A libertarian athiest on abortion and politics...

Psalm 139 by Soulspire

H/T to a faithful reader for this excerpt from a post by Camille Paglia over at Salon.com.
The (Democratic) party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.

Let's take the issue of abortion rights, of which I am a firm supporter. As an atheist and libertarian, I believe that government must stay completely out of the sphere of personal choice. Every individual has an absolute right to control his or her body. (Hence I favor the legalization of drugs, though I do not take them.) Nevertheless, I have criticized the way that abortion became the obsessive idée fixe of the post-1960s women's movement — leading to feminists' McCarthyite tactics in pitting Anita Hill with her flimsy charges against conservative Clarence Thomas (admittedly not the most qualified candidate possible) during his nomination hearings for the Supreme Court. Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women — an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism. Nature herself is a mass murderer, making casual, cruel experiments and condemning 10,000 to die so that one more fit will live and thrive.

Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

On the other hand, I support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?

What I am getting at here is that not until the Democratic Party stringently reexamines its own implicit assumptions and rhetorical formulas will it be able to deal effectively with the enduring and now escalating challenge from the pro-life right wing. Because pro-choice Democrats have been arguing from cold expedience, they have thus far been unable to make an effective ethical case for the right to abortion.

The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism. Naomi Wolf later bravely tried to address this same subject but seems to have given up in the face of the resistance she encountered.

If Sarah Palin tries to intrude her conservative Christian values into secular government, then she must be opposed and stopped. But she has every right to express her views and to argue for society's acceptance of the high principle of the sanctity of human life. If McCain wins the White House and then drops dead, a President Palin would have the power to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, but she could not control their rulings.

It is nonsensical and counterproductive for Democrats to imagine that pro-life values can be defeated by maliciously destroying their proponents. And it is equally foolish to expect that feminism must for all time be inextricably wed to the pro-choice agenda. There is plenty of room in modern thought for a pro-life feminism — one in fact that would have far more appeal to third-world cultures where motherhood is still honored and where the Western model of the hard-driving, self-absorbed career woman is less admired.

But the one fundamental precept that Democrats must stand for is independent thought and speech. When they become baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma, Democrats have committed political suicide.


  1. I hope it's a given for Paglia that Republicans are themselves "baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma". Paglia misses a lot in this post: not all death penalty victims are actually guilty. Republicans support and encourage war as a practical conflict resolution technique though it means killing thousands and thousands of people and obliterating homes and communities. And pregnancies happen for myriad reasons which should be considered - rape, oppression, incest, poverty, lack of education, slavery, abuse... unwanted children rarely grow up to have happy, productive, love-filled lives, and their mothers often have even less of a chance of getting ahead that they did before having their baby and may find themselves incapable of mothering. A unilateral statement that the pro-choice position has been one argued from "cold expedience" is misrepresented.

  2. Concord Pastor,
    As someone who represents a parish, do you want to venture into these political partisan waters?

  3. I do not represent a parish, I serve a parish. My work is to represent the Church in serving the parish.

    I think Paglia's piece includes some stunning remarks about abortion and the fact that these words come from a pro-choice voice is remarkable.

    I hold a pro-life position and one of my hopes here is to move beyond the level of feelings and to look at the realities that partisan political talk often obscures.

    A variety of voices have something to say to us in this process, including the voice of a self-described libertarian atheist.

    Do I agree with everything Paglia has to say? No. Do I believe she has something to say about abortion that I hope many will hear? Yes.

  4. As long as abortion has been introduced as a topic for discussion on your blog, CP, I would like to expand the thread. The church's continued opposition to artificial birth control, highlighted lately in articles about the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, in my opinion, has served to increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and the spread of AIDS. While abstinence only education is something the church and the religious right tout; in fact, it doesn't work. There would be far fewer abortions and far fewer people infected with AIDS if the ABC (Abstinence, Be Faithful to One Person, Condoms) message was held as a model by the church and the religious right. It is unfortunate that by their unyielding position they actually perpetuate these tragic situations.

  5. The story last week of the newborn infant (umbilical cord still attached) being left on someone's doorstep wrapped in a blanket in a canvas tote with a note asking for the baby to be taken care of points up the difficult realities of unintended pregnancies. I can only imagine the desperation the mother was feeling in order for her to abandon her baby in this way. Very sad that this mother didn't feel as if she could turn to anyone for help.

  6. I agree, anonymous ... so very sad.
    If only she knew there are countless people out there willing to help her. I imagine her coming to Holy Family Church, and asking if anyone out there would be willing to watch her child until she gets her act together. I hope to think I would be there for her. And I think many others.


Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!