Abortion and the Moral Imagination: Changing Minds and Hearts

Breakpoint pngFrom John Stonestreet at Breakpoint:

Facts are stubborn things. And so are some people in the face of them, especially when it comes to abortion.

Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. On Monday, Eric Metaxas told you about the necessity of telling the truth about abortion. We must never allow people to think that it’s anything other than the taking of an innocent human life.

Eric is right. Many people, when civilly confronted with the truth of abortion, may change their minds. But even if we could somehow get everyone in the country to spend an hour going over the facts of abortion, many would face the facts and yet just shrug or stiffen their spines.

After all, it’s been nearly twenty years since Naomi Wolf, in the New Republic, wrote that “abortion rights” advocates like herself “should never disregard the fact that being pregnant means there is a baby growing inside of a woman, a baby whose life is ended” when aborted.

Yet despite this acknowledgment, Wolf remained in favor of women having abortions when “we choose to do so.” She’s not alone.

Clearly, for the fiercest abortion advocates, the problem is not a lack of knowledge. Instead, it’s a lack of imagination, specifically the moral imagination.

The “moral imagination,” as conservative thinker Russell Kirk wrote, is the “power of ethical perception” that enables us to go beyond “private experience and momentary events.” It can do this because it “informs us concerning the dignity of human nature, which instructs us that we are more than just naked apes.”

As Jonathan Jones wrote at the First Things website, it is the moral imagination that enables people “to conceive of fellow humanity as moral beings and as persons, not as objects whose value rests in utility or usefulness.”

This may sound somewhat abstract, but it has real-world consequences. Naomi Wolf and others can acknowledge the humanity of the fetus while simultaneously insisting on the “right” to end its life because their imagination doesn’t go beyond “private experience and momentary events.”

That’s because for them, it’s the individual woman’s “private experience” that is paramount. In the end, nothing else matters. Their imagination doesn’t permit them to transcend the individualism, with its insistence on personal autonomy and fulfillment that so dominates our culture.

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