Friday, February 25, 2011

Abortion and Ethics in the News

I apologize that it's been quite here on the blog, especially with all the news about abortion this week, especially since this month's book, Unplanned, is about the journey of abortion clinic director Abby Johnson to become pro-life.

But I've had a print deadline, and other things preparing for next month.  Mostly I am planning to live blog (here and on Twitter) the Behold Conference next weekend, and synchronizing and getting it all to work together is making my head hurt! I am a digital immigrant, not a digital native, but I will get this to work.  I  think.  (laughing here)  Stay tuned!

Still, abortion been in the news a lot these past weeks and we have some big issues to discuss, from the defunding of Planned Parenthood being considered in Congress to the death of abortionist-turned-life-activist Bernard Nathanson to the ethics of tactics.

Nathanson died this week, and it's hard to measure his long-term impact on the pro-life movement.  He was a famous abortionist and early abortion supporter who helped to found NARAL, one of the top abortion groups in the country, and when he became pro-life, and eventually, Catholic, it made big news.   He's really a hero to much of the pro-life movement because of his willingness to be honest and open about his abortion work and his conversion process made him real to millions, much like Abby Johnson's story in UnPlanned is doing for a new generation.

Jennifer Fulwiler has a post up at the National Catholic Register at when is it okay to use graphic pictures of aborted babies in the fight against abortion.  As Abby Johnson writes in UnPlanned, our Catholic Post Book Group book this month, these kinds of tactics did not help her convert; in fact, they got her to "dig in her heels" and harden herself.

I so agree with Jen about the idea that one must absolutely be prepared to see the photos or images, otherwise there is a kind of abuse of the person involved.    I can still vividly recall seeing Bernard Nathanson's film graphically showing a second-trimester abortion, Eclipse of Reason, and my reaction to it.   I had already been working for several years in the pro-life movement, but I had to really work up the courage to witness it.  I can't imagine being compelled to watch this film, or even Silent Scream, the film depicting an ultrasound abortion that Nathanson screened at the Reagan White House.

On another topic, I also have been thinking over my views (and talking with others) about the tactics of Live Action the group that went undercover to expose the bad behavior of Planned Parenthood staff.  Among others, I had a chance to talk with my brother (it's handy having a brother who is a law school professor) about this very topic--under what conditions is is permissible to lie in the service of the good.    There's a lot of philosophical discussion about this on the Internet these days--most prominent is probably the Public Discourse discussion.  Here's a very brief round-up of the mostly civil debate, as well as appropriate links, but be warned--the links represent a lot of reading!  Worthwhile, but long.

Reading through much of this debate makes me remember why I am not a philosopher, theologian or lawyer, as many of those close to me are.  The issues are just so complex.

Also remember that while I do have issues with the deception aspect of the Live Action tactics, my main concern is that I don't consider any of this very effective (in fact, the opposite of that) in softening hearts and minds.

When I asked Abby Johnson about this in my interview with her last week, she had a very good answer.  I appreciate her view, but I don't share it.   As I asked, on the one hand, the revelations are shocking and important to know; on the other hand, this sort of deception seems opposite to the approach that persuaded her to leave the abortion industry.

What are your thoughts on these various issues?

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