Op-ed: Moral relativism helps the abortion movement, hurts mothers

“Our experiences can exist on a spectrum,” says abortion apologist Aspen Baker.  Baker is the founder of “Exhale,” which features a hotline women can call for support after an abortion.  The driving force behind Exhale is the notion that abortion experiences are what a woman believes them to be.

In May, Baker gave a TED talk in which she laid out the method taught to Exhale phone counselors who interact with post-abortive mothers calling for emotional support:   

Ask open-ended questions: ‘How are you feeling?’  ‘What was that like?’  ‘What do you hope for now?'  Another way to be a good listener is to use reflective language.  If someone is talking about their own personal experience, use the words they use.

Baker’s idea, evidently, is that by giving women a platform to talk about their abortions and be heard by someone on the other end, the emotions that prompted them to call will sort themselves out.  This idea is nice in theory, but in reality there is more to helping post-abortive women than listening to them and repeating their words back to them.  A woman experiencing grief, remorse, or guilt may not find healing until someone affirms the existence of the lost Life whose death she is feeling so keenly.

Baker insists that the abortion debate needs to move beyond the sides of Pro-Life and “pro-choice,” merging into a murky middle that she triumphantly calls, “pro-voice.”  She says: “personal abortion experiences don’t fit neatly into one camp or the other. … If we truly listen to one another, we will hear things that demand that we shift our own perceptions.”  This statement is sneaky, but Baker seems to be referring here to the “perceptions” of morality that prompt most Americans to believe that abortion is fundamentally wrong.  Therefore, the abortion movement experiences unparalleled progress when people adopt the belief that abortion is a morally relative decision.

As a matter of fact, moral relativism is the name of Baker’s game.  New Zealand’s Life.org explains the phenomenon:

Moral relativism teaches that there are no absolute moral truths… what is true for you may not necessarily be true for me.  It believes and teaches there is no right or wrong, good or bad… Words like “ought” and “should” are rendered meaningless. In this way, moral relativism claims to be morally neutral.

From the inception of the abortion movement, advocates have relied on and repackaged this moral neutrality to serve their ends.

Ironically, this mandate of moral relativism does not extend to abortion activists themselves, who enshrine their beliefs as moral absolutes.  Case in point: former Planned Parenthood president Faye Wattleton argued that legislation must allow women to “make their own moral decisions about childbearing.”  Wattleton, like most abortion activists, achieved this end by lobbying for anti-Life legislation.  One commentator identifies the self-destructing reasoning contained in Wattleton’s morally relativistic argument:

In fact, Wattleton has her own absolute she seeks to impose on other people: "Fundamental respect for others is morality of the highest order."  This is a personal moral position she strives to mandate politically.  She writes, "I have devoted my career to ensuring a world in which my daughter, Felicia, can inherit that legacy."  What legacy?  Her point of view.  How does she ensure this?  By passing laws.  Faye Wattleton has devoted her career to ensuring a world in which her point of view is enforced by law.

In other words, abortion activists can cry, tolerance! on the grounds of moral relativism to defend unrestricted abortion, but they cannot be held to the same standard themselves when their own narrow view is threatened by someone who disagrees.  Moral neutrality on abortion, furthermore, demands that we scrub the other person involved – the preborn child – from the picture entirely.

The factual reality of what happens in an abortion is utterly at-odds with any notion that abortion is a morally neutral decision.  Last week, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life masterfully delineated the cognitive dissonance that exists within abortion advocacy, saying:

If abortion is really a social good, as the abortion movement is now claiming, it should be honestly discussed and described.  If accurate and objective words sound inflammatory, we need to remember that they’re still accurate and objective – it’s the subject that’s the problem.

Fr. Pavone pointed to the story of Emily Letts, an abortion clinic worker who claimed to film her own abortion in order to empower other women and remove the stigma associated with killing one’s child.  Except Letts did not actually film her abortion; she filmed her face as she experienced the abortion, which occurred off-camera.  If, as Aspen Baker insists, we should freely discuss abortion, why can abortion advocates still not even look at abortion?  Fr. Pavone calls this chasm between words and reality “defending the indefensible.”  And the best way to defend the indefensible is to impose a system of moral neutrality.

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