RJN on Abortion and the Election

[The entire essay is here.]

We are two nations: one concentrated on rights and laws, the other on rights and wrongs; one radically individualistic and dedicated to the actualized self, the other communal and invoking the common good; one viewing law as the instrument of the will to power and license, the other affirming an objective moral order reflected in a Constitution to which we are obliged; one given to private satisfaction, the other to familial responsibility; one typically secular, the other typically religious; one elitist, the other populist. These strokes are admittedly broad, but the reality is all too evident in the increasingly ugly rancor that dominates and debases our public life. And, of course, for many Americans the conflicts in the culture wars run through their own hearts.

No other question cuts so close to the heart of the culture wars as the question of abortion. The abortion debate is about more than abortion. It is about the nature of human life and community. It is about whether rights are the product of human assertion or the gift of “Nature and Nature’s God.” It is about euthanasia, eugenic engineering, and the protection of the radically handicapped. But the abortion debate is most inescapably about abortion. In that debate, the Supreme Court has again and again, beginning with the Roe and Doe decisions of 1973, gambled its authority, and with it our constitutional order, by coming down on one side.



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.