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Illinois Federation

For Right to Life

Daily News

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Reasonableness of the Pro-Life Case for Life

"Both sides have chosen, and promulgated into the mainstream, appealing names for themselves. Who, after all, doesn't like life, or choice? But the central abortion debate is about neither. Rather, it comes down to something akin to religious belief, and is thus resistant to reason."
     From "Abortion in Our 'Times,'" by Elisabeth Eaves, which ran Friday at

The "Times" in this headline refers to the New York Times. Eaves, described as "the deputy editor of the opinion channel at," does a nice job explaining how the Times had cobbled together factoids and anecdotes and goofy extrapolations to manufacture a sensationalized story about alleged self-abortion and Latina women. Ironically, not unlike the author of the Times story, Eaves' some-of-this, some-of-that opinion piece stitches together various and sundry threads to reach the predetermined conclusion that pro-lifers are toast.

Neither the New York Times story nor the Forbes column qualifies as news. So what caught my attention? It wasn't Eaves' notion that both sides have appealing names ("pro-choice" and "pro-life"), but rather her conclusion that the abortion debate is "resistant to reason" because it is "something akin to religious belief." Really?

This is wrong on so many levels that I knew I needed a powerful antidote. Immediately I thought of what I gather is the last book review Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote for his beloved "First Things" magazine. As you may recall, Fr. Neuhaus passed away last week.

As the prodigious output of Fr. Neuhaus exemplified as well as anything possibly could, there is no incompatibility, no tension between faith and reason. It is one of those false dichotomies intended simultaneously to marginalize believers and to end conversation. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, faith and reason are like two blades of a scissors: both are necessary for the scissors to work properly.

What's fascinating is that it is pro-abortionists who routinely resort to the kind of evidence- and reason-free "faith" that Eaves has in mind in her caricature. Neuhaus talked about this at length in his terrific review of The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right, written by political scientist Jon Shields.

After outlining the all-too-typical intolerant campus attitude toward pro-lifers, Neuhaus makes this statement which is as true as it is infrequently noted:

"While the pro-life cause welcomes, and has been greatly bolstered by, the support of many distinguished intellectuals, the same is not true of the pro-choice movement. On the contrary, intellectuals who share their policy preferences are always raising inconvenient questions about the intellectual coherence of arguments advanced in favor of the unlimited abortion license."

By "inconvenient," Neuhaus means that anti-life intellectuals can and do embarrass the Abortion Establishment who want to be seen as mainstream "moderates." They do so by pointing out the logical conclusion that follows when, based on the most shoddy and morally incoherent reasoning, the unborn are robbed of their right to legal protection. Bioethicist Peter Singer is only the most famous example.

As Neuhaus explains, Singer called the liberal bluff: he (correctly) concluded that "Liberals have failed to establish a morally significant dividing line between the newborn baby and the fetus." But rather than retreat, Singer races forward, concluding (in Neuhaus's words) "that it is therefore permissible to kill babies outside as well as inside the womb."

Put another way, "pro-life intellectuals, like pro-life activists, insist on talking about the science and moral reasoning pertinent to the moral status of the unborn," Neuhaus wrote. What is hugely beneficial for the pro-life cause--honesty from pro-life intellectuals--is "more hindrance than help to the pro-choice movement" when practiced by pro-choice intellectuals.

The media stereotype is that the pro-life community is uniformly homogeneous and judgmental. It is far more accurate to say that we are like a coat of many colors that is wrapped around pregnant women in their hour of need.

To come full circle pro-lifers of all stripes share a common faith: the conviction (as Fr. Neuhaus so often wrote) that there is no moral, ethical, or scientifically coherent argument to exclude the unborn "from the community for whom we are responsible."

Contact: Dave Andrusko

Source: National Right to Life
Source URL:
Publish Date: January 13, 2009
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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.

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