Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Life news: Arousing the moral sense against abortion

In an earlier post I discussed the role that images need to play in turning public opinion against abortion  (http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2447271489594435093#editor/target=post;postID=5884137283214906903).  S. Adam Seagrave has written a far more sophisticated piece describing where the pro-life movement is presently at, as he compares it to the examples of the anti-slavery and civil rights movements.  He notes that intellectual arguments are not enough since they often cannot arouse the moral sense that stirs people into action.  He writes:

So where does this leave pro-life advocates? How can we bridge the Humean—and human—gap between intellectual understanding and actual practice in our nation? The answer lies in the parallel between the issue of abortion and those of slavery and subsequent civil rights. The pro-life movement needs to model more closely in its organization and practices the antebellum abolition movement and the civil rights movement in order to achieve similar success in ending the evil of abortion. It needs to take up the mantle of these causes in a manner beyond rhetorical parallel or intellectual analogy and be prepared to undergo similar hardships before achieving its goals.

Both of these historical movements ultimately succeeded not by winning arguments, but by awakening the moral sense or conscience of a majority of the nation. Legislation relating to the provision of an ultrasound prior to an abortion, currently in place in some form in more than twenty states, is very well suited to this purpose. The dissemination of graphic images relating to abortion procedures, though controversial in pro-life circles, is also highly appropriate to this purpose.

The civil rights movement was driven forward significantly by television and photographic coverage of the inhuman treatment of protestors, as well as the publication of vivid written reports of racially motivated cruelties. Moral senses or sympathies are sparked most effectively by distasteful, unsettling, and shocking information; and when intellectual argument has had its day in trying to awaken consciences and has shown itself insufficient, recourse must be had to the level of moral sense and feeling.

The pro-life movement currently finds itself in the same place as the abolition movement at the time of Frederick Douglass’s great speech. If we are to experience similar success, we would do well to follow Douglass’s advice and focus our energies on awakening the moral sense of our fellow citizens. It would help to have another Douglass for our cause, but at least we still have his words: “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

The article is an excellent piece that is well worth reading.

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