Feb. 25 at 3:30pm
Theodore Dalrymple, who is also Anthony Daniels, professes to be an atheist. He is, in any case, a true philosopher—a man with rare powers of insight and expression, who reflects deeply and fruitfully on human experience, its moral meaning and implications. A doctor and psychiatrist by training, he spent many years serving badly messed up people in horrible places, in Africa and in English inner cities.
He has an article about sex selection abortion in the Telegraph today, pointing out the moral incoherence of the current outrage over the discovery that it is practiced fairly routinely in England.
The Abortion Act provides, de facto, abortion on demand, and this has been so for many years. Certain people will rejoice at this: those, for example, who argue that women have an inalienable right to dispose of their bodies as they wish, and therefore to determine whether or not they continue with their pregnancy. According to this argument, women have the right to an abortion simply because they want it, for good, bad or no reason. If this is the case, the consultants who offered the sexually selected abortions did nothing wrong, morally speaking.
Nor do the efforts to crack down it on it make moral sense, given the accepted premises. For example, some are proposing that doctors be prohibited from informing their pregnant patients of the sex of their children. But how is that compatible with a patient's right to information regarding her condition?
Dalrymple (who had originally supported the Abortion Act as a way of helping women in desperate circumstances) puts his finger on the underlying problem.
In fact, the whole sorry story illustrates the mess we get into when two notions become culturally prominent: on the one hand of rights and on the other of consumer choice.
He reminds me of Gregory Borse's comment under Mike Healy's post below. In absolutize personal "choice" (i.e. wanting and willing), we have relativized everything else. There is no such thing as objective truth and value; nothing that has a claim on my respect and reverence. There is only "facticity"—things out there that have meaning and value only in relation to my subjective intentions.
Here is the nub of the difference between a personalist view of the world and the utilitarian view now prevailing in our society. For us, our being is a gift; we live in relation to a world of values; we are called to live in right accord with them. We are fulfilled as persons when we make a free and sincere gift of ourselves in return: love for love.
The utiliarian sees products and commodities and things for him to use or ignore or get rid of, according to his own purposes.
The culture of life and the culture of death. "Choose ye today, whom you will serve."