Friday, April 17, 2009

Is Pro-Choice Coercive?

[For lack of anything better, I have fallen back on my old habit of prostituting class writing for blog material. This was an event story for Journalism class. This is the expanded version, that didn't have to limit itself to 750 words.]

Is pro-choice rhetoric coercive? Does the viewpoint that claims to protect an individual’s right to choose actually limit choice and freedom?

These were the questions asked by Dr. Ryan MacPherson, professor of history and science at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN. His lecture on Thursday night was entitled, “The Coercive Reality Behind Pro-Choice Rhetoric: Identifying what “Popular Sovereignty,” “Reproductive Freedom,” “Death With Dignity,” and “Marriage Equality” Demand from Persons Who Disagree.”

The event drew a crowd of college students and professors, with a few outsiders present.

Dr. MacPherson began by announcing that his lecture would last 75 minutes, and requesting that the audience stay for the whole event. “There is a happy ending,” he said. “And I want you to be here for that.”

As his prologue, MacPherson presented the case of the “Popular Sovereignty” argument, used by pro-slave factions before the Civil War. The argument was that territories should be free to choose for themselves whether they would be slave territories or free.

In practice, the “popular sovereignty” laws ended up coercing abolitionists into supporting the very practice they found wrong and morally repugnant.

To sum up the situation, MacPherson quoted Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address of 1860. “What will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow convince them that we do let them alone… We must cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right… We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.”

Dr. MacPherson then set out to argue that homosexuality, abortion and physician-assisted suicide cannot exist in American society unless many liberties are restricted.

He started with abortion. Pro-abortion rhetoric originally claimed, according to him, that laws legalizing abortion were not asking anyone to endorse abortion, but to uphold a woman’s right to freedom of choice.

However, these laws quickly turned into doctors being coerced into offering and even strongly supporting the option of having an abortion to their patients. In 2007 a Florida couple successfully sued their doctor for a “wrongful birth,” claiming that if they had known they could get an abortion, they would have.

MacPherson cited other examples, including the removal of the Conscience Clause from the Freedom of Choice Act. This removal would force health care workers against their objections to participate in abortions.

“What started as one woman’s right to choose turned into a coercive reality for everyone.”

He concluded by quoting the Cooper’s Union Address, changing “slavery” to “abortion.”

Parts 2 and 3 of the lecture made similar arguments about physician-assisted suicide and homosexual rights. He similarly quoted the Cooper’s Union Address to conclude each of these arguments.

The physician-assisted suicide laws that have been passed have been coercive in several ways, MacPherson said. The law in Oregon requires physicians to be dishonest, claiming on death certificates that the death was from natural causes. It also coerces doctors who have moral objections into helping administer lethal drugs.

“The law has so exalted a patient’s right to die that doctors are forbidden from their goal of promoting life.”

The Homosexual Rights agenda is similarly coercive, MacPherson claimed. He cited examples of college clubs that were not allowed to have policies excluding members on the basis of their sexuality.

“[The clubs’] idea of equal rights was that the school would allow groups on both sides of an issue to be exclusive. The school’s idea was that everyone had to allow anyone to become a member, even those who disagreed.”

But ultimately, MacPherson said, it is not a matter of force against coercion. The arguments against the pro-choice position are just as coercive.

“It’s a matter of which values ought the coercive force of government to promote and support?”

He reiterated the idea that the values behind abortion, assisted suicide, and homosexuality were unnatural. He said they could not exist without laws in place forcing them on society.

Governments, MacPherson said, should promote those things that are natural to mankind.

He further encouraged those who rejected the “pro-choice” agenda to embrace the “pro-life” agenda—and more, to embrace the compassion that comes with it.

“This means not only encouraging a woman not to have an abortion, but taking her in, clothing her, feeding her, comforting her, no matter who she is.”

After the lecture, MacPherson answered questions. One student asked whether someone who was pro-life could use the Pro-Choice rhetoric to his or her own advantage. For example, "choosing" not to participate in an abortion despite being a healthcare worker.

Dr. MacPherson said that the counterargument would be to bring up "equal distribution," the idea that services MUST be available to everyone, no matter their social class or position. (The idea being that our health care worker in this case would be coerced into helping with the abortion because the equal distribution laws would require it.)

Ultimately, Dr. MacPherson said, what will win people and help people and save people is not our rhetoric. It is our love. The pro-life lifestyle affirms the sanctity of marriage, the sacred nature of life, and the blessedness of parenthood. But ultimately, it is the love of Christ that wins souls.

Students were challenged and impressed by the lecture.

"I'm just impressed every time I hear him talk," said Heidi M.

"I was glad he mentioned that Pro-Life is also coercive," said Sarah R. "I was trying to find a way to bring that up, but then he did."


Bruce Gee said...

McPherson: " Governments, MacPherson said, should promote those things that are natural to mankind. "

This is what got Robert Bork "borked". The left didn't want to acknowledge natural law principles, and we've been off and running ever since. They knew if they lost that argument, then they'd lose abortion.

Ethan said...

Interesting. There was one comment from an audience member mentioning that in Lincoln's day, at least most or all politicians acknowledged the existence of natural law; nothing of the kind is true today.

Bruce Gee said...

Your Bethany College adjunct professor Quinn wrote an essay in the latest Sentinel on postmodernism, mentioning natural law. So it isn't completely dead. Being natural law, it won't ever be dead. It may go underground for awhile, but as the saying goes, "You can jail the natural lawyer, but you can't jail the natural law."

Some...something like that.

Ethan said...

haha, true. Actually, one of McPherson's quotes that I meant to include was something like, "Natural law will always talk back. It's like gravity: you can throw it into the air, but it will always come back again."