As J.S. Mill pointed out in his writing on liberty, people generally do not operate based on consistent principles. Instead, they act based on their likes and dislikes—which are often the result of misinformation. Comparing the view of many Republicans of abortion to their view of immigration illustrates this nicely.
To use a concrete example, Alabama recently passed the most restrictive anti-abortion law to date, forbidding abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Proponents of the law, such as Alabama governor Kay Ivey, claim that the motivation behind the law is to protect life. As the governor said, “to the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
On the face of it, the principle in operation here is that because each life is precious and a sacred gift, if a man impregnates a woman (or girl) against her will, then she is obligated to host the zygote until birth. The expenses and risks of doing so fall on the woman (or girl)—the United States generally does shockingly little to assist pregnant women. Looked at in the abstract, the principle is that if a child manages to get inside a certain area, then there is an obligation on the part of the owner of that area to care for that child until the child can safely exit the area. If removing the child would kill or harm the child, then the child cannot be removed—regardless of how the child got there.
This principle would seem to also apply to certain migrant children who enter the United States—even if they are brought here illegally and against the will of the United States. Once they get within the United States, if expelling them would lead to harm, then the United States is obligated to care for them until they can safely exit the United States. After all, if the principle permits compelling women to bear a child from rape or incest, then it surely permits compelling the United States to care for even migrant children who are here illegally. At least until the children can safely leave the country.
It could be objected that abortion always kills a child while expelling a migrant child from the United States will probably not kill them. Hence the analogy breaks. One possible reply is to argue that if every life is precious and a sacred gift, then even harming a precious, sacred gift would be wrong. That is, the principle isn’t “killing them would be wrong, but anything else is probably okay” but that each precious life must be treated as a sacred gift and one does not throw a sacred gift out.
But making the strongest analogy requires considering only cases in which expulsion would result in death. There are, of course, cases like that: there are migrant children (and adults) who are likely to be killed if they are sent back to their home country. It could be countered that, unlike abortion, they do have a chance of surviving. If so, the principle would have to be “each life is precious and a sacred gift, but this only entails that children should not be exposed to certain death. Likely death or great harm is morally okay.” While this is certainly a principle that one could hold, it is hardly commendable. As such, there would seem to be two options for anti-abortion folks who also want to be anti-migrant. The first is to consistently apply their avowed principle and accept immigrants when their expulsion would be likely to result in their harm. Or, of they want to be extremely strict, their deaths. The second option would be to abandon or modify their principle so that it applies only to abortion but not to migrants. The challenge is doing so in a manner that is not ad hoc or begs the question. For example, just saying that the principle only applies to the bodies of women but not to the United States would be ad hoc, as would saying that only zygotes deserve to be protected. It is worth noting that those who are pro-choice and pro-migrant would also need to consider the possible conflict between their principles as well.
I find this to be an extremely bizarre analogy. But if you are going to apply it, you cannot apply it to one side only.
“if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. “ – Ralph Northam, Governor of Virginia, explaining the nuance of his expanded abortion bill
This bill received a lot of support, but not enough to pass. A similar bill was passed in New York State, which, among other things, repeals protections for live infants born “accidentally” as a result of botched abortions at the point of birth. (Kermit Gosnell is sitting in his prison cell, thinking, “Gee, if only I’d waited a few years …”)
According to your analogy, it should naturally follow that in order to be consistent, those who support the New York law and the Virginia bill, should favor just killing migrant children as soon as they cross the border.
“…the principle is that if a child manages to get inside a certain area, then there is an obligation on the part of the owner of that area to care for that child until the child can safely exit the area. If removing the child would kill or harm the child, then the child cannot be removed—regardless of how the child got there.”
The converse of that (which is the position of many who support late-term abortions and the removal of protections of live births as a result of failed abortions) is of course,
“If a child manages to get inside a certain area, if it is in any way inconvenient or unhealthy for the owner of that area to care for that child, or if the owner of that area did not specifically invite the child or approve of its entry, it is OK to terminate the life of that child”
I guess it would be OK to strafe these caravans and “abort” the migrants before they enter the Great Birth Canal At The Border, but if they do manage to get across alive and are unwanted, a discussion would ensue …
(point of clarification here – I strongly oppose the patently partisan reference to these people as “migrants”, but that’s what they are – right up until the point they cross the US border. Then, at least from the US perspective, they are “Illegal Immigrants”. )
Continuing with your analogy, it would seem that measures that would actually prevent children from “managing to get inside a certain area” would be something that would garner universal support, yet it is one of the most insanely partisan battles of our time.
There is an unprecedented flood of illegal immigrants at our border, which has led to massive overcrowding and the inability of the US border agencies to effectively deal with it. There is no one, on either side of the aisle in Congress or all across America who does not see this crisis as appalling. But while some people are attempting to mitigate the crisis and enact measures to prevent it from happening again, others are merely grandstanding and exploiting the suffering of others for their own political gain.
“…the breaking point has arrived this week at our border, CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest border.”
This is a quote from late March by the then-commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan. In hindsight, this was a very prescient observation, and yet he was completely ignored.
And, in the face of this crisis, the preferred course of action of many (like AOC, for example) has been to support the very measures that have created the crisis, refuse to vote in favor of legislation for the emergency funding that would mitigate the crisis, and to publicly blame the one person who is pushing for the very legislation that would have prevented it in the first place. Their feigned horror does little to mask their glee at reporting (and in many cases, mis-reporting or exaggerating) the appalling conditions at the overcrowded facilities at the border which were predicted by Kevin McAleenan – and their glee is nothing but a highly partisan glee based on the prospects of pinning the crisis on “The heartless Donald Trump” and his followers.
As to the first point, from an opinion piece written by the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal,
“The perverse incentives of U.S. asylum policy have lured hundreds of thousands who are overwhelming border resources. Yet Democrats refuse to change the incentives that are the root of the crisis.
Migrants who cross the border, legally or not, can claim asylum. They are taught what to say to pass the low bar of “credible fear” in an initial asylum interview, and then most are released into the U.S. pending their final hearing. In the second quarter of 2019, more than 876,500 cases were pending in the immigration courts and they can take years.”
So, returning to your peculiar analogy, these children did not enter the womb of the US as a result of a crime like rape or incest, they were effectively invited. The analogy that comes to mind here is that of a woman who lures a man into her bed – not because she loves him or cares about him, but because by making false promises she can exploit him for her own purposes.
As in my analogy, the real horror is that these illegal immigrant (not “migrant”) children were invited notfor humanitarian reasons – out of a real concern for poverty and violence in their home country. They were invited for partisan reasons alone. And by the exploitation of their condition and the way that US laws are written, adult would-be illegal immigrants are given strong incentive to bring children along. It’s far from humanitarian sacrifice – risking one’s own life in order to provide a better one for their children – rather, it’s to improve their own chances for success.
“Under a legal settlement known as Flores, CBP gives priority to children and families before single adults. Minors can’t be detained for more than 20 days, so parents are released with their children. Migrants now know that if they bring children on the dangerous journey north, they’ll move through the system faster and be freed sooner. Meanwhile, single adult migrants languish in increasingly deplorable conditions, as the IG reports show.”
Once again, the words of Rahm Emanuel ring true …
“…You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
Bingo. Oppose stricter border legislation. Ignore those who foresee the crisis before it happens. Vote against funding to mitigate the crisis based on partisan values. Exploit the suffering of those caught in the crisis for photo ops and political grandstanding. Provide incentives for would-be illegal immigrants to bring children along, as suffering children are way more effective in photo-ops. Pin the blame on Trump and his “heartless supporters”, get Democrats elected.
Perhaps a better analogy, or at least illustration, can be seen in the recent (2015) bill sponsored by Republican Senators Corey Gardner and Kelly Ayotte, which would ease the Food and Drug Administration application process for drug companies attempting to sell the birth control pill over the counter. This was designed to address directly many of the concerns about accessibility, yet it was painted by the left as “An Insult to Women”. A competing bill was later sponsored by Democrat Patty Murray. Murray’s bill did nothing to help birth control pills achieve OTC approval, but merely preserved the mandate that would include OTC birth control in the event that it should occur.
The fact is that it was an insult to Obamacare’s birth-control mandate, and an insult to the business model held by the favorite special interest group of the Left, Planned Parenthood. According to “The Hill”,
“Planned Parenthood has a monopoly on publicly funded family-planning care in many poor urban areas. As a result, customers have nowhere else to turn for prescription birth control. Because Planned Parenthood’s financial margins are low or nonexistent when providing contraception and high when providing abortion, the organization has an incentive to undersupply birth control to its clientele, which creates greater demand for abortion.
As result, Planned Parenthood’s customer base—poor, urban, and disproportionately minority—experiences a high rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
The greatest beneficiary of OTC birth control would be uninsured women, who face an incredibly high rate of unplanned pregnancies and abortions because of Planned Parenthood. If the birth-control pill were available OTC, Planned Parenthood’s power over this market would be reduced, as poor women would no longer be forced to frequent Planned Parenthood in order to access the birth control pill. So Planned Parenthood trashes the Gardner-Ayotte proposal because it would actually help poor uninsured women gain contraceptive access, while it praises the Senate Democrats’ bill that accomplishes nothing. This protects its business model.”
Just like the border crisis. Created, then exploited by the Left for partisan purposes – while victimizing the very people they claim to care about so deeply.
I have to admit – it’s a winning formula. Make legislative decisions that will create a border crisis, make legislative decisions that will create an abortion crisis among poor and disenfranchised women, exploit both crises and blame them on the right, and get yourself elected.
So what’s the solution? If what we seek is consistency, then perhaps we should just exterminate anyone crossing the border illegally. (Of course, that would have the unwanted side effect of completely discouraging people from attempting to cross illegally, thus eliminating the problem, wouldn’t it? Then what would we do?)
But for God’s sake – don’t work with Mexico to prevent asylum-seekers from entering the US in the first place. Don’t enact stricter laws that would discourage people from rolling the dice with children in hopes that the false-promise of America is somehow real. And absolutely don’t build a wall.
Dude, where have you been? I was starting to get angsty.
A very well stated and well reasoned reply to an absolutely absurd analogy. Sad that such a thing is even necessary. This is the sort of unthinking, unreasoned, get-me-what-I-want-with-no-accountability analogy one might expect from an immature teenager. That it comes from a man in his 50’s who teaches philosophy and ethics at a publicly funded university is an indictment of our education system, if not our society as a whole. Absurd. It’s like living in a Monty Python sketch sometimes.
Sorry to cause you worry … I was on vacation. Two, in fact – one “traditional”, and the other from thinking about this stuff too much.
The latter can be summed up by a couple of old comic strips that I think about a lot:
Oh, I feel ya there. The struggle is real.
And here’s a thing I don’t see discussion of, if an illegal immigrant doesn’t like the conditions, if they are as bad as is being said, why can’t they just ask to be sent back? Turned back from whatever border that they crossed in from? Of course I know the various excuses and reasons why. They’re all about as reasoned and thought through as the dog’s breakfasts that are presented here on a regular basis…ok, I kid. They aren’t quite as bad as these reasonings. Sometimes I overstate things.
Cliff Dunn says
It’s like reading the discarded scripts from an X-Files knockoff. Your regard for Putin over that of your fellow citizens who happen to disagree with you is showing through. As the mutt Trump would say Sad. He’d also call you losers for using up so much time to explain a concept he himself cares Nada about. Did i mention Sad?
Cliff, I’m not sure who you are responding to or exactly what your point is, but I re-read all of the comments and the only reference to Putin came from you. Did I miss something?
I have high regard for Mike as a human being – but I take issue with the logic that he uses sometimes, and the fact that he often abandons the tenets of philosophical debate (at which he is a professional), resorting instead to political talking points that are emotionally charged.
What is truly sad is that you miss this point, and immediately begin to make false assumptions about me (“your regard for Putin” … you have no idea how I feel about Putin), about Trump (“He’d also call you losers …), and resort to name calling (“that mutt Trump …”) without coming close to the issue at hand, which is the analogy being drawn between abortion and immigration.
Dude, you’re trying to use reason with someone who appears to be mocking as X-Files level conspiracy theory the possibility that the border crisis that wasn’t a border crisis until it now is a border crisis is something suspicious whilst simultaneously suggesting that after a 20 something million dollar investigation revealed no conspiracy of Trump and Putin/Russia there actually still is a conspiracy of Trump with Putin/Russia, flying in the face of the fact that we have on live mic and video a recording of Trump’s opposition leader saying “Tell Vladimir I’ll have more flexibility after the election” and telling Mittens “The 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back”. God help me, I think that’s one of the longest sentences I’ve ever written. Either way, there is no reasoning with such people. Reality simply does not matter to the self-referred reality-based community. That’s why they call themselves that.
Yeah, I know. I was just curious to see what he’d say next. Hoping for a “get off my side” maybe, from someone else around here.