Abortion Law: What would Solomon Do?

We are all familiar with the current impasse on abortion. On the one hand, we hear the pro-life group, usually appealing to religious and ethical principles, decrying abortion as homicide, pure and simple. On the other, we are confronted by the pro-choice group, usually appealing to considerations about women’s rights, zealously defending a woman’s right to make her own “[non-]reproductive choices” without interference from anyone. When these two camps occasionally get into debate in the media, or in private, one notices that they are like two trains passing in the night. The onlooker notices only clashing values, and no meeting of the minds.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we had Solomon to help break the impasse? You may recall the story in the Bible (I Kings, 4) where King Solomon, after having received a special gift of wisdom from God, was asked to judge between the claims of two women, each of whom claimed possession of a newborn baby. The first claimed that the other stole her newborn during the night, after her own newborn had died, placing the dead newborn next to her. The second said that this was a lie, that the live baby was hers. They didn’t have DNA tests in those days. Solomon probably tugged on his beard for a bit, then called for a sword and asked the swordsman to cut the baby in two, giving half to each woman! The first woman cried out, “No, just give the other woman the living child.” The second woman said, “Divide it, so that neither of us will have it.” And Solomon knew from these responses that the first woman was the mother, and commanded that the baby be given to her.

So what would Solomon say when confronted with the opposing camps regarding abortion? Obviously, armed with modern knowledge of the sex of the fetus, he would command that ultra-sound tests be conducted of pregnant women. Then, only males may be aborted and the abortion of females would be absolutely prohibited; and this would be the law of the land. This sounds cruel, but no crueler than the original Solomonian decision.

This decision, like the original one, would test the mettle and sincerity of the adversaries. Will the pro-life advocates, who may never be able to get effective laws passed against all abortions, pass up the chance to actually save 50% of the potential abortees? Will the pro-choice advocates, who pride themselves on dedication to women’s rights, pass up a golden opportunity to give the possibility of rights to an extra half million females a year, who could be raised and trained by committed radical feminists?

There are obvious differences in context: in the original situation, Solomon would watch to see which woman would be sensitive enough to walk away and say, “forget it.” In the second scenario, he would be offering a compromise which would possibly be acceptable to both parties, but would ironically lead to a sea-change in the numbers of abortion, as I will show.

Feminists come in different stripes. We hear from the feminists of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who have astutely pulled all strings to make abortion an absolute right; but also from Susan B. Anthony feminists, who are in the forefront of opposition to abortion. And more recently we have heard from “progressive” feminists like Mara Hvistendahl, whose recent book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, which exposes the complicity of the UN Population Fund in the selective abortion of girls in Asia, causing social problems by the sharp increase of males over females in these populations.

Similarly, pro-lifers are divided. Many insist on an absolute prohibition of abortion (which may only be eventually possible with the passing of a special Constitutional Amendment declaring the unborn fetus to be a person), while, on the other hand, a large number of citizens are against “elective” abortion, although some of them either favor, or are ambivalent about, exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and/or threats to the physical life of the mother.

But let us, in this thought-experiment, contrapose two extremes subject to the Solomonian judgement — the committed pro-abortionist versus the committed pro-lifer. The decision that they make, when confronted by Solomon’s challenge, would be largely based on whether their position is based on ideology, or on ideals. Ideologues follow the party line, are interested only in what advances their agenda, purposely avoid addressing thoughtfully any arguments which put their position in doubt, and tend to ridicule or ostracize those who they take to be enemies. Their motto is the famous fiat justitia, pereat mundus (“let justice be done, even if the world has to be destroyed”). But those who have ideals which they would like to see implemented politically and socially, will try to address counter-arguments from their own repertoire of principles, possibly making distinctions where distinctions are called for, and try to promote a course of action rather than an “agenda.”

I can visualize feminists like Ms. Hvistendahl, faced with the decision mentioned above, really zealous for women’s rights, and armed with knowledge of abortion practices in the world at large, choosing Solomon’s “compromise” as a way to counterbalance the constant selective abortion of female fetuses in countries like China with its one-child policy, and India with endemic traditions favoring male progeny. But I can also visualize idealistic pro-lifers accepting this as a half-cup compromise, because they imagine what might happen if pregnant women would actually be required to see with ultrasound apparatus the fetuses, male or female, that they were thinking of aborting: probably the males would survive, as well as females.

A compromise often involves a sacrifice of principles. But this Solomonian “compromise” would appeal to dedicated defenders of women rights, as well as to pro-life advocates who know that even adamant pro-choicers (like some Planned Parenthood officials recently), actually seeing the preborn child, male or female, whom they were thinking of destroying, would change their mind. They would no longer be sheltered from the moral consequences of their act by blindly trusting to sophisticated machinery and medical “professionals.”

Howard Kainz

By

Howard Kainz is professor emeritus at Marquette University. He is the author of several books, including Natural Law: an Introduction and Reexamination (2004), The Philosophy of Human Nature (2008), and The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct (2010). Professor Kainz is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine.

  • Andrew

    Surely this is tongue in cheek? The proposition is preposterous.

  • Briana

    Well, sir, I’m not so sure about this compromise you have in mind. But let me say that there are many logical inconsistencies in pro-choicers’ arguments that need to be exposed. For example, many pro-choicers (particularly those of the leftist variety) say that more needs to be done to support underprivileged women and children in this country, yet think it’s perfectly permissible for a woman to have an abortion if she cannot afford to support a child. You could then say that if nothing is done to either give women the support they need to raise their babies themselves or help find a good home for the baby through adoption, then many of these women could feel that an abortion is their only option. Or, I don’t know if any statistical studies have been done on the number of couples waiting to adopt a child in the United States, if if there have been any, someone could look that up and cite those numbers to show that there is no such thing as an unwanted child. Or if they say that a fetus is not a human being, you could say that at one point all of us on the face of this earth were fetuses, and that all of us used to be a fertilized egg at one point in time. And so on and so forth. Anything that exposes the hypocrisies in the pro-choice camp’s arguments would work well.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Andrew and Briana: This article is in the form of a thought-experiment, to bring out the tremendous disconnect of some feminists regarding their complicity in the extermination of fellow females, not only in the U.S. but elsewhere, especially Asia. Some “sisterhood”! As I show towards the end, Solomon’s “solution” of requiring women to see the preborn child clearly enough to identify the sex, would probably indirectly bring a halt to most abortions — unless you believe that normal people might be able to see the child and say, “go ahead and kill it.” In previous articles in Crisis Magazine I have discussed the ethical and legal aspects of abortion without using parables.

  • Sarto

    Howard, you put the dilemma very well. I would translate the Latin as “Let there be justice, world, take caution!” I think it catches the irony of unintended consequences. I haven’t checked out their sites for a while, but some pro-choicers have begun to admit some circumstances where an abortion is morally repugnant. One woman even wrote that any feminist worth her salt has to admit that she is killing a human being!

    I still think that pro-life people have to develop the skill of moral persuasion. And I am still waiting for those five conservatives on the Supreme Court to get the nerve to make a ruling on some of the tough pro-life legislation that has been coming out.

    In these days where St. Ronald Reagan is invoked in the Republican debates, I still remember how he came out pro-life, got the solid support of pro-life groups, and then skipped and danced his way around support for any serious pro-life legislation. Just wait until the second term, people kept saying. Then we will see him fight for pro-life. Sad disappointment.

    Cold around here. I will have to bundle up when I join the annual march for life in our state capital.

  • Tony Esolen

    I remember several years ago hearing Hadley Arkes say that the elder President Bush was “all action and no talk” when it came to abortion. An interesting assessment, given that the elder Bush was “converted” to the position.

    One of the most repugnant things about the abortion lobby is its several-pronged attack. On Monday they say that pro-lifers care only about fetuses and not about babies when they are born. Then on Tuesday they try to shut down emergency pregnancy centers, which do the very things they deny are done. On Wednesday they say that children ought to be wanted, and on Thursday they do all they can to make adoption in the United States as difficult and expensive as possible. I am not sure about the rules in every state, but I believe that all kinds of things would prevent a couple from being considered as prospective adopters of a child: being too fat, not having a room for the child’s own, being over age 40, etc.

    It is fascinating, if you put it all together. My parents could not have adopted a child, given these rules, because we wouldn’t have had a room for the child’s own; I never had a room of my own (and am glad I shared a room with my brother), and my sisters never had a room of their own either — they shared a room. Yet a pseudogamous pair of males can adopt…

  • Sarto

    There is a lot of pro-choice pessimism over on Huffington Post. From a pro-life perspective, I have not felt so optimistic in years. The author mournfully summarizes the sudden success of bills that challenge Roe Vs. Wade. Only the Texas bill has made it through the appeals court, but this is really, really interesting and worth a read.

  • gale routh

    ABORTION IS A CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT SUPPORTED BY THE RIGHTS TO PRIVACY, THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE OF 14TH AMENDMENT, AND THE 13TH AMENDMENT.

    no human has a right to life or any due process rights by the 14th amendment to use another human’s body or body parts AGAINST their will, civil and constitutional rights: that’s why you are not force to donate your kidney—the human fetus is no exception; this is protected by the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment which makes reproductive slavery unconstitutional.

    consensual s*x =/= a legal, binding contract for an unwanted fetus to live and you can’t force a woman to keeping her unwanted pregnancy against her will and legal rights, because that is reproductive slavery—which is unconstitutional by the 13th and 14th amendment.

  • gale routh

    FETUS IS NOT A BABY (GOOGLE THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT CHART), but a parasite because the classification of the biological relationship that’s based on the behavior one organism (fetus) and how it relates to the woman’s body:

    as a zygote, it invaded the woman’s uterus using its TROPHOBLAST cells, hijacked her immune system by using NEUROKININ B and HCG— so her body doesn’t kill it, steals her nutrients to survive, and causes her harm or potential death.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophoblast

    “The placenta functions as an immunological barrier between the mother and the fetus, creating an immunologically privileged site. For this purpose, it uses several mechanisms:
    It secretes Neurokinin B containing phosphocholine molecules. This is the same mechanism used by parasitic nematodes to avoid detection by the immune system of their host.[2]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immune_tolerance_in_pregnancy

    “Progesterone enriches the uterus with a thick lining of blood vessels and capillaries so that it can sustain the growing fetus. Due to its highly-negative charge, hCG may repel the immune cells of the mother, protecting the fetus during the first trimester. It has also been hypothesized that hCG may be a placental link for the development of local maternal immunotolerance.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_chorionic_gonadotropin

    “It is also possible for a symbiotic relationship to exist between two organisms of the same species.”
    http://www.answers.com/topic/symbiosis — Gale’s Science of Everyday Things.

    just like a parasitic twin — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasitic_twin

    “an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host does not benefit from the association and is often harmed by it”
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/parasite

    pregnancy CAUSES HARM: http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/004.htm

    if a man can kill his tapeworm at anytime, so should a woman abort her unwanted human parasitic fetus at anytime, too.

    • Sarto

      Gale proves my point as she makes her own carefully constructed and oh-so-logical argument. She is coming from a story about the meaning of life and, within that story and the way she has arranged her values, calling a baby “a parasite” is not appalling.

    • AndyMo

      You’re disgusting.

    • John2

      A fetus IS a baby. And you know it.

      We had this discussion before, and took it to completion. The baby is not a ‘parasite.’ You just don’t like this result and the obvious implications.

  • Howard Kainz

    @gale routh: Fetus just a parasite? The first stirrings of life that cause a new and strange love and commitment in many women? I think this is a good example of what ideology can do to a person’s view of reality.

  • Montague

    Soooo… A compromise is to admit the rights of Female babies to life, but not boys? Is that not even more repugnant than just abortion? Because now some people have more right to life because of their sex, instead of the fact that they are people? Hypocrisy, and definitely unconstitutional: either all babies have rights, or else they aren’t people.

    This is not a compromise between opposite views, it is compromising rights. How can this possibly go through? History has condemned only partial rights for black people – so too it will be for babies.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Montague: Solomon’s decision, about cutting the baby in half, was no less cruel! And in the scenario I posed, as well as the one from Solomon, there would be an ironically beneficial solution.
    But keep in mind, I am just trying to bring out, with this thought-experiment, the tremendous disconnect of some feminists with their contribution to the killing of females throughout the world.

  • Without an immortal soul endowed with unalienable rights and sovereign personhood, the human being does not come into existence. Without existence, gale routh would not be. The government does not give life or sovereign personhood, therefore, the constitution’s thirteenth and fourteenth amendments have their place, but cannot give life, nor personhood. The idea would work extremely well and contribute to the dialog on human existence, before, during and after the womb experience. Get Naral and Planned Parenthood to push the agenda. The fact that the mother carries some of the baby’s cells in her body, and the baby’s cells contain the genes of the father would also apply. We may have to kill the mother to get at those father’s genes.

  • Mark Higdon

    “Thought-experiment”?

    Well, I thought it was lame.

  • Howard Kainz

    The ironic anti-female results of feminist promotion of abortion rights is brought out in Nicholas Eberstadt’s recent article in The New Atlantis, which goes into the statistics and global demographic effects of mass female feticide in China and India. See
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-global-war-against-baby-girls.

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