Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Slippery slope?

Slippery slope arguments are logical fallacies. However, not every argument that sees the loosening or tightening of certain strictures as having negative consequences is a slippery slope. The de-humanization of various classes of human beings, especially those at the end of life and the very beginning of life, is one such example. Assisted suicide leads us on a march toward euthanasia, especially as we begin to discuss the rationing of health care to lower costs. At the root of all this, at least in the U.S., is the right to privacy, created out of whole cloth, or the penumbra of the constitution, by the Supreme Court in 1973. Not only is it an invented right (i.e., one not explicitly articulated in the Bill of Rights, which are set forth in the first ten amendments to the constitution), it has risen to the most important of all rights.

I see it as axiomatic that a healthy society cannot be based on the absolute supremacy of the individual. While a free society must guarantee certain individual rights, there is a need to create a balance from the inherent tension between individual rights and the good of society as a whole. In recent decades, at least since the disaster of the late 1960s, a period of attempted anarchy that is still lionized by many, most western countries are out of balance, exalting individual rights over the common good. This results in exalting a woman's right to choose over another person's right to live. To fill this void, many countries, increasingly the U.S., are becoming more statist because without undue influence by the government, such an imbalance is unsustainable.

When it comes to advancing the culture of death the reality is beginning to out pace the most dire predictions. Deacon Greg points us to something very disturbing, a development that should get our attention. In Sweden health authorities have determined that no abortion can be refused, at least until the eighteenth week of pregnancy, even abortions for women who cite the gender of the in utero child as the reason for seeking one. You guessed it, the woman who challenged the previous restriction, has now aborted two girls. In addition to being racist, abortion, as with infanticide in China, is sexist. Proponents of abortion on demand continue to insist that they are on the side of human rights, even when their support for abortion fatally undercuts so many other human rights. It is alarming that this incoherence is permitted to persist and not even noticed. When will we see that morality cannot be grounded in a kind of agnostic pragmatism?

Veni Sancti Spiritus, veni per Mariam.


  1. One particularly nasty aspect of the whole thing that doesn't seem to be attracting much notice is this; while women are the ones who get abortions, who's urging it on them? Usually the husband or boyfriend. And in this particular case, it's hard to imagine that the impetus to abort girls came entirely from the wife. If this family is from a culture that tends exalt male children over female she may have been under tremendous pressure, especially if she already had daughters. What the Swedish court has just done is say that in situations like that, they will not stand with her. She will be urged, perhaps covertly forced, to exercise her "choice." I can't think of a sadder irony.

    Abortion has definitely acquired this weird, sanctified position for a minority of people. My friends who are pro-choice recoil personally at cases like these but insist that you can't start putting up special restrictions on things like these because pro-lifers might use them as wedges to start making abortion laws more restrictive in general. The way they see it, yes, it's awful for a female baby to be aborted for being female, but it's worse that "choice" be in any way restricted. It's like an awful parody of martyrdom - letting someone else be sacrificed for your own beliefs. And believe me, we've had many, many discussions about this and it never gets anywhere because the concept, the single word of "choice" has just become so ingrained as being a right that doing away with it is seen as being analogous to doing away with women getting the vote.

    Apologies for the mini-novel. And if I may ask, how is the slippery slope argument fallacious? (I don't know what its official definition is - I just tend to think of it in terms like "Once assisted suicide with consent becomes the norm, the leap to pressuring or doing without consent won't seem as far as it does now.")

  2. You gave a good example of a slippery slope argument when you wrote about your pro-choice friends- "you can't start putting up special restrictions on things like these because pro-lifers might use them as wedges to start making abortion laws more restrictive in general." Another example is, if you pass one law placing a restriction on the ownership of firearms, then this will lead to banning gun ownership. In general, not letting people employ slippery slope arguments keeps the focus on the matter at hand.

    I appreciated your insightful comment, very much.


A political non-rant

In the wake of yesterday's Helsinki press conference, which, like a lot of my fellow U.S. citizens, as well as many people abroad, left ...