Wendell Berry on Abortion

[From the essay, “The Conservation of Nature and the Preservation of Humanity,” in the book Another Turn of the Crank]

That I believe abortion to be wrong does not mean that I cannot imagine situations in which I would support a woman’s decision to have an abortion–or in which I would have an abortion, if I were a woman, or perform an abortion, if I were a doctor.  Because we are human, we don’t have the happiness of choosing always between good and evil.  Sometimes we must choose between two evils, and Idon’t recommend turning away from anybody in that predicament.  Because our life does not always offer us clean-cut choices between good and evil, we are going to need forgiveness.  And I believe in the possibility of forgiveness, as I believe in the possibility of just remorse.

We are nevertheless entrusted with the care of our fellow human creatures.  If abortion is wrong, as I believe, it is wrong because it excludes some of our fellow humans from our care.  But to think that abortion is wrong is to risk dangerous oversimplification if we cannot follow our thought to its logical conclusion.  If we cannot justify violence to unborn human beings, then how can we justify violence to those who are born, or to the world that they are born into?

The issue ultimately turns on one question: Is a human fetus a human being?  I believe that it is.  Anybody who believes that it is not must say what else on earth it might be.

Timotheos

5 thoughts on “Wendell Berry on Abortion

  1. I think that I would take issue with the sentence that reads: “If we cannot justify violence to unborn human beings, then how can we justify violence to those who are born, or to the world that they are born into?”

    There is a difference between unborn human beings and born human beings. Unborn human beings have not yet acted in society or in the world into which they may be born. Once a human being has acted in society, the possibility exists that the action deserves a violent reaction from society. In other words, if a human being intentionally kills another human being, then it is justifiable for society (acting through the agency of its government) to react violently toward the human who did the killing, by executing that individual.

    This is why there is no inconsistency between a pro-life position and a position favoring the death penalty.

  2. Once a human being has acted in society, the possibility exists that the action deserves a violent reaction from society. In other words, if a human being intentionally kills another human being, then it is justifiable for society (acting through the agency of its government) to react violently toward the human who did the killing, by executing that individual.

    I agree with this statement except for the use of the words, “violent” and “violently”. Violence is unjust force. The use of justified force, even deadly force, against murderers and those threatening imminent murder, should not be described as “violence.” As substitutes, use “forceful” and “with deadly force,” respectively.

  3. Pingback: A Little Town Shall Lead Them: American Ruralism and Progressive Christian Voices | Patrol

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