Of late Americans have witnessed the sad and ugly sight of a group imposing a narrow and extreme ideology on the nation. This minority refuses to recognize professional limits and are attempting to corrupt medicine.
They confuse doctors with ethicists or lawmakers and expect our poor medical professionals to be judges of right and wrong and decide what should or should not be legal. Already overworked, these extremists demand doctors do what doctors are not trained to do.
Medical decisions should be left to a doctor and patient. Ethical decisions cannot always be and political decisions should never be. Doctors are credentialed by other doctors, but we elect our legislators.
Doctors are free to suggest the best medical care and patients are free to choose or reject it. The American ideal is for “we the people” to be given the most liberty possible. The American, and Christian, society respects an individual’s power to choose. The right to choose and have power over one’s own body is a great good, but it is not the only good.
Medical care and the choices involved cannot be isolated from the rest of human life. Some medical procedures come with a social or ethical cost. What would it profit a man to save his body at the cost of his soul?
Put simply: medical decisions sometimes involve ethical decisions.
Ethical decisions cannot be left to amateur ethicists, such as most medical doctors. That doctors wish to do a thing, can do a thing, and even want to do a thing, does not mean they should do it. What any man should do is not “just medicine.” American history shows that medicine can easily be corrupted by bad men to pursue wicked ends.
Sterilizing certain Americans involuntarily in the twentieth century may have been a legal medical procedure that was justified by some scientists, but it was still wicked. The problem wasn’t with the medicine, but with the ethics.
Medical doctors can only tell us what can be done, but they are as fallible as the rest of us in knowing what should be done.
Americans also know that not everything that is bad should be illegal. The dominant Christian ethical tradition taught us to balance liberty and law. Tolerating too much wickedness will bring societal collapse, but too many laws will choke out liberty and and lead to tyranny.
Who will decide these questions?
The Founders of the American Republic decided that “we the People” through our elected representatives would decide what things are legal, though we don’t decide “right and wrong.” Every human being was given the right to life, liberty, and human happiness by their Creator. The laws of Nature and of Nature’s God are not subject to Supreme Court decisions. The Supreme Court may have declared the fugitive slave laws legal and constitutional, but the perfume of legality did not cover the stench of moral rot.
Abortion, like race based slavery, is a very bad thing. God and most Americans know it is wrong, though the Supreme Court made it legal. Pretending that legal restrictions on abortion merely interfere with “medicine” is intellectually shallow. Pro-lifers are not restricting medicine, but what they believe to be unethical uses of medicine.
Some describe this as “personal” or “religious” concerns being used to restrict liberties, but all laws in the history of the Republic have been passed based on the “personal” or “religious” concerns of the voters or their representatives. Saying a thing is “personal” or “religious” is not the same as saying “irrational,” though extremists in the secular community would have us believe it.
Individuals make decisions based on their best reason and experience. One set of facts to be considered are religious facts. If God’s will can be known, humans ought to take it into account. Each personal decision becomes part of the will of the nation and it is this will that should become law. If the laws are good, a society will generally prosper.
In a republic, our elected officials, politicians, ultimately will reflect that the general will. Politicians may not decide “right and wrong,” but they do regulate liberty with necessary laws. Mainstream Americans on the right and left know that some regulations are necessary to prevent abuses from powerful interests. The development and use of medical drugs and procedures are regulated in the public interest.
Advocates for legal abortion have carved out exceptions to sane regulations which have led to horrific abortion mills. Advocates of legal abortion cannot coherently argue that abortion is merely medical and then exempt abortion clinics the same regulations applied to other medical procedures.
Most American doctors don’t want to practice abortion. They vote with their practices. Most Americans don’t want to see an abortion clinic come to their neighborhood or have their children grow up to be abortionists. Overwhelmingly we know what we think about abortion ethically.
Most Americans are coming to the conclusion that our grandparents were right: abortion should not be legal in most cases. The thirty year experiment with legal abortion has failed. Through their elected representatives the American people soon will regulate and limit legal abortion, because we wish it. Courts can block the people’s will for a time, but they cannot do so for long. This is particularly true when the Court is siding against Nature, Nature’s God, and the will of the American people.
The Court and the laws made an immoral decision with Roe versus Wade, but now are making an anti-republican one by refusing to listen to the electorate. Americans believe medicine must be decided by doctors, but laws must reflect the judgments of “we the people.” May the Republic be freed from the tyranny of an extremist minority using legal fiat to impose legal, unregulated abortion on the rest of the nation based merely on their personal, religious, or secular views.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.
Publication date: March 10, 2011