regard to the immorality of infanticide. If that's the case, well, it's gonna be a religious war. I'm just saying. Cause I am pretty damn confident about the immorality of infanticide. I know that's bad. I'm not going to try to see your point of view or find the middle ground. "Kill the weaks ones but leave those strong babies alone."

It's not just me. I think there is widespread agreement in our society that infanticide is wrong. For instance, most pro-choice people hate being called baby-killer. Try it sometime. They don't like it at all. The reason they don't like it, we're not actually living in a pagan asshole society. It's Judeo-Christianity. Even if we haven't been to church in a while, or we're this weird thing we call a Jewish atheist, nonetheless we are still in a Judeo-Christian society. We got religious forefathers, we got the Bible in our blood. And killing babies is frowned upon. Some of us might feel more strongly about it than others, but we all know it's bad.

Being filled with doubt, being cautious and humble, that is not how I would describe Roe v. Wade. It's not a self-righteous opinion, or a religious one. In fact it reads like a post-Christian opinion. "We're beyond Christianity. We don't need morality anymore." That's how it reads. Sensitive, liberal, and secular. And yet it's also very, very dogmatic.

It doesn't start off that way. Blackmun opens his opinion by couching his language in terms of doubt and uncertainty. "We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion."

That's a really good paragraph, I think. After using this language and talking this way, you would expect Harry Blackmun to be extremely careful. Cause he seems to know that he's stepping onto a minefield. He's supposed to be up there resolving cases and controversies. And here he's about to resolve one without any Constitutional text to help him. So you better not screw this up. You better be careful and respectful.

By the end of his opinion, Harry Blackmun is dictating trimester and viability rules to hundreds of millions of people. Here you go, America. Here are my rules.

After you re-read Roe a few times, and you know where he's going, that early paragraph seems more and more interesting. What he's really doing with it, I think, is saying "I am above the fray. All the little people below me feel very passionate about abortion. But I, Harry Blackmun, am above it all. I am unengaged by your petty squabbles. And I will solve this dispute because I am so dispassionate and calm."

As the Supreme Court sinks deeper and deeper into its abortion quagmire, Blackmun's rhetoric starts to heat up a little. By Webster and Casey he is screaming about how he's the candle and the light and Scalia is a force from the dark side. You think I'm kidding.

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