Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pro-Life and Pro-Capital Punishment

There is an alleged inconsistency that is sometimes raised between being pro-life and also pro-capital punishment. Here’s the question: “Is it inconsistent to be pro-life when it comes to the issue of abortion and yet also support capital punishment in certain situations?”

Answer: No.

Here are some important points to remember (see Francis Beckwith and his book Defending Life, pages 126-127, on this topic):

First, the alleged inconsistency of pro-life apologists who support capital punishment is often introduced as a red herring to distract from the main issue that must be addressed. Even IF pro-lifers were inconsistent on this point, that’s all it would prove: an inconsistency. And what follows from that? Not much. It has nothing to do with the one question that must be answered in the abortion debate: “What is the unborn?” As Beckwith notes, “inconsistent people can draw good conclusions” (Defending Life, 126). 

Applying Lincoln's Logic to the Abortion Debate

On December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution was ratified and with it came the formal abolishment of slavery in this country. It states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This amendment was especially significant considering that just eight years prior in 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that blacks were property and non-persons.

Even earlier than this, on July 1, 1854, Lincoln wrote this small fragment to address some of the popular arguments but forward by pro-slavery choice advocates who argued that whites should have the right to enslave blacks based on color, intellect, or interest:
“You say A is white and B is black.  It is color, then: the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be a slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly?—You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore, have the right to enslave them?  Take care again. By this rule, you are to be a slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.”
Read that again. The importance of Lincoln’s logic should not be overlooked. Lincoln realized that if you try to establish human rights or personhood by appealing to a set of arbitrary degreed properties which carry no moral weight or significance, properties such as color and intellect which none of us share equally, then you end up undermining human rights for everyone.