Tag Archives: Abortion

Liberal Authoritarianism

July 2018 Pulse

In its April 10, 1993 issue The Washington Post reported Dr Ben Carson’s withdrawal as commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University due to students’ concerns about his view regarding marriage.

In an email to the dean of the medical school, Carson writes: ‘Given all the national media surrounding my statements as to my belief in traditional marriage, I believe it would be in the best interest of the students for me to voluntarily withdraw as your commencement speaker this year’.

More recently, students from Notre Dame University walked out as Vice President Mike Pence gave his commencement speech, while the audience at Bethune-Cookman University booed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during her speech.

This has led CNN host Fareed Zakaria to decry the ‘anti-intellectualism’ and intolerance of the left. ‘American universities seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity’, he is reported to have said. ‘Conservative voices and views are being silenced entirely’.

These incidents are but the tip of the iceberg. They point disconcertingly to the hegemony and authoritarianism of modern liberalism, the coercive politics of the left.

Classical liberalism is an intellectual tradition that invests heavily in the two political ideals of equality and liberty. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom philosophers like Roger Scruton have christened as the first and greatest liberal, believed passionately in both these ideals. The same can be said of the liberal manifesto set out by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty.

Classical liberals like Rousseau may not have always been successful in giving equal weight to these ‘sacred’ ideals, but they have always scrupulously tried not to favour one at the expense of the other.

With modern liberalism, however, a subtle but significant shift may be discerned. As Scruton points out, ‘the present-day American “liberal” tends to sacrifice liberty for equality when the two conflicts’.

But Scruton has I think put the matter rather too mildly. The truth is that equality has become the central tenet of progressive liberalism, an ideal that trumps freedom. In privileging equality over freedom modern liberalism has not only signalled its ideological departure from the classical expression. It has also inspired a fascistic creed that ridicules the very meaning and essence of liberalism itself.

What, then, is the left’s understanding of equality? Or, as former assistant U.S. Secretary of State Kim R. Holmes puts it even more sharply: ‘What is it about how liberals think of equality that makes them so prone to recommend authoritarian policies to achieve it – confiscatory tax policies, campus speech codes, fining pastors, and the like?’

It appears that the new liberals have favoured a rather skewed concept of equality, one that sanctions and energises its politics of intolerance and coercion. In his book, The Closing of the Liberal Mind (2016) Holmes argues that modern liberals work with the notion of inequality that sees the slightest difference in how certain groups fare in our society as an injustice.

Hence same-sex couples are perceived as victims of unequal treatment (and therefore of injustice) because their unions are not regarded as marriages. A boy suffering from gender dysphoria is seen as a victim of social inequality (and ipso facto of injustice) if the school does not allow him to use the ladies toilet.

In its attempt to actualise its radical egalitarianism in society, the new left believes that it is engaged in nothing short of a political and cultural revolution, and the only way to assure success is to employ aggressive and coercive methods. As Holmes has arrestingly put it, ‘If you want to transform society, as gay activists and even President Obama want to do, then clearly some eggs will have to be broken to make an omelet’.

To be sure, the politics of the new left cannot be said to be a mirror image of the old totalitarianisms. However, as writers like Holmes have pointed out, it is plainly evident that ‘they are willing to dip into the totalitarians’ illiberal tool box’ to achieve their goals.

It goes without saying that leftists are willing to use the powers of the ‘technocratic’ state to push their agendas. In this sense, they display the familial traits of thinkers like Rousseau, who through the mechanism of the social contract, has vested enormous power in the government to ensure that the freedom of citizens are protected, their equality secured and justice is served – regardless the view of the majority.

Modern liberals therefore celebrate state-dictated social engineering programmes like same-sex marriage, affirmative action and open borders – just to name a few.

According to its rhetoric, all these are undertaken in the name of ‘social justice’ and for the sake of the alleged ‘victims’ (defined according to their vision of an egalitarian society). But in reality, these programmes are designed to undermine the kind of social order the left refuses to tolerate.

Christians should be especially wary of the illiberal liberals because they are frequently on the receiving end of much of their intolerance. In his book The Intolerance of Tolerance (2013), D. A. Carson rightly observes that a ‘disproportionate part of the intolerance that masks itself as (the new) tolerance is directed against Christians and Christianity’.

The liberal authoritarians are crusaders against every form of bigotry, except their own.

If bigotry is a negative bias against persons because of their association with a group cast in a negative stereotype, then, as Holmes points out, the ‘progressive liberals have got a problem’. ‘They have developed a bigoted attitude that dare not speak its name – that is, anti-Christianity, or to use a progressive turn of phrase, “Christophobia”’.

Examples of leftist bigotry against Christians are not hard to find.

Christians oppose same-sex marriage because they hold that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But the left insists that Christians reject same-sex marriage because they hate homosexuals. Christians oppose abortion because of their strong view regarding the sanctity of human life. The left, however, accuses them of using pro-life rhetoric to deprive women of their rights.

‘Without the slightest bit of self-awareness, or even irony’, Holmes writes, ‘progressive liberals today regularly make negative stereotypes of Christians that, if they were directed against blacks, would make a white supremacist smile’.

Christians must never be afraid of the authoritarianism of the left or be cowed or paralysed by the venom of its attacks. Christians should stand their ground and continue to courageously speak and embody the truth in obedience to the Word of God.

Christians should take heed of the admonition of Peter to the believers in Asia Minor: ‘… do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence’.

‘Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame’ (1 Peter 3:14-16).



Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor for the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.

Whose Body? Whose Life? Whose Rights?

May 2015 Pulse

Ms Emily Letts, an abortion counsellor, did a video on her first-trimester abortion that was undertaken at the clinic where she works. “I feel super good about the abortion,” the 25-year-old Emily told Philadephia Magazine. “Women and men have been thirsting for something like this. You don’t have to be guilty.”

The video went viral.

Emily’s jubilant account of her experience exudes Promethean pride. “I could have taken a pill,” she says, “but I wanted to do the one that women were most afraid of. I wanted to show it wasn’t scary – and that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story. It’s my story.” The exhilarated Emily exclaimed that she was in awe of the fact that she could make a baby, and that she could make a life.

Of course, what Emily can make, she can also destroy. And she had no qualms about aborting her child simply because it felt right to her. “I knew what I was going to do was right, ‘cause it was right for me and no one else.”

Emily’s story gives flesh to what pro-choice advocates have been arguing all along! In fact, the convoluted arguments of feminist scholars like Beverely Wildung boil down to two simple axioms. The first has to do with the woman’s right to her own body, and the second is autonomy, which is upheld as sacrosanct.

This central dogma, which says that the woman has the right to choose abortion, is often accompanied by what Allan Bevere calls emotivism. This refers to the idea that all moral decisions are nothing more than expressions of preference or feeling. Furthermore, for pro- choice advocates, what is important is having the choice, not what choice is being made.

The ability to choose is liberating because it signals the control that a woman has over her life and her body. She has the right to decide on what commitments she wants to make and what lifestyle she wants to pursue. Again, Emily exemplifies this. “Once I caught my breath,” she says in the video, “I knew immediately I was going to have an abortion. I knew I wasn’t ready to take care of a child.”

Closely connected to reproductive autonomy is a person’s right to privacy. The woman’s body is her private property, it is argued. Therefore, just as no one has the right to intrude into a person’s private property, so no one can interfere with what a woman does with her own body. The woman must be left to decide on her own. A Christian ethicist has helpfully summarised the assumptions of the modern libertarian view thus: “A right to abortion is integral to a woman’s adult, mature responsibility and autonomy.”

Such arguments, however, gravely and quite tragically miss a most important consideration: Can the foetus be seen as something whose death can be lawfully and morally chosen by anyone, even its mother? The rhetoric of procreative choice cannot dismiss as arbitrary the questions raised by Christians and others concerning the moral status of the foetus.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church poignantly states that “Human Life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” The Christian who believes that life begins at conception must also insist that the foetus is a human being worthy of value, respect and protection.

In focusing on the rights of the woman, pro-choice advocates have dismissed as irrelevant that of the unborn child. They have consequently violated the rights of an innocent human being who is unable to voice its protests and who is powerless in protecting itself. They have failed to accord dignity to the unborn child, whose life is as precious as its mother’s, and therefore must be valued and protected.

For the Christian, the intentional killing of an innocent human person made in God’s image is always an intrinsically evil act. But the Christian must surely regard abortion – the intentional killing of innocent and defenceless unborn human children – as having a unique kind of moral gravity.


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. This article was first published in the Methodist Message.

Church Does Not Prohibit Abortion Under All Circumstances

It is clear that the Christian Tradition opposes abortion because it is the wilful killing of another human being. But are there no exceptions? What about pregnancies that result from rape? Should abortion be allowed in order to save the life of the pregnant woman?

WHILE the Christian faith opposes abortion for reasons spelt out in last month’s article (Abortion is ‘wilful destruction of a human being’: Methodist Message April 2007), the Christian anti-abortion position does not prohibit abortion under all circumstances.

The late Christian ethicist Paul Ramsay introduced the distinction between direct and indirect abortion in his attempt to show that under some very limited circumstances, abortion must be allowed. The difference between the two forms of abortion has to do with the primary thrust of the act, its main intention.

In direct abortion, the main intention is to kill the conceptus, while in indirect abortion it is to save the life of the pregnant woman. For this reason, direct abortion must always be prohibited. But indirect abortion may be allowed, but only when all other avenues of saving the life of the woman have been exhausted.

Indirect abortion restricts the circumstances in which abortion can be carried out. To repeat: only when the pregnant woman is in mortal danger, and when there is no other alternative, is abortion allowed. This means that all other reasons – quality of life, convenience, peace of mind, financial burden, etc – must be ruled out. Indirect abortion is one of those inevitable consequences of living in an imperfect world where in order to save a life physicians must take that of another.

But does this apply to pregnancy that results from rape? If a victim of rape were not allowed to abort, she would have to bear the responsibility of bringing the pregnancy to term and taking care of the child once he or she is born. The abortion option would relieve her of such responsibility, which is not the result of her own actions. In addition, some victims of rape may be under-aged or mentally ill and therefore unable to discharge their maternal responsibilities.

Christian ethicists have made several responses to this. The first is the statistically proven fact that very few women who are subjected to this violent attack become pregnant. Several reasons have been offered to explain why this is so. The woman may be infertile at the time because of either the menstrual cycle or the use of contraceptives. There may be lack of actual penetration, or her male attacker may be suffering from sexual deficiencies like impotence.

Secondly, if the victim were to present herself to the emergency department of a hospital within 24 hours, she will be subjected to certain protocols. Some of these protocols, such as flushing the reproductive tract and hormonal treatment, would prevent fertilisation. Thus, if proper steps are taken promptly, the chances that the violent sexual encounter would result in pregnancy can be greatly minimised.

Sometimes hospitals use abortifacient drugs like Ovral and RU 486 to prevent pregnancy in rape victims. There is some ambiguity in the description of such drugs and what they do. Are they contraceptives, abortion drugs or contragestation drugs? Drugs like Ovral have often been described as a contraceptive mainly because they “render the endometrium hostile to a possible fertilised egg”. In other words, these drugs cause a miscarriage. RU 486, however, prevents the implantation of the embryo on the wall of the uterus. The drug causes the uterus to react in a way similar to the end of a menstrual cycle.

Judging from what these drugs actually do, we must conclude that they primarily cause an abortion to take place. This means that it is misleading to call these drugs contraceptives. Their introduction has in fact already changed the entire course of the abortion debate, causing a shift from surgical to chemical abortions, and from abortion clinics to the physician’s office. Their introduction has made abortions easier, cheaper and much more private.

Even though the chances of a rape victim becoming pregnant are very slim, there is still a possibility that this might happen. Should the rape victim be allowed to abort the baby? To answer this question we must look beyond the individual and the crime that is committed against her, and set both the victim and the crime in the larger social context.

To put the matter plainly, although rape is a crime committed against an individual, it is never a private matter. This crime, like all other crimes, involves the entire community – the family, the church, the larger society. Thus it is the entire human community, not just the victim alone, that must bear the responsibility for the consequences of this violent act. Here the community must care for the victim and her child. It must provide her with the material, emotional and physical support she needs. It must care for her and the child she is carrying in every possible way.

Abortion is a convenient solution if society is unwilling to take up this responsibility. The abortion option is therefore welcomed by pragmatists. But such an attitude would surely erode the moral fibre of our society and drive it to embrace an ever more extreme form of individualism.

QUOTE:

WHEN ABORTION MAY BE ALLOWED
‘The late Christian ethicist Paul Ramsay introduced the distinction between direct and indirect abortion in his attempt to show that under some very limited circumstances, abortion must be allowed. The difference between the two forms of abortion has to do with the primary thrust of the act, its main intention.’


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.
This article was originally published in the Methodist Message.

Abortion is ‘wilful destruction of a human being’

What should be the Christian attitude towards abortion?

WITHOUT a doubt, abortion is one of the most divisive and controversial issues of our day.

People have strong views about abortion because it is never merely an issue of social preferences. For some the abortion issue has to do with personal autonomy, while for others it has to do with the unconditional respect for the sanctity of human life.

Before turning to the Christian response to abortion, it is good to begin with a definition. In his encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium vitae), Pope John Paul II defines abortion as “the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth”.

Until 1969, the performance of an abortion was in general considered as a criminal act in Singapore. On March 20, 1970, the abortion law in Singapore was liberalised by a legislative act which permitted an abortion to be performed on broad medical, eugenic, juridical and socio-economical grounds.

The Abortion Act of 1974 liberalised Singapore’s abortion law further by permitting “abortion on demand”‘ as long as it is performed by a registered physician. Before this time an abortion was permitted only if it was necessary to save the life or prevent serious injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

The rapid advances in biotechnology have again directed attention to abortion. The different forms of prenatal genetic diagnosis (PND) have made abortion a real option for the couple who discovered that their unborn child is predisposed to a serious genetic disorder. One example of PND is chrionic villus sampling which analyses the chrionic villi surrounding the amniotic sac and that containing the chromosomes and genes of the foetus. The procedure is performed between eight to nine weeks of pregnancy, enabling the woman to abort the baby even before her family and friends know that she was pregnant.

For the Christian the issue of abortion has to do with the status of the foetus. If the foetus is not regarded as a human person deserving of respect and protection then abortion poses no serious ethical problem. But if the foetus is from conception a human person who bears the image of its Creator, then abortion is wrong because it is the wilful destruction of a human being.

Although the Bible does not deal specifically with the issue of abortion it directly prohibits murder (Exodus 20:13). If the foetus is indeed a human being, abortion would be included in this prohibition.

But does the Bible teach that the unborn foetus should be regarded as a human person deserving of respect and protection?

Although there is no direct statement in the Bible that says that the human embryo is a human being from conception, a number of passages do point to that conclusion.

The status of the human foetus can be gleaned from passages like Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1:5. These passages indicate that God knows the foetus personally while it is in its mother’s womb. We may infer from this that the foetal life that God recognises already possesses the moral and spiritual qualities of personhood.

Regardless of its age, the foetus is a human being created by God in His own image. The Christian tradition maintains that the image of God and human personhood are not determined by age or physiology, but are conferred by God. In addition, the Old Testament uses the same Hebrew word yeled for the unborn and for young children. All children were children regardless of whether they lived inside or outside the womb. On this basis, abortion must be prohibited because it is wilfully taking the life of a human being.

For this reason the Church’s attitude towards abortion throughout its history has been unambiguous. In a 2nd-century document, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), abortion is condemned together with infanticide. The document strongly opposes abortion when it instructs its readers not to “murder a child by abortion” (2.2). This exact prohibition is repeated in the Epistle of Barnabas, suggesting that this teaching was quite prevalent in early Christianity.

In addition, at least three of earliest Christianity’s theologians – Athenagoras, Tertullian and Clement – prohibited the practice of abortion. Women who induce abortion are murderers, according to Athenogoras. For Tertullian, abortion is murder regardless of whether the foetus is “formed” or “unformed”. Clement of Alexandria could go so far as to say that “those who use abortifacient medicines to hide their fornication cause not only outright murder of the foetus, but of the whole human race as well”.

In the 7th century, the Council of Trullo echoed this teaching when it stated that “those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the foetus, are subjected to the penalty for murder” (i.e., 10 years of excommunication).

Abortion is morally wrong because human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence. But abortion is morally reprehensible also because it is the wilful destruction of a human being at the very beginning of his or her life. This human being is weak and even more defenceless than a newborn baby.

The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in her womb. The unborn child could not be considered an aggressor in any way, much less an unjust aggressor. In fact, it is not possible to imagine anyone more innocent than the unborn child. It is therefore impossible to ever justify the deliberate killing of such an innocent and weak human being.

QUOTE:

‘Regardless of its age, the foetus is a human being created by God
in His own image.’


Dr Roland Chia


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine at Trinity Theological College and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity. 
This article was published in the Methodist Message.