Friday, February 1, 2013

Another nail in the coffin of Enlightenment Liberalism

This morning I ran across Al Mohler's analysis of Mary Elizabeth Williams' candid admission that she believes life begins at conception, yet remains undauntedly "pro-choice."

One of her quotations strikes me as one more nail in the coffin of the Enlightenment belief that individual human beings are equal according to the state of nature and have autonomous rights. She says,

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

What is revealing about the phrase is not the admission that a human "fetus" has different rights from a mother. We should all agree with that, since it entails, among other things, "a mother over 18 years old has a right to vote, which a fetus does not have." However, the stark, frank, and horrifying claim is what Williams' argues about the status of the fetus as subordinate to the will of the mother.

Autonomous individual rights, which Enlightenment principles sought to establish apart from the Sovereign rule and law of Almighty God, asserted that no one has a right to infringe upon another's autonomy over himself. I cannot take another person's life, or his goods, by any natural right. Yet here Williams argues that, irrespective of the human life in the womb, it does not possess autonomy, even over its own life. She is frank: the baby is a non-autonomous entity.

Now Williams may believe that her claims avoid the inconsistency of her fellow "pro-choice" supporters who want to deny human personhood to a "fetus." She does avoid some, of course, but not the main one. She has only shifted terms. Now, instead of arguing when or whether a "fetus" possesses or is a life, the debate becomes when or whether a "fetus" possesses his or is autonomy. If it is possible for a human life to be non-autonomous, then it is possible for a human life to lose any autonomy it gains, since it has once to be conferred; it can therefore be lost (or, at least, by some construal of how autonomy is gained, it could be lost). In other words, Williams has only traded Enlightenment principles of humanity for some neo-pagan view, for which she ought to establish justification.

Welcome to the new arena, fellow Christians, where we no longer the fact of life, but its relative value.

No comments: