Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Abortion on the Front Porch?

I love Front Porch Republic, a blog that defies easy categorizing, a collaborative blog that doesn’t cotton to collectives.

Founded as a sort of third-party response to the financial crisis of 2008, FPR is neither Democrat nor Republican.

FPR doesn’t fly the Catholic flag or any other religious banner, but it sings to the Catholic in me with its embrace of traditional values. It appeals to the old hippie in me, too, the one who admired E. F. Shumacher’s Small is Beautiful. It touts the virtue of small-scale economies—small governments too.

FPR tickles the Midwesterner in me. I have always wanted a front porch on my house, so long as that house was on a small-town street in Minnesota or North Dakota. Last summer, I put a swinging bench on my front hill from which I can palaver with passing friends and strangers—the closest thing to a front porch my old Massachusetts home with its steep front hill will ever have.

Front Porch Republic takes its unusual name from an essay by Richard Thomas, “From Porch to Patio,” which inspired FPR senior editor Patrick Deneen. The essay, according to Deneen, explored “the social implications of the architectural practice of building porches on the front of homes and its eventual abandonment in favor of patios behind the house.”

The blog is partial to novelist Wendell Berry. And folk singer Iris DeMent. In fact, DeMent’s song “Our Town” is the FPR theme song.

But I think what I admire most about it is that it addresses issues dear to my heart from fresh perspectives. Like abortion. In today’s article, “Continuing to Argue Against Abortion,” Roberta Bayer resurrects a pro-life argument by George Parkin Grant, a Canadian philosopher “known for his penetrating insight into the connection between liberalism and technology in modern society.”

[Grant] argued in the wake of Roe v. Wade decades ago that the reasoning given in this judicial decision undermines free societies. In evidence, Grant pointed to the connection between abortion and confusion about the ontological status of the nature of human beings underlying our philosophies, but additionally he argued in a more political vein that Roe v.Wade had undermined the principle of equality under the law by stripping the unborn of the right to be represented in a court of law. He found Roe v. Wade extremely unsatisfying because it, in his words, undermined the “legal and political system, which was the noblest achievement of English-speaking societies.” 

Catholics may say that their pro-life arguments are compelling enough in themselves. But if, with John Rist, we wish to engage the culture, we must be willing to engage it on its own terms, or who will listen? “On the stump,” Bayer writes, “advocates for the unborn should be aware of the kinds of argument that Grant made.”

The fundamental question might be raised in this manner: is the unborn a class of persons who should not have the same rights as other individuals under American law?  If so, then can one rest content with the fact that legalized abortion undermines the principle of equality under the law? Situated in this way, abortion is not connected to issues of sexual morality, like contraception or the nature of marriage, which, as important as they are, obscure the central legal problem.

You can read Bayer’s entire article here.

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