Don’t be naïve: repealing ‘Roe’ won’t end infanticide.
|Michael Warren DavisMay 5|
Two days after I published my last newsletter on the futility of politics, Politicoran a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson. If this decision is officially handed down, it will overturn Roe v. Wade.
First and foremost, this would be a crippling blow to the demon Moloch, on whose altars 63 million children have been sacrificed since 1973. We can do no better than to storm Heaven with prayers that this leaked draft is ratified. Then, if it is, we should storm Heaven again with prayers of thanksgiving.
If that’s all you take away from this week’s post, it’s more than enough. I don’t want to make this historic moment about me and my little theories. But eventually we do have to talk about the political dimension. So, while we wait, I’ll get a head start.
Many would no doubt take such a decision as a vindication of party politics. But I’m not going to revise my opinion, for two reasons.
First, if Roe is overturned, it won’t be because conservatives have finally turned the tide in the Culture War. No: there has always been a perfectly sound legal case against Roe.
The authors of the original 1973 decision based their decision on the Constitutional “right to privacy.” The problem is that no such right exists. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew that. The late Justice Ginsburg was staunchly pro-choice, yet she knew a shoddy piece of legal fiction when she saw one.
So, if the Roberts Court throws out Roe, it doesn’t mean the winds of change are a-blowing in conservatives’ direction. The decision will not be predicated on Christian principles, but on Originalist ones. Nor, of course, will it enshrine the right to life in our Constitution. It will only kick the decision back to the states.
That’s exactly what the leaked draft means to do. It’s perfectly agnostic on the morality of abortion. It only professes to restore the “political process,” which was “abruptly ended” by an exercise of “raw judicial power.” It wants the abortion issue to be settled, not by judges, but by lawmakers. It certainly doesn’t enshrine a right to life for unborn children.
Which brings us to the next point…
Second, overturning Roe probably won’t change Americans’ overall opinion about abortion. Our countrymen are extremely fickle on this issue, which baffles me. But I have no doubt that, in general, they will tend to become more pro-choice. Why? Because the idea that human beings are uniquely and inherently valuable, simply by virtue of their existence, is a Christian one. It doesn’t exist anywhere outside the bounds of Christendom. And as belief in Christianity declines, so will belief in the innate value of human life.
For instance, archaeologists recently found a letter from the year 1 B.C. written by a Greek businessman in Alexandria. His name is Hilarion. He’s writing to his pregnant wife, Alis, whose due date is fast approaching. Hilarion instructs his wife, “If it is a boy, keep it. If it is a girl, discard it.” (Needless to say, by “discard it” he doesn’t mean “put her up for adoption.”)
This is the norm in the non-Christian world. Never mind abortion. Most cultures believed that parents had the right to commit infanticide, for any reason they saw fit. Children (especially babies) were thought to have no rights. They belonged to their parents. They were property.
There’s a certain logic to this view. After all, children are helpless without their parents. A mother doesn’t actually have to murder her baby in order to kill him. She can simply refuse to feed and shelter him. So, if you say that a baby has a right to life, you’re saying that parents have a duty to nurture them.
This is exactly the case that pro-choicers make. How can the government force Mrs. Jones to carry Baby Jones for nine months, and then force her to go through the agony of childbirth? How can the fetus’s right to life infringe upon Mrs. Jones’s right to her own body?
That’s a hard case to make—which is why, for the majority of human history, it hasn’t been made. Our instinct is to say that, when a weak creature (like a baby) is totally dependent on a strong creature (like his mother), the strong creature has a right to put its own needs and desires first.
The pro-choice case appears even stronger in times of material scarcity. Imagine you’re a serf in ancient Japan and your wife gives birth to a sickly little girl. You were hoping for a strong son to help you in the field. Instead, you now have to feed this child and yourself and your wife. At this rate, all of you will starve. So, why not kill the girl? How could that be wrong? That’s a huge part of the reason why infanticide was permissible in feudal Japan, as in most other societies.
It’s also why China implemented its infamous one-child policy. Again, infanticide isn’t an artefact from some distant and benighted past. It’s only too common in non-Christian cultures, both historically and in the modern world.
No doubt many non-Christians find this kind of talk insulting. They’re appalled by the suggestion that, without the Church, they would happily murder their own children. Well, I didn’t say happily. But it will happen.
How do I know? Because there’s absolutely no historical evidence to suggest that, without the Church’s influence, the West would have abolished infanticide. Just the opposite is true. The practice was routine in every corner of pagan Europe, from Italy to Scandinavia. Why should anything have changed?
And when Christianity recedes again, why shouldn’t things go back to the way they were before? Few non-believers are like the historian Tom Holland, who calls himself a “proud Christian” in his ethics while rejecting supernatural faith. By studying the ancient world, Dr. Holland realized that he identified with the Medievals far more than he did with ancient Greece and Rome. As he wrote in The New Statesman in 2016,
The longer I spent immersed in the study of classical antiquity, the more alien and unsettling I came to find it. The values of Leonidas, whose people had practised a peculiarly murderous form of eugenics, and trained their young to kill uppity Untermenschen by night, were nothing that I recognised as my own; nor were those of Caesar, who was reported to have killed a million Gauls and enslaved a million more. It was not just the extremes of callousness that I came to find shocking, but the lack of a sense that the poor or the weak might have any intrinsic value. As such, the founding conviction of the Enlightenment—that it owed nothing to the faith into which most of its greatest figures had been born—increasingly came to seem to me unsustainable.
But like I said, Dr. Holland is a rare breed. They probably won’t survive much longer as the Church continues to recede in the West.
It may seem like I’m trying to scare people into being Christian. I’m not. There’s no point, because I can only scare people who find this sort of thing scary—that is, other Christians. These arguments are only compelling to folks who happen to agree with me.
Put it this way. Imagine if a Hindu came down from a remote village in the Himalayas and somehow found his way to Dallas. I’m sure he’d be surprised to find that nobody shares his horror of hamburgers. And look at how everyone swats mosquitoes, as if their little buggy lives meant nothing at all!
In the long term, Christians will find it just as difficult to shock people with pictures of aborted fetuses—though we may be shocked by their indifference.
I am trying to scare my fellow Christians, though I don’t suppose I’ll have much luck. We refuse to take these warnings seriously. We refuse to believe that, without the Church, we’ll automatically revert to barbarism. Why? Because there’s a little voice in our heads that says, “That can’t be right. I mean, if I was an atheist, I would never be okay with infanticide.”
Sure, we’d like to think that. I certainly would. But the evidence against us is overwhelming.
This is why Our Lord said, “There is none good but one, that is, God.” It’s why the truly humble man says, like St. Paul, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” These aren’t pious mumblings. How many of us realize just what kind of evil and depravity we men are capable of?
And by “men” I don’t mean “the libs.” I mean you and me. Until we really come to grips with our own fallen nature, we can’t begin to imagine just how terrible the West may yet become.
Will overturning Roe change human nature? Will it restore the Church Militant to its former glory? Will it inculcate Western man in the faith of Jesus Christ? Will it make flourish His teaching that every last human being is infinitely precious in the eyes of God? I’m afraid not.
I’ll cheer the repeal of Roe along with everyone else, but I also stand by what I said before. There is no hope for the West except a mass reversion to Christianity. Barring that, all is lost.
We should be heartened by the Supreme Court’s decision, if and when it’s handed down. But it won’t be the end of this war. We’ve not even begun to fight.
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