Devolving Standards of Decency

Posted: Nov 19, 2007 12:00 AM
Devolving Standards of Decency

Recently, a young woman came by my office to discuss my opposition to abortion. Two of her friends had already had abortions though she had not. She was motivated to visit me by a discussion in her Women’s Studies class – one that broached the controversial topic of abortion and rape.

The feminist teaching the class was one affiliated with our Women’s Resource Center – an office that seeks to win the abortion debate by ensuring that it never actually takes place. The feminists figure that simply maintaining the status quo will look a lot like winning a “debate” to those unaware of the extent of feminist opposition to the First Amendment. They also seek to win the abortion “debate” by using the most extreme cases to justify abortion for the sake of convenience.

And so it came as no surprise that the feminist “scholar” won some points with these impressionable young women by asking them “How could anyone look a rape victim in the eye and tell her she must have her baby?” This was done without ever having to look a pro-lifer in the eye.

Since many of these feminists are English professors there is a decided preference to engage in soliloquy rather than dialogue. There is also a decided tendency to misclassify (or ms-classify) certain questions as rhetorical simply because they have not been subjected to cross-examination in the minds of feminists.

My answer to the feminist’s question is grounded in the assumption that it was not merely rhetorical. My answer is also firmly grounded in reality.

Laura is a real, living and breathing entity – very much like the U.S. Constitution, one might say. She hails from Texas which is also where her mother put her up for adoption in the 1970s. Having never met her biological mother, she eventually became curious about her background and why her mother decided to put her up for adoption. She began doing her research with the understanding that it might lead her to discover some things that were, to say the least, distressing.

And it did lead to distress. In fact, it could not have been more distressing as Laura eventually learned that her father was a rapist and her mother a rape victim. Although I am tempted to speak of Laura’s kindness, her contributions to society, and so forth, I will exercise my right to chose to abort this story (a First Amendment exercise, actually) in order to reframe the feminist professor’s question:

Would it have been more insensitive and indecent to a) tell Laura’s mother to have the baby (as someone seems to have done) or to b) tell Laura she should have been aborted.

And, make no mistake about it; this really is a matter of decency, or lack thereof.

In 1958, the United States Supreme Court stated (in Trop v. Dulles) that the Eight Amendment must “draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” In this case, the government was prevented from stripping a man of his citizenship as punishment for a crime.

And look where we have since gone in the name of “progress.” Less than twenty years later, the Supreme Court would say that these “evolving standards of decency” prevented Georgia from executing a man for the crime of rape (see Coker v. Georgia, 1977). The man had a sordid past that included murder, though not murder in the first degree.

And somewhere in between these two cases (beginning in 1965) the Court would imagine a new Right to Privacy. It would take less than a decade before the right to contraception would give birth to a right to abortion, which would remain intact long after the right to avoid pregnancy via the act of sodomy would become part of the constitution.

People very seldom take seriously the retort of one politician who was asked whether a woman impregnated by a rapist should be able to terminate the life of the baby. His suggestion that we should execute the rapist and not the baby was pithy but wholly unrealistic in a society that has so progressed and matured in the eyes of the Highest Court.

There may well be many progressive readers of this column who are satisfied with the status quo; namely, with the extension of rights to rapists and rape victims, but not to the products of rape.

Leaving only one of the three persons in the equation (rapist, victim, and baby) without rights could well be seen as a devolving standard of decency that marks the regress of a secular society. This conclusion is perhaps best avoided by assuming that the unborn are not fully human and, as such, cannot be fairly characterized as persons.

But, in order to avoid an eerie feeling of hypocrisy, “progressive” supporters of abortion rights must simultaneously assume that the convicted rapist is a person who has somehow managed to retain his full humanity and personhood in the wake of such an awful transgression.

Somehow I cannot muster the hubris to assert that the humanity of the fetus is surpassed by that of the convicted rapist. I thank God that evolution has not conspired to make me a part of such a mature and progressive society.