Many pro-life advocates believe that the answer to the abortion problem lies in education. Science supports the claim that human life begins at conception. Psychology reports that induced abortion has adverse effects on a high percentage of women. Sociology informs us that abortion has a negative impact on marriage and the family. Scripture commands us not to kill. And so on. Unfortunately, education in moral matters has gone underground. Political correctness has not only invaded the groves of academe; it has captured it.
At the same time, political correctness has maintained a veneer of respectability. It is designed to avoid offending anyone while creating the impression that by offering information on both sides of the abortion issue, to take one important example, fairness will prevail. Thus, it is typical of schools of higher education to offer textbooks that represent both sides of any issue and leave the resolution of the topic to the student. In this way, no one is offended and the student’s freedom of choice is fully respected. What is lost in this arrangement, however, is education.
A typical example of this phenomenon is found in a college text prepared by Jacques P. Thiroux (Ethics: Theory and Practice). In offering a justification for abortion, the author states that “women, like men, should have absolute rights over their own bodies.” It is simply assumed that men have long enjoyed such rights. Tacitly swept under the rug are a myriad of incontestable realities beginning with mortality and defectibility, and passing through impotence, incontinence, insomnia, and indigestion. Given the power of Kryptonite, not even the fictional Superman has absolute control of his body. It is as if the author began by using some being mightier than Superman as a standard by which he would argue for abortion. This is hardly education.
Blissfully ignoring the fact that he has started on the wrong foot, the author argues that women, in the interest of equality, should also have such rights. He is, of course, pandering to a brace of politically correct notions involving feminism and equality. But his notions about women and equality are procrustean. He also adds the myth of progress for good measure. He writes: “In the past, women, because of an ‘accident of nature’—the fact that they are the ones who get pregnant—have not shared in these equal rights, but now that birth control is possible, they can.” At this point, a logically minded reader would protest: “Maybe it is an ‘accident of nature’ that men do not have the possibility of getting pregnant.” Another might say, “Maybe it is an accident of nature that we have legs.” At any rate, it dishonors women to assume that their distinctive—some would say “God-given”—power to procreate is an “accident.”
What Thiroux does in his “argument” for abortion is to whittle down the nature of the woman so that she looks equal to a man while assuming that men have an absolute right over their body, which, of course, they do not have. And this becomes what he calls “the central argument” for justifying abortion! He is counting on the word “equality” to blind his readers to the obvious fact that he is comparing two fictions to each other.
Thiroux erroneously identifies contraception with “birth control.” He then adds to this mistake by identifying birth control with abortion, thus displaying his ignorance of the meaning of all three terms (“abortion [is] just another method of birth control”). The truth is that contraception aims at preventing a pregnancy; abortion ends a pregnancy that has already begun. “Birth control” is a misnomer that has little to do with either birth or control. As G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “They insist on talking about Birth Control when they mean less birth and no control.”
Not finished with his parade of errors, the author then boldly asserts that “any conceptus is a part of a woman’s body until it is born.” Here, he is exposing his ignorance of science. Giulio Cesare Aranzio (Arantius; 1530-1589) showed that the blood systems of the fetus and the mother are neither continuous nor contiguous with each other. Thiroux is five centuries behind the times. Moreover, the fetus has its own DNA, has received half of its genes from a male, and has its own sex type, which may also be male.
The author, in being eager not to offend the naïve reader, manages to infuriate those who are intelligent. He wants to be neutral by presenting both sides as if they had equal merit (if he is really pledged to equality, he should look at the gross inequality in credibility he has established between the two sides he represents). Political correctness attempts to conceal deeper truths in order to maintain a superficial ideology.
A colleague of mine, teaching at a state university, tried as hard as he could to present both sides of the abortion controversy as fairly as possible. Nonetheless, he was criticized by some of his students for making the pro-life side appear to be more attractive. Such students, sworn to the myth of neutrality as they were, could not believe that the pro-life side was inherently more attractive. Neutrality is not a virtue, nor is it an end in itself. A baseball umpire should be neutral about which team wins, but he cannot be neutral about balls and strikes, or whether a player is safe or out.
Moral neutrality can be dispelled through knowledge. In a world of pure neutrality, no one would ever have a conviction strong enough to act on. “I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure,” does not illustrate progress. The whole point of education is to move from neutrality, indecision, ignorance, apathy, or indifference to knowledge, conviction, wisdom and action. The textbook approach, by trying to make both sides seem equal, is designed to stop the process of enlightenment at the starting gate. It fails to teach while seducing students into believing that they are being educated.