Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once observed that, “Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.” In that sense, dogs have an advantage over modern day progressives who claim that there is a “moral inconsistency” between opposition to abortion and support for the death penalty. A complete dissection of this intellectually herniated claim requires that we succinctly state the moral position of those who are opposed to elective abortion. This can be done with a simple syllogism that was first taught to me by America’s greatest pro-life apologist, Scott Klusendorf. Scott reminds us that every pro-lifer should always frame his argument as follows:
Major premise: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Minor premise: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Abortion is wrong.
When framed this way it becomes immediately apparent that there is no contradiction between being pro-life on the abortion issue while supporting the use of capital punishment in certain cases. Unlike abortion, which intentionally kills an innocent human being, capital punishment intentionally kills a guilty human being. And the occasional accidental execution of innocents is in no way comparable to the regular practice of intentionally aborting those we know to be innocent – and doing it without due process.
The key word in that last sentence is “know.” If one supports elective abortion but does not know that the unborn is a distinct, living, and whole human being, then one cannot be said to endorse the intentional killing of innocent humans. Nonetheless, every abortion sanctioned under Roe v. Wade — all 60 million of them — has involved the intentional killing of an innocent human. We know this for two reasons:
- There is an absolute consensus in the science of embryology that life begins at conception (weeks before the point at which any doctor will perform a surgical abortion).
- There is not a single abortionist in America who is unaware of the consensus in the science of embryology that life begins at conception.
My own personal transformation from being a pro-choice death penalty opponent to being a pro-life death penalty supporter has involved no inconsistency whatsoever. This is because my views shifted in order to remain properly aligned with knowledge, as my education has progressed. For me, it has simply been a process of conversion from a) drawing morally consistent conclusions from inaccurate information to b) drawing morally consistent conclusions from accurate information.
When I was pro-choice, I was relying on the false information given to me by other pro-choicers who erroneously claimed that the unborn was simply an “undifferentiated blob of tissue.” After I saw an ultrasound of an abortion actually taking place (in the movie The Silent Scream by Bernard Nathanson), I realized the unborn was human — in addition to being obviously innocent. So I did the intellectually mature thing and changed my mind. For a while I became both anti-abortion and anti-death penalty.
My views on the death penalty changed shortly after the outrageous decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008). In that case, the Supreme Court deprived states of the option of ever executing someone for rape — even the child rapist who tortured without actually killing the victim. Together with Roe, the blanket banning of executions for rape meant that when a rape resulted in a pregnancy, three things were certain: 1) The rape victim had a right to an abortion. 2) The rapist retained his right to life. 3) The baby had no rights.
Some have said that killing the “rapist’s baby” is justified in order to help the rape victim forget about the tragic circumstances of the rape. But, of course, she will never forget. So I say we should execute the rapist instead. You can call me extreme but you cannot call me inconsistent. I have never knowingly supported the intentional killing of an innocent human being.
My transition to support of the death penalty has also been aided by the realization that accusations of “institutional racism” in the death penalty are patently false. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977, most of those executed have been white. Yet blacks commit most homicides. Now I am committed to eradicating abortion, which kills far more blacks than the death penalty — and does so disproportionately. My commitment to racial fairness remains steadfast. But it has been refocused to remain consistent with facts, rather than visions.
Of course, the fact that I have remained consistent over the years is really not the point. In fact, it does not matter at all. What matters in the abortion debate is whether the unborn is a human being, not whether I am a consistent being. If I really were inconsistent in my views on abortion and capital punishment, the unborn would still be human. The pro-choicer would be making no relevant observation by saying I was inconsistent. He would simply be making an ad hominem attack — on par with saying that I am fat or stupid or ugly.
But suppose pro-choicers convinced me that I was being inconsistent and I subsequently changed my views causing them to reclassify me as consistent. Would pro-choicers then reclassify the unborn as human? Of course they wouldn’t. The scientific status of the unborn is not contingent on the moral status of the born. Every pro-choicer knows this. That is why he will always find another opinion he wishes you to adopt in order to prove your consistency — all the while ignoring the unborn child’s humanity.
Some pro-life leaders such as Russell Moore fail to grasp this reality. Thus, their message becomes diluted in an effort to impress progressives with their “consistency.” But Scott Klusendorf gets it right when says we have to “keep the main thing, the main thing.”
The main thing is that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being. After abortion is abolished, survivors can resume their tired debate over who is more consistent and therefore morally superior.