Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Ideological Inconsistencies with Abortion and the Death Penalty

You read the headline correctly. I am going to attempt to talk about two very controversial topics at once. Please try to be as objective as possible regardless of where you stand and I promise at the end you might not agree with me, but I may at least give you some food for thought.

One thing that has always puzzled me is that generally “conservative” folks are pro-life and pro-death penalty; on the other hand “liberal” folks generally are pro-choice and anti-death penalty. In my opinion these stances by both liberals and conservatives are patently inconsistent with each other, and here’s why……..

The Conservative argument on abortion generally (and I understand I’m not covering all the nuances) is that even if there is a good reason to abort a child the value of the life of that child is too high and therefore abortion should be disallowed. So why than is it ok to kill a criminal, even if you have a realllllly good reason to do so? If a conservative were being consistent wouldn't they make the argument that the value of life is too high for it to be worth it? Now I can hear the argument some of you may be making; that a criminal is guilty and a child is innocent so therein lies the distinction, however isn't that just same as saying that you have a realllllly good reason to kill the criminal and that’s why it’s ok? I mean it’s not like the alternative is that a criminal gets to walk free, it’s either death or life in prison, which is no paradise.

Now to the Liberal ideological inconsistency, their argument generally (and again I understand I’m not covering all the nuances) on abortion is that even though it is not ideal, sometimes there are reallllly good reasons to do so, and therefore it is an unfortunate necessity. However, when it comes to the death penalty they value life so much that no matter how gruesome somebody rapes or murders another, that criminal’s life is too valuable to take, and therefore should be preserved. So is what they are saying is that it’s ok to kill an innocent person if you have a really good reason, but not ok to kill a guilty person even if you have a really good reason? Again, I’m confused.

In the end, my point is that if you are pro-life when it comes to abortion you should be pro-life when it comes to the death penalty, at least if you want to be ideologically consistent. The inverse is also true, if you are pro-choice, why in the heck aren’t you pro-death penalty, that doesn't make any sense?

I would encourage your thoughts on this, but please remember that no matter where you stand, or no matter where I stand, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I know that these topics are extremely volatile, however if we can’t have cordial dialogue with each other how will we ever grow as a society.

Until the next time……

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the rationale can be summed up in one axiom: death is not equal.

    1. The conservative argument likely boils down to the idea that an "innocent" (no personal fault) life should not be ended due to a decision (or a very unfortunate event) that some other life made. There is no "reallllly good reason" to end a life that on its own was completely blameless. Meanwhile, capital punishment is an important part of society because of, if nothing else, the deterrent effect it will (should) have on similar criminals committing this sort of egregious crime. Through that logic, capital punishment actually saves more life than it ends, because it may deter someone from future murder. As tenuous as that argument is, the worse position is simple retribution, although that is no doubt valued by society. The punishment for your actions fits the horrendous crime you committed. Eye for an eye.

    2. The "liberal ideological inconsistency" (I think I take issue with the generalizations, but I get it) on the other hand can also be rationalized. A person who is sentenced to death is at least 18 years of age (See Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). This is a full "human," if you will, who has lived life, has parents, maybe has a family of his own, etc. The utilitarian "value" of an adult life is high, and no matter what that adult has done, capital punishment is not the answer. This is not just for some moral reason, although that may be part of it. It has been shown time and again that on the whole life imprisonment is actually less expensive for society than death (see Not to mention the idea that people who are going to commit the type of murder that warrants a capital sentence are likely not going to be deterred no matter what the punishment is. Meanwhile, abortion is something entirely different. We are not talking about ending a grown adult's life. This is about a woman's right to be in control of what happens in her own life and with her own body. It is about stopping a non-born fetus from achieving maturity. In fact, abortions cannot be legally performed absent extreme circumstances anywhere near the actual due date ( In short, these two things are not the same kind of "life."