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Fr. Murray


This is the e-mail Jeff refers to, reprinted with permission:

Jeff’s treatment of the abortion crisis in America is seriously flawed. Let me elaborate:

He writes: “Roe relocated decision-making about abortion from state governments to the individual woman, and was thus a libertarian, not a liberal, ruling.”

“Decision making about abortion” is a phrase that masks the reality: The Court decriminalized the killing of unborn children, and created a “right” of the mother to put her offspring to death at her discretion and without any justification for this act beyond that she thinks she needs to do it in order to be happy. The descriptive “libertarian” serves to deflect the stigma of endorsing what most liberals have long sought, and almost all conservatives have resisted, that is, the abortion license.

The libertarians justify almost anything in the name of personal freedom, but that presumes in the case of abortion that an unborn child is not a person, entitled to personal freedom not to be killed before birth at the request of his mother. Science tells us who is human as opposed to non-human animals; legal reasoning by the justices in the majority can either affirm this reality, or drift into bogus abstractions about legal personhood not being a correlative of being human. They’ve done it before in the case of slaves. By the way, what is the libertarian position on slavery?

“Planned Parenthood v. Casey supported Roe, but gave it a social dimension, making the woman’s choice a derivative of the women’s revolution. This has been the result of many accumulating social facts, and its results already have been largely assimilated.”

If Jeff means by “its results have been largely assimilated” that abortion is a non-topic of social discussion and political battles, I suggest a phone call to the people opposing Judge Alito would reveal major anxiety caused by the plain fact that that the ranks of those who have not assimilated the “social facts” are large and influential, and that the will of the non-assimilationists may soon carry the day.

“Roe reflected, and reflects, a relentlessly changing social actuality.”

Roe was pure judicial power of the Warren Court sort that legislated liberal preferences from the bench at a time when the prospects of legalizing abortion through the legislative branch of the various states were growing dimmer as the anti-abortion movement did the good work of alerting people to what abortion is, the killing of children (not the mere elimination of human tissue). The use of “relentlessly changing social actuality” to describe the ever present assault of liberalism upon the just laws fostering a social order that protects the lives of unborn children sounds like a capitulation without a struggle to the liberals’ dogged fight to legalize abortion.

Relentless forces can become attentuated; so-called irresistable social forces can be effectively resisted; what is needed is will. A social revolutionary movement only becomes a social actuality, as opposed to an insurgency upon the reigning order, when it overthrows that order. I suggest that the success of the conservatively and religiously led anti-abortion movement in keeping abortion at the center of American politics reflects that legalized abortion does not enjoy the status of a social actuality, meaning an unassailable and fixed social arrangement, legally protected, reflecting the will of the American people. We live under a legal regime created and imposed by liberal justices who rejected the will of the people expressed in the laws passed by their representatives, and “discovered” a previously unknown right to abortion in the Constitution. This legal regime is fragile and under constant assault.

“Simply to pull an abstract “right to life” out of the Declaration of Independence is not conservative but Jacobinical.”

There is nothing abstract about an unborn human being, and likewise the metaphysical laws that govern human life are not abstractions, but rather the solid ground that makes a just society possible. My right not to be killed, without justification, at the discretion of another person is not an abstraction, it is the fundamental condition of the existence of any justly ordered community of persons. What is an abstraction is Roe, in which unborn human are not persons, and the killing of such non-persons is legally sanctionned and protected by the state against any interference.

Babies before birth are people, and to treat them in any other way requires entrance into the horrible world of evil ideas (lies) that result in evil (unjust) actions. The Roe justices that gave us abortion would have liked the country to march into that world with them; they have been and will be unsuccessful as long as we do not concede the fight.

Jeff is wonderful friend and my admired teacher, but he has gotten this wrong, and will no doubt hear the same from numerous bewildered fans. I will be interested in his response to criticisms.

Fr. Gerry Murray


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