Rhetoric, Abortion and Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln and son

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Father Z at What Does The Prayer Really Say.  Today he has a post on calls to tone down the rhetoric of those who oppose abortion.  He eloquently explains here why he probably will not heed these calls.  Let me associate myself with Father Z’s remarks.  I have a great many interests and a great many opinions on a lot of issues, but for me abortion will always be THE ISSUE.  I am never going to stop speaking out against the obscenity of abortion.  I will never stop making abortion THE ISSUE on which I vote.  Sometimes in life you simply have to call a spade a spade, and to call abortion the deliberate taking of innocent human life.

Abraham Lincoln  had this to say on the issue of slavery and criticisms he and other received for speaking out on that issue in a speech at New Haven Connecticut on March 6, 1860.   The text of the speech is here.  I have always been struck by this passage from the speech and its relevance as to how the battle against abortion has been viewed by many members of the public:

“What we want, and all we want, is to have with us the men who think slavery wrong. But those who say they hate slavery, and are opposed to it, but yet act with the Democratic party — where are they? Let us apply a few tests. You say that you think slavery is wrong, but you denounce all attempts to restrain it. Is there anything else that you think wrong, that you are not willing to deal with as a wrong? Why are you so careful, so tender of this one wrong and no other?  You will not let us do a single thing as if it was wrong; there is no place where you will allow it to be even called wrong! We must not call it wrong in the Free States, because it is not there, and we must not call it wrong in the Slave States because it is there; we must not call it wrong in politics because that is bringing morality into politics, and we must not call it wrong in the pulpit because that is bringing politics into religion; we must not bring it into the Tract Society or the other societies, because those are such unsuitable places, and there is no single place, according to you, where this wrong thing can properly be called wrong!”

Like Lincoln and his colleagues, pro-lifers must always be willing to say loudly and clearly that abortion is wrong.  Many people in our society do not want to hear about abortion.  It is an ugly topic, but the reality is infinitely more ugly.  We must be unafraid to speak the truth on this issue in season and out of season.  We are the only voice the victims of abortion have, and we must never allow ourselves to silence that voice.

12 Responses to Rhetoric, Abortion and Abraham Lincoln

  • Great post.

  • I have believed for a long time that pro-lifers could learn a lot from Lincoln’s approach to slavery. He never wavered in his belief that slavery was wrong and his carefully crafted arguments against it were designed to win over people who didn’t agree with him, rather than just “preaching to the choir”.

    The irony is, however, that in 1860 most abolitionists regarded Lincoln as too “soft” on slavery since he did NOT insist upon its immediate abolition everywhere, nor did he condemn Southerners or slaveowners as harshly as they did. Moreover, once the Civil War broke out, he made it clear that preserving the Union was “THE ISSUE” for him more than slavery. This is evident in his wording of the Emancipation Proclamation to exclude border slave states still loyal to the Union (so as not to alienate their slave owning residents).

    Although Lincoln did make political compromises on slavery that abolitionists did not approve of, in the end, he is the president who gets the credit for having freed the slaves. Likewise, the president on whose watch legalized abortion on demand finally comes to an end may not be what we expect — he or she may NOT have a 100 percent pro-life voting record, and may not even be a conservative or a Republican.

  • Sigh. Disingenuous, much? African-American slaves were always human beings with a right to as much self-actualization as anyone else. Fetuses, on the other hand, are not only *not* human beings with a right to self-actualization, but they are *incapable* of self-actualization. In fact, you might even call self-actualization a fetal condition incompatible with life.

    It’s so junior-high-debate-club to try to draw a parallel between slavery and abortion, but at least you avoided the easy Hitler points, so that’s something… I guess.

  • Jillian,
    what do you mean by “self-actualization”

  • Jillian, fetuses are perfectly capable of self-actualization IF they are allowed to live long enough to be born! You were once a fetus yourself, and yet you managed to become self-actualized, so I wouldn’t say that condition is “incompatible with life.” Actually, by your definition, African-American slaves were not “always human beings” because THEY all were fetuses at some point in their existence too.

    Maybe the reason it’s “so junior high debate club” to draw a parallel between slavery and abortion is because the parallels are obvious enough for even 12-year-olds to see? A particular group of beings belonging to the species Homo sapiens is declared, by law, not to be persons and not to have any rights, based on certain “scientific” arguments of the era. (There were plenty of scholars and scientists in the 19th century lined up to provide “proof” that African-Americans were inferior to whites and incapable of rational thought or action, and that slavery was absolutely necessary for their own good as well as that of white society.)

  • Ouchy, that’s a bit close. Sure to bring out some folks swinging the personal attack bat.

    Jillian-
    self-actualization is the *final* thing in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; claiming that because someone, at this very moment, isn’t able to fulfill:
    Needs for Self-Actualization
    When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which the person was “born to do.” “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

    If we’re going for the assertion-without-anything-to-back-it-up tactic– which is so grade school, but you chose the field– then a fetus is a human being with as much of a right to not be killed as any random person on the street.

    Laws may not acknowledge that fact, but they didn’t allow for self-actualization of slaves, either.

    It’s so junior-high-debate-club to try to draw a parallel between slavery and abortion, but at least you avoided the easy Hitler points, so that’s something…

    So refute them, by either logic or showing a flaw in the logic.
    If it’s so simple that a 12 year old can do it, why haven’t you?

  • -Obama has attempted to brand himself as a modern day lincoln — its a shame he hasn’t shown pres lincoln’s spine and character to protect the most weak

    later this week Obama will meet the Pope may the Holy Father boldly teach the chosen one

  • “Fetuses, on the other hand, are not only *not* human beings with a right to self-actualization, but they are *incapable* of self-actualization.”

    Jillian, the problem isn’t self-actualization of unborn children but the self-rationalization that pro-aborts such as yourself engage in in order to blind yourselves to the taking of innocent human life. Thank you for providing an object lesson of the infinite capacity of human beings to justify evil for the sake of self-interest.

  • “Moreover, once the Civil War broke out, he made it clear that preserving the Union was “THE ISSUE” for him more than slavery.”

    True Elaine, up until the Emancipation Proclamation. After that he indicated on several occasions that the two non-negotiables for him on ending the war were the restoration of the Union and the abolition of slavery. Frederick Douglass was correct in his comments about Lincoln on this point:

    “His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

  • “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

    As Douglass points out, Lincoln was a politician and an elected official and he had to walk a fine line between determination to carry out his goals and the necessity of making sure enough of the public stayed on board to make that possible. This of necessity requires some degree of compromise.

    I would seriously like to see some officeholder or politician take the same approach to abortion that Lincoln took toward slavery. Has anyone ever actually done or attempted this? It would be interesting to see what kind of reaction he or she would receive. More likely than not, pro-lifers would be upset with him or her because he/she was too soft, while the pro-abort crowd would label this person as radically “anti-choice” and paint them as someone willing to toss pregnant women in jail for having miscarriages, or some other ridiculous charge.

  • Excellent post, with a most useful Lincoln quote.

  • So Jillian.

    At what point in your life did you become “self-actuallised”?

    Fetuses on the other hand are not only *not* human beings with a right to self-actualization….

    Does the *not* refer to the fetus not being a human being, or does it apply to the adjectival phrase as well?
    If you believe the fetus is not a human being, at what stage does it change its “nature” to become a human being?

    Humanity does not depend on “self-actualization”.

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