Monday, September 08, 2008

Maybe Peter would be surprised

Several days ago in Slate, William Saleton assailed Mr. & Mrs. Palin's decision to have their daughter Bristol carry the pregnancy to term. In creating a new victim class, oppressed minors, Mr. Saleton, in the space of just this article, exposes the toxicity of the liberal "moral" outlook. Here is the nut graf:
"[Sarah Palin backs parental consent laws because consent is required in nearly every other] aspect of a child's life." But that logic is backward. The more profoundly a decision affects a girl's future, the more vital it is that no one, even her parents, be authorized to veto it. And nothing short of death alters a person's life more profoundly than bringing a child into the world. It is the moment when you cease to be the primary purpose of your own existence.
The Advice Goddess [Update: link fixed](whom I stumbled upon thanks a link in Arts & Letters Daily) editorialized, finding in favor of Mr. Saleton. I posted this response (Sep 8, 12:20 am):
Amy:

Saleton, who I read often and whose writing I generally like, has waltzed the both of you right past the primary point without even noticing it go by. Along the way, you both also make, by omission, an implicit assumption that is completely wrong.

(In the following, keep in mind that I Am Not A Christian, although I know some who are, and also that I Am Not A Woman, although I know some who are. Also, I am pro-choice.)

First, the point: The Mr. & Mrs. Palin have a strong moral attitude towards life and abortion. That I, or you, do not share that attitude does not mean we can avoid its implications in their lives. For them, life begins at conception, and any human action to end it constitutes murder. Abortion, even of a blastocyst, is murder, pure and simple.

This is not the thread to debate the advisability of this moral decision, or some very real contradictions in practice.

However, this is very much the place to discuss the consequences of that moral decision.

First, for Christians, moral decisions do not become optional simply because their consequences are inconvenient, or even life changing. Second, that means that so long as Bristol is a dependent, and her parents are not Christians of convenience, then there is simply no discussion, regardless of all the harrowing statistics surrounding teen pregnancies. For true Christians -- and, I suspect all truly moral people -- moral decisions are not in thrall to the difficulty of their consequences.

I doubt Mr. Saleton even once acknowledged this aspect of the Palin's moral life, which is surpassing odd considering how central it obviously is. Typical of a liberal, but that is a topic for another thread.

The second is the implicit, but far from acknowledge, position in this statement:

The more profoundly a decision affects a girl's future, the more vital it is that no one, even her parents, be authorized to veto it. And nothing short of death alters a person's life more profoundly than bringing a child into the world.

Can you see what the assumption is?

That of the three options on offer -- abortion, adoption, and keeping the baby -- the assumption is that abortion does not constitute a death, and that death will not profoundly alter the mother's life.

Now, as mentioned above, IANAW. However, I happen to know some people who are. One of them is my 15-yr old daughter. In her world, the angels shed a tear whenever a kitten is hurt. There is simply no way, should she become a teen pregnancy statistic, that she could have an abortion and not carry that with her for the rest of her life. It might be the most convenient decision, but that sure as heck does not mean it comes without profound costs.

All the options facing a pregnant teen are bad; all are likely to be emotionally scarring -- for life. Pretending that one is not is simply nonsense. (Since IANAW, nearly everything women do leaves me in a pretty constant state of astonishment, but the obvious failure of girls and young women to take this glaringly obvious -- and existentially central -- fact on board cranks the astonishment level right up to 11.)

As a consequence of missing the fundamental point, and making an unwarranted assumption, Mr. Saleton's conclusion is fatally holed below the water line.

As a society, we must make laws that define one thing from another, even where the boundary may not be terribly clear. Our society defines adulthood as starting at 18. Consequently, a young woman, Bristol in this case, is simply not a moral agent: she does not get to make moral decisions that contradict those of her parents.

Perhaps he would see this more clearly if the shoe was to be shifted to another foot. Do the young man's parents get to make a decision about whether he must -- not should, must -- marry Bristol? If it was my son, all the moral instruction I have given him through life would mean I would do everything in my power to make him marry the mother. He would know that I would always view him as dishonorable should he not shoulder his responsibility, no matter how inconvenient: actions have consequences, our actions define us. That is what parents capable of making moral distinctions do.*

Allowing Bristol to have an abortion would make a mockery of the moral instruction her parents have provided her. Citing inconvenient statistics changes that not one whit. Pretending that an abortion makes the problem go away is staggering nonsense, no matter one's view on abortion's moral considerations, and succeeds only in objectifying women.

So, instead of describing how certain actions -- in this case, pre-marital sex -- can have inescapable life altering consequences, and that stories such as this underline that point, Saleton creates a new victim class; somehow, I doubt he is a parent.

If one wanted to find the shortcomings of the liberal outlook, there is no need to search any further than this.

What surprises me, Amy, is your following his lead.


* I added the preceding two sentences to this post

10 Comments:

Blogger erp said...

It's amusing that the non-judgmentals are fulminating and judging like crazy now that a public figure is showing them up for the degenerates they are.

September 08, 2008 4:56 AM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

Heads up: The Advice Goddess link goes back to the Daily Duck.

Also I found this sentence:

"The more profoundly a decision affects a girl's future, the more vital it is that no one, even her parents, be authorized to veto it."

incredibly strange. He can't possibly really mean that, I think, except in trying to make his point here.

What if the girl wanted to start a heroin habit, or prostitute herself? Those are profound, life altering decisions. Are parents only allowed to instruct her on table manners and sending out thank-you notes?

What a weird thing to say, and I'm incredulous that Saleton and the A.G. would believe it to be a convincing argument to others who do not already agree with them.

September 08, 2008 5:50 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

Pleased, of course, but not all that surprised. I've seen this one coming for months. Do you think you are the first hardbitten rough-tough libertarian who took one look at Sarah Palin and turned into a knee-trembling drooling so-con?

I'm blown away by her as much as anybody and am having too much fun watching the left have a collective seizure to try and figure her all out ideologically yet, but she certainly has joined a few issues. I just hope she chooses some very competent and loyal advisors. Anyway, on this subject, don't you think your/her position on parental persuasion implies that pre-marital sex and abortion are not really the value-neutral individual moral choices everybody thinks they believe they are? What would your position be vis-a-vis a parent who tried to pressure a teen into an abortion or sex?

BTW, have you heard we are having an election too? Called yesterday for Oct 14 (Say what you will, we Canadians are decisive!). No contest on the excitement factor, though. You have a mavericak/war hero, a highly appealling black candidate and the firecracker from Alaska. We have four Harold Stassens.

September 08, 2008 9:47 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'she does not get to make moral decisions that contradict those of her parents.'

Uh, I think she just did, unless you think the parents encouraged screwing around with the boyfriend.

Which they might have done, wouldn't surprise me a bit, but so far as I know, that's not in evidence.

Kids don't magically become moral actors when they turn 18. As the twig is bent so grows the tree and so on.

On a general level, I doubt many people are capable of changing their moral behavior after they turn 18. It's pretty much fixed by then.

September 08, 2008 10:28 AM  
Blogger David said...

I have to admit that I having the delving into the details of Bristol Palin's pregnancy, but why does Saleton think that her mom made the decision? Wasn't it presented as her decision?

Also, a really large number of weddings take place with a bun in the oven. The general view has always been that if the marriage takes place before the baby appears, no harm no foul. That is, after all, the whole point of a shotgun wedding.

September 08, 2008 7:28 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

So true, but it does not comport very well with the argument from morality.

I know, lawyers and savage Germans believed that if you killed somebody and paid his relatives his money value, no harm, no foul; but claims to moral behavior require a little closer observance than that among civilized people.

My personal view is that a leader would avoid talking about morality and demonstrate what he thinks it is by his behavior. True, that hasn't gotten many votes over the last 28 years, when donning morality capes has effectively substituted for behaving morally, but Palin seems incapable of opening her mouth without claiming leaderly abilities by, usually, dismissing some below stairs drudge.

Of course, a 17-year-old is a moral actress. Catholics put the cutoff at around 7. That is too early for any but the simplest actions, but -- according to the preachings of the church the Palins attend -- bringing children into the world is just about the numero uno moral act one can do.

Surely God would not have played such a joke as to make the flesh willing but the moral sense incapable? Even an Assembly of God Christian holds God to a higher standard than that.

I am indifferent to whichever side these prating moralizers come down on, but as they have decided to come down on both sides at once, we can dismiss them as useful guides.

At what age does a Palin grow up? Somewhere north of 44, evidently.

September 08, 2008 10:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Anyway, on this subject, don't you think your/her position on parental persuasion implies that pre-marital sex and abortion are not really the value-neutral individual moral choices everybody thinks they believe they are?

You have to be a little more definitive about what you mean by "this subject". Clearly, some things are more value-neutral than others. Non-coercive pre-marital sex, given the appropriate precautions, is much closer to value-neutral than is the decision whether to carry a pregnancy to term. It is the latter event under discussion.

Saleton and the Advice Goddess both make the mistake of substituting utilitarian considerations for moral decisions, and then compound the mistake by pretending a -- any -- pregnant woman is not in a square corner. There is no outcome that will not have significant consequences. Under ideal conditions, those consequences are rewarding; however, just because the conditions are not ideal does not mean that making a utilitarian decision is cost-free.

Which is half the reason I find their conclusion so horribly wrong.

What would your position be vis-a-vis a parent who tried to pressure a teen into an abortion or sex?

I'll take the last half of that "or" first. A parent pressuring a teen (I detect an implicit "girl" here) into having sex has issues that have nothing to do with the point at hand.

The first half is a lot harder. It is worth remembering the point I am not trying to make: that there is a correct answer to this question. Instead, I am taking the position that there is a clear line society must draw between being a minor and being a morally accountable agent. Within that line, deciding some decision is outside a parent's purview simply because of its gravity is nonsense of the highest order.

That position is intuitively easier if the parent is stopping a medical procedure.

Less satisfying is looking at it the other way around. I can see a parent suggesting that, when presented with the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, the devil is the best option. However, I don't think that gets to cross the line into coercion to undergo a medical procedure.

Like I said, not a satisfying answer.

Harry:

'she does not get to make moral decisions that contradict those of her parents.'

Okay, badly put. I should have said that she does not get to make a moral decision that contradicts her parents, provided her parents are in a position to enforce it.

why does Saleton think that her mom made the decision? Wasn't it presented as her decision?

I wondered that too. I think Saleton had a point -- a bad one -- to make, and was going to assume whatever facts he needed into evidence.

BTW -- this is not about Sarah Palin, or her daughter. If Saleton was to make this same argument about the girl down the street, he would still be dead wrong in the way only liberals can manage.

David:

I think another point of a shotgun wedding is that the father does not get to pretend there are no consequences.

September 08, 2008 11:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

We probably mostly agree if we distinguish between parents' moral (and practical) responsibilities, and near-adult children's moral independence.

Just because the kid acquires the one, that does not immediately extinguish the parents' role.

Wisdom comes in managing the hard intermediate cases.

Children, for example, do not have moral authority to refuse medical treatment, such as vaccines; but nor -- in a well-ordered society -- do parents have unfettered moral authority to deny them. There are consequences for persons outside the family in that case.

The situation that enrages me is the outside actor who denies the parent the right to participate.

September 09, 2008 9:28 AM  
Blogger erp said...

the outside actor -- you mean like child protective services?

September 09, 2008 1:13 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Nope, I mean Planned Parenthood.

September 09, 2008 4:58 PM  

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