While hopeful of a united front within the pro-life camp, I have dismissed an incremental approach that takes the form of gestational legislation. Please note, I do think some incremental approaches should be pursued, but not ones that legally discriminate against persons that fall under an arbitrary limit.
But I also suggested that any success in achieving gestational legislation would effectively neuter the pro-life cause thereafter. I want to expand on that here.
The chief reason is that the position clearly does not even have the courage to reflect the convictions of those that espouse it, and many pro-lifers do not. Even its advocates acknowledge that gestational limits impose an arbitrary determination on when life begins, but they excuse it as a tactical manoeuvre. But they fool no one, and that is precisely why any legislation would be ineffective.
For one thing, the pro-life movement would be exposed for operating on false pretenses, and having a ‘hidden agenda’. Since integrity is essential to the pro-life cause, positions that are so nakedly cynical must be rejected out of hand, particularly in an age marked by cynicism and ‘interest group politics’.
Furthermore, laws cannot effect change on their own, though it is characteristic of legal positivists to think that they can: hearts and minds must be changed to be willing to follow them, and that can only happen when laws are clearly connected to morality and the public good.
The medical establishment in Canada has already demonstrated between 1969-1988 that it viewed the unborn to be unworthy of the treatment of persons, aborting large numbers and thus overruling the standing prohibitions on abortion (using its own, varying, prudential judgment as medical experts, and its own understanding of ‘harm’). There is every reason to think it would do no differently with a gestational limit on abortion.
Finally, adopting a compromise position also renders the pro-life movement defenseless against the same practice being implemented at the other end of the war on life as it has been given by God: euthanasia.
Gestational limits and euthanasia
On that front, I understand that Malcolm Muggeridge predicted that the next step after legalized abortion would be legalizing euthanasia … and he was right. Both the legal and medical establishment is moving in that direction.
Why was it so obvious to him? For the reason I have articulated throughout these posts. Muggeridge saw that the primary battlefield was the issue of sovereignty and the authority of the state to define life and law over against God and the criminal code which rested on common law or Biblical law in the English tradition. In Canada, the State’s expansion of its sovereignty has largely transpired through an unelected judiciary which appeals to the terms of the Charter, interpreted in opposition to this same tradition.
The Messianic state and the ‘official’ human being
The modern Messianic state sees itself as the author, giver and definer of life, hence its increasingly frequent redefinitions of marriage, family, gender, human rights, and so forth. The economic needs of the modern socialistic state will lead to increasing pressure for euthanasia against the will of patients in the same way it has promoted a sexual agenda in schools, defying religious objections and the will of parents.
I can envisage a time very soon when the state will seek to determine an upper limit to life and recommend mandatory euthanasia as a therapeutic measure for the good of one and all. It is already effectively happening in places like the U.K. Would we pursue incremental legislation then based on an age of death as a practical countermeasure? If the pro-life movement were to proceed in establishing gestational legislation on abortion as its modus operandi, then it would be expected to do so as a ‘reasonable accommodation’.
The law of man and the law of God
The issue is not finally about life in the womb, it’s about sovereignty and law – is it God or man who decides? The history of the West, as even its critics acknowledge, reveals the triumph over the barbarism of paganism and the Caesar-cult through the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the consequent implementation of Biblical law. It formed the foundation of the modern nation state and the rights and liberties enjoyed within it. These liberties are currently under assault as an explicitly anti-Christian definition of human nature and thus of human rights ensues.
Can the state be “pre-political” and essentially define a new religion for the people like that of pre-Christian paganism? We can’t win the pro-life cause until we asset the supremacy of God in these areas again.
This is my final objection to gestational limit legislation. It conceives the pro-life position too narrowly. I see the butchery of the unborn by the medical establishment as an extension of public policy as a symptom of the overreach of the State into areas that are ordained by God to lie in the provenance of the church and the family. Our war is not against flesh and blood, but the principalities and powers, which tend to reside in impersonal institutions.
The true war (the larger pro-life issue) is a struggle against the Messianic state, which claims to determine all of life – when it begins, when it ends; what constitutes a ‘quality’ or ‘healthy’ life; what ‘charity’ or welfare is; what marriage is; the nature and prerogatives of the family (which includes the content and nature of education); the nature of human sexuality; the nature of justice and injustice, etc..
The point I want to argue is that the only consistent position to take in a war that is already upon us on all these fronts simultaneously (because theological liberalism and the human sciences, which have followed their lead, have been preparing the battle for the past two centuries) is that it is God alone who defines what life is in all its aspects, not the State.
That’s the ‘big picture’. It’s the tale of two cities in our age.