Pro-life, Death Penalty, and Torture

Given my belief that humans have souls, and that those souls exist from the time of their conception, it is not surprising that I oppose abortion. The ultimately acceptable number of abortions is zero. I differ from many “Pro-Life” groups in that I think the answer is primarily moral, not legal. Without belief in the additional human life, there’s no reason to prohibit abortion. A fetus certainly causes discomfort to the woman. A law prohibiting fetus killing could not be enforced in 2005 America. There’s a high probability of civil and criminal disobedience. I value the avoidance of scandal a lot more than philosopher conservatives, and to me a unenforceable law is worse than no law.

That said, you’ll also note that I put “Pro-Life” in quotes. Too many of these groups have weakened the phrase by making it apply only to anti-abortion statements. They avoid the great issues of state-sanctioned vengeance, the death penalty, and state-sanctioned disrespect, torture. I’ll use this University’s group as an example. There’s no statement on torture. Worse yet, from the website, “Does your organization take a stand on the death penalty?”
“No. Our members have different opinions about this issue.”

The numbers are not proportionate; there are over 1 million abortions in America each year, while government executes less than 100 people. The torture numbers appear to be in the hundreds as well. The problem is with the ethic. Once a people decides that some class of humans loses their inalienable rights endowed by their Creator, it becomes easy to extend that definition. For a two-month fetus, preventing seven months of pain for the woman is a not uncompelling reason to allow a killing. In terms of pain and suffering, those seven months are a more compelling reason than what a convicted murderer can effect from prison.

There are other excuses given for accepting the death penalty. We can set aside deterrent, since research haven’t shown effectiveness; as a Supreme Court justice once said, to be fairer and perhaps deterring America would need to make lethal injection far more popular. Instead, we do have vengeance – often misstated as justice – and retribution, the Mosaic Law reformed. We’re saying that the acts of particular people deserve killing. These actions are terrible, despicable, gravely evil acts. We shouldn’t like them, and we shouldn’t like those people. Getting to vengeance, though, is not for us. I could take a long theological tour on the misreading of Biblical liberalism, but it’s not necessary. Instead, a valid argument here is world opinion, the avoidance of scandal. According to Amnesty International, the United States is fourth in worldwide executions, behind China, Iran, and Vietnam. I’m sure all “Patriotic Christians” enjoy being on this list. It erodes America’s moral capital.

Of course, there’s another large, more current erosion: torture. According to Dana Priest, in the original and perhaps no longer available Washington Post article, the CIA holds subjects in secret prisons, at sites “including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.” This is utterly despicable. Senator John McCain, a former torture victim in Vietnam, recognized the problem and introduced an amendment to establish the Army Field Manual as the guideline for interrogations.
Vice President Cheney, Vietnam War shirker, non-torture victim, and purely evil man, has tried to kill the bill. President Bush, Vietnam War shirker, non-torture victim, and thoroughly evil man, has threatened a veto. They’ve argued for a CIA exemption, since they’ve done it before. It is to most Senators’ credit that they did not agree.
Because it’s worth remembering, here is the list of the Pro-torture Nine:

Allard (R-CO), Bond (R-MO), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS),
Cornyn (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL),
Stevens (R-AK). This is nine more than there should be. You might follow the link for a statement from Senator McCain, which I almost reposted in full. This isn’t exactly what I would say, as it’s more patriotic and less religious than my tastes, but it’s still quite good.

Why would I concentrate on the death penalty and torture? Because the humans on which these evils are our most hated. As I said, the people we consider for killing and waterboarding and the like are mostly gravely evil people. Yes, there are some innocent men, and that weakens the case for extreme punishment a lot more. I don’t even need that. Pretend that every sentenced person is guilty, and pretend that every captured person is involved. That makes them the worst people we know, total and absolute strangers. Fetuses have a much better reputation; the only time they’re described as evil is around the eleventh hour of labor. Often they’re even called innocent. Their souls, or at least potential souls, are pretty clear. It’s much easier to have sympathy or empathy for the respectable.

Calling yourself “Pro-Life” requires respect for the respectable, but it also requires respect for the least loved, the most reprehensible. It requires opposing all policies that are against life and human decency. That’s much more difficult, but it’s what the words mean. Americans are smart enough to look at simple words and realize they aren’t actually being followed, that thing called hypocrisy. Perhaps Americans have become too enamored with anti-hypocrisy, the “keeping it real” movement. Nevertheless, the “Pro-Life” groups are hypocrites on these issues, which substantially reduces their effectiveness. That just won’t do.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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