On Monday the NZ Herald published an op-ed article by one of it’s reporters called ‘When it comes to abortion, we’re debating the wrong thing.’
The stated aim of the author was to “be the voice of reason” and to put us lowly plebs straight about “positions that completely miss the point of the whole debate” and what we should actually be talking about instead.
Fair enough I suppose – pontificators gonna pontificate.
The only problem is that the article doesn’t really do much in the way of sound reasoning.
Not only does it contain several blatant falsehoods, but it is also proposes a confused, self-contradictory and ultimately untenable proposal about the relationship between morality and the law.
The author starts by attacking former Prime Minister Bill English for what she calls “scaremongering” because he described late-term abortions as acts of “extreme violence.”
She also states that pro-lifers who promote “images of foetuses” and use “emotionally charged language to appeal to the heartstrings” are also guilty of this same scaremongering.
The obvious falsehood here is that none of these things are acts of scaremongering.
Scaremongering involves an element of deception and extreme exaggeration, and it is almost always about someone making dire predictions about bad things that will happen if a particular action is undertaken or avoided.
For example, it would be scaremongering to tell a healthy child that if they eat lollies they will die prematurely of diabetes, or to tell someone that unless they vote for the Green Party all of New Zealand’s rivers and streams will be destroyed by pollution in the next 18 months.
In both these examples, the person doing the scaremongering is exaggerating to the point of untruth in order to try and frighten someone else into taking a particular course of action.
But simply presenting facts about an issue, or appealing to people’s emotions is not an act of scaremongering.
Calling abortion (in this case, late-term abortion) an act of violence or displaying images of unborn human beings is simply telling the truth, while using emotive language is simply an attempt to convince someone of your case by appealing to them on an emotional level.
The point is that none of these things is scaremongering.
One can’t help but wonder whether the author also takes umbrage with every group that uses images or emotional language to raise awareness about important issues.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn’t a principled stand, but rather she is being arbitrarily selective in her condemnation of pro-life groups for engaging in such awareness raising activities.
The most bizarre thing of all about her accusations of scaremongering is that just a few sentences later she actually engages in scaremongering herself when she declares that (emphasis added):
“What is up for discussion is whether the current system is fair, whether women and health professionals deserve to be put in jail for it.”
Not only is this an actual case of scaremongering, but it is also a blatant lie.
No health professionals are jailed for practicing abortion in New Zealand, and the current abortion legislation in the NZ Crimes Act explicitly excludes females from prosecution – even if an illegal abortion is carried out.
Remember, not only is this a reporter for our largest newspaper making these absurdly false statements but she is also doing so in a column where she is claiming to be “the voice of reason” who will correct our misunderstandings about the current abortion debate.
This isn’t the only blatant falsehood in this article either.
Later on she makes another easily disprovable statement when she claims that under the current law “women are treated like criminals” when they have abortions.
She also declares that:
“It’s not something any woman takes lightly – please do not believe that no matter how many stories you hear of friends of friends who’ve had three or four abortions and counting.”
What she clearly seems to be suggesting there is that anyone claiming to know of New Zealand women who have had multiple abortions is not likely to be telling the truth.
Yet if she had taken the time to examine the official abortion statistics she would have quickly discovered that every year approximately 3000 (almost 1/4 of all) women having abortions have had at least one previous abortion, and approximately 1700 (13%) have had two or more previous abortions.
In the last 20 years almost 37,000 cases of people having two or more previous abortions at the time of their latest abortion, and more than 77,000 cases of people having had one previous abortion have occurred in this country.
At another point she states that:
“whoever tells you they’ve heard of people who [have used abortion as contraception] is probably lying or has been tricked into believing that.”
If she had actually done some research on this point she would have discovered that last year 60.3% of people who had abortions in NZ were not using contraception.
In 2017 it was 57%. In 2016 it was 57%. In 2015 it was 54.7%.
To claim that no one is using abortion as a form of contraception when more than half of all people having abortions each year are not using any form of contraception is simply not credible.
Which brings us to the central claim that the author wants us to accept about the current abortion debate:
“When it comes to the abortion debate going on in New Zealand, here’s what the issue is: whether or not you think abortion should be removed from the Crimes Act. Here’s what the issue is not: whether or not you think abortion is a good or a bad thing. No one is asking anybody whether they think abortion is morally right or wrong. Yet that seems to be the question many are answering.”
To suggest that an extreme revision of your abortion laws has nothing to do with the morality of abortion is simply nonsensical.
Not only that, but she completely contradicts her own central premise just a few paragraphs later when she declares:
“The abortion issue goes way deeper than this. It’s a matter of body autonomy, it’s a matter of gender equality, of individual rights and, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, it’s a matter of privilege.”
All of the things she has referred to in that list are moral issues.
So which is it?
Does the current debate have nothing to do with the morality of abortion, or is the morality of abortion central to this debate?
Just consider the way she refers to abortion in this article, with terms and phrases such as: “heartbreaking”, “a level of trauma many are lucky enough to never have to experience”, “[abortions are] universally hated things”, “[who doesn’t] hate the very thought of abortions?”, etc.
Do these really sound like descriptions of an act where the moral question is irrelevant?
Or isn’t it actually more likely that the very reason that words like ‘trauma’ and ‘hate’ are associated with the act of abortion is because it involves a morally reprensible act that plagues our conscience in an inescapable way?
The important truth that the author seems to have completely missed here is that all laws are ultimately about morality.
The law is a practical outworking of moral principles.
So when the author declares that “legalising something isn’t about moral approval” my initial response is: if that’s true then why is rape, murder, slavery and theft illegal in this country?
If she really believes that legalising something isn’t about moral approval, does that mean she would she support, or stand idly by if a Bill that tried to legalise any of those acts was brought before our Parliament?
The answer of course is that she would never support legalising any of those things, and the reason she wouldn’t support their legalisation is because they are all morally evil things to do to other human beings, and the law should never condone or stand idle in the face of grave moral evil.
To try and separate morality and law is not only absurd, but it is extremely dangerous. The only likely outcome of such an approach is laws that are based on nothing more than the arbitrary exercise of power.
Which is exactly what we see happening right now in the abortion debate.
Those with the power are trying to arbitrarily exert it over the most vulnerable members of the New Zealand community in the most horrific and unjust way possible.