Singer and Erickson: two sides of the same coin?

by Josh Craddock

Is it always wrong to take an innocent human life? That’s the question Princeton Professor Peter Singer asked in his editorial for The Daily Star last week. It’s also the question that RedState editor Erick Erickson begs in his unhinged attack on Georgia Right to Life, after they withdrew support from the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Both authors overlook the crucial distinctions between non-interference and accomplice with abortion.

Criticizing the “absoluteness” of answering yes, Singer outlines the case of Beatriz—a pseudonymous El Salvadoran woman caught in the middle of an international dispute over her country’s pro-life laws last month. Singer, like other abortion advocates, argues that Beatriz’s health condition (classified by national health authorities as non-threatening to her life) and her unborn child’s brain abnormality (anencephaly) produce a case where taking innocent human life is justifiable. He laments the Salvadoran Supreme Court’s ruling, which upheld the country’s personhood protections for both mother and child.

Yet his dramatic storytelling truncates the ending: Beatriz went into labor naturally and her doctors determined the kind of delivery—Caesarean section—that would be best for their patient. Her baby daughter was born alive and lived for five hours. An abortion would have torn the little girl limb from limb inside the womb.

It’s ironic that Singer, an advocate of so-called “death with dignity,” asks whether there was any benefit to delivery and natural death instead of a violent abortion. The difference is that, while non-interference is not immoral (provided reasonable efforts have been made to preserve life), it is always immoral to actively assent to the killing of an innocent human being.

Erick Erickson misses this same distinction in his hit-piece against Georgia Right to Life (GRTL). When House Republicans exempted children conceived in rape and incest from their fetal pain legislation, GRTL pulled its support for the bill. Supporting the bill with those exceptions authorizes the intentional killing of some innocent human beings, with the intention to possibly save others. Yet this bill never even had the possibility to save others, since it cannot pass the Senate and would receive a decisive veto from President Obama if it did.

To see the parallels in reasoning more clearly, compare these paraphrased summaries:

Singer: Anencephaly is extremely rare. An “all-or-nothing” rule against abortion is inadequate for practical circumstances. Sanctioning the killing of some babies is more compassionate than adhering to rigid principle against abortion. El Salvador’s law is “immoral,” and their moral principles ought to be changed.
Erickson: Rape and incest are extremely rare. GRTL’s “all-or-nothing” rule against abortion is inadequate for practical circumstances. Sanctioning the killing of some babies is more compassionate than adhering to rigid principle against abortion. GRTL’s position is “morally vacant” and their moral principles ought to be changed.

 

Supporting the fetal pain legislation (as amended), which reinforces the legality of murdering children based on the circumstances of their conception, could be considered joining as an accomplice. Revoking support for such a bill (non-interference) is a moral response to a compromise which undermines the foundational moral principle that all unborn children are persons deserving legal protection. Why would Erickson vilify other pro-life advocates for adhering to that principle?

While his support for “exceptions” in pro-life bills advances the same flawed reasoning as Singer, Erickson only hints at the unstated serpentine question, “Is it always wrong to take an innocent human life?” If we are to remain pro-life, the answer must always be yes.

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