Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Humans Are Worth It

I recently read a progressive Catholic who argued in reference to why the political left was a better fit for Catholics than the political right:
[A] society that puts before a woman $30,000 in childbirth costs and a $350 abortion is a wicked society.
I think that there's a certain truth which is important to acknowledge here, in that in a Christian society it is important that we help people to do good. Christ is clear that we have a moral responsibility for those who are in need. All of us have dual duties, to fulfill out duties to ourselves and others to the best of our ability, and to help those unable to help themselves. This means that people do indeed have the duty to meet their own expenses to the greatest degree possible, but that we also have the duty to find ways to help people who cannot fully meet those needs on their own.

However, I think there's also a deep problem with this kind of "it's the unjust structures" argument for how to address abortion. It is true that paying the wages of the medical professionals who assist throughout pregnancy and childbirth (which, possible inefficiencies aside, is what that $30,000 cost represents) is more expensive than paying an abortionist to kill the child. However, there are countless senses in which it would be cheaper to immorally ignore the needs of another than it would be to meet those needs.

Is it wicked for a society to confront parents with either the costs of feeding and clothing and housing a child for eighteen years or the option of simply drowning the child as an infant?

Is it wicked for a society to ask a city or state to pay for the treatment and rehabilitation of someone addicted to hard drugs when it would be much cheaper to have some vigilante just shoot them?

We don't tend to make these rhetorical comparisons because it's not considered socially acceptable to kill one's child to avoid expense. And while we do a pretty bad job of treatment and rehabilitation, I would hope that society would still recoil at the idea of a cost calculation as whether it's cheaper to treat or murder someone addicted to drugs.

Indeed, in every example I can think of, it is in the short term easier and cheaper for people to neglect or discard the vulnerable than it is to care for them. Various social solidarity schemes can, to some extent, spread out the cost and work, but caring for someone is always going to take more time and resources than not caring for them. Does this mean that caring for people makes society worse off? By no means. To look at the time and resources it takes to care for others is to look at only one side of the equation. Why do we put the time and resources into caring for others instead of disposing of them? Because they are people. They are themselves of great value.

Is our society or our economic system wicked because it costs more to pay for childbirth than for an abortion? No. A childbirth costs more because it involves more work from more people. What is wicked is that we have fostered the idea that it is acceptable to discard the most vulnerable -- whether the unborn, the elderly or terminally ill, or the disabled -- rather than investing the time and resources to take care of them. Humans are worth it. That should be the foundation of our society and its structures.


Monica said...

I think you're misunderstanding the argument. It's not that it's wicked for maternity care to be a more expensive project; it's that it's wicked to put that cost before a woman for her to bear alone. When a woman has a baby, she needs both social and financial support, but society all to often immorally ignores her needs because it's cheaper.

You say that it's wicked to discard the most vulnerable to save money, and that's true. Pregnant mothers are among the most vulnerable.

Darwin said...


I think I understand the argument, it's just that I don't fully agree with it.

I definitely agree that just as it is the duty of each of us to pay a just wage to those who work for us (which includes us paying medical professionals who help us with expensive things like labor and delivery) it is at the same time the duty of the community and state to help those who cannot meet those expenses themselves.

So concretely, yes, I think it is clearly the duty of a pro-life society to help pregnant women who cannot afford the expenses they are faced with in getting pregnancy and childbirth care.

However, I think that the argument is going further. The person posting this was explicitly arguing that a pro-life society much have a form of socialized medicine in which it does not cost the patient any more to pay for childbirth than to get an abortion. And thus, I was taking it that he believed it was fundamentally wicked that people have to pay more to have a child than to have an abortion.

One can argue for or against socialized medicine on the economic and political merits, but my point with the post was to say that it's misguided to argue it's anti-life for it to cost someone more to take care of the vulnerable than to discard the vulnerable, because it will ALWAYS cost more to take care of others than to not do so. Even if we fully socialize medicine, it will cost more in terms of missed work and clothing and food. And even if we fully subsidize those, it will cost more in terms of lost sleep and lost time. We can't eliminate the cost of caring for others, though we can build a society in which it's considered a priority to help those who are struggling to bear the costs of that care.

Anonymous said...

So, its fairly cheap to execute prisoners (abort babies), but really expensive to keep them in jail for life (give free birth care worth $30,000).

Sounds like prog Catholic just justified death penalty for criminals. How very tolerant ;)