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Why I am anti-choice…and you are too

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Originally posted as a Facebook Note.

I recently saw a poll floating around Facebook entitled something like “The Real Choice Poll.” Essentially, it asks users to mark whether they are “Pro-Choice” or “Anti-Choice.” The poll’s creators brusquely declare that they are out to reclaim the terms of the abortion debate and label those who oppose abortion not as “pro-life,” but as “Anti-Choice,” the latter having an obviously negative connotation. I suppose they hope to take away any sympathy the “on the fence” crowd may have for those of us who believe in the humanity of the unborn.

Here’s the problem: the question, on its face, is absurd. Everyone is anti-choice to some degree or another. Do you believe that the government has a right to tell me that I can’t chug ten beers and then get behind the wheel? If so, you are anti-choice; you believe that the government has the right to stop me from doing what I want with my own body (and my own car) for the sake of protecting the rights of other human beings. And I agree with you; I willingly sacrifice my right to choice because that’s the price I pay for living in a society, the price I pay for being able to drive somewhere at 2 in the morning and expect that if someone is out there endangering my life, the law will hold him or her accountable.

Those of us who oppose abortion are not out to impose our religious beliefs on anyone, or to deny anyone’s legitimate (legal) right to their personal moral choices. As the eminent Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray wrote in the 1960s, it is not the role of government to promote every virtue, or outlaw every vice. For example, the Catholic Church teaches that masturbation is sinful, but you won’t see any Catholics lobbying for a federal ban on autoerotic behavior. In general, pro-lifers do not believe that any government should try to restrict private activities that do not harm anyone else (even if such activities are immoral). In this respect, we are pro-choice, just like everyone else. However, like everyone else, we also believe that the law has the right, indeed the duty, to stop one person from harming another, even if it requires the former to be deprived of his or her right to choice. In this respect, we are unabashedly anti-choice, just like everyone else. And because there is overwhelming scientific and logical evidence that unborn fetuses are human beings, we believe that they are entitled to the same protections to which we are, even if it requires the law to take away others’ right to choice.*

In the end, then, the question of abortion simply cannot be reduced to the dualistic labels of “Pro-Choice” and “Anti-Choice.” Like everyone else, I am pro-choice in principle, but I am not pro-“choice without any restriction whatsoever,” because such a position is absolutely absurd, and there is absolutely no one who believes it. Labeling pro-lifers as “Anti-Choice” is nothing more than a convenient way to avoid the real question, which is whether or not an unborn fetus is a human being. By all means, let us have a debate; but please, let’s debate the right question, and avoid ridiculously obvious red herrings.

*Interestingly, Justice Blackmun acknowledged the validity of this position in the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade, writing that “if this suggestion of personhood [of the unborn] is established, the appellant’s case [i.e. the pro-choice case], of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”

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About me and my blog

December 31, 2009 2 comments

When it comes to the new media, I like to pretend that I’m some kind of Luddite, but the fact is that I’m a bit of a hypocrite on that particular front. I made fun of Facebook until the summer after my junior year of high school, when I bit the bullet and created a profile. I railed against Twitter and all that it represented about our culture until this past November; since then, I have happily generated 512 Tweets (@standmickey, by the way…follow me!) There are basically two reasons why I find such tools addicting: the first is for their usefulness in political advocacy and community organization (more on that in a minute), and the second is that I simply love to spout off. Just today, one of my friends thanked me for what he called “the most interesting Facebook page of 2009,” and indeed I am always posting somewhat provocative links and status updates (this particular friend is clearly very tolerant, because I have the feeling that his political views are not necessarily the same as mine…again, more on that in a minute). The bottom line is that I love to expound upon two topics that you are never supposed to discuss in polite company: politics and religion. That, in a nutshell, is why I’ve decided to take my new media addiction to the next level by entering the blogosphere.

I’ll talk a bit about my hopes for this blog, and provide a bit of information on the political and philosophical background behind the opinions that I’ll be sharing, but first a little bit about my personal background. My name is Mickey Jackson (it’s actually Michael, but I go by Mickey for obvious reasons), and I’m currently a freshman at the Catholic University of America in DC, pursuing a major in Economics and a possible minor in International Politics. In my spare time, I serve on a volunteer basis as the National High School Outreach Coordinator for STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network, which is why you’ll probably be seeing lots of posts about Darfur, Burma, Congo, and genocide prevention legislation. It’s safe to say that STAND has consumed my extracurricular life since I was a sophomore in high school, but I wouldn’t ask for anything less. I believe deeply in the necessity of a permanent anti-genocide constituency and am honored by the opportunity to help organize students around the country around this goal.

But, this isn’t primarily a STAND blog (though we do have an excellent blog maintained by our Education Team that you should follow). It’s primarily a blog about those two forbidden topics, politics and religion. Let’s cover religion first, because it’s fairly straightforward. I am happily and unashamedly Catholic. I am not Catholic merely because I was born that way and never thought to question it, but because I believe in my heart of hearts that within the Catholic Faith is contained the fullness of divine revelation as spoken by Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh; and that the priests and bishops of the Church, regardless of their individual human failings, are the legitimate heirs to the apostolic succession established by Christ. Now, none of this means that I am always a good or ideal Catholic, or even a good or ideal person. On the contrary, I sin every single day, and I particularly struggle with the virtues of humility and charity (particularly charity to those with whom I disagree). I am living proof of the old adage that the Church is not a museum for saints, but rather a hospital for sinners. However, I do believe that God grants to each person the necessary graces to become a saint, so I keep trying to recognize and take advantage of those graces through the Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of the Christian life), through prayer, and through good works. What that means for you, my faithful readers, is that you’ll be seeing lots of posts about Catholicism, from both a personal and an intellectual/theological perspective. Just keep in mind that I am not a theologian, so while I try my best to understand, explain, and defend the teachings of the Church, there are better sources (many of which are listed on my “Links” widget) for truly authoritative information.

Now, on to politics. I’ll say right out that whether you’re a liberal or a conservative, you’ll probably find something to disagree with here. I find it difficult to place myself squarely into one single political category, primarily because I try to base my views upon the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, which existed long before anyone had ever heard of Democrats and Republicans. Now, I realize that there are perfectly legitimate debates to be had as to how best to apply such teachings to the modern, pluralistic world, so I don’t want anyone to think that I’m just using Christianity as a convenient justification for my own predetermined political beliefs (and please feel free to correct me if I ever give that impression). With that said, it will soon become clear that I hold some beliefs that would be considered very “liberal” and some that would be considered very “conservative” in our modern political parlance. I am unapologetically pro-life on abortion. I am adamantly opposed to torture (or, to use Vice President Cheney’s euphemism, “enhanced interrogation”) and capital punishment. I do not believe in the moral legitimacy of preemptive war or nuclear weapons, and I don’t particularly care for American exceptionalism or bellicose, chest-pounding nationalism. Economically, I lean generally, though not exclusively, to the left. You’ll probably see links to both Rachel Maddow and Joe Scarborough, to both the Daily Kos and the National Review. You’ll probably see me quote Harry Reid and Ron Paul. You’ll probably see me vehemently criticize the President Obama on abortion and President Bush on torture, and you’ll probably see me strongly praise Obama on foreign policy and Bush on stem cell research. That’s just the way I am, and I make no apologies for it to either my liberal or conservative friends. If you disagree, awesome; respectful and intelligent debate is the foundation of our democracy, and I hope we can make some small contribution to that ideal here (and get our adrenaline pumping at the same time). Fair warning: I hold a very thinly-veiled disdain for the views and tactics alike of media personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, et al.

One final note on that last point: the blogosphere (particularly, ironically enough, the Catholic blogosphere) can be notoriously uncivil at times. Obviously, I would ask that you, my readers and commentators, maintain a basic level of respect for those with whom you disagree, always assuming others’ good faith and remembering everyone’s online persona represents only a small fraction of who they truly are as a person. With that said, I have to acknowledge that I am often far from perfect in this regard (and I’m sure those who follow my Tweets and Facebook posts would readily agree!) As I mentioned, I often struggle to live by the Christian virtues of humility and charity, and my pride, which C.S. Lewis rightly called the ultimate root of all other sin, sometimes gets the better of me. If and when that happens, please do my immortal soul a favor and give me a nice hard (virtual) smack on the head.

Well, that’s it for my intro. Enjoy!

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