The Ends in the Ending of Abortion

Some thoughts inspired by reflecting on the recent draft of an America after Roe and Casey. My town, after all, has a history with this issue. And the “Value Them Both” amendment for the state of Kansas will soon be voted for (August 2, 2022), hopefully to a resounding success, correcting the erroneous judgment in our state several years ago.

States Where Abortion Could Be Banned Without Roe v. Wade, The New York Times, May 3, 2022

1. Words employed in defending abortion and in attacking it cease to be words by ideological distortions of meaning. — What do “natural rights” mean to us anymore? How do we Americans still hold nature to be our measure? One must, instead, call them “fundamental”, where this is defined by what is most desired among an individual’s desires. In times past, “abortion” in common and medical usage meant primarily a synonym for miscarriage, secondarily a crime. The meanings of our words are laden with histories bearing inherited meanings linked to unasked-for ontologies. So this inheritance had to be declined through redefinition. Yet language is too public a custom to be redefined by individual desires, and thus any successful usurpation of meaning is an ideology by definition, as long as ideology is still permitted a definition. “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” A raw exercise of meta-judicial power indeed. — How do we learn to love the meaningfulness to be beheld in the natures of things again?

2. Arguments end in intractable disagreement because they share too few common beginnings. — The controversy of this and other ages “is a sort of night battle, where each fights for himself, and friend and foe stand together. When men understand each other’s meaning, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless.” The lines are so well-drawn—and the rhetorical pallette used to draw them so recognizable—that we glimpse our internet interlocutors from afar off, and hasten somewhere else to avoid them. We know what is coming and need not listen any more. We soothe ourselves in our misology and stand fast in our fideisms, desperately in need of true argument. Can the settlement really come through the anamnesis of amoral originalism or will such a course “instead dodge the moral questions”? Even to trot out the point about public debates reaching shrill, shrieking, and increasingly violent ends because they commence with conceptually incommensurable origins is less a tired reminder and more a warning with each passing day. — How do we learn to love reasoning again, finding the truth as a good held in common, opposed to every sort of lie?

3. Choices for what one loves, for ends, have no meaning or reason apart from liberty truthfully understood. — If “the heart of liberty” truly does pump a blood righteous “to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” then little can be done by others, even by courts, to protect such a right. The ever widening circle of freedoms—those qualifying as “fundamental,” at least—is one whose radius encompasses a multitude only by the common imposition of self-referentially defined choices. What is so easily made breaks just so. One who loves thus, on the basis of ideology, hates upon the same terms, controlling the meaning of love instead of being given meaning. Behold, the hatred of love! Love is given meaning from the self-diffusivity of what is already good, hence the good itself is called love itself. That is the source of all mystery. — How indeed could there be any mystery about what we propose to ourselves within the confines of our own hearts?

4. Families must be chosen for ends of a shared, self-sacrificial love. — If love is subjected to self, whether individually or collectively, parochially or throughout the traffic of an entire nation, then love is an egoism. Would that busy little bees were selfish, the fable would be true. In times past, the domestic sphere bordered upon the economic with more propriety. Little wonder that modern economists cannot explain how a mother doles out milk. The delocalization of the home economy into the elite internet ethersphere, the current end of a gilded age of technical control over the common bounty of nature, uproots families and replants them in the hanging gardens of careerism. This redistribution of economic freedoms demands a supply of workers unencumbered by domestic liabilities. Children become a luxury; homes, hobbies; profits over parents. The missing element in our ideologies of economic and domestic choices is the end of distributive justice: For whom are the goods of the earth? Who are “the poorest nations”? — How could our economic ideologies be transformed into true thinking about families, adequate to their self-sacrificial meaning?

5. Fathers find their true end by participating, with the mothers of their children, in the self-sacrificial love defined by the meaningfulness of family. — Too many men abandon the responsibilities of fatherhood to the state (n. 17). Indeed, in our cultural imaginarium the technical competencies of current biotechnology reduce fathers to alternative gene providers. Technical hopes for the future aim to analogously reduce mothers. Motherhood is to be by contract, as fatherhood is now by court order. Courts even now decide solomonically “Whose child?” under the rubrics of intellectual property law. The supressed premise in this debate is that marriage no longer consecrates a union between man and woman, male and female, for the sake of raising a family, which is the natural good of sexual union. “Where are the cold marriages?” Here and now, we are their witnesses. Yet freedom under the law cannot mean freedom from human nature, whether male or female. If liberty is given such a definition, then a cold, valid logic proves having human nature, male or female, to be a slavery. The master must be overthrown; human progress demands Promethean revenge against the gods for the crime of being. We have forgotten how being could ever have been thought a gift, an ontological mercy from God to those made in His image. For that gift, ought sons not love their fathers? Today so many play at Telemachus, fatherless for decades due to hearth-destroying wars. But Odysseus is not seeking his homeland in return to find them. — How can the nobility, rights, and duties of fatherhood be taught to a culture so forgetful of it?

6. Cultural unanimity is a material condition of civic unity. — Statecraft cannot manufacture its citizens, but rather must receive them from nature. This axiom of ancient politics, held by Aristotle, is too frequently disbelieved by too many. Yet if human nature is prior to the art of politics and measures it, then so too are those things which arise naturally in human society to which that art must advert: religious worship of God, intergenerational family ties, shared and inherited culture and its traditions. That is, the providential constitution of a community begets a unanimity that incarnates in an orderly peace, giving ends to the liberties it enjoys. Hence, statecraft assumes as given the goods that measure its prudence. That art of crafting law and policy is tasked to be a minister of a gift, the ordered goods diffused within human community. The opposite is to believe that human community is a project, that its values must be determined by legal procreation: “A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent or derivative rights under the laws of this state.” Cultural divisions cannot be adjudicated into unity; misrule cannot be corrected by the parties democratically conducting it. Indeed, overlapping consensus is impossible if sought in unanimity about derivative matters and secondary values. Böckenforde’s dilemma wins in the end. As a consequence, not a few see civil strife looming on the horizon. Some “states are already setting the groundwork for that clash of values. … In effect, Connecticut has passed a law that sets up an interstate clash over abortion laws.” The lines of our ideologies jerrymander the nation from sea to shining sea. — How is it possible for us to restore, apart from the political action that assumes its existence, a culture of life profoundly united in the essentials of religious, philosophical, or moral doctrines, even though divided by other differences?

7. Medicine bears a fiduciary responsibility to the temporary and finite goods of human life. — Jérôme Lejeune, discoverer of the cause of Trisomy 21, writes that “For millennia, medicine has striven to fight for life and health and against disease and death. Any reversal of the order of these terms of reference would entirely change medicine itself.” The end of medicine defines its purposes; here, too, human nature measures an art that ministers to it. The technician, scientist, or medical expert can no more pass judgment upon human nature than he can see it through his instruments: “The Diogenes-geneticist returns to his barrel after turning off his microscopic lantern.” (Ibid.) Thus, in addition to being an extrinsically enforced existential threat, the so-called fundamental right at issue poses an intrinsic existential threat to the medical art itself. Its instruments cannot even provide certitude as to which are the ones to be healed of the crime of being. In a post-Roe regime, decades of such medical ethics training having been handed down, will the algorithms and surgeons who determine organ transplant lists accurately calculate the value of children born with Downs syndrome or those needing neonatal care? Or will the circumstances of their birth (in a pro-choice city, or in a pro-life fly-over county far from central medical hubs) determine the distributive medical justice they deserve? — How does one heal the medical art itself?

8. Martyrs bear witness to the ultimate and infinite goods of human life. — The witness does not define the truth, but receives it and bears it to others with a clarity free of scandal. What sort of probity among Catholic witness will be possible in our country when Catholics continue to advocate for, legislate, and sign into law so-called “fundamental rights”? What surety is possible when those in communion miscommunicate the faith? Who will believe us—any of us—when we say, “No, that is something which a Catholic cannot do”?


Christ is the Word, the Logos, the light of the world that sets hearts free, enriches families, teachers fathers, restores cultures—He is the Divine Physician, “The living bread which came down from heaven. … This saying is hard, and who can hear it? … After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.” Without Him we can do nothing.

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