Moral Simpletons

I am not, contrary to how it may seem at times, a leftist. I used to consider myself one  some time ago, and I suppose on certain issues, such as foreign policy and immigration, I still am.

But the left’s moral logic, especially with regard to sexual issues, never  appealed to me, much for the same reason most forms of libertarian economics don’t – it looks, smells, and often is extremely self-centered, and I wish I could say that without offending good-hearted libertarians who aren’t actually selfish at all.

There is a certain obessesion at times with double-standards and hypocrisy. In the debates over contraception and abortion, for example, these are the arguments I would hear over and over:

“Rich people can get abortions with no questions asked. But poor people get arrested. Abortion should be legal so that the poor have the same rights as the rich.”


“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be legal forever. Men get to plant their seeds and run off, but women have no choice but to raise the child. Abortion should be legal so that women can be as free as men.”

In both cases, the common denominator is – “why can’t I do it if they get to do it?” Rarely is it asked if what “they” are doing is inherently wrong. Instead the evil is that someone is doing something that someone else can’t do. Ask any pro-lifer and they will agree, rich people should not be allowed to have abortions. Many might also say, as I certainly do, that men should be bound by law to care for the children they help create.

Christianity and common sense make the rational appeal to us all not to whine because others are getting away with immorality, but to hold them to higher standards. If rich people are getting abortions and men are sexually promiscuous man-whores, rather than arguing that poor people and women should be able to do the same without censure or penalty, we should redouble our efforts to enforce legal and social restraints against the offending groups.

Had the feminists and other radicals insisted on holding men accountable for their actions instead of seeking to relieve women of all accountability, they would have found many more allies on the conservative side of the spectrum. But that isn’t what many of them were interested in to begin with. The double-standard approach to morality is a way of making a lot of noise and smoke without ever taking a serious position on the issue itself.

Few want the notoriety of intellectuals such as Peter Singer, who argues infanticide is acceptable as an extension of abortion rights and fits it neatly into his Godless utilitarian schema. Deplore him we may, and probably must, but I do respect his logical consistency and honesty. It’s more than we typically get from abortion advocates.

We must continue to press the sensitive areas that make the pro-abortionists squirm – to show the bloody images of aborted children, to act as the real “pro-choice” movement by informing women of ALL their options, and also to neutralize this infantile double-standard logic by actually becoming more vocal in holding those who often do get away with evading responsibilities to account.

The message I think we need to drive home a little harder is this: outlwaing abortion is not about “controlling women’s bodies”, but holding both parents to the strictest account for the welfare of their children. It is not a women’s issue, it is a parental issue. In refusing women “the right to choose”, we must also refuse all men “the right to run” from their obligations. That way we really do bring about a measure of equality and consistency, but in the right direction.

13 Responses to Moral Simpletons

  1. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Bravo Joe, well said. Legal abortion has been a boon to predatory males. I truly do not, and never have, viewed abortion as a left-right issue, but rather one of following one of the most basic laws of God and Man: innocent human life must be protected. That there is even an argument about this is a sad commentary on our times.

  2. Foxfier says:

    I’d have guessed you as an old-style Democrat– same as my grandparents were, or my aunt.

    Liberal, but moral.

  3. Joe Hargrave says:

    Ha! I was just thinking today that I’m probably a Democrat minus radical feminism. To many liberals that makes me a fascist.

  4. Proper italics in this one:

    I was just thinking today that I’m probably a Democrat minus radical feminism.

    Democrats are only mildly feminist! 🙂

  5. Matt McDonald says:


    Good post!

    Few want the notoriety of intellectuals such as Peter Singer, who argues infanticide is acceptable as an extension of abortion rights and fits it neatly into his Godless utilitarian schema. Deplore him we may, and probably must, but I do respect his logical consistency and honesty. It’s more than we typically get from abortion advocates.

    I have often made the same statement, Singer is one the few in the pro-death camp who is logically consistent, have to respect him for his intellectual honesty. His promotion of rights for primates who may be more functional than retarded humans he would euthanize is spot on from a logical consistency point of view.

  6. Eric Brown says:

    Joe, you really should read “Crunchy Cons,” if you haven’t. My spiritual director recommended it to me because he was suspicious that while it may not appeal to all conservatives, it might be strikingly popular with pro-life Democrats. And, it was for me. So, strangely enough — strange because of personal experience and intellectual opposition — if you would have told me, I would be calling myself a conservative two weeks ago, I might have laughed. But if ‘conservative’ is what that book describes as ‘conservative,’ well I am most definitely ‘conservative.’

    And there’s one thing you said: the moral logic predominant on the left is inconsistent. This is in no way making a case for moral logic predominant on the right, which, at times, leans toward consequentialism and/or proportionalism ; though, among pro-life conservatives, there is a natural law flavor in a lot of cases.

    I have been swamped in the last (less than 30 days) of my senior semester so I haven’t engaged here as much as I’d like. But one thing is certain. I, with very little reluctance, self-identify as a Democrat and very frequently, I agree with your arguments and positions very quickly. So, perhaps, you are a Democrat minus the radical feminism. Perhaps not. Maybe you just have similar points. Though, one more thing, a healthy John Paul II/St. Edith Stein feminism does not hurt anyone!

  7. Joe Hargrave says:


    I’m glad I finally posted something we can agree on. War is tiresome.


    I’ve had similar dilemmas all my life. I was on the left for some time – I even belonged to a socialist organization. Over time I became secretly disgusted with the completely selfish and irrational hysteria of the left’s personal morality, especially with the arguments justifying abortion. These same crusaders against selfishness in the economy were doing back flips to justify it with respect to their own children.

    It became especially clear when I openly declared I was pro-life. I was a reverse Kucinich. I was bum rushed by everyone I knew. The men of course made appeals to science (it isn’t really “human”) or philosophy (it isn’t “person”) or liberation (if we don’t fight for abortion women won’t fight alongside us).

    The women on the other hand never denied it was a child they were talking about. Their logic is that it was better off dead. Not given up for adoption, that would be too painful – for THEM. Death was simply the best solution to any number of problems. If you disagree, and especially if you are man, you shut up, you bury your objections deep inside, and get with the program. Consequently I knew men who had fathered many aborted children, one of them up to five, five of his own children. It is complete insanity. If this is “liberation” I’ll take the tyranny of sanity.

  8. S.B. says:

    Indeed, in this one post, you’ve crafted a more thoughtful and unequivocal pro-life argument than anyone in the entire history of Vox Nova.

  9. Indeed, in this one post, you’ve crafted a more thoughtful and unequivocal pro-life argument than anyone in the entire history of Vox Nova.

    I share a lot of your frustrations with some of the usual suspects at Vox Nova, but bringing it up this way may not be helpful.

    Though since Joe now writes for both sites, he could always go post the same thing over there and that would solve any lack. 🙂

  10. Krystal says:

    Hey Joe, this is Krystal B from the old socialism forums. (I looked you up to see if you’re still writing stuff). I’d like to, if it’s allowed, politely disagree with you (once again) on the abortion issue, this time from the religious perspective. I found these articles awhile back via Catholics for Choice and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice that I think are especially good:

    Click to access RCRC_EdSeries_Fetus.pdf

    Anyway, these present the argument for pro-choice Catholicism better than I think I’d be able to, so I wont go into their content and allow you to see yourself. Still, I will say that the arguments they present put the burden on pro-lifers to declare why their position is morally superior from a religious standpoint. I would argue the burden of proof is certainly on you to show that abortion at all stages of pregnancy, meaning before first “breath”, is actually immoral.

    Anyway, sorry if this is out of place or inappropriate, but I think the arguments presented are valid. I hope you have time to get around to reading them.

  11. Joe Hargrave says:


    It’s nice to hear from you again, though I never thought it would be here 🙂

    Of course you’re allowed to disagree. Some of my pro-life brothers and sisters, like many on the pro-choice side, I imagine, are often so worn-down hearing the same old arguments again and again that they have run out of patience for the other side.

    I don’t mind reading your links, and I will, but I’m curious as to what you think of the argument I made here. I can admit that there may be more logical arguments in favor of abortion, but you surely remember as well as I do the sort of infantile logic I described in my post here, the ‘double-standards’ arguments, the ones that completely evade the morality of the act itself.

    For now I only want to address this:

    “I would argue the burden of proof is certainly on you to show that abortion at all stages of pregnancy, meaning before first “breath”, is actually immoral.”

    I would first argue that ‘breath’ is a meaningless line in the sand. I’d still have all the same human qualities, and I hope, human rights, if I had to have a machine do my breathing for me for some reason.

    I argue that abortion is immoral, first of all, because it is murder. It is the deliberate slaying of an innocent human being.

    More specifically, it is also an abandonment of parental responsibility. Some of the same people who get abortions, many in fact, would probably opt to simply leave their child somewhere if they could without killing it. It is killed because it is the only way to abrogate parental responsibility.

    Reproduction occurs at conception. Everyone has a right to reproduce, hence, I am not an opponent of “reproductive rights.” I am an advocate for life, and for parental responsibility.

    The argument for the immorality of abortion, furthermore, is surely on much more solid ground than the arguments I have heard against adoption as an alternative, or even against abstaining from sex until one is ready to handle the potential consequences of sex.

    Attempts to justify abortion, at least from the typical American ‘choicer’, in other words, ultimately boil down to attempts to justify unrestricted sexual freedom. It is part of a broader campaign to divorce sex from responsibility. There is no rational argument for this – it is an anti-social argument that puts personal gratification ahead of what is in the best interests of society, and ahead of considerations of the rights of individual human beings.

    Now, are there ‘Biblical’ or even traditional precedents for a gray area with respect to abortion? I can’t say I’m 100% sure. What the Church teaches today, however, is with the authority of the Papacy. And in my view, it is always better to err on the side of life – not just for the individual’s sake, but for all of our sakes. To start drawing lines in the lifespan of a human being is a dangerous game. Lines can be moved. Abortion can become infanticide.

    To take on the other hand a 100% pro-life position is to take a stand on a comprehensive vision of what a human being is. In protecting the unborn we protect everyone, the infants, the handicapped, the sick, the mentally deficient, any and everyone who at one time has been, is now, or may be in the future deemed a little ‘less than human’. I couldn’t stake my own conscience on any other position.

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear from you again, I hope all is well, and if you’re on facebook, look me up 🙂

  12. Joe Hargrave says:

    Regarding the first link:

    There isn’t a substantive argument.

    It quotes as support for its position a person who already agrees with it – that isn’t good form, and isn’t persuasive.

    The truth is that the Church has always been opposed to murder. The problem is that prior to modern ultra-sound technology, the question of when life actually began was different. Many people believed that prior to ‘the quickening’, the first stirrings of the child in the womb, there was nothing alive inside, just dead matter.

    It isn’t murder to dispose of non-living matter. But now we know that life does indeed begin at conception. So the debate was shifted to ‘personhood’, an empty category that if accepted would put any number of post-natal ‘persons’ at risk.

    As for the rest, it centers on the faulty premise that the pro-life position can be reduced to the imposition of Catholic morality on society.

    I would be pro-life if I weren’t Catholic. If you recall, I was pro-life before I returned to the Church. It was my view of the preciousness of life that brought me back to it, not vice-versa.

    Furthermore, our fundamental rights aren’t even established in the Constitution. Sure there are political rights in the Bill of Rights, but what about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Those we find in the Declaration, and those we find, come from God. It’s a philosophical argument.

    The whole idea of ‘rights’ is one massive imposition of an essentially Christian ethical system on society. Secularists found it attractive and took it over, but to remove God from the picture is to make the idea of rights senseless.

    So this whole idea of ‘imposing Catholic morality’ is simply inaccurate. We are being consistent with what is already established – that we have a right to life. That right has only ever been rationally based on belief in the existence of a Creator who does not condone murder, or abandoning one’s children for that matter.

  13. Blue Shoe says:

    Very thoughtful post. I haven’t seen the issue approached from that perspective before.

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