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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Charles Murray Elaborates on Statement that Abortion is "Justifiable Homicide"

Human Events: Why Did Charles Murray Call Abortion 'Justifiable' Homicide? We Asked Him, by David Harsanyi:

I should start by admitting that I’ve been a fan of social scientist Charles Murray for a long time – and not only for the compelling reason that I agree with many of his conclusions. A fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he is best known for his controversial books “Losing Ground” and “The Bell Curve” (his newest is Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 ) — but all of them are excellent.

Murray caused somewhat of a ruckus at CPAC last week, not only advocating that Republicans embrace gay marriage (not entirely surprising), but for dropping this provocative statement about abortion on the crowd: “It’s a murder—it’s a homicide—but sometimes homicide is justified.” . . .

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Murray says that abortion is murder.  But his attempt to explain why he would still allow some abortions reveals the inconsistency of his position:

“I really consider abortion a hugely grave step that you move forward on with the greatest reluctance for the most compelling reason. But I always believed that it was beyond the competence of government to legislate those issues.” . . .

The easiest [abortions to defend], says Murray, are cases in which the health of mother is in question. But Murray is also sympathetic in instances when the fetus has serious health problems — brain stem problems “not Down’s Syndrome” but something that “constitutes severe damage.” Here again, he notes, the age-old problem arises: who exactly makes these calls?

Really?  Would he think it "justifiable homicide" if a person were to kill another in order to preserve his own health?  We don't require people to donate organs or even blood to help save another person's life or health.  Would he consider it "justifiable homicide" if an individual were to decide to kill a person who had some sort of vaguely defined "serious damage" to the brain?  Does he think it "beyond the competence of government" to ban such acts?

The fact that most conservatives feel uncomfortable about punishing women for obtaining abortions, or banning abortion in every instance, shows that they do not view embryos and fetuses as morally equivalent to a person. To admit that an embryo or fetus is not a person does not mean that we must abandon all claims that embryonic and fetal life has moral value.  But forthrightly admitting that abortion is not murder would be more consistent with conservatives' other considered judgments, and it better explains why the vast majority of Americans would not ban abortions entirely.  It also makes it much harder to defend allowing some abortions and not others, rather than leaving this moral decision to the woman to make.  At the very least, it requires conservatives to defend proposed abortion restrictions on grounds other than the vague claim that "life begins at conception."  For more on this topic, see The Meaning of "Life": Belief and Reason in the Abortion Debate.

See also: The New Yorker: Charles Murray's Gay-Marriage Surprise, by Jane Mayer.

-CEB

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